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After the synod: Was 'confusion' caused by the press, the pope or the devil?

After the synod: Was 'confusion' caused by the press, the pope or the devil?

Let's walk into this minefield very slowly and carefully.

This week, "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I talked about the recent Synod on the Family at the Vatican and some of the themes that emerged out of it. Click here to listen to the podcast.

Truth be told, that primarily meant discussing the tsunami of news coverage about a draft report earlier in the week that was hailed by a major gay-rights group, and thus the elite media, as a "seismic shift" in Catholic attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, the divorced, cohabiting couples, etc. By the end of the week, following blasts of input from cardinals and bishops from around the world, the synod's more modest official report placed a heavier emphasis on affirming Catholic doctrine and, thus, drew far less coverage.

Once again, many Catholics were asking a familiar question: Is there some way for the Catholic church to let the public, especially the world's Catholics, hear the full sweep of what the pope is actually saying? The pope keeps talking about sin, penitence, mercy and salvation, with a strong emphasis on the symbols and language of mercy, and elite news headlines usually report him as saying something like, "Who knows what sin is, anymore, let's show mercy -- period."

After that, criticism of of what the press reported the pope as saying -- including attempts to note the content and context of whatever Pope Francis actually said -- is hailed in the same news outlets as criticism of the pope or a rejection of his alleged new direction for the church.

Rise. Cycle. Repeat.

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None dare call it 'free speech'? Who actually used the term 'hate speech'?

None dare call it 'free speech'? Who actually used the term 'hate speech'?

This is a strange one.

In the following Philly.com story, it's hard to tell if we are dealing with with an ordinary advocacy journalism, or an outbreak of religion-specific "Kellerism" (click here for background), or maybe a case of a sloppy journalist, or two, not being specific enough in noting the origin of a particularly loaded phrase -- "hate speech."

As a former GetReligionista said, when sending in the URL for this one:

Did the judge call it "hate speech" or is the reporter deciding/siding with one side? I honestly can't tell...

Me neither, to be blunt. So here is the top of the story:

A controversial group of black street preachers who spew hate speech at whites, Asians, gays, women and some blacks they find objectionable, has a right to continue preaching, the state Superior Court has ruled.

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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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Big scoop for Sarah: Former GetReligionista scores exclusive on Mark Driscoll resignation

Big scoop for Sarah: Former GetReligionista scores exclusive on Mark Driscoll resignation

We're proud to say we knew you way back when, Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

The former GetReligionista scored a major scoop Wednesday with her Religion News Service report on the resignation of Mars Hills Church pastor Mark Driscoll:

(RNS) Mark Driscoll, the larger-than-life megachurch pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday (Oct. 14), according to a document obtained by RNS.
The divisive Seattle pastor had announced his plan to step aside for at least six weeks in August while his church investigated the charges against him. Driscoll’s resignation came shortly after the church concluded its investigation.
“Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family — even physically unsafe at times — and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill,” Driscoll wrote in his resignation letter.

Other major news organizations quickly jumped on the story, including CNN.

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Prayers in Liberia: One strange note in riveting WPost trip inside Ebola zone

Prayers in Liberia: One strange note in riveting WPost trip inside Ebola zone

I have said this many times, but I have nothing but admiration for the reporters who work in war zones and in lands ravaged by disasters of all kinds.

It's hard enough for reporters, when covering complex issues, to do adequate background research and keep their facts straight -- even under the best of circumstances. My church-state issue file folder (yes, materials on dead tree pulp) is almost 40 years old. I have hundreds of similar files and I need them.

So imagine that you are in Liberia and trying to cover the Ebola outbreak, with all of its scientific, political, medical, ethical and legal implications. Yes, and issues of racial equality and economic justice. Yes, and there are religion ghosts, as well. Oh, and let's not forget the risk of face-to-face reporting at scenes in the heart of the crisis?

Thus, the first thing I want to say about a recent Washington Post report (headline: "Liberia already had only a few dozen of its own doctors. Then came Ebola") is that it is stunning and a must-read look at the lives of those with the courage to walk the halls of hospitals and treat the sick and dying in Monrovia, Liberia. How, exactly, does one take careful interview notes when wearing a full-protection hazmat suit?

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Generic god urges son of first U.S. Ebola victim to rush to Dallas hospital

Generic god urges son of first U.S. Ebola victim to rush to Dallas hospital

What we have here is another case of what we could call "generic-god syndrome." That's when claims of divine guidance or deliverance are important enough to feature in a mainstream news story, but not important enough to define with facts -- perhaps with a single clause in a single sentence.

Most of the time we see generic-god syndrome in sports coverage, or stories about the Grammy Awards. The stakes are much higher in a news story about Ebola.

As a former GetReligionista put it in an email: "Did the dallas ebola patient have faith? ... Looks like his son did ... maybe that offers a clue?" In this case, our former scribe was talking about material strong enough (yet it still needed to be vague) to provide the human-interest hook for a CBS News story.

Here's a large chunk of the story -- about the death of Thomas Eric Duncan -- to provide context. This comes right after the lede:

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Ghost of Cowtown: That crucial missing question in Texas story on Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity

Ghost of Cowtown: That crucial missing question in Texas story on Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity

Here at GetReligion, we like to go ghostbusting.

Today, I decided to do so deep in the heart of Texas — in Cowtown, to be specific.

This Fort Worth Star-Telegram headline drew me in:

Carters build hope, homes with Habitat for Humanity

Before even reading the story's lede, two things made me wonder if this report would include a religion angle: Jimmy Carter's well-known Baptist faith and Habitat's nonprofit Christian mission of "seeking to put God's love into action."

So I grabbed my hammer, nails and ghostbusting equipment and clicked the Star-Telegram link:

FORT WORTH — Henry Wills never thought he would own a home, much less have a former president help build it.
But on Monday, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, swung hammers and hauled wood with hundreds of other Habitat for Humanity volunteers, including country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, to help build the Willses’ home in Fort Worth’s Central Meadowbook neighborhood.
“I never thought I would be able to work beside a president,” Wills said, grinning. “I am just elated on what is going on. I always wanted my own home, but I never think it would arrive. But God is good.”

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Sorry, that was my 2014 Holy Ghostbusting Sensor (thank you, editor Terry Mattingly, for providing all of GR's contributors with the latest model) going off.

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Outing Britain's gay (whatever that means) Anglican bishops

Outing Britain's gay (whatever that means) Anglican bishops

The Daily Telegraph ran a story this week under the headline “One in 10 Church of England bishops 'could be secretly gay' -- says bishop” that suggests the term means an individual who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex and who acts upon those attractions. Yet in the context of the story it could just as well mean an individual who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex but who lives a celibate life.

Temptation is not sin, the Church of England teaches. It is immoral to act upon homosexual desire, but the desire itself is not immoral.

That point escapes theTelegraph, which reports that in a forthcoming book the Bishop of Buckingham Dr. Alan Wilson charges his episcopal colleagues with hypocrisy for opposing same-sex marriage even though a dozen of them are “gay.”
 
The article quotes him as saying:

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USA Today: 'Conservative' friar dies -- oh, and did we mention he was 'conservative'?

USA Today: 'Conservative' friar dies -- oh, and did we mention he was 'conservative'?

USA Today has picked up an obituary of Father Benedict Groeschel that ran in the Westchester County (N.Y.) Journal News, thereby giving readers a classic example of the Department of Redundancy Department, Godbeat style. 

I'm not talking about the lede, which is fine, albeit with the detail overload that has become typical in dailies:

LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a writer and preacher who became one of the country's best-known Catholic priests, long operating out of a tiny bedroom in Larchmont, died Friday at the age of 81 after a long illness.

The redundancy arrives in the second and third paragraph -- emphasis mine:

Groeschel spent decades leading retreats, writing books and offering his conservative perspectives on EWTN, the Catholic television network. He founded a religious order, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, ran a retreat house for priests in Larchmont and taught pastoral psychology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers.
He was a hero to conservative Catholics – a wise-cracking friar in a gray robe who shuffled among the elite of the Catholic Church, always speaking of the need to serve the poor.

Got that? So, Groeschel offered "conservative perspectives" on television, and in case you didn't know, he was a hero to "conservative Catholics."

Why does he qualify as "conservative"? Concern for the poor? Alas, no, I fear the implication is that Groeschel was a hero to conservative Catholics because he "shuffled among the elite of the Catholic Church" to express his concern for the poor. Because, you know, conservative Catholics are all about the elites ... or something.

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