And yet the other day, I'm happily reading an AP news story* about the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, and I trip over this:
Once he is beatified, John Paul will be given the title “blessed” and can be publicly venerated, or worshipped. Many people, especially in Poland, already venerate him privately, but the ceremony will allow Catholics to publicly worship him. [Emphasis mine.]This level of cultural illiteracy reminds me of the other times I've witnessed the media completely blow it when it comes to Catholicism.
For example, I'll never forget the night I was watching my local TV news a few years back (the NBC affiliate), when a story came on about the possibility of the Pope officially defining Our Lady as the "Mediatrix of All Graces" (a legitimate title for her). I about fell over when the anchor said that the Catholic Church was considering making Mary a "fourth person of the Holy Trinity"!!!!!**
Catholics (or anyone who knows a lick about Christianity), can you imagine?!
I was flabbergasted. This was a respected news station! How did this get by all of them? How could they not stop and think for one moment that the Church cannot simply decide one day to elevate a creature to the Godhead? How does such a thing even enter the radar screen of possibilities? I ran to my husband and screamed! (Yes, I was worked up, ha ha ha!) I thought of the Protestants out there, the evangelicals who already erroneously think we "worship" Mary, and I imagined all of them saying, "Aha! We knew those Catholics think that Mary is God!" Ugh!
Fast forward a few months, and the same news channel has another report about the Catholic Church. A married man was to be ordained a Catholic priest, and the anchor stated that for the very first time, the Catholic Church would allow the ordination of a married man to the priesthood! I ran to Dean again, flabbergasted.... Where were the fact-checkers? There have been married priests since the beginning of Christianity: In the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, ordination of married men is still the norm, and although celibacy is required of priests in the Latin Rite, dispensations are given occasionally (i.e., when married Anglican clergy convert to Catholicism). In fact, we had at least one married Roman Catholic priest in my diocese at the time of that local news story!
After the "first married priest ever!" story, I did contact the news station and asked about the blunder. The anchor wrote back and apologized, saying that his producer -- who was a Catholic -- cleared the story. (Yet another example of why I want this to be a teaching blog, primarily for Catholics!)
I know that this sort of misrepresentation of the Catholic Faith goes on all the time. Sometimes it's deliberate, but I would like to think that most of the time it's not. However, the fact remains that the regular media do not generally take the time to research and report accurately when discussing Catholicism, and yet accurate reporting and fact-checking is the crux of a journalist's job! I don't expect the general public to know what the Church teaches, but the failure of the media to accomplish what is essentially their only task reinforces my growing belief that mainstream journalism is useless.
As Paul Thigpen said after the rush of "Pope Approves Condoms!" headlines:
"I've often said that if a sports reporter was as clueless about his subject as the typical religion reporter is about his, he couldn't keep his job for a week."
* The linked article has since been modified or replaced, so the above statement no longer exists in this form. This could be a result of the emails some of us sent to AP.
** I seriously try not to overuse exclamation points, but this was warranted!!!!!!!!