I hope everyone is having a blast with Day 2 of Papalpalooza. I’ve actually enjoyed some of the media coverage I’ve come across but we all know what happens when I post on good stuff.
Right. So let’s look at other approaches taken.
I know it’s The Guardian but I did like the transparency of this piece, which reads something like a parody of how the mainstream media treat the Roman Catholic Church. Headline:
Next pope’s in-tray: five key issues for the Catholic church
With Pope Benedict XVI announcing his intention to step down, we look at the pressing matters awaiting his successor
And I’m sure you will be surprised that the five issues are contraception, sexual abuse in the church, same-sex marriage, abortion and women. It’s like the newspaper was talking about the only five topics it permits discussion of when it comes to the Catholic Church instead of, you know, the Catholic Church’s pressing matters that await the papal successor. But illuminating none-the-less.
For a more sophisticated version of that piece, you might want to read the Washington Post‘s piece headlined “In picking successor, Vatican must decide what’s needed in a 21st-century pope.” It’s actually a great read overall and I don’t want this criticism to overshadow that. But the priorities put forth in the piece when it comes to cultural issues say more about what ails media coverage of the church than what ails the coverage of the church itself. The first three paragraphs of the analysis piece (is it analysis? It reads as such but I don’t know if it’s marked as such) are great:
In the eight years since Pope Benedict took office, the divisions in the Catholic world have become more solidified. The West, including Europe and the United States, has been locked in a culture war over contraception, homosexuality and the role of women in the church, among other issues. Meanwhile, more theologically traditional Catholics in Africa and parts of Asia have fueled much of the church’s growth, threatening a standoff with Islam.
That is the media’s war, no doubt. They wage it faithfully day after day after wearying day. I’m not entirely sure it’s one engaged in by many Catholics. I wonder if the media gets just what a narrow and distorted presentation of church life they present.
By the way, the next paragraph in the piece is:
In other words, the next pope will have to carefully pick his audience and decide how best to communicate with it without alienating the rest of the faith’s followers.
The second time I read that, I read it imagining a bunch of journalists in a dark room, licking their lips, rolling their hands over and laughing. That’s really unfair, I’m sure — and not just because the article immediately transitions to a discussion of how papacies are about focus. I think it’s just a telling reaction that illuminates a breakdown in trust with certain readers.
Here’s a telling couple of paragraphs:
Catholic debate in the United States often centers on issues such as whether the church should allow the ordination of women or married priests. But those are not the debates of the cardinals, all of whom were picked by Benedict or his like-minded predecessor, Pope John Paul II. They are in agreement on such matters as allowing female priests, contraception, or equality for gay men and lesbians: no, no and no.
The real factors behind the selection of a new pope are “not the kind of stuff that comes up on talk shows,” said John L. Allen Jr., who has written seven books on the Catholic Church and popes.
Oh that every reporter in the land would read that John Allen quote and ruminate on whether he’s talking about them!
As for the preceding paragraph, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is that? I mean, first off, the media may have done an excellent job of convincing themselves that redefining marriage is about nothing more or less than who believes gay men and lesbians are “equal.” They have done an excellent job of closing their minds when it comes time to listen to any other arguments — much less giving them accurate, fair play in news coverage. Any way that you want to look at it, that paragraph was not, to put it mildly, a fair characterization of church teaching on the dignity of all people. It was not good journalism.