Now between the Pope not approving the use of condoms, the Bishops not saying that gay marriage is cool, World Youth Day and everything else, I’ve been reading a good deal of media coverage on the Catholic Church. Being an intuitive human being, I couldn’t help but notice some patterns in this coverage. Thus, in an effort to help the new journalist about to concoct his first article about the Church, I have developed a template for the perfect article to report on any Catholic event. It’s foolproof, people.
Title That Completely Undervalues Event Described.
(Try: Pope Meets Youth, Bishop Speaks at Event, Pro-choicers and Pro-lifers Clash in Washington at the Annual March For Life, Catholics Did Something Today, etc. It’s a good idea to begin these banal phrases with the phrase, “amidst controversy…” regardless of the existence of any controversy. Saying the event was “really about nationalism” or “anything-but-people-actually-celebrating-the-faith” is also wise. Alternatively, completely ignore the event, mass, or address at hand, and stick with a standard headline that has been used approximately 17 million times to date: “Homosexual Groups Protest Catholic’s_______” Don’t worry if there were any homosexuals, or if they amounted to one gay man with a sign, Take his picture. Oh, and anything can fill the previous blank. Some examples that have been used to great effect include: “ideas”, “hairstyles”, “cars” and “singing voices.” )
The Facts. Like a good journalist, use this is the paragraph to introduce the basic truths of the event. It doesn’t matter if your headline was about homosexual protest; consistency is for wusses.
It’s important to recognize that truth is not necessarily important. Numbers can be rounded down to the nearest million, because this is an age of science. It is good journalism to mention in this paragraph your own feelings about such large crowds. Words like “oddly” and “surprisingly” preceding facts such as “young people held a vigil” are great. Feel free to lie about the demographics at the event, as was brilliantly executed in media coverage of the March for Life, which – as we know – was completely absent of young women.
Obligatory mention of the absolute fact that no one agrees with the Church.
Start this paragraph with, “In a time in which youth are embracing sexual liberation…” or “Despite popular criticism…” Trust me, all your friends will think you’re cool.
Quote from a dissenting Catholic. You will be fired, your name turned to mud, your family killed and your paper burnt in the fiery pits of hell if you do not include this.
The best way to do this is to interview an individual who was walking by the reported event at the time, and remembers this one time attending mass at the age of three when his great-uncle’s friend died. He’s an orthodox Catholic, you see. To get a good quote from him, ask the following questions. “Do you like sex?” “Do you get upset when people tell you not to do what you like?” “Have you heard of Humanae Vitae?” (When he says no, give him the CliffNotes version: “Pope hates you and wants you to never have sex.) Then ask: “Hey, what do you think about this Catholic event?” Or call up the group of aging old women who run Catholics for Choice and ask them, “What does the Catholic Church teach about abortion?” Excommunicated priests are next. And if all else fails, schedule lunch with Nancy Pelosi.
Unfortunate smidgen of truth. We hate this part, everyone does, but at some point you have suck it up and quote the Pope, dammit.
But don’t worry. You can slip it in beween bizarre and distracting sentences very easily. A
good example of this: “The church has caught fire for it’s conservative position on abortion and it’s hatred of homosexuals. ‘Love Jesus, every one,’ the Pope said. The Roman Pontiff, incidentally, has no control over his bishops, and was in the Hitler Youth, betcha didn’t know that, huh?”
Sex-abuse scandals. Mention this or you won’t be paid for a year. It doesn’t matter if your headline is “Priest Famous For His Fajitas”. Actually, nothing matters at all. When reporting on an event, if you can make it seem that children were molested at the event while you were there, then you’ve successfully written this paragraph.
Again, don’t worry about the truth. Don’t worry that the church is statistically among the ‘safest places’ to bring your children. Just write what your heart tells you to. That’s what journalism is all about. Alternatively, the scandals can be used as a addition to the phrase “Roman Catholic Church”. For example: It has been noticed that many members of the Roman Catholic Church, which is still desperately trying to cover up it’s rampant sex-abuse crisis, like to wear hats.
Back to the event you were covering. But with more oh-so-subtle patronization, because journalism is all about you, man.
We know, we know, it sucks to have to actually report an event. But it helps to come back to your original event, as it gives the journalist the sense that he can write absolutely anything between his first paragraph and this paragraph and get a Pulitzer Prize. Airily mention that the Catholic masses were happy.
Finish it up. This is your time to shine. This is the time when you, the journalist, get to move beyond your boring, accurate, factual coverage of a Catholic event and now – for the very first time – get to insert your own opinion about the Catholic Church.
How will you do it? The world holds it’s breath. Will you save the homosexual protest for now, like a daring renegade writer, leaving the literary room with a bang? Will you drily find some hypocrisy in some-one attending or giving the event, as in: “Many of the youth at World Youth Day were miserable because of the heat and rain” and leave the reader marveling at your potent audacity? Maybe you’ll mention something with all the literary power of metaphor, as in, “The tent the bishops were standing in almost collapsed because of strong winds”, and be patted on the back by your boss. Whatever it is, it’s yours. End that article big boy, you’ll put that old, antiquated institution in its grave at last.