Monday, October 14, 2013

Something to Keep in Mind About the Media

With the hubbub slowly dying down over the Papal interviews, it seemed like a good idea to discuss the past problems of the media misinterpretation of the Church.

The American media seems to be incapable of viewing the Church apart from seeing her as political factions and appears to seriously believe that someday there will be a Pope who agrees with them... or that someday a Pope will "realize" the Church is wrong and change things.

Way back when Veritatis Splendor was written (1993), the media scoured it in hopes of finding that Bl. John Paul II had lifted the condemnation on contraception. The same thing happened with Evangelium Vitae. The media was asking, "Did the Church change its teaching?"

In both cases, the encyclcals were strongly affirming of Catholic teaching.

During the papacy of Benedict XVI, the media took a different approach. Perhaps because by this time, the Internet was in full swing and information was instantaneous -- though comprehension was not -- the media was interpreting what the Pope said on their own.

Unfortunately, they were interpreting the statements according to their own perspective, often giving a political twist when none was intended.

Thus, encyclcals of Benedict XVI which spoke on the role of government in a moral society were interpreted as advocating centralization -- despite the attempts to explain otherwise.

When, in an interview, Benedict used a hypothetical example of a male prostitute with AIDS to illustrate a point of people beginning to think of moral consequences of actions, the media thought he finally "understood" and was changing Church teaching.  Despite the attempts to explain what was really meant, some people still think he "changed the teaching."

Likewise, when Obama was elected, the Vatican indicated it was a good sign for America. This was interpreted as an endorsement of his policies. It was nothing of the sort. Rather, the Church had been deeply concerned for decades with the racism in America and the fact that a black man could be elected was a sign of change in American attitudes.

So, with this background, it comes as no surprise that the media has given a wrong interpretation to the words of Pope Francis. They keep expecting the Church will someday "realize it is wrong," and make "reforms."  With that mindset, errors should be expected when the media reports on the Church.

Thus, when the media reports a "change" in Church teaching, our first assumption should be they probably got it wrong and not assume the Pope changed Church teaching.

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