Media Madness about Catholicism

When you actually know something about something and then read what journalists write about it, you can’t help wondering if they’re being just as ignorant and arrogant about everything else they write.

Here are some of the glaring errors in the coverage of the papal resignation:

1. Pope Benedict was a failure because he was not Bl. John Paul II. It is understandable that people compare Benedict to his predecessor, but this judgment indicates a lack of knowledge about the popes down the ages. Sure, most people only remember two popes, but each pope is completely different. Comparing them to one another is a foolish waste of time.

2. The church now has the chance to modernize and be brought up to date. This is code for “we want women priests, contraception, abortion and gay marriage.” What the pundits don’t understand is that the reason the Catholic Church has survived and thrived for 2000 years is precisely because it has refused to follow the fashions of every age.

3. If an American is elected the Catholic Church will become more up to date. — Has anyone spotted the implicit bigotry and racism in this comment? The subtext is, “Those old European white guys are stuck in the Middle Ages and who wants some  ooga booga African jungle boy to be pope?”  It’s reminiscent of the Episcopal bishops who told African Anglican bishops that “one day when they are more civilized they too will have a more sophisticated understanding of sexuality.” Only to be told by the African Anglicans that they had more earned PhDs from Oxford, Cambridge, Yale and Harvard than all the Episcopal bishops put together.

4. The church is so right wing and conservative! Will the liberal wing of the church at last move forward? These people are thinking with their groin. When they say “conservative” they mean the church is against promiscuity, co-habitation, contraception, divorce and re-marriage, gay sex etc. On other words–the Catholic Church teaches traditional morality. What they don’t see is that the terms “left” and “right” don’t make any sense for Catholics. The true Catholic is “right” in family and moral values and “left” in social and economic values–and even that simplistic explanation is not totally accurate.

5. Will the Catholic Church now change it’s doctrine? No understanding of the distinction between doctrine, dogma, discipline and devotion. They think everything Catholic is mandatory–you know–prescribed by those old white guys in Rome. Doctrine is our general beliefs. Dogmas are the beliefs required of all Catholics. We can’t change that stuff. Disciplines and devotions of the church–most of that is optional and can be changed. What they don’t know is that there is actually very little that is mandatory.

6. The Catholic Church is shrinking and the sooner it folds the better: Duh. Read Jenkins’ The New Christendom to see that the Catholic Church is booming across the globe–even if it is shrinking in Europe.

7. There is a dark conspiracy behind this mysterious and unprecedented resignation. Uh huh. Like John Paul I was poisoned, George Bush planned 911, and Bigfoot is really an alien from the planet Zog.

8. The Vatican is an antiquated absolute monarchy. Yes, that’s why we like it. Seriously though, what we really have is a head guy who has an international network of very qualified and experienced leaders called cardinals, archbishops and bishops–who report to him regularly. They are the ones who elect his successor. Is that so different from any large multinational company? What’s the problem–you’re upset because they wear old fashioned clothes and cool hats?

I think Todd Unctuous is planning to write on the resignation today…

  • Pat H

    Having worked on things interesting to the media from time to time, I’ve concluded that reporters are generally ignorant on the topics they’re writing about as a rule.

    They also like controversies, real or imagined. In my 50 years I’ve watched the Church endure a genuine slightly troubled period with a rise of “liberals” to see it genuinely retreat and, now, the Church seems to be fully revising in its fully glory. This is particularly the case with the young, who are better catechized than we were, and more attentive. Cultural Catholics have been declining, but Catholicism is reviving, as it would have inevitably. Things take time, however, so it isn’t equal everywhere. Europe is a mess.

    Anyhow, I note that as the media has believed that the Church is in “crisis” for my entire life, and they believe that there’s a massive pool of disenchanted Catholics who are seeking “reform.” There isn’t. If there were two people who thought that way, they’d still think that.

    One thing you’d think they’d pick up on, but seemingly can’t as it requires too much thought, is that the Protestant Reformation is dying before our eyes. The old Reformation churches are fading away, trying to be democratic institutions, and voting on theological whims of the hour. The Lutherans, The Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, are all gasping for air. Only the Protestant churches with no set structure and lead by individual preachers are doing well now. Long term, this is an important trend. There’s a real reason that serious Protestants have been returning to orthodoxy. . . like perhaps some former Evangelicals. . . former Anglican clergymen, we could think of.

  • Pat H

    Oh my, I shouldn’t type before the coffee kicks in. That should be “fully reviving in its full glory”.

    Back for a fourth cup of coffee.

  • NancyP

    “When you actually know something about something and then read what journalists write about it, you can’t help wondering if they’re being just as ignorant and arrogant about everything else they write.”

    Sadly, I have found this to be the case. I watched a big name news anchor stand on the deck of a Navy ship during Operation Desert Shield and talk about the capabilities of that ship. He got almost everything wrong. At that point I stopped trusting reporters and started watching DoD and State Dept. press briefings instead.

    In the case of Pope Benedict XVI, I’m especially amused by statements I’m reading in online newspapers and magazines that he hasn’t “done anything” for the Church. I think they mean “done anything I like so I can do what I want and not feel guilty.”

  • Stefanie

    You would think that journalists would know how to do research but the more I hear from the media, the more I know that they only report opinion not facts.

  • ann

    One of my favorite Chesterton quotes seems appropriate here vis a vis so called journalists and their gripe against the out-of-touch, reactionary, medieval (supply your own favorite word) Catholic Church. “The Catholic Church has gone to the dogs at least three times in history–and each time it’s the dog who died.”

    Can we send a memo to Chris “thrill up my leg” Matthews?

  • Arimathean

    Most journalists are ignorant of every subject except the one they think is important: politics. With respect to politics, they’re not ignorant – they’re just lying to advance an agenda.

  • FW Ken

    I see two two kinds of articles. One is simple reporting. The other hooks the story on to the author’s personal agenda.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    When I complained to a doctor friend about the inaccuracies and downright lies in media news stories about the Catholic Church he said that when he reads news stories about medical events he cries a lot.

  • Terentia

    I disagree that “(t)he true Catholic is…“left” in social and economic values.” The Left is the opposite of true Catholic concern for others. We are called to care for those in need (spiritual, emotional, physical, financial) ouselves, not condemn them to the not so tender mercies of a centralized, impersonal buracracy. Other than that quibble, this was a good summary of the wrong headedness of most press coverage. Thank you for this blog, it is one of my daily stops.

    • TheHammer

      I agree with Terentia. The true Catholic is conservative in believing that charity starts at home. We feel that freely giving our money to the charities we choose are far more efficient and ethical than having the government forcibly take our assets and distribute them as they see fit ( to many unworthy things like the NEA). Leftists believe in big government and grift. Catholic organizations have low overhead and serve everyone, regardless of religion. That is why the Catholic Church is the most charitable organization in the world. And if you didn’t notice, the “Left” has been defunding government assistance to Catholic organizations, because we stick to our morals and don’t bend our principles in order to feed at the government trough.

    • Robert

      And if left unrestrained, this “centralized, impersonal buracracy” always seems to end up to where those in need or unwanted get disposed of (euthanasia,abortion, gulags,etc).

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  • @winecolleen

    I’m going to confess of being a bit of a cafeteria Catholic, and not the biggest fan of Pope Benedict. However, what media fails to understand is that our Faith is much bigger than one man who leads the show. It is bigger than our Church’s strengths and certainly bigger than our failings.

    I think by choosing to resign during the most holiest of times in our Faith, Lent, Pope Benedict is sending that very message. The Roman Catholic faith is more than one person.