Catholicism

Washington Post looks at the Harris Wofford love story, but ignores a big Catholic ghost

Washington Post looks at the Harris Wofford love story, but ignores a big Catholic ghost

I realize that my reading habits are not those of your typical American news consumer. In addition to a heavy, heavy daily dose of the offerings of major newspapers and the websites of broadcast operations, I frequent many alternative sites linked to religious groups and commentators.

In other words, I am reading people who share GetReligion's obsession with the religion angles behind the headlines. I'm out there looking for religion "ghosts," of course.

This means that I first ran into news about that interesting wedding announcement by former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford -- made public in a New York Times commentary piece -- on an alternative Catholic news and commentary site, before I saw the mainstream coverage.

The headline on this piece by former CBS Evening News producer Greg Kandra (now the Catholic deacon blogging at "Headlines and Homilies") jumped on the religion angle: "At 90, Harris Wofford -- Former Senator and Catholic Convert -- Announces He’s Marrying a Man."

Does the "Catholic" angle really matter, in this case?

Let's look at the Washington Post coverage before we make a call on that question. Here is the overture. Prepare for some intense DC Beltway name dropping.

Harris Wofford, a former Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, John F. Kennedy’s presidential assistant on civil rights and an intimate of Martin Luther King Jr., will wed at his Foggy Bottom apartment Saturday before a gathering of family and friends. Dinner is to follow at a neighborhood Italian restaurant.
The groom is 90.

The other groom, Matthew Charlton, is 40.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hey AP: Did you really mean to state, citing no source, that the Holy Fire rite is a fraud?

Hey AP: Did you really mean to state, citing no source, that the Holy Fire rite is a fraud?

The world's Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrated Pascha (Easter) this weekend, a full month later than Western churches this year. This is one of those exotic dates on the calendar that usually draws a little bit of coverage in the mainstream press.

At the very least, journalists spend a few lines trying to explain the mysteries of the ancient Julian calendar and why all those people with candles were marching around in the middle of the night singing (in the haunting Byzantine chant tone 6) the following, in English or the language of a particular parish's ethnic roots:

Thy Resurrection, O Christ Our Savior, the Angels in Heaven sing.
Enable us on Earth to Glorify Thee in Purity of Heart.

In recent years, there has been a growing news-media awareness of the ancient "Holy Fire" rites in Jerusalem, which offers journalists an annual chance to wrestle with claims of the miraculous. My theory is that this news story has, in part, been gaining some traction because of smartphone videos being posted on YouTube each year.

So here is the top of a typical short Associated Press report this time around, with one line that jumped out at me. See if you can spot it.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Thousands of Christians have gathered in Jerusalem for an ancient fire ceremony that celebrates Jesus’ resurrection.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hot-button question: Is the history contained in the New Testament reliable?

Hot-button question: Is the history contained in the New Testament reliable?

NORMAN’S QUESTION:

How can we get people informed about the results of academic biblical scholarship, work that completely undermines the ordinary popular conception of Christianity and faith? Why are Christians not interested in the truth?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked Jesus. Or did he? America’s “Jesus Seminar” claimed the Roman tyrant never spoke those famous words and, for that matter, much else in the New Testament never happened either. Norman worries that people aren’t “informed.” Sunday School and CCD may not teach  doubts, but people who don’t know about media promotion of biblical disputes must be living under a rock.

Various degrees of skepticism usually characterize the “higher criticism” conveyed at U.S. colleges. The Jesus Seminar represented the radical wing. Even liberals scoffed at the theatrics when Seminar panelists voted on the authenticity of each verse. The verdict: “82 percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels were not actually spoken by him” while there was a “16 percent historical accuracy rate” for the 176 recorded events in Jesus’ life.

At least Jesus was indeed crucified, the Seminar said. However, two panelists doubted he even existed. They had to discount not only the Gospels but Paul’s letters 20 years after the crucifixion, Roman and Jewish writers (Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, Josephus), and other documents.

Skepticism is nothing new and originated in Europe’s “Enlightenment” era, especially in Germany.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Do YOU have lots of questions about the NCAA and traditional religious schools?

Do YOU have lots of questions about the NCAA and traditional religious schools?

If you listen carefully to this week Crossroads podcast (click right here to do so), you can hear question after question passing by, questions that simply cannot be answered at this time -- yet questions that could be hooks for major news stories later on.

Here's the big question, one that I asked on a radio show several months ago and discussed again in a post this week: Will the principalities and powers at the NCAA choose (as is their right as leaders of a private, voluntary association) to eject religious private colleges and universities that (as currently is their right as private, voluntary associations) ask students, faculty and staff to live under lifestyle covenants that, among other doctrines, affirm that sex outside of traditional marriage is sin?

OK, let's back up and ask an important question that precedes that monster: Will major American businesses -- the economic giants that sponsor events like bowl games and the hoops Final Four -- hear the cries of LGBT activists and begin pressuring the NCAA to make this change?

Maybe there is a question in front of THAT one, such as: At what point will ESPN or some other force in the entertainment industrial complex begin what amounts to a "go to the mattresses" campaign to force this question on the NCAA?

So, the questions keep coming.

What will the leaders of the big religiously conservative private schools that are in the cross hairs on this issue -- think Baylor and Brigham Young -- do when forced to make a choice between the faiths that define them (and religious supporters with children and money) and the prestige and money connected with big-time athletics?

Yes, host Todd Wilken pressed me -- as a Baylor alum -- to offer an educated guess on what I thought Baylor leaders would do when push comes to shove.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

USA Today asks: Do private schools with doctrines have a right to the NCAA brand?

USA Today asks: Do private schools with doctrines have a right to the NCAA brand?

If you didn't see this big-time sports story coming then you haven't been paying attention.

During a radio talk show a few months ago, I speculated that if Baylor (one of my two alma maters) had qualified for the final four in football, it was highly likely that gay-rights groups would petition the NCAA powers that be to have the Bears (and other private schools with doctrinally based lifestyle covenants) kicked out of the association.

Not yet. But the arguments are beginning, as evidenced in the new USA Today feature that ran under the headline, "When religion and the LGBT collegiate athlete collide."

Now, if you believe in old-school journalism ethics -- think "American Model" of the press -- then the goal of this story is to accurately represent the beliefs of representatives on both sides of this debate. Want to guess how that turns out?

Meanwhile, it's crucial to remember that the NCAA is not a government agency and, as a private body, is not limited by the First Amendment's free exercise of religion clause. To further complicate matters, the NCAA includes both private and state schools. Thus, while there may be legal issues involved (television and conference contracts, for example) in this NCAA debate, this really shouldn't be called a religious-liberty debate. The NCAA rules.

This feature starts, of course, with a gay athlete -- swimmer Conner Griffin -- who attends Fordham University, a Catholic school that is clearly enlightened since it has chosen the spirit of the age over attempts to live out (some would say "enforce") Catholic doctrines on marriage and sex.

So right up top there is this exchange:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Weekend think piece: Tips for how to think your way through Pope Francis coverage

Weekend think piece: Tips for how to think your way through Pope Francis coverage

Let's get one thing clear right up front about this post. I have no intention of comparing Adolph Hitler with Pope Francis. Got that?

However, long ago -- while at graduate school at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign -- I did a readings course about post-Holocaust trends in world Judaism. You can't read about that horror without reading about Hitler.

I wish I could remember who said this, because I would like to give full credit, but one of the authors I read said that, most of the time, commentaries about Hitler almost always tell you more about the writers than about Hitler. I know I ran into this concept again years later when I interviewed journalist Ron Rosenbaum, author of "Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil."

What does this have to do with Francis?

Journalists on the religion beat, news-consumers at large, please ask yourself this question: When you stop and think about the public impact of Pope Francis, how much are you reacting to the pope's own words, as opposed to news-media (and church media) commentaries about his words? When you read elite media coverage of a new statement by the pope, are you confident that you know what the pope said as a whole, as opposed to one or two sentences that have been used to create a headline?

With these questions in mind, please consider this new think piece from The National Catholic Register by Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, which ran under the headline, "5 Ways to Avoid Unhelpful Pope Francis “Mind Reading." Here is her overture:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Requiem for a killer on death row: Macon, Ga., newspaper gets the job done right

Requiem for a killer on death row: Macon, Ga., newspaper gets the job done right

Every so often, there is an article of such beauty that one has to draw attention to it. Here we have a long-time resident of Georgia’s Death Row whose obituary ended up being sent around the country. (I first spotted it in the Bellingham, Wash. Herald). I am guessing that a reporter was reading ordinary obits in the Macon Telegraph (the printed version of macon.com) when he saw a heart-rending eight paragraphs written by the condemned man’s lawyer.

And so he wrote a story. Usually people don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for those on Death Row, but this story injected some humanity a 41-year-old man who was executed this past March 31. It didn’t excuse the murder he had committed at age 19, but it explained how someone who was treated like an animal since birth might have acted like one at one point, then spent the next 20 years seeking redemption.

The man is dead now, but he looks like a boy in the prison photograph. He has on inmate garb -- a short-sleeved white shirt with a stark navy collar -- the uniform of death row.
The picture is from about 1999. Joshua Daniel Bishop was a young man back then – 24 or so – with cropped, brownish hair and a round face. A hint of a closed-mouth smile makes him look younger. He’d already been on Georgia’s death row since February 1996, the month after he turned 21.
Bishop was there because in June 1994, after a night of drinking at the Hill Top Grill in Baldwin County, Ga., he and another man used a wooden closet rod to beat to death a 43-year-old carpenter named Leverette Morrison.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Why did Catholic News Service fire its editor? You won't learn much about that from NPR

Why did Catholic News Service fire its editor? You won't learn much about that from NPR

One piece of news that slipped beneath some peoples' notice last week was the quiet exit of Tony Spence, longtime editor of Catholic News Service. CNS is not known as a bastion of liberal thought, so I was surprised to learn the problem here was some tweets that Spence had posted on his personal feed. 

Posting sentiments that cut across the grain of your full-time employer is pretty risky but maybe Spence, 63, felt he had the seniority and stature to speak his mind. But the blogosphere got him, as it tends to do, to the point where his employer could not defend him.

It's a sign of our edgy cyber-times. Read more about it from NPR

 

The director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, a news agency affiliated with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has reportedly been pushed out of his position after an outcry over tweets endorsing LGBT rights.
Two prominent Catholic news outlets have reported that Tony Spence resigned this week at the request of an official in the bishops conference.
Spence, who has headed the CNS since 2004, was active on Twitter -- tweeting mostly about news within the Catholic Church, but occasionally sharing stories on the journalism industry, world news and pop culture. He tweeted about sainthood dates, the pope and refugees, Flannery O'Connor's faith and the infuriating failures of the D.C. metro.
But it was tweets about the gender identity legislation in North Carolina and what supporters call the "religious liberties" measure in Mississippi, and related issues of LGBT rights, that reportedly led to his dismissal.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

'Like a beautiful dream': Francis' rescue mission for Syrian refugees gets graceful coverage

'Like a beautiful dream': Francis' rescue mission for Syrian refugees gets graceful coverage

Pope Francis surprised news media yet again when he flew back from an ecumenical meeting last weekend with 12 new passengers: three families of Syrian refugees.

Francis said the Vatican would sponsor the families and get them settled in Italy, in a clear object lesson for other nations.  And the lesson was not lost on mainstream media, which covered the story with grace, sensitivity and intelligence. At least, when they got over being caught off guard again.

Francis came to the Aegean island of Lesbos to visit refugees from the war-ravaged Middle East along with two Eastern Orthodox leaders: Bartholomew I, patriarch of all Orthodoxy, and Ieronymos II, the archbishop of Greece.  But as NBC News and other media report, the pope got a last-minute idea to do more: to sponsor three families directly and set an example for the world.

Says NBC:

The religious leaders had lunch with eight refugees to hear their stories of fleeing war, conflict and poverty and their hopes for a better life in Europe. Then they prayed together, tossing a floral wreath into the sea in memory of those who didn't make it.
The pope vowed to continue helping refugees.
"Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such," he tweeted Saturday.

Video clips tell the story even more vividly. One from Euronews shows a man falling at Francis' feet, sobbing "Thank you, thank you." On CNN, a little girl clutches his ankles, apparently in overwhelming gratitude. He then gently lifts her to her feet.

Please respect our Commenting Policy