A campaign scheduled for May to raise $7 million from local Roman Catholic parishes to help the church in this country expand its use of mass communications media has become the focus of controversy.

The Catholic Communication Collection was authorized by the bishops last fall in a vote whose margin was so slim that bishops who did not attend the semiannual meeting of the hierachy had to be polled by mail.

Now the National Catholic Reporter, the unofficial but influential lay-edited weekly, has criticized the collection and urged church members not to contribute.

In a front-page story and an editorial, the Reporter complained that the communications effort lacked specific priorities or goals and that the mass communitions efforts of the church lack direction and professional planning.

The Rev. John Geaney, Baltimore Archdiocese communications director, has defended the collection, pointing out that the funds are needed so that the church can spread the gospel with "the most powerful communications available in our world."

Geaney, who heads a national organization of Catholic communications workers, asserted that the church's radio and television experts are as competent as the print journalists who serve the church.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Catholic Conference is going ahead with arrangements for both the collection and plans for using the funds raised.

The agency has scheduled hearings in three cities: Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Menlo Park, Calif.