Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cardinal sins of/must haves for religion reporters

Recently, Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post did a piece on the USCCB's lobbyist, who is retiring after several decades of work being the bishops' mouthpiece on Capitol Hill.
There were the typical faux pas you'd expect to find from someone from the mainstream media reporting on the Catholic Church. Rather than get mad about it, however, I thought, 'Maybe this is just ignorance. Maybe she and the others just don't know.' We always assume good will, right?
So in the interest of constructive criticism, I need to gently take our friends who report on religion for these cardinal sins, which also seem to represent "must have" features for their pieces.
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment (depending on your perspective) #1
Every piece has to have a quote from a) Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ; b) Fr. Richard McBrien; c) Sr. Joan Chittester, OSB/someone else from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (the LCWR is the umbrella group for women's religious orders; because of the pervasive dissent and sometimes outright heresy within its ranks, the Vatican recently conducted an investigation of it).
Good news! Boorstein didn't do this. Furthermore, the fact that she didn't was such a refreshing change from what most of her peers do when writing a piece on the Catholic Church, that it bears mentioning.
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment #2
Every piece must only quote so-called progressive Catholics, namely those who dissent from the Church on X, Y, or Z issue or all of the above (e.g., birth control, abortion, fill-in-the-blank), and then some.
Was Rep. Chris Smith unavailable? Rep. Jeff Fortenberry? What about someone from a think tank/advocacy group that could at least lay some claim to being "compassionate conservative"? National Right to Life? Democrats for Life? Scott Hahn? Curtis Martin? Peter Kreeft? Robert P. George? I mean, there are any number of faithful, orthodox Catholic voices out there. Yet, at best, they get one quote out of five-plus in a piece. What usually happens is their perspective gets synopsized, and typically falsely so.
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment #3
Thou shalt not quote an orthodox, faithful to the Magisterium Catholic. (See above.)
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment #4
Thou shalt synopsize the opposing (i.e., orthodox/faithful) position and usually in a shoddy fashion.
She wrote, "Traditionalists feel isolated as polls show most Catholics approve of contraception and same-sex marriage."
Nothing could be further from the truth. She's right about the polls. However, the vast majority of faithful/orthodox Catholics who are paying attention knows that we're gaining ground.
Furthermore, as the JPII generation assumes their own pastorates and as the Pope appoints more universally faithful bishops, they will fill the vaccuum of the last 40 years in terms of teaching what the Church actually teaches on such issues. 
Reporters have to understand that it's not like the Catholic faithful have been taught what the Church teaches from a rational perspective and found the Church wanting. Rather, they haven't been taught it at all or have had that teaching belittled, mischaracterized, and held in contempt ... from the pulpit, no less.
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment #5
Thou shalt confuse issues on which the Church's Magisterium say are non-negotiable issues with those in which reasonable Catholics approaching an issue with good will can disagree (e.g., "Progressive" Catholics vs. Rep. Paul Ryan et al).
As Cardinal Dolan noted in Katherine Jean Lopez's recent piece, the best way to help the poor is to help the economy. So if even His Eminence is sympathetic to Rep. Ryan's prescriptions, why can't other Catholics be? And yet the so-called "moderate" Catholics impugn Rep. Ryan et al as being against "gospel values" for not wanting to lay more taxes upon the rich/middle class.  
Incidentally, you can get information on what those five non-negotiables are from Catholic Answers (, Ascension Press' The Five Issues That Matter Most ($1.00 if you call 800-376-0520), or Bishop Thomas Olmstead's short Q&A book, Catholics in the Public Square ($5.95, 800-932-3826 or
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment #6
Thou shalt position those who focus on the poor but dissent from the Church's other moral teachings as the good/moderate Catholics, and those who quietly help the poor and are faithful to all of the Church's moral teachings (without fail) as traditionalist, archtraditionalist, conservative, ultra-conservative, etc. (and paint them -- subtly or no -- as troglodytes).
We are not. We are Catholic, plain and simple. We believe and assent to everything in the Catechism, nothing more, nothing less. Indeed, as noted Catholic speaker Curtis Martin has said, "If you reject even one of the Church's teachings, you're not a liberal Catholic, you're not a conservative Catholic, you're just not Catholic."
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment #7
If you can only give the perspective of one side, make it the "moderate," liberal, progressive side. And don't make the core issues clear.  
Boorstein writes, "Carr is well aware that both sides feel the other is missing the core issue." 
What are those core issues? For faithful Catholics, the core issue is this: Without the right to life, all other rights -- real or perceived -- have no meaning. The bishops have said as much themselves.
Cardinal sin/must have feature that it borders on being a commandment #8
Thou shalt assume that faithful, orthodox Catholics have checked their brains at the door and accept Church teaching like mindless zombies.
I used to be "pro-choice." I used to use contraception. I used to favor so-called "gay rights." I no longer do. This is not because I checked my brain at the door. Rather, after reading both sides and weighing the arguments, I not only became convinced the Church had it right (after 2,000 years, you would hope so!), that she had the truth. It was also because I saw her teachings were beyond beautiful, primarily because they are not of the Church but from God Himself. Thus no one has the right to alter them or wish them away for the sake of personal convenience or any other reason. It seems most reporters, however, laugh at such a notion. That's a tragedy. It belittles and invalidates not only hundreds of millions of believing Catholics around the globe (dissent is a phenomenon largely confined to America and Europe), but some of the smartest men and women whoever lived, people who were certainly much smarter than they themselves can claim.
Thoughts? Additions? Subtractions? Remeber: No matter how hot under the color something here might make you, be charitable. (Sorry, btw, for the color change. It's one of  the reasons why I'm thinking of ditching It's platform makes it hard to easily transpose text written in a different platform (e.g., Word, an e-mail, Notepad, etc.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

When commenting, be charitable, be kind, be loving. Say nothing you would not say to Jesus himself.