Almost getting Humane Vitae

humanaevitaeI am remiss in not writing about coverage of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical that upheld the Roman Catholic Church’s prohibition against artificial birth control and contraception.

Here’s my excuse: When I was old enough to read stories about this topic, coverage of the church’s position relied heavily on ad-hominem attacks and priests rarely explained this unpopular church teaching. I knew I would have to go back and re-read Humanae Vitae as well as the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 2006 document against artificial birth control and contraception. (Bear with me. This preamble will be important later in the post.)

I am glad to report that coverage has improved. Gone is the implied criticism that because the Pope and Vatican officials are all single males, they have no right to tell married couples what to do in the intimacy of their bedrooms. In fact, several stories are serious and thoughtful. Yet I think that none truly get religion.

For Religion News Service, reporter Daniel Burke wrote about Humane Vitae and its legacy. His lede struck a fair and accurate note:

Some say Pope Paul VI predicted the dangers of loosening sexual morals: widespread divorce, disease and promiscuity. Others say he cracked open a culture of dissent that has seeped into every corner of the church.

Either way, 40 years after Paul VI released “Humanae Vitae” on July 25, 1968, the papal encylical banning most forms of birth control continues to be a flashpoint in the Catholic Church.

Throughout his story, Burke treated the encyclical seriously, as a document that Catholics struggle with. For example, he presented what I regard as the best argument against Humanae Vitae:

Lisa Cahill said young Catholics in her ethics classes at Boston College don’t understand why the church allows married couples to avoid pregnancy through what the church calls “natural family planning” but not by other means.

“The arguments don’t really fit together coherently,” she said. “As soon as you concede that it is moral to have sex while trying not to procreate,why does everything rest on the natural structure of the act?”

In addition, Burke also gave readers the historical and theological context in which Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical. While Burke could have dismissed the pope’s perspective and rationale, he sought to explain it:

In July of 1968, expectations ran high for Paul VI to at least partially allow artificial contraception. The Second Vatican Council had just called for lay Catholics to play a larger role in the church. The now widely available birth-control pill offered a discreet means to avoid pregnancy. A leaked press report hinted that a Vatican committee studying the ban favored ending it.

Instead, Paul VI dug in. He defended tradition and encouraged Catholics to savor “the sweetness of the yoke.” Sex exists for the connected purposes of unifying married couples and creating new life, Paul reasoned. Contraceptives break that connection and frustrate God’s designs, he said. Abstinence during a woman’s fertile days to avoid pregnancy — known as “the calendar method” — is acceptable. But other forms of birth control are “repugnant” and wrong in all circumstances, Paul said.

What Burke did not do, however, was present the encyclical’s main argument against artificial birth control and conctraception. As Peter Steinfels notes, Humanae Vitae was not at its heart a warning against the evils of the sexual revolution in general and artificial birth control specifically. Its essence was theological, not sociological:

The central point of “Humanae Vitae” was that each and every act of sexual intercourse had to be free of any deliberate effort to prevent conception.

It was here that Pope Paul VI rejected the recommendation of his own papal commission. After extended study and debate, the commission, though heavily weighted with conservative churchmen, concluded that the inseparability of the bonding and procreating aspects of human sexuality had to be respected over the course of a marriage but not necessarily in every instance of sexual intimacy.

Steinfels got that first part right at least. And while like John Allen, Jr., he strives to explain the theological basis of the encylical and church teaching, going so far as to quote from an interview with Cardinal Ratzinger a decade ago, his summary too is incomplete.

Humanae Vitae forbids Catholic couples from using artificial birth control for one main reason: those who use artificial birth control attempt to assert mastery over their own fate rather than being open to God’s will. It casts the issue as one of control — Man’s vs. God’s. As the encyclical states,

[T]o experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source

It is probably too much to expect Burke to described this theological justification accurately. With its elliptical sentences and length, Humanae Vitae is no easy read. (The Bishops’ 2006 statement is clearer and better written.) But I do think that Allen and Steinfels, two prominent Catholic thinkers, should have described this admittedly thorny church teaching and encyclical more accurately.

Journalists ignore life’s beginnings

ignore2Two major newspapers published front-page stories yesterday about a proposed Bush Administration rule that would seek to protect health-care workers to not provide abortions, or contraceptive devices they regard as tantamount to abortion. The proposal would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan, or other entity that does not give employees a right to refuse to participate on conscience grounds.

In The Wall Street Journal, reporter Stephanie Simon focused on the potentially far-reaching effects of the rule. Her lede began this way:

Set aside the fraught question of when human life begins. The new debate: When does pregnancy begin?

The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying “the life of a human being.”

Later, Simon elaborated about the politics of the proposed rule as well as that of other similar state measures:

With its expansive definitions, the draft bolsters a key goal of the religious right: to give single-cell fertilized eggs full rights by defining them as legal people — or, as some activists put it, “the tiniest boys and girls.”

As long as Roe v. Wade remains in effect and abortion remains legal, that goal can’t be fully realized. But in recent years, abortion opponents have scored notable successes. For instance: Several states now define a fertilized egg as a legal person — an “unborn child” — for purposes of fetal homicide laws, which allow criminal prosecution when a woman miscarries as a result of an assault.

In South Dakota, abortion doctors must tell patients — whatever their stage of pregnancy — that they will be “terminating the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” with whom they have an “existing relationship.” In Colorado, voters this fall will weigh a state constitutional amendment that would confer full personhood on fertilized eggs, as well as embryos and fetuses. And embryonic stem-cell research is restricted through a variety of state and federal policies.

In The Washington Post, reporter Rob Stein also focused on the political and legal effects of the rule:

Because of its wide scope and because it would — apparently for the first time — define abortion in a federal regulation as anything that affects a fertilized egg, the regulation could raise questions about a broad spectrum of scientific research and care, critics say.

Simon and Stein could not ignore writing about the rule’s political and legal implications. But their exclusive focus on them gave readers an incomplete and misleading picture. They glossed over the biological aspects of the rule. And Simon used scare quotes to describe human biology– “the life of the human being” and “unborn child.”

As I wrote last December, embryologists and biologists have reached a rough consensus about when human life begins. In the vast majority of cases, an individual human life begins at the end of fertilization or conception.

Take the definition in Brittanica Concise Encyclopedia:

In humans, the organism is called an embryo for the first seven or eight weeks after conception, after which it is called a fetus.

Or consider the definition in Columbia Encyclopedia:

Among humans, the developing young is known as an embryo until eight weeks following conception, after which time it is described, until birth, as a fetus.

Not all authorities agree with this precise definition. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary and Oxford University define an embryo as that which begins at implantation. Yet this definition relies on an exception to the rule: the case of twins or triplets, etc. In those cases, the first human life begins at fertilization, and the second when the embryo splits or divides. Yet the life is undoubtedly human.

It’s fine for reporters to write about the law and politics. But when it comes to bio-ethical issues, they also need to write about the biology. Avoiding the topic is simply a journalistic sin of omission.

Showing sins against secularism

turkeyI know Turkey is a secular state. As a reader of books about the Middle East (such as this fine one) and as someone who got a degree in political science, I have heard all about Kemal Ataturk and the secular founding of the country. But I had never appreciated how secular Turkey was until I read reporter Laura King’s story in The Los Angeles Times.

King wrote about whether the country’s ruling party would be shut down by its highest court because of alleged anti-secular activity. (The party ended up being fined.) King wasted no time in showing readers the importance of the nation’s secular constitution. Her introductory paragraphs began this way:

In an overwhelmingly Muslim but avowedly secular state, the legal confrontation illuminates the deep divide between the devout and those who are determined to keep displays of piety from public life.

In the most drastic outcome, the Constitutional Court could outlaw the ruling Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, for anti-secular activity. It could also ban dozens of senior party leaders, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from participating in politics for five years.

Later, King showed the nature of the ruling party’s offense: It tried — tried — to overturn a certain type of ban:

The AKP overwhelmingly won last summer’s elections, running mainly on a platform of economic development. However, it caused an uproar this year when it attempted to toss out a ban on head scarves at public universities. That set the current case in motion, with the party standing accused by prosecutors of harboring an Islamist agenda that runs counter to Turkey’s secular constitution.

Then, King gave readers the context necessary to understand the highest court’s impending decision:

Turkish courts and officials have banned political parties in the past, about 20 times in all. But banned parties have often simply reconstituted themselves under another name, and the AKP would probably do the same. The current party is a more moderate offshoot of an Islamist party that was outlawed in the 1990s.

The story was not perfect. Perhaps King could have cited the secular constitutional laws in question. Perhaps she could have mentioned whether the anti-secular laws are unpopular or not. But of course, as Tmatt implied, perhaps newspapers could stop reducing the length of their news stories.

Yet this story got religion. Or rather it showed what happens to a state where public displays of religion are banned completely.

Define evangelical leader, give an example

Lahaye Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times wrote an intriguing story about elite evangelical opposition to Mitt Romney, a prospective GOP vice-presidential running mate:

Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens.

They say Mr. Romney lacks trust on issues such as outlawing abortion and opposing same-sex marriage and because he is a Mormon. Opposition is particularly powerful among those who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.

“McCain and Romney would be like oil and water,” said evangelical novelist Tim LaHaye, who supported Mr. Huckabee. “We aren’t against Mormonism, but Romney is not a thoroughgoing evangelical and his flip-flopping on issues is understandable in a liberal state like Massachusetts, but our people won’t understand that.”

The Rev. Rob McCoy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, Calif., who speaks at evangelical events across the country, told The Washington Times, “I will vote for McCain unless he does one thing. You know what that is? If he puts Romney on the ticket as veep.

“It will alienate the entire evangelical community – 62 million self-professing evangelicals in this country, half of them registered to vote, are going to be deeply saddened,” Mr. McCoy added.

Only LaHaye and McCoy are quoted directly saying that McCain would lose evangelical support if he chooses Romney as his running mate. Other evangelicals give ambiguous remarks about whether they would vote for a McCain-Romney ticket.

Here’s my main problem with Hallow’s story: It failed to define the term evangelical leader. I mean, is Tim LaHaye really a leader? A well-known novelist and supporter of Mike Huckabee — he is, yes; but someone whose views affect others — I don’t know. With the possible exception of Upton Sinclair, novelists are not conventional political leaders.

That’s OK. Maybe LaHaye is breaking the mold and plans to call evangelical pastors to not vote for the Republican ticket. But Hallow needed to give at least one example of LaHaye’s efforts.

Perhaps McCoy, too, is a leader. But Hallow does not cite any ways in which he is.

The term evangelical leader, as I noted months ago, has been used far too loosely this presidential campaign season. Sure, some evangelicals clearly are leaders. But for evangelicals whose political credentials are questionable, a little definition would go a long way.

Getting the Catholic guy

cathguy4As tmatt wrote recently, Get Religion prefers to cheer rather than jeer reporters. It is not just that reading a first-rate news story is satisfying and grounded in reality. It is inspirational. As all of us have been or are reporters, we want to read stories that inform and compel the public, if only to imitate them.

One story that bears imitating is a New York Times profile of “The Catholic Guy” on Sirius Satellite Radio. Reporter Paul Vitello distilled the essence of host Lino Rulli’s show, its mixture of the sacred and profane. Vitello’s lede is a good example:

Mike from El Paso was on the phone line to “The Catholic Guy,” the afternoon drive-time talk program produced via the unlikely partnership of Sirius Satellite Radio (familiar to most people as “Howard Stern’s network“) and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

“I called the other day?” said Mike. “About how much I miss confession?” This would be the Mike who was barred from the sacrament of confession under church law because he married a divorced woman whose first marriage was never annulled.

“Yes, I remember!” bellowed the host, Lino Rulli, the Catholic guy of the show’s title. “Mike the Adulterer! O.K., Mike. Are you ready to play ‘Let’s Make a Catholic Deal’?”

I thought this opening captured a certain kind of Catholic male sensibility, one informed by Catholic schooling and teaching and American culture. Rare is the newspaper story that gets this right.

In the next paragraph, Vitello told readers the the importance of this Catholic show and similar cultural programs:

It seems an odd marriage of sensibilities: the rough banter of talk radio as practiced by pioneer shock jocks like Mr. Stern and Don Imus, joined at the neck to an official Catholic broadcast whose underlying mission is herding people back into the fold of a religious orthodoxy.

But the stated mission of this new enterprise known as the Catholic Channel is to offer something more than “the audio equivalent of stained glass and incense,” as Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, refers to conventional religious radio.

cathguy5

Later, Vitello elaborated:

Young people are the major target of several efforts, official and otherwise. “Theology on Tap,” an informal project adopted in hundreds of parishes around the country, attracts young Catholics to lectures booked in bars or restaurants.

The Order of Paulist Fathers has started an initiative aimed at people in their 20s and 30s with an Internet ministry known as Busted Halo, whose mission is basically in sync with a recent series of youth-market books called “The Bad Catholic’s Guide to…” In the introduction to their first book, “The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living,” John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak summarize the creed: Believe in Catholicism, do what you can, admit that you are flawed “and turn to the font of infinite mercy as humbly and as often as you can.”

No doubt the Times has written about Theology on Tap before, but Vitello made an important point. Some dioceses, the ones in big cities in blue states anyway, are reaching out to young adult Catholics in new ways. The approach is modeled not on gathering in the church basement but outside it.

Also, I liked Vitello’s quote from Zmirak and Matychowiak’s book. The reporter told readers about Catholicism in its own terms.

Midway the story, Vitello made an important if somewhat familiar point:

David Gibson, a Catholic writer whose book “The Coming Catholic Church” describes a newly powerful grass-roots pressure for reform in the aftermath of the priest sexual abuse scandal, said the archdiocesan foray into talk radio may reflect some official acknowledgment of the need for a new, more interactive relationship with believers.

“The church really has no choice,” he said. “The old Catholic world, where you were born and married in the church and stayed because you were part of a ‘Catholic world’ — that’s gone. The church has to find people and make them want to be Catholic.”

Vitello needed to make this point in the story; it would have lacked context without it. However, I think this characterization of Catholic American life was accepted a bit uncritically. It is still possible to be born Catholic, attend Catholic schools, and spend your adult life largely with Catholic co-workers, friends, and family. Everyone agrees that this is not as common as it was before the 1970s, but I know dozens of friends, family members, and acquaintances whom this is true of. Gibson is a convert, so he is perhaps less likely to know about Catholic pockets in the country.

But that is a quibble. This story got religion.

In God’s debt

  01As noted before, some stories get religion completely or almost. They show the importance and impact of religion from beginning to end. Take this Washington Post story by reporter Ovetta Wiggins.

Wiggins wrote about Christian churches that help their flocks to get and stay out of financial debt. As a Catholic, I had never heard of such a thing; our programs, such as they are, tend to deal with prayer, social activities, and various causes. So I think that, as Mollie noted about an article on high gas prices, this was a good story idea.

Wiggins’ lede certainly caught my attention:

Following the advice of their pastor, the men and women shuffled to the altar, cut up their credit cards and placed them near his feet.

“If we want to have victory, we have to come out of financial bondage,” the Rev. John K. Jenkins of First Baptist Church of Glenarden shouted during a recent sermon.

Ordinarily Jenkins’s sermons are about spiritual freedom and ridding one’s self of sin. But his message has taken a different turn lately — one that preaches the dangers of overspending and debt.

Wiggins’ story was also fairly diverse. Although she did not mention how synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions deal with debt, she included a representative sampling in the Washington region, including a response from a Catholic parish:

Churches are going a step further by providing financial counseling and pointing people to local and state programs that help with finances.

McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia offers classes on how to handle money according to Biblical principles. And last month, St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Gaithersburg hosted a foreclosure prevention workshop to help those in danger of losing their homes.

Wiggins’ story also cast her story in wider relief. Not content to focus solely on the broader economic or national picture, she put her angle in theological context:

Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, said the problem for some church members is that “Christianity has always had a complicated relationship with money.”

On the one hand, Wolfe said, believers are told that the love of money is the root of all evil. Then there are those who preach a prosperity gospel, which promotes that God wants believers to have an abundant life with extraordinary financial blessings.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, one of the most renowned preachers of the prosperity gospel, has not tailored his messages to address the changes in the economy or how people should manage their money. But his Dallas-based church, the Potter’s House, offers a program that provides tips on financial literacy, budgeting and credit restoration.

An arresting lede, a (fairly) diverse sample of local denominations, and theological context — any story with those three elements is excellent. Wiggins’ story, however, was not perfect. Read this passage below, and see if it raises a question in your mind:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has encouraged ministers to discuss the foreclosure crisis, saying that religious leaders built their churches “on the middle-class bubble of success.” If churches do not address the foreclosure crisis, he said in a December visit to Prince George’s, parishioners will not only suffer, but “your churches will suffer” as well.

That part about churches suffering struck me as opaque. Did Jackson mean that pastors should be concerned not only about their flocks’ bottom line, but theirs too? After all, if the people in the pews can’t pay their bills, it stands to reason that they will give less money to the church? (Given their decentralized nature, Protestant churches would be more attuned to their congregationists’ financial woes.) Wiggins’ attitude toward the churches in this respect should have been more critical.

Yet her story ended on an appropriate note. She quoted a woman giving herself, or at least her finances, to the Lord:

“I could not lean to my own understanding,” Clements said, paraphrasing a scripture. “It wasn’t for me to figure out, it was me turning it totally over to God to figure out.”

That was a memorable ending for a memorable story.

A haunted college story

bereaExcept for one small detail, Tamar Lewin of The New York Times wrote a memorable story about the debate over rising tuition costs at American universities. Lewin focused on Berea College in Kentucky, a tiny school that does not charge its students admission, and contrasted it with other universities.

Lewin’s lede captured readers’ attention:

Berea College, founded 150 years ago to educate freed slaves and “poor white mountaineers,” accepts only applicants from low-income families, and it charges no tuition.

“You can literally come to Berea with nothing but what you can carry, and graduate debt free,” said Joseph P. Bagnoli Jr., the associate provost for enrollment management. “We call it the best education money can’t buy.”

Lewin’s following paragraph helped explain how Berea can afford to not charge students tuition:

Actually, what buys that education is Berea’s $1.1 billion endowment, which puts the college among the nation’s wealthiest. But unlike most well-endowed colleges, Berea has no football team, coed dorms, hot tubs or climbing walls. Instead, it has a no-frills budget, with food from the college farm, handmade furniture from the college crafts workshops, and 10-hour-a-week campus jobs for every student.

Lewin’s nut graph was interesting and important:

Berea’s approach provides an unusual perspective on the growing debate over whether the wealthiest universities are doing enough for the public good to warrant their tax exemption, or simply hoarding money to serve an elite few. As many elite universities scramble to recruit more low-income students, Berea’s no-tuition model has attracted increasing attention.

But as Mollie pointed out to me, this story was haunted. What Lewin did not do was broach a key fact about Berea College: It is Christian. Indeed, the school’s mission is explicitly so. The preamble to its mission statement begins this way:

Berea College, founded by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, continues today as an educational institution still firmly rooted in its historic purpose “to promote the cause of Christ.” Adherence to the College’s scriptural foundation, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” shapes the College’s culture and programs so that students and staff alike can work toward both personal goals and a vision of a world shaped by Christian values, such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice. This environment frees persons to be active learners, workers, and servers as members of the academic community and as citizens of the world. The Berea experience nurtures intellectual, physical, aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual potentials and with those the power to make meaningful commitments and translate them into action.

Lewin’s failure to mention Berea’s Christian character and identity amounts to a journalistic sin of omission. Berea cannot really be understood apart from its Christian worldview. The closest that the story comes to acknowledging this occurs at the end when Lewin quotes from Berea’s president:

“You see some of these selective liberal arts colleges building new physical education facilities with these huge sheets of glass and these coffee and juice bars, and charging students $40,000 a year, and you have to ask, does this contribute to the public good, or is it just a way for the college to keep up with the Joneses?” Mr. Shinn said. “We are a tax-exempt institution, so I think the public has a right to demand that our educational mission be at the heart of all of our expenditures.”

The more I research this story, the more it’s clear that Lewin’s story contains a ghost of gargantuan size. For example, Lewin writes about Amherst College, an elite university that charges (high) tuition fees. What Lewin does not point out are the striking religious and socio-cultural parallels between Amherst’s original mission and that of Berea’s. (Of course, Lewin also cites Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, three schools with a Christian founding.) This begs all sorts of questions about secularization and religion. Paging Robert Putnam

Perhaps I digress; GR does not tell reporters what they should pursue. But in Lewin’s story, it’s fair to say that Berea’s religion was more than relevant.

Pope coverage on balance

wyd2Like political conventions and track-and-field meets, Papal visits deserve multiple story lines. Focus on one angle and the story is bound to be incomplete. Focus on several angles and the reader will get a broad view of reality.

In examining the coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s weekend appearance at World Youth Day, I conclude that only one story met this standard of success. The article, by Tim Johnston of The New York Times, began with the Pope’s speech:

In his final address to hundreds of thousands of young Catholics gathered in Australia, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday sharply criticized the violence and materialism of the modern age.

“A new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished–not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed,” the pope told a crowd, estimated by the organizers at 400,000, at a racecourse and nearby park.

Benedict urged young people to create “a new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships.”

The story continued with a brief account of the Pope’s response to the sex abuse scandal in Australia:

On Saturday, he apologized for the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and brothers in Australia. “I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured, and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering,” he said in a brief departure from his prepared address.

Shortly before leaving on Monday morning, the pope held a small private Mass with a representative group of victims, answering critics who had condemned him for not meeting with the victims directly.

The article ended with another brief storyline, about local complaints about the cost of the event and news about the next World Youth Day.

The strength of Johnston’s story was its balance and fairness. He gave the Pope his say. He gave the activists their say. And he gave local and Catholics theirs.

These three qualities are not ends in themselves of course. If the Pope had announced his resignation, Johnston would have been foolish to write about the other angles. But in a story of this type, with no dominant narrative thread, Johnston made the right call.

Or Johnston seemed to make the right call. What was the extent of the priestly sex abuse in Australia? Was the scandal a cathartic issue as it was in the United States? Maybe the sex-abuse scandal was a major news story Down Under, but I assume it was not considering that Johnston and two other reporters failed to give readers sufficient context.

The Los Angeles Times, for example, wrote almost entirely about the sex-abuse scandal. It story included this voice-of-God line:

[A]s in his spring visit to the United States, one theme loomed over Benedict’s weeklong pilgrimage to Australia: the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

A careful reader will wonder who determined that this theme loomed. Was it the media, victims and alleged victims, political activists (as tmatt’s story suggested), or mainstream Catholic leaders? Without an answer, it’s difficult to support the reporters’ thesis. Yes, reporters Traci Wilkinson and Jennifer Bennett did give readers a statistic about the number of convicted priests, but the time line was never mentioned.

The Associated Press, also, wrote almost entirely about the sex-abuse scandal:

Pope Benedict XVI met privately on Monday with Australians who were sexually abused as children by priests, in a gesture of contrition and concern over a scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic church.

The pontiff held prayers and spoke with four representatives of abuse victims — two men and two women — in the last hours of a nine-day visit to Australia for the church’s global youth festival.

The abuse scandal was a sour undertone to the trip. On Saturday, Benedict delivered a forthright apology for the scandal, saying he was “deeply sorry” for the victims’ suffering.

The problem with the AP’s story was a lack of balance and fairness. Although the story does broach the Pope’s speech, it left a lot out. As GR reader Leroy Huizenga wrote,

While this article is better than some, it doesn’t mention Jesus or Christ or the Holy Spirit, all of which Benedict spent a lot of time on … In my view, this just doesn’t deal with the meat of what Benedict actually said.

Exactly. Which is why balance is so necessary.

(Image of World Youth Day in Australia by user Christopher Chan used under a Creative Commons license.)


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