The Church, Same Sex Marriage and Biased Reporting

Archbishop Myers in a photo from Archdiocese web page.

Archbishop John J Meyers, of the Archdiocese of Newark, went out on a limb and made a statement Tuesday supporting the Church’s 2,000 year-old teaching on marriage. The resulting news article by is one of the finest examples of biased reporting and deliberate manipulation of public opinion I’ve seen today.

Not, notice, that I’ve seen in my lifetime, or even this week. Examples of biased reporting and deliberate manipulation of public opinion aimed at discrediting the Church’s stand in favor of traditional Christian morality are so commonplace that I can only say that this article is the most egregious I’ve seen today. So far. I reserve the right to come back later today with something worse.

The article leads with a few paragraphs describing the Archbishop’s statement, including the fact the he dropped the c bomb (“Catholics who disagree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on marriage should ‘refrain from receiving Holy Communion.’”) Then it moves on to all sorts of saber rattling quotes from various secularists expressing their concern about the evils of Catholics Who Preach Politics From the Pulpit.

As usual for journalism of this type, the article tries to imply that a Bishop of the Catholic Church who issues a pastoral letter that explains Church teaching is violating the law. It creates this implication by quoting carefully selected people who can be counted on to say the right things.

When the reporter asks the head of an organization that is well known for opposing Church teaching if the bishop “crossed the line” with his letter, they can be sure they’ll get a quote that verges on condemnation to use in the story. That’s what happened here. Everyone the article quotes allows as how Bishop Myers did not, in fact, “cross the line” but they qualify this with ponderous statements implying that he’s awwwwfulllllyyyyy close to doing it.

The dubious reporting is topped off with an unflattering photo of Bishop Myers; one of those mouth-open, eyes-half-closed snaps that happens to everyone. After my years in public office, I’ve got some ghastly photos of me floating around out there. Not that I’m any beauty. But I can tell you from experience that a skilled news photographer can make you look any way they want.

This tactic of eliciting attack quotes by interviewing people you know will give them to you and then illustrating the story with a photo that makes your prey look daffy or drunk is pretty standard stuff. That’s why I’m going to reproduce part of this article here and link to it. This post is a lesson in spotting anti-Catholic propaganda. The comments section of the article demonstrates the effect this kind of propaganda has on people.

If you agree with Bishop Myers, you might drop him a line at the Archdiocese of Newark, 171 Clifton Ave, Newark, NJ 07104. I’m sure he’s getting plenty of the other kind of letter.

Here, for your edification, is the article. It says in part:

Newark archbishop urges voters to defend marriage, life

In a sweeping pastoral statement to be made public today, the leader of more than 1 million North Jersey Catholics urges them to vote “in defense of marriage and life,” and warns that the passage of same-sex marriage laws might lead to a government crackdown on their religious freedoms.

Archbishop John Myers of the Diocese of Newark
Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said the statement on gay marriage was not timed to coincide with the November election, now little more than a month away, and that he was not calling on Catholics to vote for a particular candidate. But he said they should examine the “full spectrum” of each candidate, including how they stand on abortion and “a proper backing of marriage.”

He also said in the statement, a copy of which was provided to The Record before its release, that Catholics who disagree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on marriage should “refrain from receiving Holy Communion.” He said he issued the statement because of what he described as a lack of clarity on the subject by other bishops.

“It’s not 100 percent for either party,” Myers said in an interview Monday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. “The basic point is that we must defend what we believe to be the truth. That includes voting, speaking out, contacting officials.”

The statement is being issued amid a politically charged atmosphere at a time when some other Catholic leaders have been criticized for talking politics from the pulpit. President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in May. His Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, opposes it. (Read more here.)

  • Biltrix

    Thanks for sharing part of the Archbishop’s letter here. I saw a similar article in the Philadelphia Enquirer today. That article was slightly more balanced and benign. Though it ended with this quote:

    “James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, a liberal organization, said, ‘We live in a time when Catholics are walking away from the faith in record numbers. . . . When so many families live paycheck to paycheck, pew-sitting Catholics like myself want our faith known for its service to the poor, not for the far-right politics of the bishops’.” (emphasis added)

    This quote does not reflect the gist of the whole article. But ending it in this way leaves readers with the wrong message. The Church’s longheld, biblical teaching on the morality of marriage does not embroil it in far-right politics. If both political parties were endorsing homosexual marriage, the Bishops would still teach what the Church always has taught in this regard, and they would then be getting attacked from both sides.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Don’t you find it tiresome the way people keep trying to split the Gospels and discard what they don’t like, then condemn others for not emphasizing the part they have chosen to keep? That’s what this guy was doing with his comment.
      You are right about the bishops. That’s why the Church is under attack. It is alone in resisting this attempt to truncate the Gospels for right politics or left politics.
      I am so PROUD of the Church for this!

  • Mr. V.

    Commenting on the quote in Biltrix’s comment above, the moral belief espoused by the Archbishop only appears to be far right by the newspaper because of how far left the reporters and editors lean. A moderate stance would be far to the right of their viewpoint.

    Someone needs to inform and remind Mr. Salt, the director of Catholics United, of Christ and His teachings. The Great Commission was not to go and ‘feed all nations, filling their bellies, and providing them medical insurance.’

    I believe it was to “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    While it is important to care for those less fortunate, that is not our primary purpose as Christians in reaching out to others. Far more important than filling their bellies and temporarily assuaging their hunger is leading their eternal souls to Christ.

    • Biltrix

      Fully agreed!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think we can — and should — do both.

      • Mr. V.

        Rebecca, I agree. Wholeheartedly. What I’m commenting against are those who see the Church as little more than a social justice committee. If all that was important is helping the poor and unfortunate, as Mr. Salt seems to believe, then what distinguishes us from Harvesters? The American Red Cross? Too many people nowadays will praise the Church for all the work it does in various charitable causes, but then turn around and slam it for its religious and moral teachings. They’ve forgotten that first and foremost, the Church is about the saving of souls and striving to live holy lives.

        • Dave

          Mr. V, you’re on the money. We do “social justice” because we have a burning zeal for souls and for Christ, and “souls” includes their spiritual and physical welfare.

        • Rebecca Hamilton


          • Mr. V.

            Not too preachy, I hope. :D

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            Not a bit. It was well said.

  • Mary

    My 35 yr. old son and daughter-in-law thought the Bishop was saying that if you have any disagreements with what the Bishops are saying on marriage and marriage related issues (divorce & remarriage, birth control, same-sex marriage, chastity before marriage) that you should not go to communion.
    If a Bishop, the Bishops as the USCCB or Cardinal Dolan decide to send a clear message and excommunicate Catholic politicians who vote or speak for issues contrary to any/all Church teachings that’s one thing but that’s not happened and I doubt that it will… I don’t think we should be discouraging people from receiving the Eucharist…especially when there is sooooo much confusion about what the Church is actually teaching. The Church is supposed to be a family…It would be like asking the kids to dinner and then telling them they shouldn’t eat because (they think or you think) they disagree with you….