Let's play "Spot the loaded verb"

Reuters religion editor Tom Heneghan has just used one of those verbs that taints an entire news story. At least, I think that “Pope’s ‘Living Will’ Wants Life Support to the End” is supposed to be a hard news story about the implications of a major papal address. Then again there is this: “The Catholic Church has traditionally taught that doctors and families could end artificial life-extending measures in good conscience if a dying patient’s prospects seemed hopeless. John Paul, who has long railed against a ‘culture of death’ he saw in abortion and artificial birth control, surprised moral theologians in a speech in March 2004 by insisting Catholics can no longer make such decisions even in extreme cases.” Whoa! Spot the loaded verb?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Stephen A.


    (Wow, I signed in just to type one word! I can’t do that!)

    Yes, this is again typical, creating a negative picture in the mind of the reader of what the pope’s been saying. I wonder if editors even notice this bias that creeps into so many news stories. Or if they even care.

    I wonder if they’d notice if someone wrote that Ted Kennedy “has long railed against the pro-life movement”?

    Bet they would.

  • http://www.jonswerens.com Jon Swerens

    The secret loaded verb is:


    Because that means the pope is telling Catholics what to do! The nerve of the guy!

  • Brad

    I don’t see “railed” as a negative word alot of the time…some of the things he rails against need to be railed against.


  • carol mcl

    Is it “surprised”, as if to suggest this is a totally new teaching, a turnaround from previous church teaching?

  • carol mcl

    Is it “surprised”, as if to suggest this is a totally new teaching, a turnaround from previous church teaching?

  • http://www.tmatt.net Terry Mattingly

    Railed it is.

    JPII did not rail against Communism. This is not a man who rails.

    And I don’t think I have ever read a use of “railed” that did not imply the person was a bit wacked out.

  • Jill M

    Spot the loaded verb — nice! I’m getting an excellent education reading GetReligion every evening! I’d recommend this blog for journalism students, seminarians . . . heck, even savvy high school students! (And I did figure out that is was railed, by the way. Just couldn’t sign in and post yesterday for some reason!)