Indignity Unbecoming

One more small yelp about Christians spotting media bias.

Alan Jacobs faults journalists for improperly interpreting Pope Francis’ declaration of mercy for women who have had abortions:

Pope Francis has done a big, big thing: he has made it dramatically easier for women who have had abortions to be reconciled to the Church. But take a look at this NBC News headline: “Pope Francis: Priests Can Forgive Abortion If Women Are ‘Contrite’” — as though before this papal statement contrite women could not have received forgiveness!

The distinction between making forgiveness — more accurately, reconciliation and restoration to Communion, but even I won’t be a stickler for that — easier and making it possible is an important one and easy to grasp, but a reputable religion journalist insisted to me on Twitter this morning that such headlines are perfectly accurate and that my questioning them shows my ignorance of Catholic doctrine.

Apparently the BBC doesn’t agree with him, because the headline and article they posted earlier — has been revised: “Pope on abortion: Francis relaxes forgiveness rules.” Which is a big improvement in accuracy, though at least one, ahem, reputable religion journalist will think it wholly unnecessary.

Why defend the indefensible? The NBC and the original BBC headlines are plainly and simply wrong, and the stories accompanying them are factually wobbly at their best and in several places incorrect. So why say otherwise? An ideological axe to grind? Misplaced professional solidarity?

But when Roman Catholics themselves don’t know what the church teaches or pay attention to the papacy, why should the press be held to a higher standard than those who answered the call to communion. Rod Dreher reports on the latest set of numbers that don’t lie (and don’t reassure about the call’s terms):

Although an overwhelming majority of Catholics (nine in ten) believe in the concept of sin, they don’t seem to agree on what, precisely, constitutes one. Fifty-seven percent of Catholics think it’s a sin to have an abortion, compared to 48 percent of the general U.S. population who say the same. Forty-four percent think homosexual behavior is sinful (about the same say this among the general public). And just 17 percent of Catholics believe its a sin to use contraceptives, while 21 percent say the same of getting a divorce.

And although those percentages are higher for those who attend Mass weekly — 73 percent of weekly churchgoers say that abortion is a sin, for instance — the numbers are still pretty low on the issue of contraception: just 31 percent of weekly Mass attendees say the use of artificial contraception is a sin.

When Rod adds that liberalizing church teaching would actually hurt more than help, I have to wonder:

This is a pretty strong piece of evidence against the idea that if Pope Francis (or any pope) liberalized church teaching and practice in certain controversial areas, it would stop the bleeding and bring back Catholics who have left the church. All it would stand to do is to discourage the core of true believers. In fact, the Pew survey appears to indicate that the teachings of the Church don’t have a lot to do with the way many individual Catholics — even regular churchgoers — think and live.

I’ve seen what the numbers do to the true believers who at least were former Protestants. Nothing discourages these folks. It’s always sunny in Rome.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Indignity Unbecoming

  1. Brian,

    I was just visiting my brother at 9th and P – that up to 14th is becoming a really interesting area. There is an Italian restaurant on 14th with outdoor seating that has about the most polite and attentive waitstaff I have ever seen.

    A more accurate headline would be “Pope delegates to all priests the authority to absolve the sin of abortion.” The norm is that only bishops or those delegated by bishops have the power to absolve murder.

    As many or even most bishops have already done so, this isn’t actually big news.

    Bigger is the quasi-regularization of the SSPX: http://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/1980-on-the-sspx-time-to-end-the-chinese-water-torture

    As the SSPX laity are referred to as “faithful” and as having “good faith and sacramental practice,” it is hard to understand how those with no authority to comment can continue to level charges of schism (which the Vatican has not once confirmed, and has in fact repeatedly denied).

    Francis’s very act of granting them faculties presumes an active submission incompatible with schism- he doesn’t issue such permissions to the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Like

  2. Kevin,

    Francis’s very act of granting them faculties presumes an active submission incompatible with schism- he doesn’t issue such permissions to the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    or Protestant pastors.

    Like

  3. Kevin,

    As the SSPX laity are referred to as “faithful” and as having “good faith and sacramental practice,” it is hard to understand how those with no authority to comment can continue to level charges of schism (which the Vatican has not once confirmed, and has in fact repeatedly denied).

    Well, it’s because we have experience with informal schism as Protestants. We know of denominations where there are two or more groups with different and divergent theological beliefs where you have de facto schism because the two sides cannot and will never come to terms. Think PCUSA, where the liberals finally gained the majority and left anyone with anything remotely resembling orthodoxy far behind.

    Like

  4. Mark-

    I was unclear- by “those with no authority to comment” I meant firstly Catholic journalists, who have a duty to research subjects and relay the truth, but habitually don’t on this subject. Secondly other Catholics who purport to represent the faith but fail.

    I was in no way implying those present have such a duty. Offhand comments based on limited knowledge of a subject one has no responsibilities towards aren’t particularly serious (can be good blog comment material, though, if one is open to new info).

    If I were to agree the PCUSA has internal schism (or more provacatively that Woolley’s position on abortion makes him schismatic from the OPC, which I do not maintain) I would be rightly not taken seriously (although I’d appreciate correction), unless I did my research and put forth an argument deserving of consideration on the merits alone.

    If PCUSA or OPC officers or those they deputize (respectively in the cases above) made such a comment, that sounds to me serious.

    Like

  5. How do you market and distribute this w-w?

    Alan Jacobs says of the Kentucky clerk story that there are “two significant stories here,” one about the clerk’s legal claims and one about the way she’s being treated in the press. But really, there are zero significant stories here. The legal questions she raises are not profound and will be handled by the duly-constituted authorities; there’s no crisis of any kind, genuinely nothing to see. And the press has been awful because unless they are awful, there’s no story. Because outrage, like sex, sells – and that is not news at all, nor likely to change.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s