Deja vu: NYTimes Slams Catholics For Being Catholic

It numbers a recent U.S. Postmaster General (John Potter), and a current associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Sonia Sotomayor) as alumni, but that’s not why Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, New York, is making headlines right now.

Rather, it’s because the school’s parent-teacher association had invited a retired Roman Catholic priest to speak about what The New York Times so delicately termed “the issue of same-sex attraction,” in a talk anticipated to — wait for it — defend the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on the matter.

Oh, the humanity! Or perhaps inhumanity, to hear the Times team tell it:

Ever since Pope Francis spoke compassionately about gay people last summer — saying, “Who am I to judge?” — Roman Catholics around the world have debated the meaning of his words.

That debate continued this week at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, where on Monday night the Catholic institution announced that an address by a recently retired priest from the New York Archdiocese about the issue of same-sex attraction, set for Tuesday, had been postponed.

The priest, the Rev. Donald G. Timone, has long been involved with the Courage organization, a spiritual support group formalized in New York in 1980 to encourage men and women with same-sex attractions to remain celibate. It is now based in Norwalk, Conn.

“The issue is one that tends to generate more heat than light,” and Father Timone “will be able to illuminate our thinking along truly Catholic lines,” an announcement listed on the school’s website had stated.

Now, the pope was talking about Catholics working in the public square, urging strategies that focused on pastoral care over open political warfare (although, by stressing “balance” he in no way implied that Catholics should shut down in the political arena). And Pope Francis has not altered a word of Catholic doctrine on sexual morality. So he would oppose Catholic apologetics in a Catholic high school?

Also note what is not promised here: no burning torches, no rack, no Inquisition. Just a talk about what the Roman Catholic Church believes and teaches, including the concept of celibacy for those who are not involved in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage. From what I’ve seen, read and heard, I’m fairly certain that “straight” Roman Catholics who are not marries are supposed to be “celibate,” too — at least that’s the official teaching, right?

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Porn no more: Secular students inviting religious discussion

Gone is the “low-hanging fruit” of years past when the media converged on the University of Texas-San Antonio campus each year to produce titillating stories on students exchanging Bibles and Qurans for porn.

The annual “Smut for Smut” event is no more. In its place are kinder, gentler atheists, in the form of the Secular Student Alliance. The group says it wants conversation, not provocation, and will not revert to its old ways.

Replacing the saucier stories and the reporters behind them is San Antonio Express-News Godbeat pro Abe Levy. He revisited the topic for a Sunday piece on a topic that has gained a lot of headlines — much of them sensational – in recent years.

Kudos to the Express-News for telling a real news story as opposed to the tabloid stuff. Three years ago, that wasn’t exactly the case. From this week’s story:
But times have changed.

This semester, Atheist Agenda renamed itself the Secular Student Alliance, one of 402 groups affiliated with an Ohio-based umbrella organization of the same name. The makeover underscores a national trend in which secular humanist groups have been dropping edgy, insult-minded strategies for more welcoming ones.

The change wasn’t just conscience-based, however. The story quotes one former member who said the old approach would entice people to the group’s meetings only to turn them off.

The strategy is now paying off for the Secular Student Alliance, apparently:

Meetings now attract people of diverse interests, including those affiliated with a religion but seeking a place to question or doubt without conditions, leaders said.

The new group is awaiting approval as a registered UTSA student organization. But weekly recruiting efforts already reflect a kinder bunch of people.

At a small table in the central campus this week, they passed out fliers challenging the ideologies of major world religions. Alliance president Charles Duncan smiled pleasantly and, in an even-handed tone, spoke of how science and reason was a suitable basis for human charity.

“We’re out here just promoting the values of humanism. You can be moral in the absence of religion,” said Duncan, 24, who in 1997 prayed for Christian salvation during a Billy Graham sermon at the Alamodome and officially came out as an atheist two years ago. “Our goal now is to, instead of inciting hostility, we want to engage in civil dialogue.”

Since we’re going there, the story could have been improved with some input from religious folks. This section at the end offered a perfect opportunity:

Public esteem for journalists sinking. Why?

I’m not ashamed to say that I love journalism. I’m elated that I get to work in this field and I love the work I get to do. I have high regard for the good that journalists’ accomplish, this week providing just one example. You can’t be a media critic without being aware of the downsides. Heck, it’s my job to look at problems with media coverage. And yet still, I am so very thankful for newspapers and media outlets that tell us about the world around us. When I read a story about an event or an interview, I try to remember what a blessing it is that someone was there and took the time to tell me about it.

But the fact is that public esteem for journalists is sinking. The Pew Research Center asks Americans about the contributions to society of various groups:

While there have been modest declines in public appreciation for several occupations, the order of the ratings is roughly the same as it was in 2009. Among the 10 occupations the survey asked respondents to rate, lawyers are at the bottom of the list. About one-in-five Americans (18%) say lawyers contribute a lot to society, while 43% say they make some contribution; fully a third (34%) say lawyers contribute not very much or nothing at all.

Compared with the ratings four years ago, journalists have dropped the most in public esteem. The share of the public saying that journalists contribute a lot to society is down 10 percentage points, from 38% in 2009 to 28% in 2013. The drop is particularly pronounced among women (down 17 points). About as many U.S. adults now say journalists contribute “not very much” or “nothing at all” to society (27%) as say they contribute a lot (28%).

The change in public perception of journalists is particularly noticeable and Pew looks into it:

The decline in public views about journalists’ contribution to society since 2009 is more pronounced among women than men. Roughly three-in-ten women (29%) say journalists contribute a lot to society’s well-being, down 17 percentage points from 46% in 2009. Men’s views on this are about the same today as they were in 2009.

The decline in the perceived contribution of journalists cuts across partisan leanings, age and education level. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents as well as Republicans and Republican-leaning independents all are less likely to say journalists contribute a lot to society’s well-being today (down 8 points among Republicans/leaning Republicans and 10 points among Democrats/leaning Democrats).

Unfortunately, we don’t know why the public holds journalists in such low esteem. I have my own theories, but I wonder what you think? And what are your own views on journalists’ contributions to society? What are some highs and lows you’ve witnessed?

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