For this week’s Crossroads podcast, I spoke with host Todd Wilken about media coverage of changes to the Roman Catholic liturgy. One of the things I keep reflecting on, and I know we shouldn’t praise that which should be done, is that I really do think the level of coverage was a good thing. So often we see major issues in the lives of religious adherents that are completely under the radar of many in the media.
In this case, we really did see an appropriate level of coverage, with both national and local takes. We’d be the first to harp on this if it were otherwise, so it’s important to point it out when it’s done well. Now, as for the quality of coverage, that’s another debate entirely. It was kind of fun or funny to watch how reporters tried to convince us that the words they themselves use in their stories are somehow above the heads of the average worshiper. Likewise the way that change — always presented as inherently good — was suddenly viewed with suspicion because the proponents of change were more traditional than the opponents. And the basic errors of fact that ran rampant throughout too many stories were also worth noting.
I did mean to highlight also this interesting piece by Louisville Courier-Journal‘s Peter Smith, who took on an actual theological issue in his coverage of the changes to the liturgy:
By saying Jesus died “for many” instead of “for all,” will Roman Catholic priests be proclaiming a different theology beginning this weekend — narrowing the extent to which they believe Jesus saved sinners?
No, say the pope and bishops, the official teaching authorities of the church.
Opponents of sweeping liturgical revisions that will take effect this weekend, already distrustful of the top-down process that led to the changes, aren’t so sure.
The change in wording is just one of many in the works.
As we reported earlier this fall, the revisions are the biggest since Catholics began having Mass in local languages rather than Latin decades ago. They take effect with Masses this weekend.
Controversies have ranged from the content — such as the use of more technical theological terms and the revival of symbolic penitential breast-beating — to the Vatican process for approving the revisions, which critics said overrode years of work by an English-language commission.
You may read the story for more discussion of the debate. I actually still had unanswered questions about the matter and would have loved to see much more coverage.
In any case, on Crossroads, we also briefly discussed the weaknesses of a couple of other stories, such as the ones about female altar girls and Mormon views on sex. You may listen here.