Francis links abortion with abuse, yet press doesn’t follow

The Italian press has placed an interesting interpretation on Pope Francis’ Friday comments on the clergy abuse. It reports that in the pope’s mind clergy abuse of children is tied to the “abomination” of abortion. Look for this theme in the Anglo-American press and tell me if you can find it? I can’t.

Francis’ comments to the International Catholic Child Bureau meeting at the Vatican on April 11 received wide spread coverage. CNN reported:

Pope Francis made his strongest condemnation yet of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on “men of the church” who harm children.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” the Pope said in remarks quoted by Vatican Radio.

As an aside, I chose CNN’s story over the others because of its aesthetic and journalist quality. It is really quite good. To my mind Daniel Burke is one of the most highly skilled writers covering religion and this article shows why he deserves that accolade. The language is tight, conveying the story in a minimum of words.  The story is told well with very little fluff or filler. The article is balanced — offering comments from abuse activists while also allowing Francis to speak. The author’s views on the issue can be discerned by the layout of the story — paragraph placement is one of the key elements in constructing an article — yet there is no preaching or bombast in a topic (clergy abuse of children) that is often spoilt by opinion masking as news. A great job all round.

Yet, Burke is back in America and must rely on material provided by others when reporting on Rome. Has he been given the full story by his stringers in Rome?

For on the same day as the pope spoke to the International Catholic Child Bureau, he addressed a pro-life group. For the Italian press, the messages Francis offered on the clergy abuse scandal and abortion were intertwined. The lede to the story “Pedofilia, il Papa chiede perdono per gli abusi commessi dai sacerdoti” in the Milan-based Corriere della Sera makes this clear. (N.b. with a circulation of over 350,000 Corriere della Sera is one of Italy’s largest and most influential newspapers. It’s main competitors are the Rome’s la Repubblica and Turin’s La Stampa.) It states:

Pope Francis has asked “forgiveness” for the child abuse perpetrated by men of the Church. In unambiguous tones, Francis said: “I am called to this burden” to “ask for forgiveness”, and to assure you that we will not take any “step back” in addressing this problem and seeing that “penalties will be imposed.” Children should be protected and have a family, the pontiff said. “They have a right to grow up with a father and mother.” And before that children must be protected in the womb, he added, because “the unborn child is the innocent par excellence.” Drawing upon the words of the Second Vatican Council Francis added “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

The Corriere della Sera article gives a fuller picture of Francis’ views on the clergy abuse scandal than the CNN piece by stressing Francis’ argument that both are crimes against children and against God.

It could be argued that a pope condemning abortion is not news. However, Francis was the center of a media frenzy last year when in an interview the the Jesuit publication America, he said:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.” …“The teaching of the church … is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

This was interpreted by some media outlets as evidence that Francis would change, perhaps not the substance, but certainly the tone of church teachings. The New York Times lede to its September 19 story on the interview followed this line:

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

Why the silence from the Anglo-American press on the pope’s latest abortion comments? GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly has addressed the dichotomy between the coverage and reality of Francis’ views on abortion in other posts. Is there something in the mindset of American reporters that prevents them from making the link between abuse and abortion that the Corriere della Sera has made?

Vatican Radio and the Holy See Press Office / Vatican Information Service released reports on the addresses made by the pope, but these came out in separate stories. If all you had to work with were the press releases, connecting the dots may not have been obvious to US based reporters.

The “why” should also be examined in the context of “should”. Should CNN and other news outlets linked the abortion and abuse stories? Is this an editorial step too far by Corriere della Sera? Or have they offered the insight and context expected of quality newspapers?

My imperfect knowledge of the situation does not allow me to say CNN or the Corriere della Sera had it right. My instincts though tell me the Italian report gives a broader, and ultimately better, picture of what is actually happening in Rome.

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About geoconger
  • AuthenticBioethics

    Well, he doesn’t talk about issues of abortion and gay marriage all the time, just like he said in the interview in America. And that sentence in that interview crops up everywhere in the press. So, I think the press has a duty to take notice when he does speak about these issues. Interestingly, he condemned both issues in a single sentence. “[Children] have a right to grow up with a mother and a father.” The right to “grow up” at all precludes abortion, and with a mother and a father precludes gay marriage (which ostensibly would include the right to raise children jointly). So I’m also not suprised the US mainstream media didn’t get around to mentioning it.

    • WC

      This is very much the language French opponents of gay marriage are using. It might be worth looking into how this address plays in the French press.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    First of all, we don’t need to forgive the priests. Just defrock them, pay retributions and chase it further up.

    To apologize and then link it to abortion is unforgivable. It is almost the same way Congress passes bills with private fluff tagged on. Cheap rhetorical move. It, and much more should be ignored.

    • AuthenticBioethics

      He didn’t link them. They were two separate addresses. According to geoconger, the Italian press saw them as intertwined.
      And in any case, Catholic parties interested in the welfare of children are interested in both issues. Mentioning both in one address (which he doesn’t seem to have done) is not necessarily “linking” them.

      • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

        See, even you tried to link them in your comment.
        Doing so only weakens the cause to stop pediophiles and those who rather protect their holy institution rather than the children of others. If you can’t see the problem with putting these items next to each other in any fashion, then you may not want to see.

        Your handle “authenticbioethics” itself is presumptuous, like the rest of us are unauthentic.

        • helen

          Parental killing of children is less despicable than priests’ abuse of children?

          • AuthenticBioethics

            Yes. Or less widespread of a problem?

          • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

            Just a strategy suggestion. Parents killing children is horrible, killing fetuses is less horrible, killing sperm or eggs is even less horrible.

            Mix them all together and you will overload readers. We can only give a shit about so much. Keep them separate. But if it makes you feel righteous, pure and holy, keep waving all your banners at the same time — Jesus will be proud.

          • tmatt

            And your commentary on the journalism issues in this post is what?

          • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

            If your intuition is wrong and the Italian source is wrong, then the Italian press is trying to link the two because they want to ride on the abuse scandal to attack pro-choice. This is probable, for as you said, apparently he chastised the Church for fixation on this issue and now is doing the same?

            But If your intuition is correct, then the US either were fed incomplete info, or they ignored it because (a) it made not sense to them or (b) they felt the priest scandal much more important and didn’t not want to mix the issues because US readers are not as riled about abortion as a majority like Italians are though readers on this thread probably feed killing millions of fetuses is much worse than molesting a few thousand children — to them, it is all the same.

            So, my comment addresses the issue behind both of these options since I certain have no idea about news sources or editors choices on this issue, and neither do you apparently. But you seem to be implying something, without saying it: “See the Pope does care about Abortion which is child murder which is far worse than child abuse.” At least that my feeling of your post.

            Does that answer your question?

          • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

            @tmatt:disqus,
            You are a moderator here and asked me a question. I was hoping for a reply or was it a rhetorical scolding?

        • AuthenticBioethics

          There is in fact an awful lot of unauthentic bioethics out there.

          • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

            And of course, you presume that your ethics don’t ever fall among them. — Odd, that is the way everyone else thinks too. Aren’t you special.

  • Julia B

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