More Anti-Catholic Bias From Reuters UPDATED

St. Margaret Clitherow, pressed to death for being Catholic

Every once in a while, I fail to take my own advice: I actually read mainstream coverage of church matters. This is never wise, since mainstream reporters are absolutely incapable of writing about religion. What they produce is usually laced with bias and innuendo masquerading as fact.

Even though I do read AP or CNN or the Times, I usually avoid the despicable Reuters: a nakedly biased, anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Catholic organization. Today, I made the mistake of reading this combination of flaccid banalities, mendacity, and negativity by Crispian Balmer and Philip Pullella.

The headline gives the game away: “Cardinals head to conclave to elect pope for troubled Church.”

Troubled? How? Quantify it, please, and if the best you can do is a minor Vatileaks story and the aging abuse story, then that’s not enough.

And why is that the lede? A real news service would have simply titled it “Cardinals head to conclave to elect pope.” We don’t need your elbow in our ribs nudging us in the goodthink direction you want.

But let’s get to the real heart of the stupidity from the writers and editors involved in this sham: the part when they call this “one of the most difficult periods in the Church’s history.”

See, I actually teach Church history. I know a little about the subject. 2013 wouldn’t even make the top-ten of “most difficult periods in Church history.”

Honestly? Given the way the church in the third world is thriving, I’d call it one of the best periods in Church  history.

Bl. Miguel Pro

Let’s not go by the subjective standards of anti-Catholic reporters. Let’s stick with the facts.

Here are some periods of Church history which Crispian Balmer and Philip Pullella believe are as bad as–or worse than–our current period of peace, prosperity, and growth in the Church:

*The execution of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

*The executions of

  • Pope St. Peter
  • Pope St. Anacletus
  • Pope St.  Sixtus
  • Pope St. Telesephorus
  • Pope St.  Hyginus
  • Pope St. Pius I
  • Pope St.  Anicetus
  • Pope St. Soter
  • Pope St. Eleuterus
  • Pope St. Callixtus I
  • Pope St. Urban I
  • Pope St. Pontian
  • Pope St. Fabian
  • Pope St. Cornelius
  • Pope St. Stephen I
  • Pope St. Sixtus II
  • Pope St. Martin I

*The assassinations of

  • Stephen VI
  • Benedict VI
  • John X
  • John XIV
  • Gregory V
  • and perhaps 6 or 7 other popes who died under suspicious circumstances

*The Persecution by Nero

*The Persecution by Diocletian

*Various other persecutions and executions up until the Edict of Milan

*The Arian heresy

*The collapse of the Roman Empire

*The sack of Rome by Alaric

*The sack of Rome by the Saracens

*The massacres by Timur (Tamerlane)

*Various other Islamic persecutions too numerous to mention

*The Cadaver Synod

*The Saeculum Obscurum

*The Great Schism

*The Western Schism

*Various antipopes

*The election of Gregory X (a conclave lasting three years)

*The Albigensian Crusade

*The Spanish Inquisition

*Pope Alexander VI

Alexander, The Borgia Pope

*The Protestant Reformation

*The Act of Succession and the dissolution of the monasteries in England

*The reign of Elizabeth I

*The Ascendancy in Ireland

*The French Revolution

*The invasion of the Papal States and the imprisonment of Pope Pius VII by Napoleon

*The anticlerical movement in Mexico

*The Spanish Civil War

*World War II and the Holocaust (estimates of Polish Catholics killed range from 2-3 million, not to mention clergy and religious killed by the Nazis)

*Persecutions under the Soviets and other communist regimes

*Ongoing persecutions in Islamic countries

The Korean martyrs

Although I checked the list of early pope martyrs, the rest is just off the top of my head, so I’m sure I’m missing some. If you’re going to be covering the oldest institution on the planet, one deeply rooted in history, and make claims about its current status in reference to that history, then you should have a tiny clue about the topic, or else maybe just shut up about it.

This is not only not “one of the most difficult periods in the Church’s history”: it’s not even close. I guess you could say this is “a” period in Church history, and there are some difficulties, as there always are. The abuse scandal continues to loom over us as one of those troubles, but under Benedict we’ve gone a long way toward addressing it. There is no current abuse scandal in the church: just facts emerging from abuse in the past.

In other words, we’ve already moved out of a troubled period, but the press won’t allow that. Whatever the Church does ever after, it will always be done “amidst scandal.” We will never be allowed any distance between us and the abuse scandal. For the media, it will always 2002.

This is not to underplay the tragedy and scandal of the sexual abuse crisis and the failures of certain bishops. But if you look at the list above, filled with literally millions of murdered Catholics and decades of trials and social collapse throughout the ages, how can we reasonably call our current state in 2013 “one of the most troubled”? It takes a particularly short view of history, a remarkably limited understanding of the world, and a narrow-minded modernist perspective to think there’s something unique–or even interesting–about our times.

Actually, it’s pretty simple: you just need to be a biased media institution looking to paint the Church in the worst possible light. Once you decide we’re a villain that needs to be put down, everything else is easy.

UPDATE: Reuters appears to be revising the story as the day goes on, but not backing off their slimy little attacks. Now the focus is on cardinals meeting “at a time of strife and scandal for the Roman Catholic Church.”

Try to parse this idiocy:

There are constant reminders of the scandals and controversies facing the Church.

In the past month, the only British cardinal elector recused himself from the conclave and apologized for sexual misconduct.

Police detained two women who staged a brief topless protest against the Church before the massed ranks of television crews who have come from around the world to follow the conclave.

And that’s where that useless section dribbles away into nothingness. So … “constant reminders” are two naked bozos and O’Brien recusing himself a month ago? Those are “constant” reminders? Do Reuters writers even need a basic familiarity with the English language, or do they just assume we don’t have one?

The rest is just bland nonsense any reporter for a high-school paper could have churned out with a couple of Google searches. What garbage. Quite clearly, it doesn’t take much to write for Reuters.

Actually, I’m wrong: it took five writers (Balmer and Pullella, plus Naomi O’Leary, Catherine Hornby and Tom Heneghan) plus four editors (Barry Moody, Alastair Macdonald, Peter Graff and Giles Elgood) to crank out this crap, reminding us why mainstream news is cratering. Bloated, biased, and incompetent is a poor combination.

4:50pm EST: From Aleteia, full transcription of Pope Francis’ remarks:

“Brothers and sisters, good evening!

“You know that the duty of the Conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as though my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him. But here we are. I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome has a bishop. Thank you!

“Before all else, I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may watch over him that Our Lady may watch over him” is a correction to the text I just sent.”

Then the crowd prayed the “Our Father, “ and the “Hail Mary,” and the “Glory Be” for Benedict XVI.

“And now let us begin this journey, [together] as bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome, which is to preside over all the Churches in charity. It is a journey of fraternity, of love, of trust between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world, so that a great brotherhood might come about. I hope that this journey of the Church—which we begin today and in which my Cardinal Vicar who is present here will assist me—will be fruitful for the Evangelization of this beautiful city.

“And now I would like to give you my blessing. But before I do, I would like to ask you a favor: before the bishop blesses the people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that He bless me…. the prayer of the people for a blessing upon their bishop. Let us take a moment of silence for you to offer your prayer for me.”

The crowd kept silence while the Pope Francis I bowed and received their prayers.

Then the Pope proceeded.

“Now I will give you my blessing and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.”

After making the sign of the Cross and uttering a prayer, Pope Francis I said:

“Brothers and Sisters,

“I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me. And we’ll see one another again soon. Tomorrow I want to go and pray to Our Lady, asking her to watch over Rome. Good night and have a good rest.”

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • victor

    I always pronounce “Reuters” as “rooters” because that’s what they do. In the mud.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Trust and believe: modern journalism is about salesmanship and showmanship. The Reuters reporters and their editors are trying to gin up interest and readership by creating a false sense of drama (or, more aptly, melodrama). Conflict! Turmoil! Inaccurate reporting!

    It’s not anti-Catholicism, which is pretty routine and yawn-inducing. It’s something worse. It’s anti-Truth and anti-Journalism; it signals the further eroding of our once-free press into something shallow and shameless.

    If Reuters wants to hold onto its diminishing readership, that’s not how to do it.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I don’t think it’s an anti-Catholicism akin to Anti-semitism, which tends to manifest as a rabid, irrational hatred. I think it’s a casual hatred of what the Church preaches, which reporters find unpalatable, and which leads to reflexively negative coverage where some pretense of objectivity should be maintained.

    On the other hand, I agree it’s just another obvious example of the continued decline of mainstream reporting. It does make me wonder if there ever really was some golden age of journalism, or if it’s always been a kind of rough assemblage of half-truths attractively packaged for consumption.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    I never encountered any “casual hatred” toward me or my religion during my nearly 30 years reporting and producing for the mainstream media. It was mostly casual indifference or just blind ignorance. But things may have changed.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Oh, I get it on the secular side of my work. Not hatred of me personally, but a willingness to say awful things about Catholicism because they believe they have leave to. I think the gay marriage issue and the abuse scandal sharpened people’s hostility. I don’t speak about it any more in certain quarters because it just provided an opportunity for people to make child-molesting-priest cracks. I consider that a form of casual hatred. (No one is ever “just joking.”)

  • Collatinus

    I’d like to say a few words on behalf of the Vikings, the Black Death, …

  • Tony

    And then there was the Black Death, which claimed the lives of many of the most dedicated priests, who ministered to sick people in their distress and who buried the dead. But I could turn it round on Reuters and say, yes, this is a difficult period in Church history, when we are faced with high-technology barbarians who (unlike the Saxons in England) do not have any cultural memory or any real pagan beliefs to correct and baptize, who make the writers of Boys’ Life Magazine back in 1911, the first year of their periodical, sound like Matthew Arnold, Edmund Burke, and Cardinal Newman, and who do not even have the honest ignorance of the illiterate. Yes, Reuters, it’s a tough time for us, because we have been accustomed to evangelizing people with a culture, even if a barbaric one; and you don’t have any.

  • Peter Brown

    The vacuity, at least, is pretty much to be expected. The problem the media has right now is not unlike the problem sportscasters have during a game delay–they have to say *something* (the cameras are rolling!), but they haven’t got any actual news to work with (the only folks who actually *know* what’s going on in the conclave are locked incommunicado in the Sistine Chapel). So they’re blathering to fill space, which is a really good way for even moderately intelligent people to sound like gibbering idiots.

    Of course, sportscasters during a game delay do have an advantage over the reporters covering the papal election–sportscasters normally at least have a decent grasp of the game they’re covering.

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  • Deacon Bernard Young

    John 15:18 – If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

  • Lisa

    I can’t speak for every individual, and I don’t personally know the reporters and editors involved in this story. But I can say that there is no system-wide bias against Catholicism — or any religion — at the news agency cited here. In fact, there are even some devoutly religious people. To call Thomson Reuters “a biased media institution looking to paint the Church in the worst possible light” based on one article that this poster finds objectionable is the same as condemning the Church based only on the abuse cases.

  • Lisa

    While I can’t speak for every individual, and I don’t personally know the reporters and editors involved in this story, I can say that there is no system-wide bias against Catholicism — or any religion — at the news agency cited here. (In fact, there are even some devoutly religious people.) To call Thomson Reuters “a biased media institution looking to paint the Church in the worst possible light” based on one article that this poster finds objectionable is the same as condemning the Church based only on the abuse cases.

  • Lisa

    Sorry for duplicate post — it didn’t appear the first time, so I altered it (because it wouldn’t let me post the same one again) and then they both appeared at once.
    It must be an anti-mainstream media conspiracy.

  • Bain Wellington

    It’s drip, drip (especially from Philip Pullella). How about this report on 6 March, headed “Conclave start seen delayed as Vatican muzzles cardinals”.

    Pullella’s lede :- “Vatican officials on Wednesday told cardinals gathered for the election of the next pope to stop speaking to the media, as further indications emerged that a conclave would not start early next week as had been expected.”

    *By the way – the announcement that the conclave would start on 12 March was made two days later.

    No indication who these “officials” might be (in fact, the Cardinals are self-governing during the sede vacante), and no mention of the fact that all Cardinals participating in the pre-conclave general congregations swore to maintain secrecy.

    The first paragraph after the lede homes reports the cancellation of the daily briefing by the American cardinals, leaving the reader incorrectly to infer that “Vatican officials” told them to cancel. Only in paragraph 9 do we get a quote from Sr Mary Walsh (director of media relations for the US bishops) demonstrating that the cancellation was voluntary on the part of the American cardinals.

    The same day, the media office of the US bishops released a statement which ended with this:-

    “Due to concerns over accounts being reported in the Italian press, which breached confidentiality, the College of Cardinals has agreed not to give interviews”

    Editing Pullella’s opening blast in accordance with the facts we would get this:-

    “Vatican officials on Wednesday [delete "told"] {said that} cardinals gathered for the election of the next pope {had decided} to stop speaking to the media”

  • Bain Wellington

    My para 5 should begin:-
    “The first paragraph after the lede reports the cancellation of the daily briefing by the American cardinals”

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I can only go by what they publish, and what they publish is not objective journalism. When a particular subject is covered in a flattering light (say, gay marriage) and another is covered in an unflattering light (say, the Catholic Church), what conclusion should I make other than bias, whether it is conscious or unconscious?

    I’d love to see an actual response to any specific points made here. Why IS the lede always “troubled Church,” “scandal,” etc, and not “growing church,” “milions of faithful,” etc? Or perhaps even just, “here are the facts.” Have you ever paused to ask yourself that?

    Reuters is not a neutral organization, and it’s not just the Church they have problems with:

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I just looked at the Reuters main page, and the headline is “Cardinals fail to elect pope after three ballots.” Of course, that means the first words are “Cardinals fail.” Words convey meaning, and people who work with words know (or should know) that. There’s a powerful propaganda effect in a headline that uses a loaded word like “fail” in a process where even a frontrunner like Benedict took 4 ballots, and JP2 took 8. So, there’s actually no “failure” here. So, why the word?

    AP is slightly better with “More black smoke: Cardinals don’t agree on pope” and USA Today is “World watches as papal conclave begins second day.” WaPo: “On Day 2 of papal conclave, alliances could emerge.” New York Times: “Black Smoke From Conclave Signals No Pope on First Day.”

    Nope, not Reuters: “CARDINALS FAIL!”

    Would you care to explain that?

  • Philip Steinacker


    I don’t beleive Thompson is basing this on one article, even thouogh he has mentioned onlythis one.

    I have found over the last 4-5 years a clear pattern of bias on the part of Reutes, both political as well as anti-Catholicism. Comboxes don’t offer a good venue or occasion for full-blown annotation of one’s research or experience, so it’s not reasonable to expect that here – from any perspective.

    However, I’ve gotten to the point that if the item originates with Reuters I don’t bother to read it unless I’m bottom-feeding for cheap entertainment (as in, “Let’s see what these jokers will do with this one.”).

  • Reluctant Liberal

    Off topic, but what’s wrong with being anti-Israel? I’m not anti-Israeli, but the state of Israel is waging economic warfare (and actual warfare from time to time) against the Palestinians, as well as denying them the right to vote. Desmond Tutu, who ought to know, has explicitly compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with Apartheid South Africa.

    On topic, your point about the inappropriate use of language by Reuters is well taken, but I don’t think it’s an example of anti-Catholic bias so much as the hyping that the media tries to do with every news story. Good news doesn’t sell newspapers like bad news does.

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  • victor

    Like pigs.

  • Theodore Seeber

    As a non-Catholic friend pointed out to me; perhaps the ancient nature of the sexual abuse allegations is psychological in origin.

    Maybe the human brain isn’t wired to deal with sexual abuse experienced as a child, until mid life crisis time in the 40s.

    In which case, yes, we would be seeing the majority of cases *right now* be from the 1970s and 1980s, with the big surprises from the 1990s still to come, and it will be 2030-2040 before we know whether or not programs like “Called to Protect” actually work.

  • DTMcCameron

    How, um…how are you supposed to pronounce it?

  • Bill M.

    Off all the tripe I forced myself to read over the past several weeks, this was probably the worst:

  • Sven

    Oh come on now. It’s as if anything other than glowing praise is “anti-Catholic bias”. It reeks of the same nonsense that anything other than total submission to Roman Catholic dogma, even by non-Catholics, is “an attack on the Catholic Church”. See: marriage, contraception, etc.

  • Lisa

    So simply the use of the word “fail” reveals a bias?
    I don’t cover religion — I cover markets, but I can think of a very simple explanation: “fail” uses only four spaces in a headline, and “don’t agree” uses eleven. Whenever I write about a “failed bond auction,” I hope people don’t think I’m part of a vast conspiracy against modern finance.

  • Lisa

    Human beings are fallible and bias can creep it, but what I am saying is that it is not an example of editorial policy — there is no company-wide bias against the Catholic Church. You can always point to particular articles that you find objectionable, but what I’m saying is that it is not a systemic problem. No news organization is perfect, but I am confident that most people at Reuters at least try to live up to the high standards, or I wouldn’t work there. I’m Catholic myself.

  • alr

    Tonight CNN informs us that American Catholics are unhappy with the Church. Then their ticker reveals that in one poll 35% indicated thinking there are problems. Apparently 65% is not a majority. Yesterday, MSNBC told us that our priests are all in their 70s or 80s and there are no families with children in church. My husband and I can’t figure out why we have such a hard time finding a quiet spot at mass away from ill behaved children if these children are not actually there (and I know children squirm at mass…but you don’t have to bring them toys that make noise, people). And our priest thinks he is in his mid 40s. That is how old he looks, too. Apparently, he has just found a fountain of youth.

    This bias is everywhere in the media.

  • Suburbanbanshee


  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Letter counts? So Reuters is still setting in linotype in 2013?

    You’re honestly trying to say you see no difference between the first headline examples I used and the Reuters headline? That’s kind of telling in itself.

    These are just a few examples pulled from the past few days. If you work for Reuters, you must be aware that people outside your bubble think Reuters is a joke. I don’t know what contributes to their culture of bias, but from Israel to Catholicism, it’s pretty obvious. It’s not like I’m the first person to notice.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Go play somewhere else, troll. Shoo.

  • Lisa

    Do you understand how a wire service works? Our headlines are limited to 64 characters.

    I guess I’m blithely unaware that people consider my employer a “joke,” and I strive to work hard to uphold its high standards as I earn my honest living there. You can Google any news agency’s name plus “media bias,” and have ball reading whatever shows up — if ye seek, ye shall find. You enjoy your bubble, I’ll enjoy mine. Peace.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Yes, I know how a wire service works. It was a joke. Good lord.

    But, obviously, AP is wire service too.

  • Bain Wellington

    Check [3] Robin Pomeroy, 19 Feb (editing by Pullella and anor)

    Headline:- “Rome’s gays toast the departure of an unloved pope”
    Lede:- “Across the road from the Colosseum, the ancient Roman stadium consecrated as a holy Christian site, clients at a busy bar are raising a glass to the pope: toasting the departure of the worst Church leader they can imagine.”
    The 750 word article reports the views of 2 of the bar’s co-owners, and of Franco Grillini (contacted by telephone) allegedly founder of Italy’s “biggest gay advocacy group”.

    Check [4] Tom Heneghan (religion editor), 26 Feb

    Headline:- “Sex, power scandals to loom over Vatican pre-vote talks”
    Lede:- “The sex and power scandals haunting the Catholic Church look set to play a big role in meetings before next month’s papal election . . .”
    The follow-up para. first cited (without naming) SNAP, who launched a feeble publicity stunt in Rome. Altogether, that stunt gets more than 200 words in story of under 870 words.

    Check [5] Pullella, 1 March

    Headline:- “Cardinals meet in shadow of scandal, discord and intrigue”
    Lede:- “Roman Catholic cardinals gathering to choose a successor to ‘Pope Emeritus Benedict’ will be worrying about a Vatican hierarchy hit by scandals, intrigue and betrayals befitting a Renaissance court.”

    Check [6] Crispian Balmer, 8 March

    Lede:- “Roman Catholic cardinals will enter a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict on March 12 . . with no clear favorite emerging so far to take charge of the troubled Church.”
    After the break:- “Whoever takes over will face a daunting challenge, with the Church struggling in the face of sex abuse scandals, rivalry and strife inside the Vatican, a growing shortage of priests and a rise of secularism in its European strongholds.”

    Looks like sustained anti-Catholic bias to me.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Bias? What bias? O_o

    I’d say “good find,” but “good” isn’t really the word I’m looking for.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Haha. you learn something everyday!

  • Kristen inDallas

    sure but “fail to elect” and “don’t agree on” preceded by the word “Cardinals” and followed by the word “Pope” both use exactly 11 letters. So…. yeah the word fail is shorter, but only because it’s a dubious verb that requires further clarification

  • Kristen inDallas

    You know, they could save so many words and so much ink just by deleting all of those nasty uninformative adjectives.

    For examples:
    “Across the road from the Colosseum, the Roman stadium consecrated as a Christian site, clients at a bar are raising a glass to the pope: toasting the departure of a Church leader they didn’t like.” (Saved 4 words!)
    “The scandals haunting the Catholic Church might play a role in meetings before next month’s papal election . . .” (Saved 6 Words!)
    “Roman Catholic cardinals will enter a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict on March 12 . . with no clear favorite emerging so far to take charge of the Church.” (Saved 1 word!)
    “Whoever takes over will face a challenge, with the Church struggling del>in the face of scandals, rivalry and strife inside the Vatican, a shortage of priests and a rise of secularism in Europe.” (Saves 6 – 14 Words) I know the strikethrough isn’t technically an adjective, but a 3-list inside of another 3-list? Awkward! I may not have made the ledes much better, but they certainly aren’t worse… all I needed was a delete button. On second thought, I will use that same strategy to edit the most recent Reuter’s story:
    ” “

  • LadyBird

    There is an anti-Catholic bias and it is palpable. We are an institution that stands over 2,000 years. Before Pope Francis came out on the balcony the triumphant cross was held high and processed in front of him. That speaks volumes to both the believers and the haters. The haters, including within the church, want that cross to come down and replaced with pink smoke or some other icon of their own design. There are so many things that I dislike in this world like Quentin Tarantino movies but I don’t bad mouth or hate them. I just don’t participate. If people dislike or hate the church’s position on any given topic get out of the church and start your own or choose one from the thousands out there. If gays want to be married or women want to be priests or want abortions there are many, many other choices out there. Call us crazy and leave.