Can journalists handle questions about Catholic theology linked to LGBT issues?

Can journalists handle questions about Catholic theology linked to LGBT issues?

It's getting to the point where one is tempted to believe that many mainstream journalists simply have no interest in accurately reporting what the Roman Catholic Church, or many other traditional religious institutions, believe when it comes to doctrines linked to homosexual orientation and behavior.

Consider, for example, the top of this Associated Press report -- as posted at NBC News -- about that monsignor who staged a coming-out presser the other day. The headline: "Vatican Fires Gay Priest Who Came Out Before Global Meeting."

First of all, the Vatican doesn't "fire" a priest as a priest. He was fired from his position with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Now, might this priest eventually be "defrocked" for violating this vows? That's another issue altogether.

Anyway, here is the top of this warped little AP story:

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican on Saturday fired a monsignor who came out as gay on the eve of a big meeting of the world's bishops to discuss church outreach to gays, divorcees and more traditional Catholic families.
The Vatican took action after Krzysztof Charamsa, a mid-level official in its doctrine office, came out in newspaper interviews in Italy and Poland saying he was happy and proud to be a gay priest, and that he was in love with a man whom he identified as his boyfriend.

Now, was Charamsa fired because he was gay?

The answer would be "no." The Catholic church does not discipline priests who -- from the church's doctrinal viewpoint -- carry the burden of being sexually attracted to those of the same gender. Temptation is not a sin. The questions in play are (a) has this priest honored his vows of celibacy, (b) does he support the Catholic doctrines and (c) has he taken public actions opposing church doctrines?

So, again, was Charamsa fired because he was gay?

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Papal visit takeaway: Why did Pope Francis need to hug hicks and old-school nuns?

Papal visit takeaway: Why did Pope Francis need to hug hicks and old-school nuns?

So what do you think we talked about during this week's extra-long "Crossroads" podcast? 

Might it have had something to do with the thousands and thousands of words that your GetReligionistas contributed to the tsunami of cyber-ink about the Pope Francis media festival in the Acela zone between Washington, D.C., and New York City? #Duh

That was going to be the case no matter what happened in the days after his departure. But then the pope talked with reporters on the flight back to Rome and said all kinds of interesting and even controversial things. Click here for my Universal syndicate column on that. Click here for the transcript of that presser.

And then the mainstream media's all-time favorite pope met, to one degree or another, with you know who. How is that sitting with the chattering classes? This Slate piece by Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart -- creator of the "Tiny Butch Adventures" series -- was not typical. But it collected and openly stated so many themes found elsewhere. These chunks contain the key thoughts:

I woke up this morning to reports that during his recent U.S. visit, Pope Francis met with Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk best known for refusing to issue lawful marriage licenses, interfering with the ability of her deputies to issue lawful marriage licenses, and making unauthorized changes to the lawful marriage license formsfor her county. When I saw this news, my heart sank. In one 15-minute meeting, the pope undermined the unifying, healing message that many queer people and our supporters were so eager to have him bring.

This blow hit me particularly hard because I had written so hopefully about the pope’s address to Congress. 

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In some news reports, Oregon gunman's motives were bloody specific, but in others...

In some news reports, Oregon gunman's motives were bloody specific, but in others...

Another day, another gunman, another mass shooting. Once again, when government authorities consistently declined to discuss possible motives, it was hard not to assume that the religion shoe was going to drop, sooner or later.

By this morning, journalists have had quite a bit of time to look for witnesses and to sift through social-media looking for clues and quotes. At this point, it's almost like journalists in key newsrooms were not covering the same tragedy. 

Let's look in New York City, for example. That did The New York Times have to say about the religion angle? The world's most powerful newspaper opened with the basic facts and then, five paragraphs in, added:

Law enforcement officials identified the gunman Thursday night as Chris Harper Mercer, and said he had three weapons, at least one of them a long gun and the other ones handguns. It was not clear whether he fired them all. The officials said the man lived in the Roseburg area.
They said one witness had told them that Mr. Mercer had asked about people’s religions before he began firing. “He appears to be an angry young man who was very filled with hate,” one law enforcement official said. Investigators are poring over what one official described as “hateful” writings by Mr. Mercer.

Did he ask anything specific, when it came to religion? Were members of one faith, or no faith, more at risk than others? And those "hateful" writings -- on social media, perhaps -- were about what?

Writing for a radically different audience than the TimesThe New York Post went straight to the point with the religion angle bannered on its website a few hours after the massacre. The most recent version of that story now states, drawing on material from news and social media:

A gunman singled out Christians, telling them they would see God in “one second,” during a rampage at an Oregon college Thursday that left at least nine innocent people dead and several more wounded, survivors and authorities said.

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Media Kryptonite incarnate: Why such secrecy for pope's chat with Kim Davis? #DUH

Media Kryptonite incarnate: Why such secrecy for pope's chat with Kim Davis? #DUH

How many of you in GetReligion reader-land were, by the time Pope Francis departed our shores, totally fed up with the number of adults -- priests even, in church sanctuaries --  shooting photos and even selfies during the events?

I mean, was there ANYONE who came within a mile of this pope who didn't whip out a smartphone and raise it on high to record the moment?

Well, it appears that at least one person did not do the selfie thing. That would be Rowan County clerk Kim Davis of Kentucky. 

Of all the questions being asked about the secret Washington, D.C., meeting between Davis and the pope, the one that I find the most interesting is this one: OK, where are the photos? Who would pass up a selfie with Pope Francis? The photo issue has been, on so many levels, a fine symbol for how strange this story has been from the get-go, when the Inside the Vatican report started circulating last night.

Maybe Davis took a selfie. Maybe not. But if so, it certainly appears that someone -- either Davis or a Liberty Counsel pro -- was told to keep it under wraps.

Perhaps this cyber-silence was a condition of the meeting being held? Reports indicate that Vatican photographers did record the meeting, as they do almost anything that involves the pope. Is it safe to assume that Davis was told that official photos would be forthcoming? That would certainly be another nice gift (along with rosaries pictured here) for a Pentecostal convert like Davis to offer to her Catholic parents.

One thing is certain: The Jesuit pope and his handlers knew this meeting, this symbolic gesture linking religious liberty and same-sex marriage, was the ultimate Kryptonite for the vast majority of elite journalists camped in the Acela corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City.

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Carly Fiorina visits Bible Belt territory and is too serious for the humble natives?

Carly Fiorina visits Bible Belt territory and is too serious for the humble natives?

cult, noun ...

: a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous

: a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much


If you pay close attention to the cult of American political reporting -- "cult" in the second definition shown above -- you know that it has its own unique rituals that are repeated time and time again. This is especially true during its high holy days, which are the two years that precede a presidential election.

One of the cult's most important rites comes whenever a relatively unknown individual suddenly pops out of a pack of candidates -- usually through a strong performance in a debate, or a surprisingly solid showing in a poll or primary -- and emerges as a "frontrunner." Of course, the priests of the political-reporting cult are in charge of determining whether said candidate has or has not achieved "frontrunner" status.

This rite of passage immediately leads to the next, crucial, ritual in which the candidate -- Carly Fiorina in this case -- is placed under a much more intense spotlight in order to judge his or her worthiness in the eyes of the priesthood. This is especially important in Fiorina's case because (a) she is a Republican, (b) she is a woman and (c) her ascent is linked to taking a strong stand in opposition to an institution held sacred by the cult (as in Planned Parenthood).

You know, beyond all doubt, that this rite has begun when something bizarre happens -- such as a Washington Post Style section reporter heading deep into the American South to observe this candidate in the wild. (However, in this case Fiorina was in Charleston, S.C., so the reporter may have been able to do an architecture or food feature on the same trip.)

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A radio talker’s new online faith-friendly sideline -- 'Life. Explained'

 A radio talker’s new online faith-friendly sideline -- 'Life. Explained'

News and commentary sites about religion continue to proliferate, adding to journalists’ headaches on how to parcel out their limited reading time.

Among others, the Religion Guy’s spot checks include from the venerable Religion News Service, led by interim editor Yonat Shimron, a Godbeat vet out of Raleigh, N.C. Then there is  Nicholas Hahn’s, and of course our own

A standout mainstream media site is "Acts of Faith," at The Washington Post (edited by former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey).

Then for gobs of opinionated comment representing all imaginable viewpoints there’s (Full disclosure: The Religion Guy writes “Religion Q and A” items for the “Public Square” section of to provide a bit of non-sectarian information there. Those pieces are also posted by GetReligion.)

The latest entry comes from tart-tongued Laura Ingraham, 52, the most-listened-to woman in the conservative talk-radio universe. Her went online in July.

Despite the name, this is not a website focused on “pro-life” issues, though that outlook is evident in some of the postings. The site’s slogan is “Life. Explained.”  

Good. Luck. With. That.

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After an Ashley Madison headline: A widow seeks grace and candor in churches

After an Ashley Madison headline: A widow seeks grace and candor in churches

For decades, I have been interested in issues linked to clergy stress.

This is, in part, because I grew up in a pastor's home and I understand what that's like. Let me stress that my father knew how to mix pastoral duties and family. He was not a workaholic and I learned, early, to thank God for that. When I got to Baylor University and started talking to other "PKs" -- preacher's kids -- I found that my father was not the norm. (Click here to read my tribute to my father, written before his death.)

So stories about clergy stress hit me right in the heart. I recently wrote a post about the death of a pastor and seminary professor, a story that was in the headlines because of its link to the hacking of the Ashley Madison website for people seeking, they thought, anonymous sexual affairs. Let me stress that this was a tragedy that, by all accounts, started with workaholism, then grew into a hidden maze of depression, sexual addiction and suicide.

That post about the Rev. John Gibson and his family started a sequence of events that led to my "Crossroads" conversation this week with host Todd Wilken. Along the way, I heard from this man's wife, Christi Gibson and ended up talking with her.

The original post focused on a CNN report in which Christi -- herself a member of a major church staff -- and their children were interviewed. I sensed that there was much more that they said, or tried to say, but their words about faith, divine love, repentance and grace ended up on the editing floor. The CNN report did include this:

In his suicide note, Gibson chronicled his demons. He also mentioned Ashley Madison.

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How should Christians holding public office conduct their duties?

How should Christians holding public office conduct their duties?


How ought Christian believers conduct themselves as public office-holders? To what extent should they promote biblical principles in the context of a democratic society? What grounds should they cite? Are some biblical principles too idealistic for a secular society?


Gene posted this fourfold query before Kentucky county clerk Kimberly Davis won headlines by briefly going to jail rather than authorize same-sex marriage licenses that violate her Christian belief. As religious liberty advocates argued, the simple compromise was having others in her office issue licenses.

Religious civil disobedience against laws considered unjust or immoral, with willingness to suffer resulting penalties, has long been honored in the United States, if not elsewhere. The U.S. usually accommodates conscientious objectors, such as those refusing the military draft. Some likened Davis to Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, but civil rights demonstrators acted as private citizens. An example with public officials might be Catholics handling abortion, which their church staunchly opposes. If liberal Democrats, they often say they’re “personally opposed” but shouldn’t challenge public opinion or court edicts.

Unlike ancient Judaism, or past and present-day Islam, Christianity has always recognized various forms of separation between “church” and “state.” This stems from Jesus’ saying deemed important enough to appear in three Gospels: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The narrow meaning was to pay taxes due to secular regimes, even despised Roman occupiers. But interpreters think Jesus’ cryptic maxim has far broader applications.  In New Testament times, of course, the tiny, powerless band of Christians didn’t ponder their duties as public officials.

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Tears or fears? The pope, the speaker, prayers and some amazing quotes in a notebook

Tears or fears? The pope, the speaker, prayers and some amazing quotes in a notebook

Just when you thought this was going to be a quiet week (and weekend) on the religion beat, there was an earthquake in Beltway land.

Anyone who has lived in Washington, D.C., knows that the job of Speaker of the House may be the single most overlooked piece in the puzzle that is the U.S. government, in terms of the public failing to understand how much power resides in that office.

So Speaker John A. Boehner, one of DC's most public Catholic voices, hit the exit door only hours after fulfilling his dream of seeing a pope address Congress. This also happened, of course, in the midst of fierce infighting over morality and money -- to be specific, the mountains of tax dollars going into the coffers of an institution at the heart of what St. John Paul II liked to call "The Culture of Death."

All of Washington muttered, at the same time, this question: So, what's the link between the pope's visit and Boehner's exit?

At the very least, the timing became linked -- on multiple levels -- with the emotions of the Francis visit. I don't know what surprised me more, in the elite media coverage: the word "prayer" showing up high in such a blockbuster political story or The Washington Post admitting, in print, that The New York Times broke the story. 

Oh, and the Post almost had the scoop -- on the spiritual level. We will come back to that.

The Times managed to keep the pope out of the lede, but -- after the political necessities -- wrote faith into the equation.

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