Shameless self promotion (Rockies division)

xdenver skyline2bWe are glad that people are reading GetReligion — especially working journalists. Obviously.

It is also good that religious leaders click into the site from time to time, since we think that can help them understand some of the challenges that reporters and editors face. We also try to highlight the good as well as note some of the mistakes that take place on the Godbeat (or godsbeat). I had a priest tell me, back when we started, that it helps if church leaders know who the good reporters are when looking through all of those urgent telephone messages on a busy day.

One of the most media-savvy bishops I have ever covered is Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.

Actually, I met him when he was the Franciscan campus minister at the downtown branch of the University of Colorado (and several other schools), before he was raised to the episcopate in his late ’30s. He has always been interested in mass media — news and entertainment — with a logical interest in youth culture. Chaput drew some attention when he discussed the film The Matrix, with its meditations on the confusion and unreality of modern life, in the context of the Columbine High School massacre.

Anyway, the archbishop’s interest in journalism is frequently evident in in his newspaper columns and speeches. He is considered a pro-Rome conservative, but rare are the traditionalists who pay this much attention to trends in media and modern life. Many Catholic liberals detest him (think abortion politics), but he also makes a few conservatives nervous from time to time (think death penalty and economic issues). Catholic theology tends to shred labels.

All of this is to note that, in a new column in the Denver Catholic Register, the archbishop has praised GetReligion — for reasons that both needle and praise mainstream journalists. Here is a sample: is one of my favorite Web sites, not because it’s Catholic or pious — it’s neither — but because it asks the right questions. … The results aren’t comforting. The evidence gathered by shows again and again that the press doesn’t “get” religion as a story. Denver is unusual in having two major newspapers, both with capable religion coverage. But overall, major news organizations tend to cover religion poorly, predictably and too often with a negative undercurrent.

As we enter yet another election year, Catholics should remember that what we read in the newspapers, hear on the radio and see on television is often useful, but it’s always a selective taste of reality. Deciding about a candidate based on the latest headlines, or about an issue based on the latest reported poll, is a recipe for trouble.

431342470  oJournalists, of course, would want to debate with the archbishop about that phrase “predictably and too often” being used to describe negative coverage of religion news. That’s a debate he would welcome and it would be a lively one.

When it comes to GetReligion, Chaput specifically wanted to praise Mark Stricherz for challenging mainstream journalists to dig into religious issues and debates among Democrats as well as Republicans. Click here and then here for the posts in question. As the archbishop notes, “obviously, plenty of very good people, including many religious believers, inhabit both political parties.” Why not cover both stories?

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have all spoken quite publicly about their religious faith in recent months. Yet as Stricherz notes, the recent Iowa caucus poll supported by all four major TV networks, CNN and AP was framed in a way that presumed religion is a major factor for Republicans and not for Democrats. Maybe that’s true; maybe it’s not — but we won’t ever know from the poll results, because the right questions weren’t asked.

Amen. So check out the archbishop’s column. And we thank him for being a reader and recommending GetReligion to others. Perhaps he should bring this subject up the next time he meets with local editors and television producers?

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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.

  • Kevin Jones

    “but he also makes a few conservatives nervous from time to time (think death penalty and economic issues)”

    Immigration, too. The archbishop’s reaction to the ICE raids in Greeley, and his campaign for immigration reform, didn’t endear him to many local conservatives.

  • Jerry

    I have one quibble: is one of my favorite Web sites, not because it’s Catholic or pious — it’s neither

    Of course a ‘web site’ is not a person and can’t therefore be pious, but from what I’ve read here the devout vastly outnumber the opposite.

  • Julia

    a pro-Rome conservative

    I don’t know any Catholic bishops who are not “pro-Rome”.

    Pious and devout are not necessarily equivalent.

    Devout from L. devotus, describes a person devoted to religious duties, or devoted to a pursit or mode of behavior in a serious and earnest manner; expressing of such devotion

    Pious from L. pius, can include the above, but adds strong reverence and/or conspcuous religiosity that may be self-conscious of how the person’s behavior appears to others

    I think Bishop Chaput was using the slightly negative aspect of “pious”.

    Personally, I’d also throw in a sense of preciousness that attaches to pious that further distinguishes the two words.

    For some reason, this negative sense doesn’t seem to attach as strongly to the related word “piety”.

    Bottom line, a “muscular” Christian is usually devout, but never “pious”.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I have followed this website since I discovered it. And, as a Catholic deacon I naturally support the Church on both its economic and social teachings–as every Catholic layperson, priest, deacon, and bishop should— Thus I am so pleased to see one of my favorite bishops has a high opinion of this site.

  • tmatt

    “I don’t know any Catholic bishops who are not “pro-Rome”.”

    Now that’s funny. You’re joking, correct?

  • Julia

    Now that’s funny. You’re joking, correct?

    No, but then you may mean something different by “pro-Rome” than I do. There is no Catholic Church of America in communion with Rome. There are only dioceses headed by bishops all over the world that are in communion with Rome. We don’t have national churches. You can’t be a Catholic bishop and be “anti-Rome”.

    Maybe anti-Rome bishops don’t like pasta? Or maybe they like New York or Madrid better?

    Perhaps you are using the word “Rome” as a metaphor for the person who is currently the Bishop of Rome? Or the Curia? Such a person would still owe allegiance to the Pope in Rome in a way that is not required in the Church of England, so you could hardly call any bishop in good standing “anti-Rome”.

  • Stephen A.

    I’m guessing, but Terry/tmatt probably meant that “pro-Rome” means the opposite of, “I’m a Catholic, but I disagree with the Pope on A, B, C, and D moral issues, and often speak out publicly against him.” (As if he was some kind of a politician or an outspoken Protestant minister one may campaign against!)

    That, actually is very much a Church of America mindset, and one well worth understanding if one is to report on American Catholics and how they relate to their Pontiff.

    Of course “pro-Rome” in this context would mean the obedience of a Catholic to his or her church’s moral teachings and teachings on the faith, as the pope and his predecessors have espoused them, ex cathedra.

    Am I close, tmatt?

  • tmatt

    Stephen A:

    Yup. Of course, with bishops it is usually a matter of passive aggression, rarely open rebellion. They are not openly anti-Rome. They are anti-pro-Rome or they decline to be anti-anti-Rome. It’s a passive thing, at the episcopal level.

  • Julia

    They are not openly anti-Rome. They are anti-pro-Rome or they decline to be anti-anti-Rome. It’s a passive thing, at the episcopal level.

    ha ha ha ha Perfect! You nailed it.

    I follow Ruth Gledhall at the Times of London and Cranmer’s UK blog, so I’m used to seeing “Rome” used as the equivalent of the whore of Babylon or the seat of traitorous, supersticious ignorance. I’ll have to remind myself that in America that may not be what is intended by references to “Rome”.

  • Tioedong

    Chaput is a Potawanamie from Kansas, and often speaks to Native American groups. (I worked in the Indian Health Service years ago, where is where I first heard about him).

    But since he is both articulate and blunt about defending Catholic teaching, the press tends to overlook that he is a member of a minority…

  • FrancisCan

    When he taled about religion and The Matrix he mention I was pleased to hear him mention Matrixism (a religion based on the movie). The path of the One by its nature emphasizes religious tolerance so I was glad to hear his speech go in that direction.