Abortion

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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M.Z. Hemingway asks a 'mirror' question: Why not ask left some tough abortion questions?

M.Z. Hemingway asks a 'mirror' question: Why not ask left some tough abortion questions?

During her eight years at GetReligion, M.Z. Hemingway probably heard one question more than any other from her critics: Why do you spend so much time on abortion when the purpose of GetReligion is to critique mainstream coverage of religion news? Or words to that effect.

Over and over, M.Z. and I responded with variations on several key points: (1) Almost every key media-bias study on religious news issues has included questions about abortion, as a key moral issue. (2) While there are atheists and agnostics who oppose abortion on demand (various links here), debates about abortion in America almost always involve questions about religion and religious groups almost always play prominent roles. The phrase "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries" comes to mind. (3) There is no question that Roe v. Wade played a major role in inspiring the creation of the Religious Right and that defense of abortion rights remains a major priority of the Religious Left.

I could go on, but here is the bottom line. It's almost impossible to discuss religion-news coverage in the mainstream press without digging into bias, balance, accuracy and fairness issues linked to moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Anyway, M.Z. has a new post up at The Federalist that digs into this same territory, using an interesting exchange in a Rand Paul press conference as a hook. It's must reading, but I will share one or two chunks of the piece (including a major GetReligion flashback).

The key moment comes roughly eight minutes into the video at the top of this post.

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Faith of Jeb Bush: Aligned with Catholic hierarchy on most issues, but not on death penalty

Faith of Jeb Bush: Aligned with Catholic hierarchy on most issues, but not on death penalty

If this is Michael Paulson's last hurrah on the Godbeat, it's a good one.

Last week, we lamented the New York Times religion writer's move to the theater beat.

This week, we were reminded why we're going to miss Paulson's expertise and storytelling talents on religion news.

 

Paulson's 2,000-word story on the Catholic faith of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender — appeared on the front page of Wednesday's Times: 

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — He arrived a few minutes early — no entourage, just his wife and daughter — and, sweating through a polo shirt in the hot morning sun, settled quietly into the 14th row at the Church of the Little Flower.
A bit of a murmur, and the occasional “Morning, Governor,” passed through the Spanish Renaissance-style church, with its manicured grounds and towering palms, as worshipers recognized their most famous neighbor, Jeb Bush. He held hands with the other worshipers during the Lord’s Prayer, sang along to “I Am the Bread of Life” and knelt after receiving communion.
“It gives me a serenity, and allows me to think clearer,” Mr. Bush said as he exited the tile-roof church here on a recent Sunday, exchanging greetings and, with the ease of a longtime politician, acquiescing to the occasional photo. “It’s made me a better person.”
Twenty years after Mr. Bush converted to Catholicism, the religion of his wife, following a difficult and unsuccessful political campaign that had put a strain on his marriage, his faith has become a central element of the way he shapes his life and frames his views on public policy. And now, as he explores a bid for the presidency, his religion has become a focal point of early appeals to evangelical activists, who are particularly important in a Republican primary that is often dominated by religious voters.

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What are the odds? Dr. John Willke as seen by his foes (and a few pro-lifer friends)

What are the odds? Dr. John Willke as seen by his foes (and a few pro-lifer friends)

Before we consider the mainstream news obituaries for the man who, for millions of activists, is best known as the father of the modern pro-life movement, let's pause and consider the top paragraphs of The New York Times obituary for one Margaret Sanger.

TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 6 -- Margaret Sanger, the birth control pioneer, died this afternoon of arteriosclerosis in the Valley House Convalescent Center. She would have been 83 years old on Sept. 14. ...
As the originator of the phrase "birth control" and its best-known advocate, Margaret Sanger survived Federal indictments, a brief jail term, numerous lawsuits, hundreds of street-corner rallies and raids on her clinics to live to see much of the world accept her view that family planning is a basic human right.
The dynamic, titian-haired woman whose Irish ancestry also endowed her with unfailing charm and persuasive wit was first and foremost a feminist.

Now here is the question: Might the gatekeepers of news back in 1966 have considered -- at the very top of the story, in the lede -- making some kind of reference to famous Sanger quotations about race and eugenics drawn from her public writings and remarks? You know, such as this passage on the negative effects of excessive philanthropy:

Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying … demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism …

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Hey Washington Post editors: Rick and Karen Santorum are (still) Catholics

Hey Washington Post editors: Rick and Karen Santorum are (still) Catholics

A decade ago, the editors of Time magazine decided -- during one of the many "Who the heck are these born-gain people?" moments in the recent life of the mainstream press -- to do a cover story focusing on the 25 most influential evangelical Protestants in American life.

It was an interesting list. However, one name in particular raised many eyebrows -- Sen. Rick Santorum. The issue? Santorum was and is a very conservative Roman Catholic.

This struck me as interesting, so I did some background research on this issue. The consensus was that the Time team realized that Santorum was not a Protestant -- and thus, not an evangelical -- but the larger truth was that he, well, "voted evangelical."

Frankly, I have no idea what that means -- in terms of doctrine. The point seemed to be that "evangelical" was a political term, these days. Moving on.

This brings me to an article that has been in my "GetReligion guilt file" for some time, a stunning recent Washington Post story about Rick and Karen Santorum and what they have learned about marriage, family and faith during the life of their daughter Bella, who was born with Trisomy 18, a usually lethal condition also known as Edwards syndrome, which is caused by a error in cell division.

It's complicated. However, most infants born with this condition -- many parents choose abortion when this defect is detected -- live a few days, weeks or at most months. Bella will soon turn seven.

There is much to praise in this very human and even raw story. However, it is obvious that at the heart of the piece is -- to be blunt -- the right-to-life beliefs that anchor this family. Thus, while dealing with faith issues in many ways, it is very strange that the piece never mentions that the Santorum are, you guessed it, Catholics.

What is the message there?

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Does it matter that a pro-Second Amendment rights, pro-abortion-rights, pro-gay rights atheist killed three Muslim students?

Does it matter that a pro-Second Amendment rights, pro-abortion-rights, pro-gay rights atheist killed three Muslim students?

Well, you just knew that Craig Stephen Hicks had to be some kind of conservative, even if of an angry libertarian stripe.

So is it relevant that the man who is alleged to have gunned down three young Muslim college students has described himself -- his social media profile, or parts of it, are now fair game for mainstream journalists -- as a "gun toting" atheist and that he had a concealed weapons permit? Of course it is.

Does it matter that, as the Associated Press reported that:

... Hicks often complained about both Christians and Muslims on his Facebook page. "Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative," Hicks wrote.

Yes, that matters, too. Still, I am not sure that "complained" is the right word, in this case. As The Los Angeles Times has noted, scores of people online are just not buying that:

"U won't see this on the news because it's about a Muslim," one Muslim user tweeted overnight, in a sentiment that was retweeted more than 1,400 times and that was widely shared across social media. Many users also criticized CNN for an early-morning tweet that asked, "Did their faith play a role in the shooting?"
"THEIR FAITH!!!" one Egyptian user tweeted back, earning dozens of retweets. "how about the beliefs of the terrorist who shot them, CNN?"

Yes, Hicks is a man who appears to have had many, many beliefs and they don't add up to a convenient label that fits in 140 characters.

The key question, as the day-two coverage rolls in: Which of his religious, political and cultural beliefs are relevant when discussing possible motives?

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