I wrote yesterday about Pope Benedict XVI’s speech to the diplomatic corps, in which he called for a focus on religious liberty. That didn’t get much news coverage, but guess what is! That’s right, remarks that Pope Benedict XVI didn’t even make. And such is the state of affairs in reporting on the pontiff.
Here’s how The Telegraph headlined its article:
Pope rails against rise of un-Christian names
The Pope has warned parents against giving children celebrity-inspired names and urged them to turn to the Bible for inspiration instead.
And now I will give you the entire substantiation for the charge that the Pope “railed” and “warned parents against celebrity-inspired names”:
During Mass at the Sistine Chapel, he said: “Every baptised child acquires the character of the son of God, beginning with their Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be born anew in the womb of the Church.” He added that a name was an “indelible seal” that set children off on a lifelong “journey of religious faith”.
OK, now if you’re waiting for the railing part, much less the discussion of celebrity names, you will be waiting for a long time. It didn’t happen. At all. In any way. I’ve read both the devotion following the angelus and the homily from the mass, and this bit about celebrity names is not even close to being there. The words above, incidentally, come from the angelus. You can find translations of both here (scroll down, if needed). And here’s another translation of the devotion from the angelus.
Apparently the Pope’s words weren’t newsy enough without inventing an angle and inventing quotes. This reminds me of the time that we were told by the Los Angeles Times that the Pope “railed against same-sex marriage” when in the real world he hadn’t even mentioned it. I think we now know that when mainstream journalists say the Pope “railed against” something, they mean he didn’t mention it.
The Independent appears to be a source for the faulty information (which has spread to US papers). By which I mean they appear to have made up a quote! The piece is headlined “For heaven’s sake, Pope hopes to end trend for exotic names” and is written by one Michael Day “in Milan.” He ramps up the rhetoric, too:
The pope has declared war on parents’ growing insistence on shunning the saints and naming their children after fashion designers, Sanskrit titles and things that don’t mean much.
The Holy See fears that parents are choosing modish names such as Chanel, Swami and Pesche at the expense of Maria, Martina and Giuseppe, egged on by celebrity examples.
“Every baptism should ensure that the child is given a Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit will allow the person to blossom in the bosom of the Church,” Benedict XVI said, while baptising 21 infants in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday. “Do not give your children names that are not in the Christian calendar.”
Now the Pope isn’t just railing, he’s DECLARING WAR. Keep in mind, again, that the pope hasn’t even mentioned the topic. And apparently Michael Day in Milan has a direct line into the Pope’s head because he reports that he “fears” something. No corroborating quotes are given to substantiate that claim.
Anyway, on to the invented quote. It’s true that the Pope said something similar to the first part, except that you’ll note it’s changed slightly into a command from the blessing above. But, then again, I’m not entirely sure on which translation is more accurate. Translator experts, feel free to weigh in.
But that second part? Nowhere to be found in the translations of the Pope’s words. Is it just made up? And even if it wasn’t made up, you’ll note that it’s not a declaration of war or a mention of Chanel, Swami or Pesche. Maybe British journalists were jealous of American journalists this week and they wanted to just sit around and invent storylines, too.
Fact is that the Daily Mail had the best piece of the bunch. And even they had many inaccuracies and a completely wrong angle in their “Pope makes a plea to parents to give their children traditional names (are you listening Posh and Becks?).”
What’s so ridiculous about these inventions and hystrionics is that the baby-naming topic is fascinating on its own. And a non-fantasy discussion of the Pope’s words on Christian naming could still be used to discuss naming trends and mock people who made different naming decisions and what not. In fact, you have to be particularly uninspired to need false quotes and angles in order to discuss these things.
Major hat-tip to Opinionated Catholic on this one.