Vatican

Blurring news and views: RNS dissects cardinal's quotes on gay marriage

Blurring news and views: RNS dissects cardinal's quotes on gay marriage

A week after praising Presbyterians for endorsing same-sex marriage -- and scolding United Methodists for not doing the same -- the Religion News Service caricatures the views of  a Catholic cardinal about gays.

This week, the target is Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was moved from a powerful Vatican post to patron of the Knights of Malta. When LifeSite News sought him out, he agreed to an interview.

An interview that displeased RNS, which summarized Burke's views in a startling headline: "Cardinal Raymond Burke: Gays, remarried Catholics, murderers are all the same."

Whoa. Keep that guy away from electric chairs, right?

What Burke told LifeSite, of course -- again, after he was asked -- was that the Catholic Church still considers some deeds to be grave sins.  He continues:

And to give the impression that somehow there's something good about living in a state of grave sin is simply contrary to what the Church has always and everywhere taught.
LSN: So when the man in the street says, yes, it's true these people are kind, they are dedicated, they are generous, that is not enough?
CB: Of course it's not. It's like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people…

RNS writer David Gibson acknowledges that the comments "break little theological ground; the church has always taught that sin is sin, and some sins are especially serious." But he presses his case:

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How bad can the Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict XVI frame game get? Check this out!

How bad can the Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict XVI frame game get? Check this out!

Several months ago, your GetReligionistas created our "What is this?" logo to salute a question that we have found ourselves asking over and over during the past decade.

Here's the deal. So you are reading something in a newspaper or online source that is supposed to be producing old-school hard news. Then you hit a passage or two that, simply stated, are wildly opinionated or built on what appears to be secret information, without a source that is shared with readers. In other words, you hit a patch of blatant opinion in the middle of a "news" article, like a patch of black ice on a highway that at first glance appears to be safe.

So you look at the top of the "news" article, trying to find evidence of a columnist logo or an "analysis" tag line. But it's not there. That's when you say (all together), "What is this?" There should probably be "!!!!" marks in there, too, or worse (as in What *& %^ #* is this?!).

Want to see an instant classic? Here's one, from an Agence France-Presse story -- drawn from Yahoo! -- sent to team GetReligion by an stunned reader (who thought some of the adjectives were way over the top). Let's look at the passage in context. Remember, this is drawn from a news report about the second anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, not a commentary or analysis piece:

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Catholic school teacher's blunt Facebook post turns into media free-for-all

Catholic school teacher's blunt Facebook post turns into media free-for-all

When a Catholic high school theology teacher posted some thoughts on her Facebook page, she never expected that two Hollywood actors and an online lynch mob -- including professionals at several newspapers -- would make her take it down.

So here are the basics. Note that much of the reporting turned into cheerleading for one side of the debate.

Patricia Jannuzzi teaches at Immaculata High School in Somerville, N.J.  When she read an article on theyoungconservatives.com web site about an obscene tweet by gay activist Dan Savage -- posted about presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson -- she saw red. She posted a jumbled response on her Facebook page that said in -- in part -- that homosexuals have an “agenda” and “they argue that they are born this way and it is not a choice to get the 14th amendment equal rights protection … bologna.” And that gays “want to reengineer western civ into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of humanity!!!!”

 A 2001 graduate of Immaculata saw her post and created a change.org petition calling it “hate speech” and asking for “action” to be taken at Immaculata. One of the 953 people who supported the petition was Greg Bennett, an openly gay 2004 alumnus of the school who once acted in “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and had Jannuzzi as a teacher. He signed the petition and asked his 165,000 Twitter followers to do the same.

Another gay alum, Scott Lyons, got his aunt, actress Susan Sarandon, to weigh in on her Facebook page:

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Prostitution in Rome: Washington Post goes for the wrong 'hook'

Prostitution in Rome: Washington Post goes for the wrong 'hook'

Oh, those blue-nosed Catholics. Opposing prostitution in Rome on vague "moral grounds."

The Catholic Church flickers, ghostlike, in and out of a story by the Washington Post on attempts to deal with prostitution in Rome. The story looks at the dilemma of limiting a trade that many people seem to want, yet can't seem to tolerate.

It's a decent issue for an indepth, but the writing is a curious mélange of serious and snickering. In the latter, the Post calls the controversy a "very Italian opera." It tells of hookers in "lingerie and ­vertigo-inducing heels." And it leads with an "Oh no, you didn't!" clutch of clichés:

ROME — The Eternal City is colliding with the world’s oldest profession — and the sparks, as they say, are flying.
The ranks of streetwalkers have surged here in the heart of Catholicism, a swell that Rome’s officials are decrying as a stain on the dignity of the city’s citizens. But in a town of sinners as well as saints, outright bans on selling sex have failed before, leaving city authorities to put their faith in a new approach.

The new hook, if you will, is for the city to designate red-light districts, where the sex trade could be plied without police harassment. The rest of Rome, meanwhile, would be spared the sight of streetwalkers -- not to mention flashers, used condoms and pantyhose wrappers. (Yep, those are all in this story.) But the measure would imply permission for the sex trade, an attitude the Romans are still unwilling to give.

The Catholic Church is mentioned six times, yet the Post asks no one in the Vatican about the matter. The paper says generally that the Church is "fighting it on moral grounds." And it quotes a priest who works with a ministry to prostitutes, who says the city plan would "have the state become the pimp." A basic Church position? No room for that in this 1,100-word piece.

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When will ‘three-parent babies’ come to the U.S.?

When will ‘three-parent babies’ come to the U.S.?

The headline above is borrowed verbatim from a Feb. 6 Scientific American article (coverage here) after the House of Commons voted by 75 percent to make Britain the first nation to legalize “three-parent babies.” The House of Lords gave the final approval Feb. 24.  Newcastle University researchers are already paying women to be genetic donors, and the first such births are expected next year.

The hope here is to avoid babies with devastating “mitochondrial” birth defects and related ailments like muscular dystrophy.  So these experiments have the best of motives, though scientists and theologians alike question the means.  Reporters should note good online coverage of pros and cons by Sarah Knapton in the London Telegraph.

News media take note: The U.S. debate will gain prominence with a March 31 – April 1  “public workshop” in Washington by the  panel that’s advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Institute of Medicine on this. Its delightfully bureaucratic name: “Committee on Ethical and Social Policy Considerations of Novel Techniques for Prevention of Maternal Transmission of Mitochondrial DNA Diseases.” 

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Baltimore Sun ignores religion ghosts in Maryland debates on 'death with dignity' bill

Baltimore Sun ignores religion ghosts in Maryland debates on 'death with dignity' bill

Baltimore is the kind of place where a Super Bowl ring does grant someone a certain level of moral and cultural authority.

Thus, I was not surprised that Baltimore Ravens executive O.J. Brigance, a linebacker and special-teams star in the team's first Super Bowl win, was asked to testify during the legislative hearings on a proposed "death with dignity" law in Maryland. Also, I was not surprised that The Baltimore Sun decided to lead its report on these hearings with this unique man's testimony.

However, I was surprised that Brigance -- one of the most outspoken Christians on the Raven's staff (click here for previous GetReligion posts on this) -- did not say anything about his faith during his testimony. Or, perhaps, the members of the Sun team were anxious to avoid the Godtalk during the debates about this hot-button moral issue?

First, here is what readers were told about Brigance:

On Tuesday, testifying with a machine that replaced the voice taken from him by ALS, the former linebacker told Maryland lawmakers that his most significant feat came after he grieved over his degenerative condition and decided to live.
"Because I decided to live life the best I could, there has been a ripple effect of goodness in the world," Brigance said. "Since being diagnosed, I have done a greater good for society in eight years than in my previous 37 years on earth."
His testimony came during an emotional hearing in Annapolis on a proposed "death with dignity" law, a measure that is named in honor of Richard E. "Dick" Israel, another prominent Marylander with a neurodegenerative disease. While Israel is spending his final months fighting for the right to end his life, Brigance says his terminal disease brought meaning to his.

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The 21 beheadings in Libya: Why edit 'Orthodox' from name of the Coptic Orthodox Church?

The 21 beheadings in Libya: Why edit 'Orthodox' from name of the Coptic Orthodox Church?

What can be said about the images that are coming out of Libya, in that hellish Islamic State video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians -- explicitly for their faith and their connection to "crusaders"? This is a story with so much religious imagery and language in it that there is no way for journalists to avoid the ghosts.

Religion News Service, and some other news outlets, are using a very important quote from Pope Francis:

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks during an audience with an ecumenical delegation from the Church of Scotland. The pope, switching to his native Spanish, noted that those killed only said “Jesus help me.”
“Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn’t matter: They’re Christian! The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ,” Francis said. He said their deaths bore witness to “an ecumenism of blood” that should unite Christians, a phrase he has used repeatedly as the Islamic State continues its bloody march.

The radicals hailed Jesus as a prophet respected in their Muslim faith, then beheaded followers of Jesus.

Now, who -- precisely -- were the victims?

Let me stress that it's true that, in Egypt (and in Libya), Christians of all kinds are often simply known as "Copts," because of a similar ancient heritage. So there are, for example, small numbers of Protestant Copts and Catholic Copts. However, the vast majority of Coptic Christians are Orthodox Christians.

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Brian Williams, Saint John Paul II, Charlton Heston, Kevin Bacon and, well, me

Brian Williams, Saint John Paul II, Charlton Heston, Kevin Bacon and, well, me

Remember that game that was so hot a few years ago, the whole "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing? One of the fun things about hanging out with experienced journalists is that you can play a similar game, based on who has interviewed who.

For example, as a religion writer I have interviewed Billy Graham. That puts me one degree of separation away from, what, half of the famous people in world culture in the second half of the 20th century? Or, in music, I have interviewed Dave Brubeck. Stop and think about that one, in terms of links to music royalty dating back into the early 20th century.

However, journalists do like to sweat the details.

For example, I have asked Tom Hanks a question in a live press conference. Is that the same thing as "meeting" Hanks? Perhaps you shook hands with the Archbishop of Canterbury and asked a quick question. Is that the same thing as "interviewing" him? How about a telephone interview with Robert Duvall? Twice? Is that the same as "meeting" him?

I attended the 1987 meeting between St. John Paul II and media leaders in Hollywood and greater Los Angeles, sneaking in with a pass from a Rocky Mountain News editor (a national officer in a press association) who was not able to attend. At the end, the pope moved down the aisle greeting people and shaking hands. I had a chance to shake his hand but, well, I let Charlton Heston get in front of me. You can't fight the voice of God, right? I did speak a greeting to the pope and he nodded. But is that "meeting" the pope?

Where am I going with this? To the latest wrinkles in the sad story of Brian Williams, of course.

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RIP David Carr: A struggling Catholic voice at The New York Times is gone

RIP David Carr: A struggling Catholic voice at The New York Times is gone

If you closely followed the career of media critic David Carr, then you knew that he was a practicing Catholic, yet he also made it clear that he wasn't sure if he was a faithful Catholic. For many readers -- fans and critics -- this made him the perfect New York Times Catholic.

Former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey wrote about some of this in a GetReligion post back in 2011 and, in one of her first bylines at The Washington Post, she produced a quick piece on the religion-angle in Carr's death. Try to ignore this, from the new Post piece:

New York Times journalist David Carr, who died Thursday, had a complicated relationship with religion. In his 2009 book “The Night of the Gun,” Carr wrote about his father’s faith compared with his own.
“My father is a man who swears frequently goes to church every day, and lives his towering faith,” Carr wrote. “I am a man who swears frequently, goes to church every Sunday, and lives in search of faith. He is a man who believes that I am not dead because nuns prayed for me. I am a man who believes that is as good an explanation as any.”

A kind of brass-tacks, but vague, faith shows up again in the most famous passage from that book, in which Carr rips into his own life, exposing a man so hooked on drugs that he would place his own children at risk. How many of you have already seen a piece today in which the following passage -- with good cause -- is featured?

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