Catholicism

And in the end, some Vatican synod news reports hint that 'sin' exists after all

And in the end, some Vatican synod news reports hint that 'sin' exists after all

I promise -- honest -- that the following post is not a covert Sunday school lesson. You see, I have a journalistic reason for taking us into the Gospel of St. John, chapter 8.

As you read the following passage, journalists, try to figure out who might be who, in terms of interpreting the Vatican synod that has dominated the Godbeat this week. The story begins with Jesus arriving at the Jewish Temple in the morning:

... (All) the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. 

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 

Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

Now, the reason I brought this up was because a reference to this passage showed up -- imagine that -- in the New York Times story about the end of the synod.

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'Bucket list baby' inspired prayers, compassion and sensitive coverage

'Bucket list baby' inspired prayers, compassion and sensitive coverage

Shane Francis Haley's life lasted less than four hours, cut short by a birth defect. Yet he and his parents reached hundreds of thousands of people through social media -- people who were first touched by the "bucket list" of experiences they gave their son before he was ever born.

That's one marvel of the drama that played out in Media, Pa., as Jenna and Don Haley updated their 700,000 Facebook friends over the prenatal months. Another marvel: the simple news narratives -- including Reuters and the Christian Science Monitor -- that told the story without adding some religio-socio-politico-economic payload.

With a story about a doomed infant, it's almost too tempting to resist the urge to add tear-jerking prose. Remarkably, the writers of these stories do resist. In the best tradition of journalism, they let the details carry the emotional weight. Closest to any gimmicky writing is the headline on the Monitor article: " 'Bucket list baby' inspires thousands. Here’s what his parents did."

When the Haleys heard the diagnosis of anencephaly -- in which the baby lacks part of its brain and skull -- they knew it was a death sentence for Shane. Yet instead of planning an abortion, or sinking into grief or rage at God, the parents went through a "nine-month bucket list," as the Monitor dubs it: giving their son the time of his life before he was even born.

From the Monitor's account:

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As the Vatican turns: Dramatic talks about faith and family get soapy

As the Vatican turns: Dramatic talks about faith and family get soapy

Trust me, I am well aware that there are plenty of Catholic GetReligion readers who do not understand my consistent appreciation for the work of reporter and columnist John L. Allen, Jr., formerly of the liberal National Catholic Reporter and now the ringmaster at the new Crux site at The Boston Globe. It's really quite simple: He constantly reports tons of on-the-record information, even when he is writing prose that is clearly labeled "analysis."

Now, let me end this crazy day in Catholic news land -- click here for Dawn's earlier piece -- by pointing readers toward the sources and URLs contained in two rather dispassionate pieces of Allen analysis. It's hard to get more blunt than this:

ROME -- Every day, the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, a summit of 260 bishops and other participants convened by Pope Francis, seems more and more like a daytime soap opera. Today brought more surprising turns on multiple fronts.
For one thing, the bishops made the unprecedented decision to release internal reports of small group discussions about a working document released Monday that became a sensation due to its positive language about same-sex unions, couples who live together outside of marriage, and others in “irregular” situations.
The reports photograph a vigorous debate within a divided synod, with one camp seemingly embracing a more positive vision of situations that fall outside the boundaries of official Catholic doctrine, and another clearly alarmed about going soft.

And the perfect, killer quote for a synod on family issues?

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Kasper, the friendly religion ghost? Progressive cardinal's dismissive words on Africans go unreported (updated)

Kasper, the friendly religion ghost? Progressive cardinal's dismissive words on Africans go unreported (updated)

Editor's note: Dawn is away from her keyboard today and I have been on the move, as well. Yes, we know that all holy heck has broken loose on this story. For updates, check out this timely note from Deacon Greg Kandra, formerly of CBS News, and this commentary from Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress. (tmatt)

******

When German Cardinal Walter Kasper speaks in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried, the Associated Press calls him "a pre-eminent theologian." But when he speaks about how African bishops participating in the Vatican's Extraordinary Synod on the Family "should not tell us too much what we have to do," the AP, and U.S. mainstream media outlets at large, respond with ... crickets.

Kasper's comments to veteran Vatican reporter Edward Pentin, published in ZENIT (since taken down), have set the Catholic blog world aflame. But although they were noted in Italy by the AP affiliate ASCA, and in the U.K. by Damian Thompson at the Spectator, as of last night there was not a peep from Stateside mainstream-media outlets, which until now have seemed to hang on the "progressive" cardinal's every word regarding the Synod. In other words, so long as liberal journalists see Kasper as a "friendly," Pentin's interview is going to disappear into the ether like the proverbial "religion ghost."

The cardinal raised the topic of African bishops to Pentin after the reporter asked him about the five bishops Francis chose to join Cardinal Peter Erdo in composing the Synod's much-discussed midterm report, none of whom were from Africa. The omission is significant since, as the AP's Nicole Winfield notes, African bishops tend to be more "conservative" (i.e. doctrinally faithful) on family issues. Here is the relevant part of Pentin's interview: 

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Flaws in new LATimes abortion piece revealed -- by old LATimes study

Flaws in new LATimes abortion piece revealed -- by old LATimes study

Whoaaa. This article in the Los Angeles Times on the "abortion wars." So much bias and tagging and cherry-picking.

If only there were some guide to help us spot the various ploys. Oh, wait, there is one -- from the L.A. Times itself.

It's a four-part study of media bias and abortion written by the late David Shaw of the Times, back in 1990. His 18-month study marked several ways that media push the abortion cause rather than just report. (Thanks to tmatt for finding this study.)

But first to the new Times story, which ran on Sunday. It's mainly on the resurgent pro-life movement, which has scored several legal victories in several states. Among the new laws are a requirement for abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and making abortion clinics conform to the same "stringent" requirements as hospitals. Some states also require pre-abortion ultrasounds or ban abortion clauses for government insurance.

From there, the story centers on Texas and especially Louisiana. The basic enemy, unsurprisingly, is that evil axis -- religion and conservatism:

A conservative juggernaut has sprung to life here along the Gulf of Mexico, where Bayou State politics work hand-in-hand with Christian churches, where some conservative pastors condemn abortion as a sin and tell parishioners that voting for a Democrat is too.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has been so consistent in his opposition to abortion that the state is celebrated as the most "pro-life" in the country by Americans United for Life. The antiabortion lobby's annual scorecards are closely watched by legislators here.
"Abortion until recently was not a front-burner issue in Louisiana," said JP Morrell, a Democratic state senator. "Religious groups have made it a front-burner issue. The grass-roots movement here is as organized and effective as anything you've ever seen."

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For those paying close attention: 'Tone' of this Vatican rough draft may sound familiar

For those paying close attention: 'Tone' of this Vatican rough draft may sound familiar

Let's pause for a second and think of the many different Catholic camps -- we will leave the secular world out of this for a moment -- that exist when discussing a subject as complex as the moral status of sexual activity outside of marriage. I hope that this will help us dissect the celebratory coverage of the current Vatican talks on family issues.

This typology is my own (reminder: I am Eastern Orthodox, not Catholic) based on my observations of Catholic debates and media coverage of them.

* First of all, there are Catholics who believe that the church has been far too quiet in defense of its own teachings on sexuality. They note that, at the crucial level of local pulpits, Catholics hardly ever hear controversial teachings discussed, let alone defended. People need to hear the bad news before it becomes the Good News, in other words.

* Then there are Catholics who truly believe that, when viewed as a whole, the church's teachings are fine, but that the hierarchy has done a terrible job of presenting them in public. Bishops have talked only about sin, with little to say about confession, repentance, grace, mercy, forgiveness, healing and salvation (in other words, the entire world of the Sacraments).

Let's pause for a second and look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in its specific language about homosexuality (and read it all, not just the "intrinsically disordered" part).

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Wha' happened? NYTimes, RNS report on 'real or implied' 'earthquake' at Vatican that 'may or may not' have an effect

Wha' happened? NYTimes, RNS report on 'real or implied' 'earthquake' at Vatican that 'may or may not' have an effect

What exactly happened at the Vatican's Extraordinary Synod on the Family yesterday? NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd observes that, if you look to "many liberal media reporters" for the answer, you will find them "giddy as schoolchildren" at the  synod's midterm report on its discussions about gays and divorced Catholics. A check of Twitter bears this out:

From @CNN:

The Catholic church should welcome and appreciate gays, a new Vatican report says http://cnn.it/1qk9xwt

From @CNNbelief:

An 'earthquake.' [Revolutionary.' 'Stunning.' What people are saying about the Vatican's new report on #LGBT people http://cnn.it/1vXFC1Q

From @JosephineMcK:

#Catholic conservatives furious as bishops propose 'welcoming' gays

Did the earth really move? It did for Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service (author of that last tweet), whose own story on the synod's report breathlessly describes "the real or implied changes that may or may not materialize" in the Church. 

Say what?

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'Mass mobs': NYT and NPR report new trend with a bit of flash

'Mass mobs': NYT and NPR report new trend with a bit of flash

Churches are getting hit by "mobs" in several states -- and that's good, as NPR and the New York Times report. So-called Mass mobs -- takeoffs on flash mobs and cash mobs -- are being organized to flood old, historic churches with worshipers and rekindle interest in Catholic heritage.

The Times and NPR work in rich color and emotion, with an eye toward both emotion and architectural beauty. Here's a sample from the NPR piece on a Mass mob at St. Florian Church in Hamtramck, Mich.:

Kinney says there's something special about coming to Mass with so many other people. "To be in attendance when it's full, as opposed to just the sparse. There's an electricity that's amazing," he says.
People trickle in, looking for seats, and then the traditional Roman Catholic Mass begins. There are Polish hymns. The priest, the Rev. Mirek Frankowski — who also doubles as music director — says the crowd nearly brought him to tears.
"Because, I mean, such a big crowd, it's impossible to see these days in any of the churches. But thanks to the mob Mass we have this feeling of what it was so many years ago, when the churches were filled with people," he says.

The Times story goes east, so to speak -- centering on Holy Ghost Church, a Byzantine Catholic church in Cleveland that survives only as a cultural center. The article sets an evocative scene on preserving the sacred in the face of the secular. It even offers a bit of the colors and textures of Eastern liturgy:

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Beyond immigration: Story on Chicago's new archbishop veers into abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception

Beyond immigration: Story on Chicago's new archbishop veers into abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception

While working on a story on Christians and immigration a few years ago, I witnessed a mother's tearful farewell to her son, who was being deported.

CHICAGO — On a dark street, a mother weeps. 
At 4:45 a.m., she stands outside a two-story brick building surrounded by razor wire, her sobs drowning out the drum of machinery at a nearby factory. 
The Spanish-speaking woman just said goodbye — through a glass panel at a federal deportation center west of Chicago — to her son Miguel, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. 

Recalling that emotional scene, my interest was piqued by a front-page Chicago Tribune story on Roman Catholic Archbishop-Designate Blase Cupich making immigration reform a top priority.

The top of the Tribune's meaty, 1,300-word report:

Immigrant rights activists are hailing Chicago's next Roman Catholic archbishop, hoping that Blase Cupich's outspoken advocacy for their cause translates to meaningful changes to local and state laws that would make Illinois the friendliest state for immigrants.
"It's always very encouraging to hear your faith leader calling on what you believe is a human rights issue," said Erendira Rendon, a lead organizer for the Resurrection Project, a Pilsen-based community development organization. "We've been grateful for Cardinal (Francis) George's support of immigration reform, but it's exciting to see the new archbishop is going to make it a priority."

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