Amateur Night: How the Media Covers the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the image ...

In my article about Pope Benedict renouncing his papal authority I told you to be cautious of the media’s coverage of the upcoming conclave. While I expected their reporting to be high on conjecture and low on facts, I can’t believe just how far out in left field some of these “news reports” and editorials are. If you were to piece together comments from various anchors, you would think that the Catholic Church is a horrible institution for not seriously considering a pro-contraception, pro-abortion, married woman as pope. The reporting is almost so ridiculous that even the best writers of all time for Saturday Night Live wouldn’t be able to come up with a parody of the coverage since the coverage is already a parody on shoddy news reporting.

I present the contenders for “worst recent news coverage of the Catholic Church.”  Thank you Creative Minority Report for doing the legwork of collecting these gems.  I would find them hilarious if they were meant as satire.  But unfortunately, they’re serious and are probably highly influential on people’s opinions and perceptions of the Catholic faith.

  1. ABC News:The Catholic Church not in touch with modern society
  2. MSNBC Panelist: Sotomayor for Pope
  3. E.J. Dionne — The best choice for pope? A nun
  4. Conclave & The Media: The Silly Season
  5. CNN vs The Catholic Church
  6. Hoping the Next Pope Isn’t Catholic

Many of these reports follow a similar template.  They automatically dismiss any of the Church’s doctrines that run counter to what is generally accepted in modern society regardless of their moral merit.  Actually, the reports are not only dismissive, but pretty much say the Church’s teachings are wrong and outdated and need to be changed with the next pope.  And not one of these reporters actually interview a priest who would explain why the Church holds certain teachings.  Instead, it is much easier to show anti-Catholics (or not well-catechized Catholics) voicing their frustrations with the Church under the cover of reporting on Pope Benedict‘s renouncement and the conclave.

I told you that the media was going to treat the choosing of the next pope like a political election.  Just go back four months to the presidential race and you will see the same template.  Instead of reporting news and getting stories from multiple, credible sources, the media just airs their progressive wish list and demonize doctrine that has stood the test of time for almost 2000 years.  I think the media has been so relaxed in its duties of holding politicians responsible for their actions that they no longer understand what it means for someone to uphold their core doctrines and principles.  The media doesn’t care if politicians ignore the Constitution (or the equivalent documents in other countries) and so they can’t begin to understand why the Church doesn’t arbitrarily change her doctrines to be more popular.  They act like the pope can wave a magic wand and make artificial contraception no longer sinful behaviour which shows a serious lack of understanding of one of the largest religions on the planet.  This type of irresponsible reporting is scandalous because it leads astray Catholics who aren’t well catechized and turns public sentiment against the Church.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

The decent of the holy spirit by Tizian (1546)

Many Catholics have come down with an acute case of noncatechisisitis.  Symptoms include believing biased news reporting of the Catholic Church and not understanding core Church doctrine.  The remedy is to pray and meditate on the Third Glorious Mystery — The Decent of the Holy Spirit.  So many people need the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit right now, especially the cardinals as they choose the next pope.  But we also need the Holy Spirit to increase our faith in the moral correctness of the Catholic Church.  I’m not Pope Benedict or even a Fr. Robert Baron when it comes to completely understanding the theological foundation for Church doctrine on requirements like non-married priests or male-only priests.  But I pray that the Holy Spirit will open my heart and give me the faith to embrace these teachings.  In a way, the Holy Spirit has the ability to bypass our minds and let us know the deeper truths God imprinted on our souls.  We live in deliberately confusing times.  But the Holy Spirit will lead us through them if we only take the time and effort to listen to God with an open heart through prayer.

Have you encountered any anti-Catholic or just plain ignorant reports on the Chruch from supposedly credible news outlets?  Feel free to tell your story in the comments.

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Pope Benedict’s Retirement — A Transition, not An End

Like many people, Pope Benedict‘s announcement of his retirement came as quite a shock to me. I once attended Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and saw the pope from about ten feet away as he walked past me in a procession. And although I only caught a glimpse of him, I did feel this sense of God‘s glory radiating from him. It’s hard to explain, but I understood in that instant how carefully God chooses His shepherds to lead His people. And as shocking as this news is to me, I also understand that it’s also God at work when one of his shepherds knows he has run his course. We must keep Pope Benedict in our prayers as well as the Catholic Church because this unprecedented event is going to get a lot of attention, especially from sources that may not like or understand the Catholic faith.

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

We need to be careful where we receive our information regarding Pope Benedict’s retirement. When it comes to understanding the core principles and foundation of the Catholic faith, the mainstream media has a lot to learn. They deal mostly in the realm of politics and so they will treat the pope’s announcement like they would a politician resigning. And usually, a politician resigns only when he has something to hide or is trying to dodge responsibility for his actions. And so the media will be looking for any shred of circumstantial evidence to fit their narrative whether it be the priest abuse scandal, gay marriage, contraception, or any Catholic document that they can sensationalize and turn into a story to fill their 24/7 news cycle.  We live in a world where people in powerful positions tend to cling to that power to the bitter end (a few people in Washington D.C. come to mind).  The media will never understand why someone in such a powerful position would choose to voluntarily step down.

I believe the truth is much less sensational and extremely humbling. I won’t claim to be an expert on Pope Benedict, but I have read some of his writings and what people have written about him. He does seem to be a very humble servant of the Catholic faith and will do whatever is necessary to promote God’s glory through the Church. And if that means stepping aside to let someone who is more capable of leading the Church in this modern era so be it. It takes a lot of humility for him to conclude that he is not the pope the Church needs right now. I like Pope Benedict and wish he would stay since he is one of the great modern thinkers and defenders of traditional values. But as a Catholic I yield to the pope’s authority even when he decides to relinquish that authority.

I think we need to pray for the conclave of cardinals that will choose the next pope. As we live in a world that becomes more secular, events like the choosing of a new pope become that much more peculiar, misunderstood, and portrayed as being out of step with society. Non Catholics (and misinformed Catholics) will see the election of a new pope like the election of a political leader. They see a new pope as someone who can simply eliminate what they view as mistakes of a previous “administration.” You will hear the usual uninformed questions like, “Will the next pope be softer on contraception and divorce? Will he allow women ordination? Will he allow married priests?” Basically, we will hear the wish list of the secular world as they cover the choosing of the next pope.

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

This will be a difficult time for Catholics. The world is a lot more hostile towards organized religion, particularly Catholicism (and we haven’t done ourselves any favours recently with all the priest abuse cover ups). It has even changed drastically in the last eight years since Pope Benedict was chosen as pope since the world has become that much more connected but also more polarized.   We should pray and meditate on the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Coronation of Mary. We ask the Queen of Heaven for guidance, resolve, and the wisdom to see the glory of God’s Church through the distractions and obfuscations of the modern world.  God raised Mary up as a queen because she listened to God and obeyed His will.  We pray for the acceptance of Pope Benedict’s decision and the hope that it will bring about a greater good.  God gave us Pope Benedict and it’s not like He’s taking him away from us.  God is merely leading him to a new role where he will do the most good by giving him more time to think, write, and most importantly, pray.  And so we also pray that we show that same openness to God’s will and the humility to follow the road God puts before us as our mother Mary and Pope Benedict did.

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Crisis of Faith

You have to love our German Shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI.  Last week he traveled to Germany and delivered some great speeches and homilies.  What I like about the Pope is that he tells things as it is and teaches the Catholic faith even if it runs contrary to the norms of modern society.  And unlike many politicians, he doesn’t take on the victim mentality but instead challenges the faithful to really live as Jesus calls them regardless of the obstacles imposed by the outside world.  Like the manager of a sports team, he discusses our weaknesses so that we are aware of them and can aim to be better Catholics and better people.  In this day and age, that level of honesty mixed with compassion and motivation are rare.

Last Saturday, Pope Benedict met with Central Committee of German Catholics and discussed challenges the Church faces in developed, Western countries.  According to the Catholic News Agency, the Pope told them:

“We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit.  I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith.”  This is observed, said the Pope, “in the inconstancy and fragmentation of many people’s lives and in an exaggerated individualism,” such that many people “no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others.”

Pope in Fatima
Image by Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Flickr

I understand what the Pope means in terms of the Western Church having structure but lacking faith.  I receive a Church bulletin every Sunday and there is no shortage of club meetings, events, and services.  There is also no shortage of people in the pews at Sunday Mass.  And yet, I do feel that something is missing in terms of spirituality.  Many people treat Sunday Mass as putting in one hour of work before they can socialize and enjoy donuts and coffee.  And yet, where are the large crowds to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, pray the rosary, and attend Adoration?  How many people attend Mass on Sunday almost like they are clocking in and out of work because it is an obligation?  And worse, how many children learn that “in and out” attitude regarding Mass from the adults’ example?

Contrast the modern day American parish with that of a small village in some unknown part of the world.  I’ve seen other parts of the globe where someone’s life and faith are basically one.  They pray regularly for long periods of time, dedicate and offer fasting and abstinence for intentions, attend Mass multiple times a week, and receive the Sacraments.  But there is more to their faith than just these outward acts.  It’s hard to explain, but you just get the sense that their faith is just part of who they are and means so much to them.  When you compare these two groups you realize that Pope Benedict is right when he noted that the Western Church has plenty of structure and not enough of the Holy Spirit.

When praying the rosary, meditate on this crisis of faith on the Fourth Glorious Mystery — The Assumption of Mary.  Remember, God assumed Mary, body and soul, into Heaven.  And she is now our guide in all things spiritual.  We pray for her guidance that we live our faith fully every day, in every word, every action, and every thought.  We pray especially that we can muster the strength to imitate Mary and not take the great gift of faith for granted or reduce the Church to a weekend social club.  Mary begs us to follow her advice because she knows the great joy that awaits us in Heaven and she does not wish for that joy to be delayed (Purgatory) or lost (Hell).

We must remember that we are Catholics, not just for an hour at Mass on Sunday, but 24/7.  And nearly all of us fall short of living our faith in its entirety.  And that is why we pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

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