Pre-smoke: Was the pope born again?

tower.gifIt’s time for a last glance at some memorable pre-conclave stories as we watch the press try to handle the hours (or perhaps days) of waiting before the white smoke starts another blitz.

One of my favorites reports was by Tony LaRussa in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, telling the story of evangelical talk radio gabber Marty Minto and what happened when he engaged in a bit of on-the-air speculation about the current location of the soul of Pope John Paul II. This was one of those symbolic-detail stories that captures, in a snapshot, a sea change in religious attitudes.

In this case, the focus is on evangelical feelings about the papacy, or at least the work of this pope. Minto learned the hard way.

Following a week’s worth of conversation on his WORD-101.5 FM show that questioned whether Pope John Paul II’s Roman Catholic beliefs could be an impediment to entering heaven, station management pulled the plug. . . .

“I was called into the office after my show Friday and told that I was being let go because I was alienating the listeners,” said Minto, 39, of New Castle, Lawrence County, who previously did talk-radio shows in Albany, N.Y., Phoenix and Denver. Minto also is senior pastor of the 100-member Turning Point Community Church in New Castle.

Minto defended himself by saying that he tried to focus on Catholic beliefs — such as the veneration of Mary and purgatory. He insists that he didn’t lash out at Pope John Paul II, the man.

Then the question of salvation came up. Minto defended the franchise — saying that heaven is for those who have been “born again.” And what about the pope?

“I said the question of whether a person is born again is something personal, something between an individual and the Creator,” Minto said. “I believe it was a legitimate topic to discuss.”

But that punched the button and the station let him go.

There may actually be another interesting story hidden here. I wonder how many conservative Catholics have, these days, started listening to conservative Protestant radio, searching for niche-market news and commentary on the Culture Wars. If that percentage has risen in the past quarter-century, and I predict it has, then that would mean Protestant media leaders need to think about how traditional Catholics see and hear their work.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in more coverage — waves of it — about evangelical attitudes on John Paul and Rome need only surf over to the amazing Christianity Today weblog for several months worth of reading. Click here for the big hat tip, and here.

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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.

  • Mike Wood

    Note, however, that a letter (apparently a form letter) from the radio station at issue says that discussing the pope’s eternal destiny was not the reason for Minto’s dismissal:

    “The story in Thursday’s Pittsburgh Tribune Review would lead you to believe that we ended Mr. Minto’s program because ‘He questioned if the pope’s Roman Catholic beliefs would impede his entry to heaven.’ This statement did not come from the management of WORD-FM. A similar headline accompanied an AP wire story that unfortunately was not fact checked. We have never placed any restrictions on subject matter for the talk show. Mr. Minto knows that. The decision to release Mr. Minto had been under consideration for an extended period, primarily because of our concern that he tended to unnecessarily alienate listeners; and was finalized well before the pope was in the news. The conclusion that he was released because of his views on the pope is completely without foundation. We regret that you were left with a perception that is false.”

    If any budding religious journalist would like to some investigative reporting, I, for one, would appreciate it.

    Mike Wood
    religious journalist of a sort

  • dan c

    Mr. Minto’s program alienated this listener about five months after he began on WORD – he is not only woefully ignorant about Roman Catholicism, but the same could be said of his grasp of classical Reformed Theology. His rants against Catholics had become more and more bizarre even while WORD had gone out its way to attract Catholic listeners and advertisers. This month’s Lunch Bunch women’s event is being held at St. Catherine of Sweden’s RC church in Hampton PA.

    If his ignorance of Roman Catholicism was profound , his ignorance of Easter Orthodoxy was wretched, but he didn’t view Orthodoxy as the enemy – it isn’t as large as the Roman Church in this area.

    Mr. Minto claims to have gone to some seminary – I suspect it was Brother Fred’s Basement-Based Bible College.

    Mr. Buda, on the other hand, though he may hold views that are not ones I share, is thoughtful and he attempts to understand what people tell him.

  • CTImike

    You can view all of’s articles related to Pope John Paul II at this address:

    (more than 20 articles in this collection)

  • ECJ

    Modern evangelicalism – being devoid of substantial doctrinal content – doesn’t know much about Roman Catholic doctrine. It has never heard of the Council of Trent. It doesn’t know about the concept of Justification underneath the Mass, and Purgatory. It does not know what Sacred Tradition is, let alone how it affects the Rule of Faith. It couldn’t see the Co-redemtrix theology which ran throughout (and utterly ruined) Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”. It just knows that Catholics “believe in Jesus” and that’s good enough.

    But is it? Marty Minto got burned for asking whether the RCC teaches a false gospel under anathama by Galatians 1. Unfortunately, businesses exist to maximize profits – not to ask significant questions about the content of the Gospel. If Catholics are considered a growth market, then the radio station will do nothing to offend them. Capitalism at work. But it also indicates the spiritual usefulness of mass market media.

    You can see this in any Christian bookstore with its shelves full of (very profitable) rank heresy by Benny Hinn. Or on Christian radio stations with the music of Philips, Craig, and Dean. PC&D are Oneness Pentacostals. But they play popular music, and Christain radio stations are loathe to exclude them – or even to admit the controversy. “Focus on the 90% we agree on” is the standard replay. But what if the 10% is definitional? “Oh, but we don’t want to focus on something so divisive as doctrine. Let’s just all love Jesus.”

    Which Jesus? There are several alternatives – only one of which is True. It makes a difference how you answer that question.


  • Joseph LeBlanc

    Having listened to the Marty Minto show, I can attest that this firing has been coming for quite a while. Here’s a general outline his show:

    1) Picks a news headline about a preacher/televangelist/music artist.
    2) Rants for about 10-15 minutes.
    3) Takes a caller.
    4) Caller presents a rational, 20 second counter-argument.
    5) Marty spends 5 minutes ripping the caller apart, while the caller gets in about two sentences worth of response.
    6) Lather, rinse, repeat.

    His show was about slandering religious figures he didn’t agree with, not rational discussion.

    I can’t even begin to express how glad I am that he’s off the air.

  • Scott S

    We live at a time such that when you disagree with a person, they think you hate them or are attacking them. Whenever Christians of varying denominations discuss their doctrinal distinctives with any integrity, there will be disagreements. We can’t all be right. It’s not helpful for Christians to glaze over their differences for the presumed sake of peace. However, that having been said, some folks just like to argue.

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