Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Friday, September 17, 2021

It’s Iimi! Another Presser, Another Misrepresentation!

Whenever the Pope holds a Presser, returning from a trip, the secular media and agenda-driven religious media will get it wrong. This is due to either ignorance, or confirmation bias. The question is, when will people stop listening to news sources which got it wrong every single time?

Friday, October 23, 2020

We Have Apparently Learned Nothing in the Last Ten Years

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

—Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000)

Did you hear the one about the media reporting on the Pope saying something that was contrary to Church teaching? No, I am not talking about Pope Francis in 2020. I am talking about Benedict XVI back in 2010 who was reported as “changing” Church teaching to allow people with AIDS to use condoms. One example of that time can be found HERE.

Of course, what Benedict XVI said was entirely different than reported:

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being. 

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

(Pope Benedict XVI. Light Of The World (p. 112). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.)

Things have not changed in the media in those ten years between then and now. This is not the first time I brought this up of course. I discussed the distortion around Benedict XVI back in 2010 and every time since. We should know by now that even when people had access to the true statement, those guilty of misrepresentation denied that they had done anything wrong and the misrepresentation continued.

But despite the ten years of experience we have had in the media getting nuance flat out wrong, once again, the media took a quote from the Holy Father out of context. And, once again, Catholics used that misrepresentation as an excuse to push their own agenda—whether trying to change Church teaching or bash the Pope—and once again people are saying that the Pope is to blame for “not speaking clearly.” I do not see a need to go over why the stories were wrong. There are several good ones worth reading that have already been written.

This debunking has been effective enough that even the secular media now widely acknowledges that the director of the movie Francesco spliced quotes together and the line of civil unions came from a different part of a 2019 interview in Mexico than the rest of the segment that has people outraged. Nobody knows the context of the line yet. But that has not stopped people from inventing a “new teaching” or blaming the Pope for this unethical editing… as if anyone would come across well if someone with an agenda took our quotes apart and resequenced them.

So, let me be clear. Catholics like myself who defend the Pope, do not do so because we support a “change in teaching.” Rather, we reject those claims that he intends to change teaching as being false.

This leads to the question which another round of false claims should lead Catholics to ask: Why do we never learn from past repetitions of our same damned error? Every single time the Pope is accused of promoting error or going against past teaching, and every single time it involves the eisegesis that is put into his words by people who either want to promote a teaching or want to undermine the Pope. 

I am inclined to think this is typical of certain “anti” groups. Whether anti-Francis Catholics, anti-Catholics, anti-Semites, anti-Muslims etc., we see two factors. First, ignorance about what the target believes. Second, a false belief that the person or group is capable of whatever the accusation is. The most repugnant version of this behavior is the “ritual sacrifice” calumnies against the Jews. But we see all sorts of bizarre lies told about others too.  In this case, like the others, we see people who are ignorant of what Pope Francis has said but believe him—in a positive or negative sense—to be willing and capable of doing what he is accused of doing.

When such ignorance§ is in play, questioning the allegation as seen as “explaining away” or “denial.” But the fact remains: People are assuming things based on what they want to believe, accepting only those accounts that confirm what they think. Then, as those accounts they follow exaggerate further, people become absolutely convinced that this deformation is revealing more “truth” about the ignorant assumptions they assume are true.

But we do not do this in other areas. If Candidate A says something false about Candidate B, Candidate B’s partisans will not rest until the lie is exposed. But Candidate B’s partisans will not do this about the Pope if the false narrative is what they want to believe. The problem is our knowledge of “fake news” and other unethical reporting when it harms what we favor, shows that we are aware that this tactic exists. And since we are aware, we have an obligation to determine whether a claim is true before repeating it, regardless of whether it is about our ally or our enemy. But where is the attempt “to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it”? Where is the attempt to “ask how the other understands it”? The Catholic teaching demands that we do this before accusing the Pope of error. But everybody jumps right to assuming what they hear is true.

And then, when debunked, those who rashly judged or calumniated blame the Pope for their own failure. They say he should have spoken more clearly, when in fact, these people chose to believe what they wanted to hear and explain away* every correction as “spin.”

We should be aware of this: The virtually faster than light spread of error arose with the smartphone#. Reporters with no grasp of the nuances in theology report the shocking and try to get it out first. The refutation takes longer and is not widely covered. But that does not make the Pope to blame. But, since we do know that this kind of behavior exists, our ignorance is vincible if we repeat what we cannot confirm.

And if our ignorance is vincible, we will have to answer for it at the Final Judgment. Let us remember what the Church has taught in Gaudium et Spes #16:

Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

We cannot hide our rash judgment behind an appeal that we did not know when we have the obligation not to speak unless we do know the truth. We should have learned that over the last ten years. If we have not, then let us start now before it is too late!



(†) As a note of interest, back in 2010, certain Catholics accused me of being “right wing” and “in denial” about this so-called “change in teaching” when I debunked it.

(‡) Let me make clear that I do not try to equate the consequences of the calumnies against Jews with the calumnies against Pope Francis or the Church. Of course, Catholics have not suffered for lies about them the way the Jews suffered for the lies told about them. I merely cite the “blood libel” as an example of how lies can be widely believed for centuries.

(§) I do not use the term “ignorance” pejoratively. Properly understood, “ignorance” means “lacking knowledge or awareness in general, or (often ignorant of) uninformed about or unaware of a specific subject or fact” according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. The Catholic Church uses the terms “invincible ignorance” or “vincible ignorance” to determine whether it was impossible to know something or whether the person who did not know was negligent in failing to learn.

(*) The irony is, they claim that debunking of their errors is the “explaining away.”

(#) Reporters were ignorant before the Smartphone too. During the pontificate of St. John Paul II, reporters were scouring every document in the hopes of finding a “change” in Church teaching. But since everything was printed back then, reporters could not get access before the documents were released… which meant the priests and bishops had them too. Back then, reporters would contact parishes and dioceses for context and comments. That no longer happens today.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Socrates, Pope Francis, and Politicians

“I am wiser than this man; for neither of us really knows anything fine and good, but this man thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas I, as I do not know anything, do not think I do either. I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know either.” (Apologia 21d)


 Plato, Plato in Twelve Volumes Translated by Harold North Fowler; Introduction by W.R.M. Lamb., vol. 1 (Medford, MA: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1966).

So, today we saw another misrepresentation of Pope Francis. He spoke about investigating the role of the ancient position of deaconesses and clarifying what role they might play in the Church today. This suddenly became “Pope to investigate ordaining female deacons.” This resulted in both the radical traditionalist looking for “proof” that the Pope is a heretic, and the misguided Catholic who thinks the Church can ordain women jumping to the inaccurate opinion that the Pope justified their views. Once again we had people commit eisegesis, letting their preconceptions interfere with an accurate understanding. Debunking this was pretty easy compared to other incidents.

But after finishing this debunking, I had a thought. We’re quick in investigating false claims when it challenges what we find important. But we seem willing to take the same sources at their word if it supports our friend or harms our foe. This is more noticeable in an election year. We want our candidate to get elected and whatever harms the opponents of the candidate is good enough. So we end up sharing links which achieve this on social media without considering their accuracy.

The problem is, as Christians, we’re not supposed to do this. We’re supposed to speak the truth and live it. This obligation holds firm regardless of whether we talk about the Pope or about controversial politicians like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or Paul Ryan (to pick out four controversial names this election cycle from the headlines). We have to avoid rash judgment and calumny in what we say or what we repost. The Catechism tells us:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity. 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 594–595.

Before a person makes a negative interpretation about the character of someone, he has the obligation to discover (to the best of their ability) whether the charge is true or whether it comes from a partisan interpretation of the facts. If it is the latter, we need to ask ourselves if this interpretation is the only one possible or if there are other justified interpretations that do not prove the moral badness of the target. In other words, we need to make sure we are not playing the hypocrite. If we object to people misrepresenting or defaming what we hold important, we must not do the same thing when it comes to people we dislike.

For that matter, if someone we like actually does wrong, we can’t pretend that it doesn’t matter and kick it under the rug either. So, for example, if we denounce corruption in one candidate, we cannot be silent if a candidate we like is also corrupt.

Discerning the right thing to do can be a fine line to walk. But it is about not letting our prejudices lead us to act unjustly through action or omission. If someone does wrong, we can’t condone it. But we do have to make sure it is wrongdoing and not disagreement over the best way to do things or a misunderstanding over what happened. 

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m the wise Socrates from the quote in the beginning of this article and everyone else is the person who thinks he knows and does not. I had to catch myself in the act of doing this before realizing I was playing a double standard. I noticed that I just took the word of the mainstream media when it came to public figures I disliked and investigated it when it involved people I approved of. But when I looked more closely at what the articles alleged, I saw other reasonable interpretations than moral badness. Because of this, I had to ask myself, “What sort of witness am I leaving to support my promotion of Catholic moral teaching."

I didn’t like the answer I gave myself.

Since, as Christians, we’re called to be the light of the world, the city on the hill, the salt of the earth (see Matthew 5:13-16), we have to consider what sort of beacon we give to the world compared to the beacon we’re supposed to give. That means we have to do what is right, speaking the truth, even when we think the person involved seems entirely wrong.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Media and Our Conception of the Catholic Faith

An Example of People Ignoring Media Claims About the Church

It’s become common now for the media to make comments about different people and events in the Church that show how they do not understand what the Church teaches. Take for example the article "Woman claims role as Kansas City’s first female Catholic priest | The Kansas City Star.” According to Catholic teaching, only a male can be ordained to the priesthood. St. John Paul II has made it quite clear:

4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful. (emphasis added)

So, when we read in articles about women claiming to be ordained and the media treating this as fact, a person who has been paying attention to Church teaching knows that the opposite has been taught by the Church. He or she knows that this is not some new sort of teaching. We recognize that the media is to blame for this, and people who try to promote this as an example of change for the Church are either grossly uninformed about the Church or else are pushing an agenda against Church teaching.

That much seems obvious. We don’t see the National Catholic Reporter or Rorate Cæli (to name the extremes) talking about how wonderful/terrible it is that the Church is “changing” her teaching. 

Too Many Instances of People Accepting Media Claims About the Church—When it Suits Them

So, I find it curious that so many Catholics seeking to be faithful are willing to treat media reports as true when they call Pope Francis a liberal and claim he is overturning Church teaching. Anyone who looks at what his predecessors have said on a topic will find no conflicts, but at most a different way of explaining the Church teaching. The theme of the Pope’s preaching is reaching out to sinners, seeking to bring them back to God. He has said absolutely nothing about changing the faith. He has only said that it’s not enough to stop with stating what is forbidden, and we need to think about how to bring those people in a sinful situation back to the Church. He has repeatedly said that when it comes to Church teaching, he is a faithful son of the Church—on precisely the issues he has been accused of favoring a change.

So it seems clear that anyone who is trying to allege the Pope is changing the Church teaching is either grossly uninformed on what he said and what the Church says probably relying on the MSM and the opinion sites (religious and secular) which are treating the MSM as accurate.

Now of course, we want to avoid the genetic fallacy rejecting any news solely because it comes from a certain source. But we do need to consider the accuracy of a source—how knowledgable it is—when it attempts to report "breaking news” on the Church (which usually comes across looking like THIS). We also want to avoid the argument from ignorance fallacy where we think that because we haven’t heard about a response to a misleading story that it wasn’t responded to.

Instead of Looking to the Church, People Look to the Media Caricature to Confirm What They Already Decided

The antidote to such antics is to look for the Church accounts of things. There are some sites which do a good job of reporting what was actually said, even to the point of providing transcripts (such as Vatican Information Service or ZENIT). I have found that whenever the rapid reporting of the MSM pronounces that the Church under Pope Francis is “changing Church teaching,” it is disproven within a few days at the most. That is why we cannot accept the MSM reporting on the Church at face value. They are acting from lack of understanding and perhaps bias (hoping that the Church will change her views as if they were a political platform).

Basically, when we look for an explanation of the Church teaching, we should turn to the Church, not away from the Church for a reliable answer. That’s not what is being done anymore. When a political pundit defines the Church in terms of his or her own bias, that’s not a reliable answer, but people are using these things to confirm their own views and justify what they were going to do anyway. Whether it’s a political liberal who wants to see a Church transforming into what he or she wants it to be, or whether it’s a conservative who is looking for an excuse to legitimize their rejection of Pope Francis, we are experiencing a situation where instead of being faithful Catholics looking to the Church, we are seeing Catholics who are affirming the Church only when it suits them, and denying it when they run afoul of the teachings.


If liberals want to trumpet their support for Pope Francis, then let them heed his teachings as a “Son of the Church.” If conservatives want to portray themselves as faithful to the Church, then let them start giving assent to the teachings of the current successor of St. Peter, trusting that Our Lord will not fail in His promise to protect the Church under the successor of St. Peter.

If people decide to ignore these things and instead pick and choose what it means to be a Catholic, then that’s hypocrisy—and both liberal and conservative are guilty of the same disobedience, even if they dissent on different grounds. Cafeteria Catholicism is not only a behavior of one political faction.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Beckoning Their Foes to the Exit? The Curious Case of the Media and Slanted Reporting on the Church

Article: US cardinal slams Pope Francis over softer approach to homosexuality | Daily Mail Online

I have been writing about the conservative grumbling about the synod and some of the rhetoric about the faithful opposing Pope Francis. Of course I think it is a dangerous thing to make oneself a judge over whether the Pope is faithful or not. But the drumbeat of the media is interesting as well. It seems that they are not content to report on disgruntled Catholics, but want to stir up their discontent as well.

There have been several news reports about “conservative” cardinals “opposing” the Pope because of his “changing" the teaching of the Church. But the headlines don’t match what the cardinals actually say. There are no rebukes of Pope Francis. There are no changes to the teaching of the Church. What is being said is that some members of the laity are confused about the reports about the synod.

So, what we have seems to be a three step attack:

  1. Media misreports words of Pope or synod to give impression of changing Church teaching.
  2. Media misreports words of bishops to give impression of rebellion.
  3. Media encourages thoughts of conservative Catholics wanting to leave the Church.

Basically, it looks as if they’re making the Church to look bad enough (from a conservative perspective) that the faithful won’t trust the magisterium, and perhaps want to leave—encouraging an exodus from the Church (whether physical or mental), leaving it to those with a liberal perspective. It’s a media participation in the devil’s plans to encourage the orthodox Catholics to doubt God’s role in the Church.

It seems to be working. I have seen certain Catholic news sites turn from accurately reporting the facts to assuming that the media reports are true, reacting in horror, doubting the Pope, thinking the Church will change her teaching. I have seen Catholic bloggers turn from defending the faith to assuming that the Pope is changing it. I have seen some apologists go from defending the Church from misrepresentation to complaining that they have to defend the Church from misrepresentation—blaming the Pope for the media irresponsibility.

When that happens, it becomes easy for the average Catholic to become demoralized, thinking the teaching authority of the Church is being overwhelmed with error.

To prevent this, faithful Catholics need to be informed so they can recognize the difference between the actual teachings and interviews with the Magisterium. It’s time to stop taking media reports (whether mainstream media or political commentary from either faction) as if they were accurately reporting the news. None of these have shown themselves to be reliable in assessing what is going on. Once a source has shown itself unreliable in accuracy, we need to investigate what they claim, rather than taking it at face value.

Otherwise, we give the devil the opportunity to try to separate us from our faith.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thoughts on the Latest Papal Media Tempest

If you haven't already heard, there's some media coverage on the Pope allegedly saying in a private phone call that a woman married to a divorced man could receive the Eucharist. Given the hearsay nature of who reported things, I'm operating under the assumption that as a faithful son of the Church, whatever the Pope said, it didn't involve violations of Church teaching... Hell, if the Pope wanted to make sure that the woman received the Eucharist, I'm sure that he would have contacted the Pastor.

One thing I see from the Catholic blogging is a number of people claiming that the Pope needs to be more careful in what he says.

Personally, I think everyone should remember that every person is obligated to find out what was meant by a speaker before judging him or her. The media fails to do their research, whether through negligence or choice. We should be aware of this failure. Every time the Pope made headlines from something he said, the final result was the discovery that the media got it wrong.

When the media presents the Pope as radically changing Church teaching, we need to recognize their deficiency and their consistency in getting it wrong.

Otherwise, we're guilty of rash judgment.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Propaganda vs. The Church

Cardinal Dolan remarked that the Church was outmarketed on the so-called "gay marriage" issue and caricatured as being "anti-gay."  While I agree, I think it is more accurate to say the opponents of the Church used massive propaganda and slander/libel in their marketing of homosexuality and abortion.

This propaganda and slander involves portraying their own position as true without proving it so, and then vilifying anyone who disagrees making them appear to be motivated by bigotry.

It has been quite successful. Looking at comments in news stories about the ACLU suing the Catholic bishops on their abortion directive, I see hateful comments about how the Church is a horrific institution that needs to be destroyed.

Now one needs to take Internet comments with a grain of salt. How representative they are of the population is hard to judge. Are they the common view? Or are they snarky teens mad that mom and dad made them go to Church?

However, such comments show that among part of the population people have been effectively propagandized to support, or at least not care, if the Government should try to attack or control the Church.

Basically the propagandists state (without proof) that the Catholic position is based on hatred and seek to use the appeal to emotion in order to get pity for the favored view and opposition to the Church teaching... before the Church can even speak.

Now some have blamed the bishops, saying that if they were doing their jobs we wouldn't be in this position. I don't believe that. The reason is,  a false statement (whether deliberate or not) can easily fit on a slogan or soundbite. The refutation takes much longer.  Given how short a news story is, the refutation is usually ignored or distorted.

However, all Catholics (not just the bishops and priests) are called to defend the faith. Not all who have been propagandized are extreme. Some of them may be open to the truth, merely believing what they have been told about us because it never occurred to question the reliability of the reports.

Some, especially on the Internet, may be abusive.  All we can do is to be polite and speak to the reader, not get sucked into a flame war with an abusive person.

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.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resources to get unedited stories from the Vatican

Several people have been asking me about the statements the media make from Vatican press releases. So I thought I ought to share some resources I use to counteract the mainstream media distortions.

For a daily email, you can go HERE to sign up with Vatican Information Service.

If you have a tablet, I recommend The Pope App for Android or iPad.

Given the media's rather suspicious reporting of the Pope, I recommend these highly.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

TFTD: Male Bovine Excrement

"All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again."

--Battlestar Galactica.

Pope Francis gave an interview which was published today. The gist of the mainstream media coverage was that the Pope was indifferent to moral issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

The mainstream media coverage is a bunch of male bovine excrement of course,  but what irritates me is the coverage of certain conservative Catholic blogs. The reason it annoys me is because these conservative bloggers would in any other case challenge the media claims. Here many accept the media claims, assuming the Pope was speaking in a fuzzy manner allowing unclear language to confuse the message.

I believe this is also male bovine excrement.

This is not the first time this happened. A few years back, Pope Benedict XVI gave a book interview with Peter Seewald... which I blogged about HERE. The mainstream media took an excerpt from L'Osservatore Romano and proclaimed that the Pope was changing Church teaching on condoms.

He wasn't. He was giving a hypothetical example of a person beginning to think of moral consequences. He reiterated he held the Catholic position. But that was ignored by the media.

Then too, conservative Catholic bloggers took the media at their word. The editor of L'OR was bashed. The Vatican Press Office was bashed. The Pope was... gently criticized for being imprecise.

This is more of the same. The media grossly took out of context what was said...and conservative Catholic bloggers assumed the Pope was speaking in a fuzzy and vague manner.

He wasn't. What we are seeing is a Pope who is deeply in love with Christ and the Church established by Christ. He wants to show that Christ's love and forgiveness is available to all. He doesn't deny the Catholic moral teaching.  But he does want the whole teaching to be taught.  Not just that homosexual acts and abortion are evil, but that the sinner is loved by God.

If we leave that out, we forget a crucial message of Christianity. God sent His Son for our salvation. We need to keep this in mind or we will miss the point of why we preach the Gospel.

I think what pisses me off the most about this is the way certain bloggers have made a beautiful explanation of the faith appear to be fuzzy thinking. They undermine the confidence in the Pope when they should be challenging the mainstream media.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

And Now We Wait… and Pray

extra omnes

Extra omnes (Everybody out)

The Cardinals have entered the conclave to begin the process of choosing a new Pope.  Many of us have picked up the apps, have registered at Pope alarm for notification of the new Pope, and  adopted a cardinal

(If you're curious, I was assigned Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, and for him I pray that he be guided to choose a man who would best serve the Church in the eyes of God, and if he is personally chosen to be Pope that he guide the Church wisely and well).

So now with all the instant media updates, we are now faced with… having to wait.  That's the antithesis of the modern technology.  We need to wait for the Cardinals to cast their ballots and pray until they have selected the next Pope.  We want to know NOW!  So we see the media filling the airwaves with speculation.  We can't stand silence.  But the conclave exists cut off from Twitter, RSS feeds and text messages and until we see the white smoke, we won't know anything.

This is where we need to slow down, practice patience and wait for the next Pope.

We can either pace the floors or we can devote our time to prayer.  Prayer for the conclave, for the Church, for the world, for our family and friends.

Let's have faith in God.  Let's remember Matt 16:18 and Matt 28:20.  We don't know what the future will bring, but we know the Church will continue to be under His protection.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing: Pope Misrepresented on Condoms and AIDS - Again

Update: Ignatius Press provides the pages in context HERE.  Note how the news reports took it out of context.

There seems to be several articles going around that the Pope is going to change the Church position on the use of condoms to prevent AIDS.  Originating from an AP story, and repeated on UK news sites and blogs is, in essence, the following:

Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable "in certain cases", notably "to reduce the risk of infection" with HIV, in a book due out Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance.

In a series of interviews published in his native German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether "the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms."

"It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution," the pope replies.

"In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality," said the head of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

The AP treats this as a change in teaching, claiming:

Until now, the Vatican had prohibited the use of any form of contraception -- other than abstinence -- even as a guard against sexually transmitted disease.

Of course the Catholic News sites were in a flurry over the news… oh wait.  No they weren't.  In fact the articles show a gross misunderstanding on how the Church teaches.  The pope does not teach through interviews which are published by third parties.  The Pope issues formal statements: Encyclicals, Apostolic Letters, motu proprio, and others.

The media has made an error.  The Pope has not made a new teaching.  The book in question is an interview between the Pope and journalist Peter Seewald, entitled Light of the World.  This is in fact the third book in a series of interviews done between the Pope and Seewald.  The first one was Salt of the Earth, published in 1996 in Germany and in America in 1997 (Seewald had left the Church at this time of this interview).  The second was God and the World published in 2000 in Germany and 2002 in America.  The original intent was to interview the infamous Panzerkardinal and get his personal views on things.

What these books are, is in fact a series of interviews between now Pope Benedict XVI and Peter Seewald about the now Holy Father's personal thoughts on certain topics, and are not at all formal teachings of the Church.

The Pope described it as such in his introduction in God and the World:

In 1996, Peter Seewald suggested we gave a conversation about the questions that people today often put to the Church and are often for them an obstacle on the path of faith.

Ignatius Press, publisher of the American edition debunks the tabloid myth, with an Article by Janet E. Smith.

First she gives us the actual quote from Light of the World:

"To the charge that “It is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms,” in the context of an extended answer on the help the Church is giving AIDs victims and the need to fight the banalization of sexuality, Pope Benedict replied:

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.  But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality."

Doctor Smith makes a profound analysis on this statement:

Anyone having sex that threatens to transmit HIV needs to grow in moral discernment. This is why Benedict focused on a “first step” in moral growth. The Church is always going to be focused on moving people away from immoral acts towards love of Jesus, virtue, and holiness. We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus.

So is the Holy Father saying it is morally good for male prostitutes to use condoms? The Holy Father is not articulating a teaching of the Church about whether or not the use of a condom reduces the amount of evil in a homosexual sexual act that threatens to transmit HIV.  The Church has no formal teaching about how to reduce the evil of intrinsically immoral action.  We must note that what is intrinsically wrong in a homosexual sexual act in which a condom is used is not the moral wrong of contraception but the homosexual act itself.  In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted. But the Holy Father is not making a point about whether the use of a condom is contraceptive or even whether it reduces the evil of a homosexual sexual act; again, he is speaking about the psychological state of some who might use condoms.  The intention behind the use of the condom (the desire not to harm another) may indicate some growth in a sense of moral responsibility.


Is Pope Benedict indicating that heterosexuals who have HIV could reduce the wrongness of their acts by using condoms?  No.  In his second answer he says that the Church does not find condoms to be a “real or moral solution.” That means the Church does not find condoms either to be moral or an effective way of fighting the transmission of HIV.  As the Holy Father indicates in his fuller answer, the most effective portion of programs designed to reduce the transmission of HIV are calls to abstinence and fidelity. 

The Holy Father, again, is saying that the intention to reduce the transmission of any infection is a “first step” in a movement towards a more human way of living sexuality. That more human way would be to do nothing that threatens to harm one’s sexual partner, who should be one’s beloved spouse. For an individual with HIV to have sexual intercourse with or without a condom is to risk transmitting a lethal disease.

In other words, the person who realizes that the use of the condom with AIDS is less harmful than unprotected sex is at least making a first step towards a more human and moral view.  However, it is not the ultimate end.  Sexual relations making use of a condom may reduce the threat of passing on a lethal disease, but the one who loves realizes that love does not put the beloved at risk of life.

Let us remember that this was the Pope who received massive denunciation from the world for his statements on AIDS and condoms.  (I commented on this back in April 2009)  In speaking on a "more human" way of viewing sexuality, he said in 2009:

If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help [by responsible behaviour], the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it. The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practise self-denial, to be alongside the suffering. And so these are the factors that help and that lead to real progress: our twofold effort to renew humanity inwardly, to give spiritual and human strength for proper conduct towards our bodies and those of others, and this capacity to suffer with those who are suffering, to remain present in situations of trial. It seems to me that this is the proper response, and the Church does this, thereby offering an enormous and important contribution. We thank all who do so.

To sum up.  There is no "new teaching" on condoms by Pope Benedict XVI.  The Pope is merely explaining his personal views on an issue which had been grossly distorted, showing a view which deepens the statements made in the 2009 interview en route to Africa.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reflections on Obligation in the Church and Media

One of the main problems with the media coverage of the recent accusations against the Vatican is the unproven assumption that the Vatican not only knew of, but was indifferent to, the reports of abuse which they must have known of. This is a important error of assumption which needs to be examined.

Preliminary: The Difference Between ‘Ought’ and ‘Is’

So let’s start here as a preliminary. Media accusers seem to be making a profound error. This is the error over “ought” and “is.” Some of you may find discussions over linguistics to be dull. However, I think this needs to be stressed, as many of the attacks against the Church are based on the claim that the Vatican ought to have done X, but these attacks fail to consider what the actual events IS.

Ought can be defined as:

1      used to indicate duty or correctness.

†     used to indicate a desirable or expected state.

So one is correct in saying that Bishops ought to have reported abuse to the Curia and to the civil authorities. This is both the duty of the bishops and the expected state of affairs.

IS (the third person state of to be) can be defined as:

1. exist; be present

2. take place

3. having the specified state, nature, or role

So while ought indicates what is to be expected or required; IS indicates what has in fact happened. In order for OUGHT to equal IS, people must do what is required of them. I OUGHT to obey the laws on the speed limits. However, if I drive 70mph in a 55mph zone, what I ought to do is not what I actually do.

So how does this apply to the attacks on the Church? Quite simply, if the Bishop does what he ought in reporting abuse, then those he reports to are the ones to be held to blame if they do not do what they ought to do. However, if the bishop does not do what he ought (reporting the sinful priest), how can the Curia do what they ought to do? What the Bishop did (is) is different than what he ought to have done, and the expected state is hindered by the failure of the bishop.

This can work the other way. Prior to 2001, every accused priest (whose case was actually reported) was required to have an ecclesiastical trial. So the ought in this case is that the Church follows the rules it sets for fairness. Now the old rules did in fact need reforming, and they were reformed. However, one cannot change the rules in order to achieve a desired result. So when there were procedures which once took years to resolve, the Church was doing what it ought to have done in making sure the accusations were true, and making sure the penalty fit the action – provided that the bishops did their jobs in reporting it to them in the first place. If the Bishops did not do as they ought, how could the Curia do as it ought?

Analysis of the Media attacks

The media writes from the assumption that the Church willfully did not do as it ought to have done. This is the fallacy of equivocation in not defining what is meant by “the Church.” If one looks at the Church as a monolithic block, one looks at the Church wrongly. The Church is headed by the Pope in Rome, but the bishop is expected to be the episkopos (overseer or shepherd) of the diocese. He is expected to look after his people, looking after their spiritual well-being. This includes protecting them from the wicked among the ordained. Each diocese is made up of numerous parishes, with a pastor who is responsible for the well being of the people of the parish.

Understanding Subsidiarity

The Catholic Church, under the model of subsidiarity expects each part to handle things at their own level and the next level up intervenes only when there is a failure at the lower levels. Thus we see that the Pope does not deal with what liturgical music is used in a parish in California. Rather, his concern is over the whole Church. He could become involved in this hypothetical example if there was a significant crisis which affected the whole Church (say a popular hymn promoting a heretical teaching which needed to be stopped).

A chart of subsidiarity could look like this:

1. Pope (and the Curia) oversee the governing of the Church as a whole

2. Bishop oversees the governing of the Church in his diocese

3. Pastor oversees the governing of the Church in his parish.

If there is a failing in the parish, it is the task of the Bishop to correct it. If there is a failing in the diocese, it is the task of the Vatican to step in. Of course, there are different ways to handle a situation. Some are objectively better and some are objectively less good. Some of the individuals who are in the positions of authority are more competent and some are less competent.

An Analysis of Culpability

However, where condemnation is justified depends on the analysis of some things:

1. What was actually done in comparison to what one was obligated to do

2. What the person was obligated to know

3. What the motivation was for their acting

In other words the three things to be considered are, the act itself, the knowledge of the individual and the intent of the act. Each needs to be assessed. So let’s take a look at a hypothetical abuse case (I choose a hypothetical case instead of a real one because for purpose of analysis, we need to have a case where we know all the facts). Keep in mind that as a hypothetical case, I am not saying this is what happened in real life for any of the cases brought to our attention by the media. However, the principles I use here should be used to examine the media allegations. Only if the Vatican refuses to do its job can one say the “Vatican” did wrong. Of course this requires knowing what the Vatican is required to do compared to the Bishops and others.

Let us assume a case where a minor is sexually abused by a priest. The first step is to look at the bishop, right?


Obligations of the Victim

The first step is with the victim. If he or she does not report the abuse, then it is impossible for anyone who could take action to know this abuse takes place. So, if the individual stays silent instead of reporting it, we would have an act which was objectively wrong [failure to report makes it possible for a predator priest to continue victimizing others]. In such a case, we would have to look at the reasons for their actions.

Did they know they were obligated to report the abuse? If they did not know, and their lack of knowledge was reasonable [I would think this is a fair assumption. How many teenagers know what canon law is, let alone what it says], then their not reporting it due to ignorance could not be faulted.

Then there is the motivation for their inaction. Shame or fear or guilt are common tactics an abuser counts on to keep a victim silent. If the youth [wrongly] thinks it is somehow their fault, it is probable they will not recognize they are a victim, or even seek the help they need to recognize they were a victim.

On the other hand, if the victim stays silent because it seems too difficult to follow an obligation they know they have, this does hold some fault, as speaking out will protect others from being victimized. If a report is not made, the bishop cannot meet his own obligations on the matter.

Obligations of the Bishop

So let us assume that in the above case, when the victim does realize their obligation and does report it to the Bishop. Prior to 2001, the obligation to report it to the Vatican was limited to cases of solicitation in the confessional. After 2001, all cases were to be reported to the CDF.

Once the report is made to the bishop, he is obligated to investigate the claims and report it to the CDF if it is not immediately clear it is a false accusation. Now if the bishop does not report it (the act), the question is whether he knew of the duty. In this case, it seems unreasonable to assume the bishop would not know of the duty if he had been doing his job to begin with. So if a case was reported to him and if the case was credible, it seems a bishop could not claim invincible ignorance to his duties.

So when it comes to transferring a priest who was an abuser (which had tragically happened too often in the United States), we need to look at the motive. Did the bishop kick it under the carpet out of a motive such as careerism? Or did psychological experts of the time recommend that getting the priest away from the victim was the best solution? In these cases, the first obligation is wrong and condemnable. In the second, it would depend on whether or not the bishop acted in good faith. If the bishop at that time honestly and reasonably (for the time… we now know psychiatry erred on this) believed the psychiatrist was giving a professional medical verdict, his culpability might be considered lessened. If the bishop used the psychiatric evaluation as an excuse to transfer a predator priest to another diocese, knowing of recidivism culpability could be considered greater.

In other words, when considering the information the bishop had at the time he received the news was his actions, knowledge and intent in keeping with what was understood to be right?

In any case, the bishop always had authority to restrict or forbid a priest to practice their ministry for the good of the faithful. What he did or did not do would have to be assessed by the same standards.

Obligation of the Curia: Handling the Case

Let us assume that in this case, the obligations are met which require the case to be reported to the Curia and the bishop does so. What is the curia to do? Prior to 2001, it was the bishop who held the duty to handle the priest and report the results to the Vatican. After 2001, any reasonable charge had to be reported and the CDF would decide whether to take action itself or have the diocese take action. Prior to 2001, a trial was required. After 2001, a trial could be skipped if the evidence was overwhelming.

Now, ecclesiastical trials do take time, especially when one considers how small the Vatican curia are. For that matter, so do investigations of annulments sent to the Vatican. (See Morris West’s Shoes of the Fisherman for an example of how the pre-Vatican II Church was viewed on the subject). Evidence must be gathered, victims and accused must be interviewed, and a decision which is just must be made. Just for the accused and accuser alike. If it turns out the accused is innocent, he must not be punished. If he is guilty, the punishment must fit the crime.

For example: Was he a young priest who had a onetime fling with a 17 year old girl who was also interested in a sexual encounter with him? This is wrong of course, and even if the victim was willing, she would have been a minor and considered less able to make a decision. Or was he a predator, stalking youth and making many victims over a long period of time. Both are wrong of course. However the second case is far more serious than the first, and merits a harsher action… especially if in the first case the priest is deeply sorry for his act and in the second case the priest is unrepentant.

So before denouncing the Vatican for these things, we need to ask:

1. What were they made aware of?

2. What did they do in response?

3. How did that response match up to their obligation?

For cases where bishops did not report cases, the Vatican can hardly be blamed for this. In cases where they were notified, it requires us to know what was done to assess whether they did right or not.

This is where the media attacks on Pope Benedict XVI fall down. The review of the facts shows media attacks are based on the absence of information which is assumed to be indifference or squelching. Squelching a case (which the Pope has been accused of) is an action which requires evidence. Otherwise it is the argument from silence fallacy [We didn’t hear of anything, therefore nothing was done].

Before one can accuse the Vatican, the Pope or the CDF of blocking a case from moving forward, it must be proven. A case which took years prior to 2001 can move faster now. However, when it goes to trial (as I recall this was 20% of the cases), it can take time.

Obligation of the Church: Reforming Laws

Once it becomes clear that old laws are inadequate and have loopholes which the offenders can exploit, it becomes time to change those laws or rules. This is what happened in 2001 for example. It became clear that the old system allowed bishops to shift priests around without reporting it to the Vatican, so the new law made it mandatory to report the offender.

However, we must remember that just laws require time to draft. It is unfortunate that in a rush to punish the deserving we sometimes are tempted to skimp on justice in the name of “good.” However, in order to be good, a law must be just. This is why the Pope doesn’t just decree “OK, next person accused, send him to a monastery at the North Pole.” If a person is falsely accused, such a decree would be unjust.

The Catholic Church also has a mission of redeeming the sinner and calling them to repentance. If one seems truly repentant, the penalty necessarily differs from one who is unrepentant, and the Church, in her mission, must reflect the mercy and forgiveness Christ requires, without forsaking the justice Christ also requires.

Obligation of the Media: Accurately reporting

Peggy Noonan makes an error concerning the Catholic suspicion of the media. We are not angry that the media reported this at all.

We are justly angry over the attempts to smear the Pope by insinuating he willfully protected the guilty despite the evidence to the contrary. We are also justly angry over the fact that the media has portrayed the real cases of abuse and cover-ups as being more widely spread than the facts demonstrate.

This doesn’t mean the media has done no good whatsoever. In cases where certain bishops have been negligent, the media can do us a favor in bringing it to our attention. However, to be a real good, such media action requires a very different behavior from what has been shown so far. The media needs to understand what canon law teaches, and recognize that the Church governs itself with law, not arbitrariness. Getting a civil lawyer (often one who is suing the Church) to explain canon law is about as ridiculous as getting a Saudi Arabian lawyer to explain American Law.

The media is also obligated to report the facts without bias. Thus far, in media reporting of the abuse in 2002 and the recent attacks against the Pope, we tend to see agenda driven stories. Stories suggest the ending of celibacy or the admission of women priests as a required step for change. Calls for the “democratization” of the Church are common. The treating of dissenters from the Church as if they were objective commentators is also deceptive. Quite frankly, the media coverage of the Church displays a lack of interest or hostility to what the Church actually does. [This would be like asking one of these Tea parties to give an objective assessment of the Obama administration.]

The problem is the media cannot be objective if it approaches the story with an adversarial view. Being objective means reporting what is known. Being adversarial means challenging what one disagrees with or thinks is wrong. Now of course a reporter can disagree with the Church or think it ought to change. However, if the media brings these beliefs with it as an assumption behind the story, the story cannot be considered objective. The Church may have reasons why it cannot accept the personal beliefs of the reporter concerning important things. If the reporter does not consider this difference of view, his reporting will be flawed.


Ultimately the problem with the media coverage is not that they report that abuse happens, but that they draw unproven conclusions and present them as fact. As a result of media coverage, we are seeing polls where the majority seems to believe the Pope should be criminally tried, despite the fact that there is nothing more than unproven media allegations to base it on.

We Catholics are rightly angry at the jabs at the Church which claims to be objective reporting. One needs to be aware of their own biases when reporting. For example, I personally may not like Obama’s stand on Life and Moral issues, but this does not mean he can do nothing right. So when I write on moral issues concerning his administration, I do my best to keep my own political beliefs out of the analysis, hopefully succeeding and try to avoid writing on him when it does not involve issues which involve Catholic Moral Theology. [This is why I haven’t really commented on Tea parties and the like].

Ultimately, before writing the big exposé on the Church, the reporter and the media they work for needs to understand how the Church operates, reporting factually and not by misrepresenting the Church teaching or law.

If a priest or a bishop fails to do his duty towards what the Church requires, then yes report this and bring it to our attention. However, if the Church acts in a way different than the reporter would prefer based on his or her personal moral beliefs, to write a story without getting the facts straight is terribly unjust.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Change of Tactics: Taking Offense at our Being Offended

I'm noticing a change of tactics on the internet. With the NYT essentially discredited, except among the mob, I am seeing an approach of "taking offense with our being offended."  Essentially, the fact that many Catholics did take offense with the attempts to smear the Pope is being twisted into meaning that Catholics didn't care when abuse happened, but only care because the Pope is the target.

This is a false charge.

The cases in which the Pope was attacked involved cases where the case had long since been resolved but the media had insinuated that the cases had taken a long time to resolve because of the actions of Pope Benedict XVI.

Yes, there have been abusers among the priests.  Yes I am sure that some of them have escaped the dragnet going through the Church.  Yes I believe that a hundred years from now, some abuser will have found his way through the safeguards the Church may have set in place.  It is the tragic consequence of sin that some men may seek to use the priesthood to carry out vile acts.

However, just because Catholics are ashamed of those abusers and the bishops who concealed the problem rather than coming forward with it does not mean we forfeit the right to demand a truthful reporting of the scandals when they come forward.

The attacks of the New York Times and London papers, as well as the smaller papers who carried these stories, did not report these stories truthfully.  American libel laws, concerning a "public figure" makes it unlikely that the NYT will ever suffer legal consequences for their actions of course [New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan established that the statement must have been published knowing it to be false or with reckless disregard to its truth ("actual malice") — which makes it almost impossible to prove].

Catholics have a right to be angry at the gross misconduct of the media in this case.  This does not mean we don't care about the fact that victims suffered.  It means we do not believe that the abuse cases which exist permits the Church to be treated unjustly.

I expect that ultimately we will see the myth of "the silence of Benedict XVI" arise despite the truth.  However, why not watch the comments in the various internet discussions.  How many times will the accusation come that we do not care about the victims, but only for protecting the Pope?

What scares me the most of this sort of attack is how closely it mirrors the statement of a European Ruler in the 1930s.  "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."

That ruler was Adolf Hitler

An Enemy is a Friend Who Wants to Kill You? Reflections on Noonan's Defense of the Media

Sources: Peggy Noonan: The Catholic Church's Catastrophe -

Anti-Benedict Media Sharks: Best Friends *and* Enemies? | Blogs |

Peggy Noonan is a Catholic, former Reagan speech writer and an author (she wrote a book on John Paul II) who generally seems to be loyal to the Church.  So when it comes to her criticisms, it is clearly a different case than the New York Times or the attacks of "Cafeteria Catholics."

Reading her article, The Catholic Church's Catastrophe I am inclined to think that she fundamentally misses the point regarding Catholic's anger over the recent attacks.

Her thesis seems to be essentially:

In both the U.S. and Europe, the scandal was dug up and made famous by the press. This has aroused resentment among church leaders, who this week accused journalists of spreading "gossip," of going into "attack mode" and showing "bias."

But this is not true, or to the degree it is true, it is irrelevant. All sorts of people have all sorts of motives, but the fact is that the press—the journalistic establishment in the U.S. and Europe—has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on this issue. Let me repeat that: The press has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on the scandals because it exposed the story and made the church face it. The press forced the church to admit, confront and attempt to redress what had happened. The press forced them to confess. The press forced the church to change the old regime and begin to come to terms with the abusers. The church shouldn't be saying j'accuse but thank you.

This is the fallacy known as Non causa pro causa. The reason I think she is wrong is that she makes an error over what the case is about.  It is not about denying any sort of abuse took place.  It is not about the fact that some bishops did horrible wrong in kicking it under the carpet instead of following the Church rules on the subject at the time the abuse was known.  It is not even about whether some cases were handled in a way slower than should have been.

The reason there is anger from Catholics over the media bias is that in the recent news stories of Milwaukee, Munich and Arizona, there was a concerted effort to attack the person of Pope Benedict XVI with no evidence in favor of, and in fact much evidence against, their claim.

Noonan, in attributing anger over the false attacks against the Pope as anger over reporting abuse at all is attributing a non-cause as a cause.

An Enemy Is A Friend Who Wants To Kill You

I also think Noonan errs over the claim that the media forced "the Church" to deal with the issues.  She says:

Without this pressure—without the famous 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight series with its monumental detailing of the sex abuse scandals in just one state, Massachusetts—the church would most likely have continued to do what it has done for half a century, which is look away, hush up, pay off and transfer.

However, the facts are against her.  In Milwaukee, the case was moving forward until the time of the death of the defendant.  In Arizona, the priests accused were suspended and barred from priestly ministry and had appealed the verdict, taking several years to resolve. In Munich, the vicar general made a decision on his own behalf without consulting then Archbishop Ratzinger.

Indeed, Noonan seems to be making a fallacy of equivocation here.  "The Church" was indeed working on this before the 2002 scandal of Cardinal Law.  She could perhaps say that the Church in America was forced to confront the issue, but this is a far different issue than the accusing of Pope Benedict.

The Principle of Subsidiarity

The thing is, the Church operates under the principle of Subsidiarity, which is described in the Catechism as:

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

1884 God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.

In the idea of subsidiarity, the higher gets involved in the affairs of the lower when there is a failure in the lower to police itself.  This is what the Church did, once reports of the abuse began crossing its desk.  It reformed its former rules on the subject.

One could make a case that certain media reports helped alert the Magisterium to a breakdown in subsidiarity in the lower levels in America, however, I suspect that the media did not have as big a role as Noonan thinks.

The media may have publicized it.  However, it does not follow that they caused the investigations to begin.  The issue of course is the objectivity of the media.  There were 3,000 cases dating back to 1950 which had to be investigated.  Much of the media had made it sound as if there were many more cases annually.

If The Media Is Alarmed Over Abuse, Why Does It Ignore the Largest Offender?

I think it is a valid charge that the public schools has a exponentially larger number of cases of sexual abuse of minors, and doesn't pick up a fraction of the coverage, even though the Church has put in place of protections the public schools still lack.  Such behavior speaks against concern for victims of sexual abuse and speaks more for bias in the media in an attempt to attack the whole Church.

This is not a tu quoque of course.  The evils in the Public schools do not make for a defense of abusers in the Church.  However, if the media is concerned about the children, why does it continue to report on old cases within the Church instead of reporting on the ongoing problems within the public schools and the utter lack of reform and the ongoing practices which the Church is in the process of eliminating.

The fact that the media continues to report on cases from the 1950-2000 era even though the Church has reformed itself and is clearing the backlog of cases, and ignores the schools utter lack of reform seems to indicate an agenda.

If the Church Makes a Policy Change and Nobody Reports it, is it still the fault of the Church?

That kind of coverage was not helpful, and in fact obscured the real issues to be dealt with.  The Church made a careful investigation at the time the media was making accusations of stonewalling, and policies were enacted.  People with homosexual tendencies were restricted based on the investigation into those most likely to be victimized.  Rules were made concerning the policies to be carried out in parishes and dioceses.

Much of the time, the media made much of the charges, but said almost nothing of the Church actions in response to the abuse.  Were it not for the Catholic media reporting, nobody would have been aware that the Church had acted.

The Media is Hardly a "Friend"

Mark Shea writes an article about the view that the media is the friend of the Church which brings home all the flaws of the defense of the media in the latest frenzy.  In it, he writes:

Look.  I can grant that *God*, who orders all things for the good of those in Christ Jesus, can use bitter enemies of the Church to bring about redemption and healing.  But please: let’s make up our mind.  Are journalists who do slipshod hatchet jobs on Benedict “the Church’s best friend” or are they “enemies of His people”?  I think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, whatever God may have in mind, the authors of this war on Benedict do not regard themselves as “best friends of the Church” and that the self-congratulation of journalists for their shoddy reportage is as repulsive as the self-congratulation of abusers who lectured their victims to sit there, shut up and take it due to the abusers’ sanctity as priests and as mediators of Truth.  Spare me.

It is an excellent point.  The Holy Week attacks on the Pope were not done with the good of the Church in mind.  The attacks attempted to link the culpability of those who had in fact done evil (the abusers) with Pope Benedict XVI — without a shred of proof.

Shea goes on to write:

But please. This group of frenzied MSM sharks bent on destroying Benedict and engaging in their annual Holy Week Church Bash on the flimsiest charges are not the Church’s"friends”, nor do they give a tinker’s damn about the good of the Church or abused children who are not usefully Catholic.  You might as well tell me that Mehmet Ali Acga (whom these sharks did not fail to consult for his expert opinion) was just trying to help John Paul II grow closer to Christ Crucified when he shot him.  Jimmy Akin has methodically taken apart the NY Times crapalicious reporting.  Real “friends” at the Times (London and New York) would acknowledge they did a lousy job and apologize (as for instance, NBC did when they libeled the Pope as a child molester).  Enemies, however, admit nothing.  And enemies of the Church is just what these people act like.  God will, of course, bring life out of the sins of pervert priests, bad bishops *and* bad reporters.  But with the exception of a few journalists with actual integrity and knowledge of the facts like John Allen, the spectacle leading up to the annual MSM Bash Christianity for Holy Week Fest has been a depressingly ignorant and ideology-driven affair.  To be sure, what the MSM meant for evil, God means to turn to good.  But they do indeed, largely mean to do evil in this recent spate of hatchet jobs on Benedict.

This is the difference between enemies and friends.  If the attacks were made in good faith, those who made these reports would have acknowledged their errors and corrected them.  The media in these cases did not do this.

Conclusion: Why Noonan Erred

This is why Noonan has erred in her claims that the media is the friend of the Church, even though she seems to seriously believe it.  By falsely linking the justified investigations of actual abusers with the attempts to insinuate Pope Benedict XVI was guilty, she makes a false accusation that those of us who are angered at the attacks on the Pope are actually angry that abuse was reported at all.

The truth is, we would not be angered at objective reporting, and the admission of errors made in this reporting.  We do object to the smearing of our Pope and the attempts to push an ideology onto the Church using the abuse cases as an excuse [The inevitable calls for women priests and the end of celibacy among other things].

Shea is correct: God may use these attacks for good (it certainly woke up American Catholics to the problems within the American Church).  However, let's knock off the claim that the media did good because change happened.  That's a post hoc fallacy.  Change happened because the Church cared about what happened, and change was happening even before the 2003-2004 reporting of the abuse scandals.

[Edited to correct a typo which changed the meaning of one sentence from what I intended]