Day 2: Pope still extremely Catholic

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY

I hope everyone is having a blast with Day 2 of Papalpalooza.

I've actually enjoyed some of the media coverage I've come across but we all know what happens when I post on good stuff.

<crickets>

Right.  So let's look at other approaches taken.

I know it's The Guardian but I did like the transparency of this piece, which reads something like a parody of how the mainstream media treat the Roman Catholic Church.  Headline:

Next pope's in-tray: five key issues for the Catholic church

With Pope Benedict XVI announcing his intention to step down, we look at the pressing matters awaiting his successor

And I'm sure you will be surprised that the five issues are contraception, sexual abuse in the church, same-sex marriage, abortion and women.  It's like the newspaper was talking about the only five topics it permits discussion of when it comes to the Catholic Church instead of, you know, the Catholic Church's pressing matters that await the papal successor.  But illuminating none-the-less.

For a more sophisticated version of that piece, you might want to read the Washington Post's piece headlined "In picking successor, Vatican must decide what's needed in a 21st-century pope."  It's actually a great read overall and I don't want this criticism to overshadow that.  But the priorities put forth in the piece when it comes to cultural issues say more about what ails media coverage of the church than what ails the coverage of the church itself.  The first three paragraphs of the analysis piece (is it analysis? It reads as such but I don't know if it's marked as such) are great:

In the eight years since Pope Benedict took office, the divisions in the Catholic world have become more solidified.  The West, including Europe and the United States, has been locked in a culture war over contraception, homosexuality and the role of women in the church, among other issues.  Meanwhile, more theologically traditional Catholics in Africa and parts of Asia have fueled much of the church's growth, threatening a standoff with Islam.

That is the media's war, no doubt.  They wage it faithfully day after day after wearying day.  I'm not entirely sure it's one engaged in by many Catholics.  I wonder if the media gets just what a narrow and distorted presentation of church life they present.


By the way, the next paragraph in the piece is:

In other words, the next pope will have to carefully pick his audience and decide how best to communicate with it without alienating the rest of the faith's followers.

The second time I read that, I read it imagining a bunch of journalists in a dark room, licking their lips, rolling their hands over and laughing.  That's really unfair, I'm sure — and not just because the article immediately transitions to a discussion of how papacies are about focus.  I think it's just a telling reaction that illuminates a breakdown in trust with certain readers.

Here's a telling couple of paragraphs:

Catholic debate in the United States often centers on issues such as whether the church should allow the ordination of women or married priests.  But those are not the debates of the cardinals, all of whom were picked by Benedict or his like-minded predecessor, Pope John Paul II.  They are in agreement on such matters as allowing female priests, contraception, or equality for gay men and lesbians: no, no and no.

The real factors behind the selection of a new pope are "not the kind of stuff that comes up on talk shows," said John L. Allen Jr., who has written seven books on the Catholic Church and popes.

As for the 2,000-year history of the church teaching on contraception and who is eligible for ordination — well — all I can say about that is that it precedes not just Benedict but also John Paul II.

Oh that every reporter in the land would read that John Allen quote and ruminate on whether he's talking about them!

As for the preceding paragraph, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is that? I mean, first off, the media may have done an excellent job of convincing themselves that redefining marriage is about nothing more or less than who believes gay men and lesbians are "equal." They have done an excellent job of closing their minds when it comes time to listen to any other arguments — much less giving them accurate, fair play in news coverage.  Any way that you want to look at it, that paragraph was not, to put it mildly, a fair characterization of church teaching on the dignity of all people.  It was not good journalism.

As for the 2,000-year history of the church teaching on contraception and who is eligible for ordination — well — all I can say about that is that it precedes not just Benedict but also John Paul II.

But if you were wondering just how hostile to Catholic teaching the Post was when it comes to church teaching on homosexuality, I guess it's nice to have it laid out so transparently.  Again.

Finally, this paragraph cracked me up:

The top priority, Allen and others say, is to make Catholics evangelizers again.  The church has spent much of the past­half-century, since the modernizing and controversial Second Vatican Council, locked in internal debates and not out spreading the gospel.  Many blame an antiquated communications style and system, one epitomized by the pope's news-halting announcement Monday, which he delivered in Latin at a meeting of cardinals.

I'm in the wrong market for thinking Latin is bad — I send my daughter to a Latin school, after all — but even so, I would say yesterday's announcement would not be a good example of how bad the Vatican's communication system is (even if I'm sympathetic to the argument).  Oh that we could all have such an antiquated communications style and system!  One that got, you know, billions of people in the world talking in a matter of hours.

see also "Alas, the next pope will probably defend same old doctrines"

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Mollie Hemingway. "Day 2: Pope still extremely Catholic." Get Religion.org (February 12, 2013).

Reprinted by permission of Get Religion and the author. "The Press . . . just doesn't get religion."

The original posting of this article is here.

THE AUTHOR

Mollie Hemingway is a Washington writer who writes for Get Religion. She is the author of Losing Our Religion.

Copyright © 2013 Get Religion