From our ‘no comment’ department

Jenna Jameson 011I realize that authorities in the American Catholic hierarchy are currently debating the ecclesiastical status of Sen. Joseph Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

But Fox News has opened up an entirely different front, when it comes to the battles over the meaning of “devout Catholic” and other related terms. Or do we need to blame Us magazine?

I offer the following news report — this is the complete story, I am afraid — with no additional commentary, other than a silent scream of, “WWWWHHHHAAAAT?????”

Former adult film star Jenna Jameson has confirmed that she’s pregnant following months of buzz.

“Yes, I can confirm I’m pregnant. It’s still early, so I’m being cautious. I’m resting as much as possible,” she tells, adding that she and boyfriend of two years, mixed martial arts fighter Tito Ortiz, “are still in a state of shock.”

“I’m so happy!” she said.

Jameson, 34, previously told Us she discovered she was two months pregnant in November 2004 after being diagnosed with malignant melanoma. A day later, she miscarried due to the stress of cancer. But the devout Catholic — who has tried in vitro — told Us, “It was all in God’s plan.”

Jameson — who split from adult film studio owner Jay Grdina in 2006 and from porn star Brad Armstrong in 2001 said she and Ortiz have no plans to wed.

“I think I’m gonna stay unmarried and just go for the babies!” she told Us. “I’m following in Angelina’s footsteps!”

I have tried to show restraint in the choice of art for this post. I ask those who dare to leave comments to do the same.

Let’s focus on this question: What does the word “devout” mean in the media phrase “devout Catholic”? What should it mean? For example: Does this term mean that the person has a full sacramental relationship with the Catholic faith, including confession?

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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.

  • Steve

    Unspeakably sad. Bit surprised that Fox has no real reporting going on? “Bishop so and so of Hollywood, FL, said that Ms. Jameson is a member of no parish in his diocese.” etc. Anything!

  • Ken

    Good point. Perhaps you’re a good person to ask the reporter?

  • Ed Mechmann

    The standard for determining if Ms. Jameson is in full communion with the Church is actually the same as for everyone else, including Mr. Biden, Ms. Pelosi, et al. It’s contained in Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law: Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

  • Brian Walden

    It seems to me like in the media “devout Catholic” means a dissenting Catholic – at least when referring to public figures. Or maybe it means a person is a devout Cultural Catholic (whatever that means). On the other hand, public figures who really are devout Catholics are usually described as “traditional” or “conservative” rather than devout. If the person isn’t a public figure then it’s a mixed bag, you’ve got to use the context of the story to figure out what the reporter means by devout.

    I think there is enough wiggle room in the word devout for it to refer to both someone who is pious and someone who takes their religious beliefs seriously (usually there’s a great deal of overlap between the two, but not necessarily). The first definition allows for a Catholic who, for example, reads the Bible every day but whose beliefs are not entirely orthodox. The second includes a Catholic who accepts all the Church’s teachings and does the bare minimum required of them (Sunday Mass, confession once a year, etc.), but might not have pious practices like the person in the first example.

    The Us article gives us no indication that Jameson prays the rosary or some other devotion regularly and it explicitly states that she disagrees with the Church on a number of teachings. So what they mean by devout Catholic is anyone’s guess. Devout may have gone the way of the “gentleman” – at one time it meant something, now it’s just a polite term to put before Catholic. Maybe reporters feel that they owe the readers more detail than just plain old Catholic and so they stick devout before it. If that’s the case I suggest using Latin Rite, Byzantine Rite, etc. instead of devout (unless the person really is devout and using the word actually adds meaning to the sentence).

  • Jonathan

    I think that Brian is on to something with the media use of “devout Catholic”. Dare I say it might be a phrase that is quickly becoming as nebulous and as meaningless as “evangelical” to describe someone.

  • cwalker

    Words fail.
    But I’m awfully glad there are people like you guys who will nevertheless roll up their sleeves and give it a whack.

  • Jason

    My guess: the reporter got it wrong.

    I don’t want to speculate about the sincerity of her faith, but I could easily see her defaulting to a “God’s will” position, then explaining to a befuddled reporter that she “is Catholic” meaning that it just part of her psychological make-up, and the reporter needing an adjective on the fly for that horribly constructed sentence.

    The pity is that there is a much better story in here. I would be genuinely interested in a story about an adult film star’s struggle with cancer and conception. I assume most people (like myself) have a one-dimensional understanding of someone in this profession. I would be interested in knowing more about how someone with a set of values that I perceive to be quite different from mine approaches one life’s most agonizing struggles.

    First Johansson in a swimsuit, now this. You know I consider this a religion site. Am I going to have to start blocking images?

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Oh, Terry. Now I *gotta* put a post up about this on *our* blog. Do I show the same restraint or not? What to do, what to do?

  • tmatt

    Go ahead, Jeff.

    Blame me. But ask the same question. I would be interested in your take on that. It is, sadly, a serious question.

  • Will

    My guess is that it means that the person inteviewed said “I’m a devout Catholic….” Period.

    I seem to recall the Times quoting a new NARAL president as saying she was a faithful Catholic, even though she disagrees with “some fundamentals”. Interesting that you can be an adherent of a religion while rejecting “fundamental” doctrines. How dare you say I’m not a Moslem just because I deny the inspiration of the Koran and the prophethood of Mohammed?

  • Dale

    I’m waiting for the MSM to print a quote from someone who claims to be “adamantly pro-choice” and opposed to legalized abortion, without any clarifying comment about the apparent contradiction.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    OK. Mine is up. A bit less restrained in some ways, I fear.
    Now as to the journalism issues:

    1) If true, the original US Mag story should have said: “Jameson, who describes herself as a “devout Catholic,” bla bla.

    2) Somebody at FOX who presumably is also supposed to make sure that items from the Onion and Nigerian spams don’t get posted as news should have made the change before simply posting it.

    3) A separate story about Jenna Jameson’s Catholic faith — how she defines it and how it fits into official church teachings — based on interviews with her and with Catholic scholars would be an unusually well-read theology tale.

  • FW Ken

    I agree, the story sucks. There is NO mention of the rosary she carries or of her being an altar girl! But seriously people! Ya’ll are way too serious. This is great stuff!

    I LOVE being a Catholic!

  • Susan

    “Devout Catholic” is usually used when no one else could tell that the person was Roman Catholic based on the person’s life style and/or stated beliefs! I have never seen the use of “devout Catholic” in RC media; it is a phrase that is used in the liberal media and most of the time, it appears to be used to justify beliefs and behavior that are not a reflection of the RCC’ beliefs and (hopefully) the behavior that reflects those beliefs.

    I am privileged to go to Mass every Sunday and as many other days as I can. I subscribe to the teachings of my Church even though I had to struggle with a number of them before I became a RC. I am active in my parish … I study, I teach, I go to at least one weekly Bible study, I volunteer for lots of “shleappy” stuff … but I would never, ever describe myself as a “devout Catholic”. What does it mean anyway? Most Christians (yes, RCs are Christians!)live with spiritual struggle and failure but also in faith and hope. Most RCs know that a rosary is a simple aid to one type of Christocentric prayer … not a magic talisman. And most Catholics know what the Life issues are in the RCC … and know when they are violating them!

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  • Julia

    I’m guessing that the reporter might have considered the porn star a “devout” Catholic because she’s having the baby.

    Or maybe she actually said something like: I wouldn’t think of abortion – I’m Catholic, you know.

    What makes this funnier is that in pushing the devout Catholic-baby-lover angle, the reporter kind of gives her try at “in vitro” as part of this Catholic bit – but “in vitro” is a Catholic “no no”.

    I guess in some people’s minds anybody who is going to

    go for the babies

    must be uber-Catholic.

  • Martha

    It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that, if you see the words “practicing” or “devout” (or even “ardent, committed”) before the word “Catholic”, hold onto your hats.

    Because the very next thing out of this ‘devout, ardent, committed, practicing’ Catholic’s mouth will be something either fatuous or rebellious, but certainly nothing to do with the Catholic faith as she is taught.

    That being said, I have a smidgeon more sympathy for the porn actress than the Speaker. “The harlots and publicans go into the Kingdom of God before you.”

  • Dale


    There’s hope for Ms. Pelosi yet. She is known as Madam Speaker, and the House is nothing if it isn’t of ill-repute.

  • Brandon Watson

    I suspect ‘devout Catholic’ here means ‘actually practicing aspects of the Catholic faith’ — i.e., you get labeled as ‘devout Catholic’ if you do some Catholic things regularly. Jameson’s been in the news before for her return to her Catholic roots; although it’s always rather vague about what that return consists in.

    BTW, the previous Us article to which the one in the post refers is here, in the context of Jameson’s struggle with cancer.

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  • Brett

    I believe that this is an instance of the imperfect thesaurus tense of the adjective, which, in layman’s terms, mean that the reporter wrote a word the meaning of which he or she is ignorant.

  • Dan Crawford

    “Devout Catholic”: the rule of thumb is that anyone claiming to be Catholic is by definition “devout” because they are “earnest” about anything except their faith.

  • M. Swaim

    Maybe the reporter wrote “deviant Catholic,” and it just got switched in spellcheck?

  • Maureen

    It probably does mean that the reporter thought she was very earnest about the beliefs she has and knows she should have. And heck, she probably is devout to the extent that she’s ever been taught to be. She’s even with a man who’s probably the same kind of Catholic, since they both are apparently gung ho for life without bothering about details.

    These are the kind of well-meaning young people who’ve been deprived of real, meaty Catholic teaching. I hope someday they’ll get it, and their children as well.

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    I think some reporters simply lapse into “devout Catholic” as a cliche, just as they would write “hard-shell Baptist” or “observant Jew.” It’s a good general rule to avoid distilling anyone’s beliefs down to an adjective.

  • Martha

    Dale, I want to see the cage match between Nancy ‘The Mangler of Meaning’ Pelosi and Augustine ‘The Manichaean Masher’ of Hippo, with Aristotle ‘Master of Those Who Know’ from Stageira as referee :-)

  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    Maybe she’s devout because she’s “goingfor the babies.”

    Well, it’s modern pop culture trying to glom onto the “religious/spiritual” scene. Madonna embraces Judaism’s Kaballah movement and speaks about her new Jewish “faith” (I did find it ironic that she adopts the Jewish heroine’s Persian name, based on a Persian fertility goddess that also gives us the word “Easter” rather than the Jewish name of same heroine, Hadassah).

    Not sure I want to see Ms. Jameson’s take on Solomon’s Song….