On the media’s habit of showing habited nuns

Quick follow-up to a recent post highlighting some problems with 60 Minutes’ coverage of Roman Catholic women religious in the United States. Commenter Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:

Most of the media can’t seem to find traditional type Catholics to interview. There is a group of conservative-traditional nuns called the Council of Major Superiors of women religious that is almost never called on by the media. And it is the radical nuns group that 60 Minutes loves whose religious orders are sinking into oblivion as very few women seem interested in the radicalism they are selling. Meanwhile more traditional groups are growing rapidly–but little news coverage seems to find them.

Or as Creative Minority Report put it:

I noticed something odd (or maybe not so odd) in the anti-Catholic rants in the media recently. While they talk about things like the “stained glass ceiling” to refer to the fact that women can’t become priests they use images of nuns that don’t exactly correlate with their message.

60 Minutes used a graphic of a habited nun in their story blasting the Church for misogyny. And just yesterday, NBC’s The Today show extensively used footage of the Sisters of Mary from Ann Arbor in connection with an argument for women becoming priests from Joan Chittister.

Journalistically speaking, this is problematic. We’ve talked about it before, but the error keeps happening.

This is not to say that one can know everything about a book by the cover. Traditionally habited women aren’t necessarily making a point about their adherence to traditional teaching.

But in this regard, I found the introductory visuals to the preview of the 60 Minutes segment a bit better. We saw casually attired women in an informal liturgical procession. It may not have be the stunning imagery of more traditional orders but it is more honest for everyone involved, no matter their particular doctrinal views.


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