Vatican

New York Post scrimps on lots of important facts in Womenpriests story

New York Post scrimps on lots of important facts in Womenpriests story

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement is something lots of people feel strongly about. Opinions range from it being the best thing ever to happen to Catholicism, very broadly defined, to it being utter fraud.

Debates about press coverage of this movement have fueled waves of GetReligion posts over the years, far too many to list them. I am not joking. For starters, is it Women Priests, women priests, WomenPriests or Womenpriests? The group's own website says the latter. The words "Roman Catholic" are in the organization's name, even though these women have received ordination into their own movement, which has no standing with canonical Catholicism.

Partisans on both sides might agree that if a mainstream reporter writes about the movement, it helps to know the basics. A few days ago, a New York woman, who was ordained within the movement in 2014, had acid thrown in her face.

No, this was not South Asia, where such outrages happen in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh along with Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This was New York. The New York Post began as follows:

The man who attacked and seriously burned a Queens woman Wednesday night-- splashing her in the face with a Drano-like substance -- snuck up and ambushed her as she walked alone to her car, law-enforcement sources said.
“Can I ask you something?” the assailant said, before hurling an off-brand drain cleaner in the face of Dr. Alexandra Dyer, an ordained priest who has devoted her life to helping others.

The writer doesn’t identify Dyer’s denomination anywhere high in the story, leaving one to wonder if she was an Episcopalian, Lutheran or in some other category. Things get more confusing further on.

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Commercialized cathedrals? Telegraph story has much to Compline about

Commercialized cathedrals? Telegraph story has much to Compline about

People are flocking again to England's grand old cathedrals, and the Telegraph says it knows why: The churches have adopted tactics from the world of retail.

Attendance is sliding at most U.K. parishes but rising at cathedrals, says the newspaper -- more than 10 million last year, up almost a quarter in a decade, says the Telegraph. The churches still boast their historic appeals, the article concedes, but they're also trying new things:

Cathedral clerics say people are often drawn by the traditional music, the contemplative atmosphere and the fact that large city-centre churches offer services at different times of the day and throughout the week.
But several cathedrals have benefited from moves to attract late-night shoppers by opening late themselves.

Like how? Prepare to be amazed, or not:

St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne, has introduced a “night church” idea, opening late on Fridays and inviting people to experience stillness and contemplation.
It also regularly attracts around 300 people for late night compline services.
Salisbury Cathedral has been offering late night classical concerts by candle-light during the summer and Liverpool Cathedral opens its tower late on Thursday evenings.

Not convinced? How about Truro Cathedral? Last Christmas the church "offered its own late night shopping, setting up charity stalls and opening its own Christmas shop and restaurant late, while inviting community music groups to play to lure shoppers in." As if churches have never done anything like that. Try googling "church bazaar" and "church night concert" and you'll find out differently.

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Wait! Which religious schools teach what about the moral status of gay sex?

Wait! Which religious schools teach what about the moral status of gay sex?

In recent years, I have been amazed -- when reading mainstream religion-news coverage -- to see basic moral and cultural beliefs that have been around in traditional forms of for millennia described as convictions that belong to "evangelical" Protestants, alone.

I understand what is going on when this happens. It's easier to bash away at televangelists for saying that sex outside of marriage is sin, as opposed to noting that these same beliefs have been articulated by popes, Orthodox rabbis, traditional Muslim leaders and others. Evangelical Protestants are popular enemies. The problem is that this presentation skews the facts of history.

Thus, I flinched the other day when I read a Salt Lake City Tribune report, picked up by Religion News service, about a Princeton Review ranking of campuses of higher learning that are opposed to recent trends in gay rights. Here is the top of the story. If you are holding a beverage, please set it aside to protect your screen and keyboard.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Brigham Young University remains one of the most hostile campuses in the country for gay and transgender students, according to an annual college ranking list.
But the private university does not top the list of LGBT-unfriendly schools. In fact, it came in sixth in a list of 10, mostly religious, schools. Grove City College (Grove City, Pa.) a Christian liberal arts school of 2,500 students. and Hampden-Sydney College, an all-male liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in Hampden Sydney Va., came in first and second.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that same-sex attraction is not a sin, but that acting on it is.

And? And? Isn't that an accurate description of the beliefs of millions and millions of other believers in a host of different traditions? 

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One spacey assignment: What's the story on alien life and scriptural literalism?

One spacey assignment: What's the story on alien life and scriptural literalism?

My GetReligion posts run under the rubric "Global Wire," so I may be stepping outside my designated orbit with this one. But since our Hubble site -- excuse me, that should be humble website -- provides us near infinite space (Anyone know just how big the internet actually is?) in which to indulge ourselves, I figure, "Why not indulge?"

(Corny lede, you say? Well, excuse me.)

To get to the point, we're talking universalism. Not the sort of doctrinal universalism you might expect on a site devoted to religion journalism. I'm referring to the spacial universalism of, you know, the universe.

Why? Because of this piece spotted earlier this month on the Website of the Washington Post. How could I pass up a story headlined, "Why the Vatican doesn’t think we’ll ever meet an alien Jesus"?

The story followed July's NASA announcement that it's Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft had discovered one of the closest analogues to our own planet found to date, a planet little more than one and a half times as big in radius as Earth and called Kepler 452b. The plant, said The New York Times, "circles a sunlike star in an orbit that takes 385 days, just slightly longer than our own year, putting it firmly in the 'Goldilocks' habitable zone where the temperatures are lukewarm and suitable for liquid water on the surface -- if it has a surface."

So we're talking the possibility of organic life, no matter how primitive, of a sort recognizable to humans. 

Which brings us back to the Post, the Vatican and Jesus.

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Pope Francis and abuse victims: Washington Post pro shows how to report

Pope Francis and abuse victims: Washington Post pro shows how to report

To harp on a favorite theme of mine, you need experienced specialists to cover religion news. Today's case in point is a positive one: the Washington Post's in-depth piece on Catholics who want Pope Francis to address clerical sex abuse during his upcoming U.S. visit.

Rather than relying cheap shots from pressure groups, the Post's Godbeat veteran Michelle Boorstein draws her sources from Catholic authorities or those who have had direct experience with the abuse problem -- some as victims. Their viewpoints range from support to opposition, and the usually neglected points in between.

In the 1,800-word article, victims of priests confess their hopes of pressing a single point to Francis during his September visit to Philadelphia: Do more to root out sex abuse and bring justice to the abused. But the piece adopts an attitude that is not skeptical but adversarial.

The Post gives about half the story to John Salveson, an abuse survivor who has been pressing church authorities for answers off and on since the early 1980s. It reports Salveson's initial letters to his bishop, which got non-answers; then his part in a class-action lawsuit against his diocese, which failed because of a statute of limitations; then his creation of a pressure group, "which advocates for longer criminal statutes of limitations and expanded civil windows for victims to sue."

The article also quotes others, in varying tones of rage and hope.

For rage, we have the father of a deceased victim: "All he does is talk. . . . You think this guy ever worked a day in his life? How could he have empathy for people like us?”  

For hope, another victim: “I think he’s a rock star. He really seems to be someone who genuinely seems to want to get to the bottom of this and stop it.”

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So the first Jesuit pope comes to D.C. and visits one not-so-scary Catholic campus

So the first Jesuit pope comes to D.C. and visits one not-so-scary Catholic campus

If you follow religion news at all, you have probably heard of this Pope Francis fellow. You may even have heard that he is coming to the United States this fall, including a series of media-friendly events in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Readers may even have heard that Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope. Hold that thought.

Detail-oriented folks may want to inspect the actual details of the schedule by clicking here. Yes, we are talking about a hug from President Barack Obama, an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, an address to the United Nations and other events that are automatically "news," on every conceivable level.

Now, the pope will also do some obviously Catholic stuff, which led to a recent report in The Washington Post that focused on one interesting college detail, when comparing this papal Beltway trip with others in the recent past:

For the Catholic faithful, a papal visit is always historic. For one university in the nation’s capital, the upcoming visit of Pope Francis provides special bragging rights: It will be the third papal stop at the Catholic University of America in less than 40 years.
Pope John Paul II came in 1979, and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, came in 2008.
The university in Northeast Washington is a natural destination for a traveling pontiff. Founded in 1887 under a papal charter, Catholic U. is overseen by a board that includes numerous bishops and other church clerics. It is not just affiliated with the church; it is the church’s national university in the United States.

Bragging rights? Hold that thought, too.

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Transgender minister nun gets sympathy piece (aka propaganda) from RNS

Transgender minister nun gets sympathy piece (aka propaganda) from RNS

Same-sex marriage advocates won the day in court, but groups like the Religion News Service have no lack of causes to fight for -- like a nun who ministers to transgender people.

Yes, RNS is fighting for this cause: The story is propaganda thinly posing as a sympathetic profile. It sets up Sister Monica as something like a deep-cover agent for an insurgency.

Think I'm exaggerating? Have a look:

She doesn’t want to reveal the name of the town where she lives, the name of her Catholic order or her real name.
Sister Monica lives in hiding, so that others may live in plain sight.
Now in her early 70s and semiretired because of health problems, she remains committed to her singular calling for the past 16 years: ministering to transgender people and helping them come out of the shadows.
"Many transgender people have been told there’s something wrong with them," she said. "They have come to believe that they cannot be true to themselves and be true to God. But there is no way we can pray, or be in communion with God, except in the truth of who we are."

According to the profile, Sister Monica calls, visits, e-mails and Skypes with transgender people. What she does isn't really spelled out, besides vague phrases of "unflinching love and support" and "pushing her friends to be honest about themselves and their relationships."

Granted, transgender people are becoming more active, including in church circles. A large group of gay and transgender Catholics wants to meet Pope Francis during his September visit to Philadelphia. And about 14 families with gay or transgender members plan to attend the World Meeting of Families, also in Philadelphia.

So sure, the ball is rolling. But it's one thing to report the roll; it's another to push it along.

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Who am I to scrub? Did AP pull story about Pope Francis, teachers and same-sex marriage?

Who am I to scrub? Did AP pull story about Pope Francis, teachers and same-sex marriage?

If you have ever worked for a 24/7 wire service, or worked for a copy desk that deals with wire-service news copy, you know that it's very common for the Associated Press, Reuters and other wires to update stories. Sometimes they even add additional content -- this used to be called a "write-thru" -- that updates a story to make it longer and more complete.

Of course, there are also times when wire-service professionals make mistakes and, thus, their newsrooms issue corrections. Wire corrections are especially important since these organizations produce copy that is literally used in publications all around the world, as opposed to one news publication in one location. Wire mistakes were "viral" long before the digital concept of "viral" was even born.

What is rare, however, is for a wire service to make -- to the best of its ability -- a flawed or incorrect story completely vanish. In the Internet age it is ultra hard to scrub away evidence that a story was published.

However, that appears -- I repeat appears -- to be what happened with the story that GetReligion ripped into yesterday in a post that ran under the headline: "Associated Press editors seem to be saying, 'Who are we to report on Catholic teachings?' "

Now, when I wrote that post, this URL at the Associated Press site took you to a lengthy story that began like this: 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Pope Francis refined his vision for the church last week when he said long-spurned divorced and remarried Catholics should be welcomed with "open doors." And he has famously parsed centuries of thought on homosexuality into a five-word quip: "Who am I to judge?"

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Yo, New York Times: Does everyone agree as to why all those Catholic parishes are closing?

Yo, New York Times: Does everyone agree as to why all those Catholic parishes are closing?

Faithful GetReligion readers know that, in the past, we have praised the New York Times Metro desk team for its coverage of the painful wave of Catholic church closings and parish mergers that has hit the Archdiocese of New York.

However, there has been a rather ironic subplot running through some of the coverage.

You know how your GetReligionistas are always complaining that mainstream reporters always find a way to find each and every possible political thread in religion-news stories, even if there are doctrinal themes that are much more central to the event? Think coverage of papal tours, for examples.

Now, the irony is that the Times team -- when covering these parish mergers and closings -- seems almost completely tone-deaf to some pretty obvious elements of Catholic politics (and real-estate business) linked to this story, elements that are pretty easy to tune in online.

I know that the Times folks know these elements are there, because they have seen them in the past and I praised them for it:

So implied issues of ethnicity, history, economic justice, liturgical style and theology. I've heard of churches exploding in fits of bitterness over the changing of hymnals and stained-glass windows. Imagine closing 50 churches in a city as complex as New York -- with all of the economic questions raised by locations of these facilities.
Air rights? How about prime land in a city with a real-estate and building boom that is almost out of control. For Cardinal Timothy Dolan, there are no easy financial and spiritual decisions here.

But the latest story is totally centered on people and emotions -- which are crucial elements of the story, of course. But there are other layers worth pursuing, especially linked to liturgy and tensions in the church. Oh yes, and demographics loom in the background, once again. 

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