Abortion

Rare mid-week think piece: That communitarian Pope Francis encyclical said what?

Rare mid-week think piece: That communitarian Pope Francis encyclical said what?

I realize that it's rare for your GetReligionistas to serve up one of our "think pieces" in the middle of the week, but, frankly, I am still digging out from the move to East Tennessee and missed this handy little essay this past weekend. So here we go.

Has anyone else been amazed that so much of the coverage of the papal encyclical Laudato Si (full English text here) has (a) tried to turn it into a truly radical political document and (b) seemed to suggest, as usual, that Pope Francis is the first occupant of the Throne of St. Peter to wade into these troubled waters.

I mean, this document has all kinds of things in it, including -- for liberals, surely -- some highly troubling language in which the pope's communitarian and Catholic moral vision is applied to, let's say, abortion:

120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?

Or how about that passage that many are interpreting as a statement addressing life choices facing those who see themselves as transsexuals?

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RIP John S. Carroll: Author of classic memo defending old-school, balanced journalism

RIP John S. Carroll: Author of classic memo defending old-school, balanced journalism

The late John S. Carroll was known, among American journalists, as a strong advocate of investigative journalism, a famous Vietnam War correspondent, a White House beat reporter, a great headline writer and, in the end, a man who was willing to be shown the exit door at The Los Angeles Times rather than obey a Tribune Co. order to radically cut his staff.

Carroll was an old-school American journalist, by all accounts, who led The Baltimore Sun before heading to Los Angeles. He also spent time as the metro editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, among his many jobs in the top ranks of his craft.

The Sun began its obituary like this:

John S. Carroll, former editor of The Baltimore Sun and The Los Angeles Times who became a seminal figure in American journalism and operated on the principle that no detail was too small when it came to producing a great newspaper, died Sunday at his Lexington, Ky., home of a rare, non-treatable disease. Mr. Carroll was 73.

Here at GetReligion, however, Carroll is remembered for another reason -- one that I should have mentioned 11 years ago in our "What we do, why we do it" overture on Day 1. It was Carroll who, in 2003, wrote a memo to his staff about media bias that inspired me to start thinking about creating a site about the mainstream press and its struggle to, well, "get religion."

The memo -- dated May 22, 2003 -- focused on the editor's concerns about media bias in a Los Angeles Times story focusing on debates about alleged links between induced abortions and breast cancer. Carroll sent the memo to his section editors, but the full text soon surfaced in The LA Observer. Here is the heart of the letter.

The apparent bias of the writer and/or the desk reveals itself in the third paragraph, which characterizes such bills in Texas and elsewhere as requiring "so-called counseling of patients." I don't think people on the anti-abortion side would consider it "so-called," a phrase that is loaded with derision. 

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Wanted: Critical distance in the mainstream press on overseas abortion stories

Wanted: Critical distance in the mainstream press on overseas abortion stories

About six weeks ago, the story broke of the Nigerian army finding and freeing about 677 women and girls who’d been enslaved by Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest in the northeastern part of the country. About 214 of them were pregnant. However, none of them were the girls from Chibok who had been kidnapped a year ago.

Last Thursday, a coalition of liberal religious groups seized the moment to demand that the Obama administration fund abortions for these women. A press conference at St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Park from the White House featured groups ranging from Catholics for Choice to Muslims for Progressive Values and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

I will start with how the New York Times framed it:

WASHINGTON -- A starkly worded ad began appearing this week at bus stops near the White House. Next to a silhouette of President Obama’s back reads the words: “Don’t walk away from women and girls raped in conflict. Act now.”
A coalition of religious and human rights leaders on Thursday followed up the advertisement with demands that Mr. Obama support the financing of abortions for women raped during violent conflicts overseas by members of terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram.
The leaders of several Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups accused the president of talk rather than action in addressing the grim fate of women and girls by refusing to direct the United States government to help pay for abortions in cases of rape in foreign countries.
“President Obama has spoken compassionately about women and girls raped in war and conflict, but has failed to act on that compassion,” the coalition said.

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What role does religion play in the 'Tebow time!' madness that haunts NFL life?

What role does religion play in the 'Tebow time!' madness that haunts NFL life?

When it comes to National Football League news, the early summer OTAs -- organized training activities -- are about as insider an event as there is, the kind of coverage that appeals to the most fanatical of fans. Who covers these events? Maybe an ESPN expert or two, a few local sports-beat regulars and freelancers for sports websites.

So if that is the case, why is there a media storm right now at the OTAs for the Philadelphia Eagles? Let's see if you can spot a few clues at the very top of this rather snarky little report in The Washington Post.

Yes, you read that right. The voice of the DC beltway send a reporter to cover this off-season camp in the orbit of a sort-of-nearby franchise. Did NPR staff this? I'll have to check.

PHILADELPHIA -- Here he walked again, the man at the center of so many big ideas and raised-voice debates, crossing a practice field and wearing a red jersey.
“Tebow time!” a Philadelphia Eagles player yelled as a group of roughly 105 reporters mostly stopped whatever they were doing and hurried toward the quarterback wearing No. 11.
Yes, Tim Tebow is an NFL player again, this time for the Philadelphia Eagles, whose unusual offseason has simultaneously provided the former first-round draft pick a second chance and renewed America’s biggest sport’s biggest sideshow.

Now, I would like to raise four crucial questions about this scene, in this latest GetReligion post about the life and times -- college and then pro -- of young master Tebow.

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How quickly will journalists grant O'Malley that 'Pope Francis Democrat' label?

How quickly will journalists grant O'Malley that 'Pope Francis Democrat' label?

If Martin O'Malley hired an army of public-relations pros he could not have produced a better White House campaign slogan than the one offered by Religion News service the other day in an online headline about the former Maryland governor. This short news-you-can-use feature was part of its ongoing series offering background on the religious views of various candidates. It proclaimed:

5 faith facts about Martin O’Malley: ‘A Pope Francis Democrat’

Some folks in pews on the cultural and doctrinal right may want to contrast the tone of that with this selection from another RNS digital newsletter:

Southern Baptist bruiser:
5 faith facts about Sen. Lindsey Graham: religious right spear carrier

The RNS mini-feature -- as is the norm with this handy series -- did contain some direct links to information about O'Malley, while editorially stressing that he is, well, read this:

He’s a pray-every-morning, church-every-Sunday (St. Francis of Assisi in Baltimore) believer who sent all four of his kids to Catholic schools. Democratic Party activist and author Jonathan Miller called him, “the rare progressive to frame his strongly felt policy positions in the language of faith.

And toward the end there is this:

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New York Post: Pope Francis finally opens door to reconciliation for women after abortions?

New York Post: Pope Francis finally opens door to reconciliation for women after abortions?

You know you are in for a wild ride when a GetReligion reader sends you a URL from The New York Post (or The New York Daily News, for that matter) with one of those, "Yeah, consider the source, BUT" notes that basically is warning you to duck and cover. Incoming.

So here is the headline on this one: "The Catholic Church will now forgive your abortion."

The loyal reader noted: "The title is bad, but it gets worse from there. Wouldn't have wasted your time with it, but it is such awful dreck that it seemed to me a perfect crystallization of what your site is so admirably attempting to combat -- sort of a 'why we fight' type of example."

At the heart of this story is a journalistic virus that seems to be affecting journalists around the world. You know the one, the "Everything Pope Francis touches is brand new" bug. As you could see from that headline, this one is an instant classic. Here's the top of the story:

Pope Francis will send an army of globe-trotting priests -- his “missionaries of mercy” -- to absolve women who’ve had abortions, in the latest Vatican bid to catch up with modern times.
The effort, which includes reaching out to doctors and nurses who’ve performed abortions, will commence in the Holy Year of Mercy, which Francis has declared will be celebrated between Dec. 8, 2015, and Nov. 20, 2016.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, announced the bold initiative and said the church should always be in the absolution business.

Catholic readers, you can get back up into your chair now or clean the computer screen onto which you spewed your morning source of caffeine.

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Sad Mother's Day feature by RNS deals gingerly with spiritual issues

Sad Mother's Day feature by RNS deals gingerly with spiritual issues

For Mother's Day, the Religion News Service this week ran a remarkably sensitive piece on a memorial garden for mothers of deceased babies.

The feature poignantly tells of their grief and their need for closure. It looks also at religious and spiritual sensibilities, at least for Catholics.

An RNS reporter looks in on Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, near Albany, N.Y., built for mothers of miscarried, stillborn and short-lived infants. For some of the women -- like Dorothy Caruso, who lost her child back in 1968 -- it's the first time some of them get to mourn their children:

Most Holy Redeemer’s Remembrance Garden honors the youngest of lost lives, and comforts young, recently bereaved parents. But its creation two years ago was inspired by an earlier generation of mourners.
Like Caruso, these mothers never had an opportunity to grieve for their lost children; some never even had a say in what would happen to their remains. 

You may shake your head in disbelief when you read about the four mothers profiled in this story. They named their children; Caruso bought clothes and toys for hers. Then the children died as infants.

Worse was what happened after that. Caruso watched in shock as a nurse casually tossed her stillborn child in a garbage can. Another asked a nurse to take care of the baby's remains -- a decision she still regrets, seven decades later. Still another is troubled that she didn't name two of her three deceased sons, and doesn't know their final resting places.

Even worse, no one else seemed to want to remember the children. They assumed the mothers didn't want to dwell on the grief. Yet the grief stayed -- for decades.

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Hold on: Wasn't there more to that 'Reagan Democrats' thing than money?

Hold on: Wasn't there more to that 'Reagan Democrats' thing than money?

If you are into politics in the Culture War era, then you may be familiar with the Thomas Frank bestseller called "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America."

It's kind of dangerous to summarize a book in a few words, but here is what I took away from it: For the past decade or two, elite Republicans have been able to use social and moral issues to confuse middle class and working class Americans, convincing them that the GOP understands their "values." Once you understand this nasty trick, you know why ordinary Americans have been going to the polls and voting against their own economic interests. Or something like that.

Really old news consumers will remember that, once upon a time, these voters in middle America were called "Reagan Democrats," which was another way of saying blue-collar and Catholic Democrats who were turned off by some post-1960s elements of Democratic Party life. The crucial point for this post: Social issues and religion played a major role in this political drama.

This brings me to a very interesting, but very strange, political story that ran in The New York Times the other day under this headline: "G.O.P. Hopefuls Now Aiming to Woo the Middle Class." Here is the top of the story. See if you can spot The Big Idea:

WASHINGTON -- The last three men to win the Republican nomination have been the prosperous son of a president (George W. Bush), a senator who could not recall how many homes his family owned (John McCain of Arizona; it was seven) and a private equity executive worth an estimated $200 million (Mitt Romney).

The candidates hoping to be the party’s nominee in 2016 are trying to create a very different set of associations.

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Peace with the aging prog-nuns: Who gets to correct them and about what?

Peace with the aging prog-nuns: Who gets to correct them and about what?

So one of the big stories of the day is this: Did the progressive nuns on the buses win or not?

I would argue that the key to reading the coverage today is linked to two other questions. The key, looking at the stories in the elite publications, is whether these other questions are even asked.

First, what was the dispute actually about? Do the stories contain any reference to the doctrinal issues involved and, especially, was any attempt made to describe them?

Second, did the discussions about what to do with women religious actually move back into the shadows of Vatican and episcopal oversight life, rather than being out in the glare of mass-media who were openly cheering for the progressives? In other words, do the stories mention the small hints in the Vatican actions -- aside from the glowing Pope Francis photo-op -- that this story is not over?

OK, third question: Did some Vatican officials simply decide that these religious orders are aging and dying anyway, so why have a war when demographics will settle the issue?

The Los Angeles Times story is a good place to start, in that it signals its bias right up front, ignores the doctrinal substance, yet also -- by quoting candid liberals -- signals that some prog-nuns are still worried. What does that look like? In the lede, note that the investigation was "controversial" while the content of the orders' theological innovations were not.

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