Dawn Eden

Tales from the crypt: NYTimes reports on Sheen body battle

Tales from the crypt: NYTimes reports on Sheen body battle

The New York Times took its time getting around to the news that broke Sept. 3 concerning the dispute over the remains of saint-in-the-making Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, but Sharon Otterman's story that went online yesterday is worth the wait.

Otterman, the Times' Metro religion reporter begins with a soft lead before getting to the, ahem, body of the story:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Ill., has already constructed a museum in honor of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a native son whose Emmy-winning television show during the 1950s brought Catholicism to the American living room. It has documented several potential miracles by him and compiled a dossier on his good works for the Vatican.

It has drawn up blueprints for an elaborate shrine in its main cathedral to house his tomb and sketched out an entire devotional campus it hopes to complete when its campaign to have him declared the first American-born male saint succeeds.

There has been just one snag in the diocese’s carefully laid veneration plans: the matter of Archbishop Sheen’s body.

We are then given some straight-up details: Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky recently announced that the effort to canonize Sheen -- who was nearing beatification -- is being stalled because Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, refused to permit his body to be released from its crypt at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

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There's a mess here, all right, but not a Messianic Jew

There's a mess here, all right, but not a Messianic Jew

The BBC this week ran an article with the misleading headline "Israeli police bust 'messianic' prostitution ring." 

It's a misleading headline because normally when the word "Messianic" is used in relation to Jews, it refers to adherents of Messianic Judaism -- but that is not the case with the cult described in the story. Unfortunately, the rest of the story does not make this clear.

Some background: Messianic Judaism is a form of Protestant Christianity that strongly identifies with Jewish ritual, prayers, and cultural identity. In other words, Messianic Jews believe the Jewish Messiah has already come, and his name is Yeshua -- Hebrew for "Jesus." (My own faith journey included brief involvement with the Messianic Jewish community.)

The BBC's story, although not identifying the cult as Christian, reinforces the implication that Messianic Jews were behind the prostitution ring when it refers to women being forced by a "messianic sect" to have sex with "non-Jews":

Details have emerged from Israel about a prostitution ring in which Jewish women were allegedly forced into having sex with non-Jews by a messianic sect.

Two men and two women are being detained on suspicion of exploitation.

Police say the victims were brainwashed into believing that having sex with non-Jews would "save the Jewish people and bring about redemption".

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RNS (cherry-)picks a cardinal: More on that Dolan & St. Pat's story

RNS (cherry-)picks a cardinal: More on that Dolan & St. Pat's story

My GetReligion post on Religion News Service's article concerning Cardinal Dolan and the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade has caught the attention of RNS blogger Mark Silk, who counters my claim that the article conflates news with opinion.

Calling me "the latest horse in Terry Mattingly’s GetReligion stable" (to which I say "neigh"), Silk writes that, in my book, "[RNS reporter David] Gibson’s journalistic crime is to suggest in a piece of reportage that the cardinal’s position is of a piece with Pope Francis’. "

Well, yes, that is my claim, and you can read my post here to see how I back it up. Silk argues that I am misjudging Gibson, "because the offending sentence points beyond the issue at hand":

It’s not just that Francis’ widely reported remarks about not taking criticism from the Vatican too seriously, about not overemphasizing abortion, about the dangers of an excessively purist church provide more than enough evidence for such a “more inclusive posture.” Or that Catholic conservatives have been upset with Francis for exactly that reason. It’s that Dolan himself is quoted specifically pointing to the pope’s inclusiveness. Which makes Gibson’s characterization a journalistic statement, pure and simple.

Here is the section Silk cites from Gibson's piece that quotes Dolan on Francis:

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What is this? If you're down on Dolan, then you're down on Francis, says RNS

What is this? If you're down on Dolan, then you're down on Francis, says RNS

The headline of Religion News Service's piece on backlash against the official admission of gay group OUT@NBCUniversal into the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade reads: "Are Catholic conservatives turning on Cardinal Timothy Dolan?"

If that alone were the theme of the article by RNS correspondent David Gibson, it would be old news indeed. Catholics who uphold the Church's teachings on life issues and sexual morality have criticized Dolan for years over his welcoming stance toward public figures who contradict such teachings. Witness the reaction to Dolan's permitting abortion-rights supporter Vice President Joe Biden to receive Holy Communion at St. Patrick's Cathedral, saying "bravo" to out-and-proud football player Michael Sam, and inviting President Obama to the annual Al Smith dinner.

But there is one difference between the above-cited instances of Dolan's irritating conservatives and the latest case: This time, Catholic League Bill Donohue is taking a public stand against that of the cardinal. The RNS story doesn't mention that this is a first for Donohue, but its opening paragraphs play up his concerns:

NEW YORK (RNS)  Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s positive reaction to this week’s decision by organizers of New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to allow gay groups to march under their own banners initially drew charitable responses in many Catholic Church circles.
But it didn’t take long for conservative church critics to turn.

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Crux be a lady: Globe's Catholic site aims at middle-aged female audience

Crux be a lady: Globe's Catholic site aims at middle-aged female audience

"Covering all things Catholic" is the slogan for the Boston Globe's new online venture, Crux. Judging by the look of it -- especially at the moment it went live yesterday -- "all things Catholic" translates largely to "all things we think a middle-aged Catholic woman would like to read." The site is heavy on opinion. Even the front-page headlines are opinionated in the way that the editors seem to imagine is "edgy" for a 50-something female audience, i.e. "Muller: Nuns are still being bad" -- though the headline on the actual article is more newsy ("Vatican's doctrinal chief renews criticism of US nuns").

The initial Crux page included Lisa Miller's agony-aunt column "OMG" oddly placed at top right, next to John L. Allen Jr.'s feature "Hard questions we're not asking Pope Francis." In the middle of the page was an ad seeking entrants for a liberal women's religious order, featuring a cheery-looking sister in her 60s wearing outdoorsy plainclothes. Buried toward the bottom of the page, almost as an afterthought, was a sports article, as though some editor felt a bone should be thrown to male visitors.

As I write, the page's layout has shifted somewhat: Miller's column is now buried, but the overall feel of the page is still directed to Catholic women of a certain age (i.e. my age). In the top-right spot now is Margery Eagan's "On Spirituality" column, the title of which suggests a desire to reach the Oprah-style "spiritual but not religious" crowd.

Eagan, incidentally, is the same writer who penned the notorious Boston Herald op-ed in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, "Court's Catholic justices attack women's rights" -- which makes this middle-aged Catholic female reader wonder whether Eagan is herself "spiritual but not religious."

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NYTimes tiptoes around religion angle in UK child sex-abuse story

NYTimes tiptoes around religion angle in UK child sex-abuse story

The front page of today's New York Times offers a sensitively written account of the ordeals suffered by child sex-abuse victims in Rotherham, England, where an investigation has revealed that, between 1997 and 2013, "at least 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were groomed for sexual exploitation while the authorities looked the other way."

Why did authorities ignore the abuse? The article takes its time arriving at the answer, and when it does, the answer it offers is incomplete.

We are first given an account from Lucy, a victim now 25, who tells of how she was targeted by a gang whose members raped her daily from when she was 12 until she was nearly 14:

At night, she would come home and hide her soiled clothes at the back of her closet. When she finally found the courage to tell her mother, just shy of her 14th birthday, two police officers came to collect the clothes as evidence, half a dozen bags of them.
But a few days later, they called to say the bags had been lost.
“All of them?” she remembers asking. A check was mailed, 140 pounds, or $232, for loss of property, and the family was discouraged from pressing charges. It was the girl’s word against that of the men. The case was closed.

The story then shifts to the recently released investigation of Rotherham child sex abuse, which revealed the extent to which local authorities failed to prosecute cases such as Lucy's:

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Intentional omission? The ghost in MSM coverage of reporters held by ISIS

Intentional omission? The ghost in MSM coverage of reporters held by ISIS

The New York Times reports that Shirley Sotloff, whose son Steven Joel Sotloff is a freelance journalist being held by ISIS, says in a video message to her son's captors: 

“As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over,” Ms. Sotloff, a teacher from Miami, says in the video. She explains that she has been studying Islam since his capture, and then urges ISIS’ leader to follow the path of his religion’s founder: “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected People of the Book” — a reference to Christians and Jews.
She adds that in her study she has learned that Islam teaches that “no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others.”
“Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government,” she continues. “He is an innocent journalist.”

Note that the story does add that "People of the Book" is ”a reference to Christians and Jews." This is good. In some other media reports online, "Book" has a lower-case "b." What, precisely, is this "Book"?

However, look for mention of Steven Sotloff's specific religion in the Times article -- or in coverage of Shirley Sotloff's video in the Miami Herald, the UK Mirror and other mainstream news outlets -- and you won't find it.

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Altar-ed plans: Oklahoma City 'Black Mass' organizer to go on without consecrated Host

Altar-ed plans: Oklahoma City 'Black Mass' organizer to go on without consecrated Host

The recent news that the organizer of the Oklahoma City Black Mass gave up the consecrated Host that he intended to desecrate at the event appears to have caused confusion in some Catholic circles.

The Catholic Culture website interpreted the story as meaning that the Black Mass had been "thwarted," while the Catholic League rang out huzzahs that the event had been "nixed." However, the latest news, as well as Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley's plan to continue to counter the event, suggests that Satanists still intend to have their day, to one degree or another, at the Oklahoma City Civic Center.

For starters, the Black Mass is still listed on the Oklahoma City Civic Center website.

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Ice scream: Boston.com unleashes snark vs. Catholics & others opposing 'Bucket Challenge'

Ice scream: Boston.com unleashes snark vs. Catholics & others opposing 'Bucket Challenge'

Occasionally it happens that a mainstream news organization publishes a story so blatantly biased that it seems incredible it should appear under the label of "news" rather than "commentary." That, I am afraid, is the case with a Boston.com piece on Catholics and others who refuse to support the ALS Association's "Ice Bucket Challenge" because it funds embryonic stem-cell research.

The headline of the article by Boston.com staff reporter Sara Morrison (who calls herself a "noted Internet snark woman")  says it all: "There’s a New Anti-ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge." Normally, your GetReligionistas don't call out reporters by name, but this case is rather obvious.

Right away, according to Boston.com (an online subsidiary of the Boston Globe), the pro-lifers who oppose the viral fund-raising campaign are painted as an "anti-ALS Association" -- as though they were not only against destroying embryos, but were even against the association's mission of curing ALS.

Am I exaggerating? You tell me whether the story's first few paragraphs paint pro-lifers as cold and heartless:

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