Or so the news report would lead you to believe…
It’s nothing new to say that journalism in our day isn’t very good. I’m not sure it ever was. If you read any bit of history from the dawn of the newspaper age to ours, you’ll see that news outlets have always been prone to pushing one agenda or another, sometimes with a passion. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing; it would just be more honest to admit it. The idea of objective journalism, to my mind, is a completely false notion. How someone could ever manage to not bring their views and inherent biases into their work is beyond me, and I think it is foolish to pretend otherwise. Having said that, what irks me about today’s journalists is that they pretend to be fair and balanced (Fox News!) when it is obvious that they are not. Intellectual honesty is far too uncommon.
One of the worst news organizations, when it comes to religious news, has to be Fox News. For some time now I have watched as they have reported one bizarre “religion” story after another, usually with the obvious insinuation that they are putting the spotlight on religious intolerance. Now to be fair, Fox News is hardly alone in this. All of the so-called mainstream media outlets do this, but Fox News seems to be given to sensationalism more than the others.
This morning, as I happen to have the TV on, I see Fox News is reporting a scintillating story about a holocaust denying bishop being welcomed back into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI!
It seems that some bishops of the traditionalist variety (i.e. Lefebvrists) have had their excommunication lifted by Pope Benedict recently. And it happens to be the case that one of these, a Brit, has historical difficulties with the holocaust as an actual event. They have him on tape saying the darndest things.
As I’m watching this, I’m thinking to myself. Looks like we’ve found another nitwit. Our Church has its allotted share, and unfortunately some are bishops (although, I am happy to say, far less than is often imagined). Apparently, this shocks some people. It makes for a good news story, at any rate.
As I keep listening to this fascinating report, the Fox News reporter lets us know that “this is just the latest incident between the Jewish Community and the Vatican”
I’ll leave that one alone. The cable news outlets don’t do nuance. It’s not good for ratings.
Now, I know very little about this story; but the first thing that should be said, and it is embarrassing to have to point this out, is that one is allowed to hold incredibly wrong-headed opinions about any number of things and remain a Catholic in good standing. I can believe the earth is flat, that blacks are thugs, or that women belong in the kitchen, and it doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on my canonical status in the Catholic Church. It just makes me a bloomin’ idiot. And, thankfully, idiots are welcome in the Church, as are hypocrites. Imperfection (and sin) is not a barrier; it is a regrettable fact of humanity and the basis for the doctrine of Original Sin.
Not knowing an awful lot about this story, my guess is Pope Benedict knew about this bishop’s views and that it had no bearing on his decision to lift his excommunication. Now, I am no canon lawyer, but, to put it too simply, the very basic condition for excommunication is a persistent and obstinate denial of the Catholic faith in all the ways in which that can manifest itself. As a point of reference, Fr. Hans Kung has never been excommunicated, but I dare say there are many who think he is or has been. At any rate, it seems our dear Pope knows his canon law better than the Fox News reporter, but we can hardly fault the reporter for that.
It’s frustrating to be a Christian and read (and watch) all of the horrendous news coverage there is out there regarding our faith. It seems the stupidity is only heightened when the topic is the Catholic Church. Far too many news outlets seem to be writing the next storyline for Dan Brown rather than intelligently reporting the news. This is not to say there are no good instances of religious news coverage. The death of Pope John Paul II with the subsequent election of Pope Benedict XVI come to mind, but the exception only proves the rule.
I am usually not a complainer or a whiner (or so I tell myself), so to make up for the preceding rant, I will be on the lookout for journalists that cover religious news well. I know they are out there. Thomas Peters of the American Papist blog has pointed them out on occasion, while also noting the egregious reporting in other cases. It should also be noted that some very good priests are religion correspondents for several of the major TV news outlets, not to mention George Weigel’s good work with NBC News and Newsweek. Then there is Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal.
There. I feel better already.