abortion

That's Amoris: Media scramble to cover big release of Pope Francis letter on family

That's Amoris: Media scramble to cover big release of Pope Francis letter on family

Wow, they didn’t rely on clichés.  Major media scrambled today after Pope Francis pulled off a Friday surprise, releasing his eagerly awaited statement on the family. And they didn’t fall back on the tried-and-untrue "Who am I to judge?" and "Pope Francis broke with centuries of tradition, saying that …"

Well, most didn’t. More on that later.

The book-length, 256-page Amoris Laetitia makes for hefty weekend reading, and church officials are calling for careful consideration. As Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said today:

Amoris Laetitia is unusual for its size – more than 250 pages – and the Holy Father himself cautions us to read it with patience and attention.  This is sound guidance, especially in the scramble that always takes place to stamp a particular interpretation on important papal interventions.  My own more developed thoughts will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, we can be thankful for the Holy Father’s thoughts on an issue of real gravity.  Nothing is more essential to any society than the health of marriage and the family.

In the letter, Francis strikes balance between law and grace, restating both church doctrine and an understanding of what contemporary families go through. In turn, media seem to take a sympathetic view of the document -- for now, at least.

Despite a tight deadline, the Washington Post produced an almost feature treatment:

He called for divorced and remarried Catholics to participate more fully in church life. But he closed the door on gay marriage. He quotes Jorge Luis Borges and Jesus Christ. There is an entire chapter on love.
But more than anything, Pope Francis’s long-awaited document on family life, released Friday by the Vatican, amounts to an exultation of traditional marriage while recognizing that life, in his own words, isn’t always “perfect.” Yet rather than judging, he commanded, the church should be a pillar of support.

WaPo sees an ambiguity in Francis' words on divorced and remarried Catholics. It says he maintains that some are living in an “objective situation of sin,” but " he seemed to suggest that such cases should be studied and ruled on one by one."

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The Los Angeles Times on abortion: Does media bias bother anyone any more?

The Los Angeles Times on abortion: Does media bias bother anyone any more?

Just over 25 years ago, the Los Angeles Times’ media writer, David Shaw, did a four-part series on media bias covering abortion. This landmark effort, by a reporter who didn't hide his support for abortion rights, took 18 months and involved 100 interviews with journalists and activists on both sides. It concluded that there was consistent mainstream-media bias favoring the abortion-rights side.

For an elite mainstream news publication to admit that fact was unusual, to say the least.

More than two decades and numerous court rulings later, the Times has come out with another package on abortion, but this time it’s an investigation into how the Center for Medical Progress did a lot more coaching with their undercover agents on how to get Planned Parenthood officials to make inflammatory statements than was first thought.

The Times had student journalists with an investigating reporting program at University of California at Berkeley help them with the research. It begins thus:

She was subdued and sympathetic on camera. Her recollections of collecting fetal tissue and body parts from abortion clinics in northern California lent emotional force to the anti-abortion videos that provoked a furor in Congress last summer.
In footage made public last July, Holly O’Donnell said she had been traumatized by her work for a fetal-tissue brokerage. She described feeling “pain ... and death and eternity” and said she fainted the first time she touched the remains of an aborted fetus.
Unreleased footage filed in a civil court case shows that O’Donnell’s apparently spontaneous reflections were carefully rehearsed. David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist who made the videos, is heard coaching O’Donnell through repeated takes, instructing her to repeat anecdotes, add details, speak “fluidly” and be “very natural.”

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And now, the real pope news: Francis ties media in knots with contraception/Zika remarks

And now, the real pope news: Francis ties media in knots with contraception/Zika remarks

If you didn’t hear all the excitement about Pope Francis seeming to bless contraception during his hour-long presser on the flight back to Rome, you were apparently on another planet because lots of folks were writing about it (just not on A1).

It seems that the pope also said something about Donald Trump. As one Catholic-media professional said, in an email to GetReligion:

Pope Francis signals openness to birth control for Zika virus is the big story, not the Trump thing. The possibility of changing that doctrine because of a mosquito is huge news, far more important than a spat with a multi-billionaire. ... So once again, we see that for the secular media in the U.S., it's all about politics.

So back to the real news. On the plane back to Rome after his Mexico-Cuba trip, Francis let loose once again. Veteran Whispers in the Loggia blogger Rocco Palmo rightly called it an hour-long 12-question extravaganza.

The pope's thoughts on the Zika virus and contraception were among them, albeit they were worked in such a way that it was hard to be sure exactly what he was approving. It takes a theologian to slice and dice the pope’s remarks during a flight, when it’s tough to get reaction from church officials or moral theologians thousands of miles away.

Lengthy airplane pressers are a recent invention in papal history and they have resulted in some of a pope’s most memorable phrases. Francis’ famous “who am I to judge?” quote came during a press conference on the press plane returning to Italy from Brazil in 2013. Most popes are quite tired on the flight home and sometimes let loose some zingers.

So now -- is Francis OK with using birth control in the hard cases or not?

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Why is The Atlantic surprised that early pro-lifers were, uh, liberals?

Why is The Atlantic surprised that early pro-lifers were, uh, liberals?

It always amuses me when a large magazine discovers something about the religious world or culture wars issues that many of us have known about for decades.

Recently, the Atlantic made the surprise discovery that the pro-life movement had some liberal founders. The piece, by Emma Green, is actually a book review of “Defenders of the Unborn,” by University of West Georgia professor Daniel Williams. You may remember Williams from his 2012 book “God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right.” This time around, he’s come out with a tome reminding people that it was the left that first opposed abortion.

The Atlantic's treatment has considerable less snark than a similar New York Times review last month that assumed readers were liberals who can't imagine how someone reasonable could oppose abortion. But it does have some gaps. It starts thus:

Ronald Reagan. Barry Goldwater. George Wallace. These men probably won’t be featured on pro-choice pamphlets any time soon, but during at least some point in their political careers, the Moral Majority-era president, conservative stalwart, and infamous segregationist all favored the legalization of abortion. In the four decades since the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade, the political debate over abortion in America has become stale and polarized, with two sides utterly divided and little change in public opinion. But in the years leading up to Roe, many people’s views on abortion didn’t fit neatly into either liberal or conservative ideology. In fact, early anti-abortion activists viewed their cause as a struggle for civil and human rights, of a piece with social programs like the New Deal and the Great Society.
In a new book, "Defenders of the Unborn," the historian Daniel K. Williams looks at the first years of the self-described pro-life movement in the United States, focusing on the long-overlooked era before Roe. It’s somewhat surprising that the academy hasn’t produced such a history before now, although Williams says that’s partially because certain archives have only recently opened. But the gap in scholarship is also partly due to the difficulty of putting abortion into a single intellectual framework.

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Concerning the Planned Parenthood shooting suspect: Did the Devil make him do it?

Concerning the Planned Parenthood shooting suspect: Did the Devil make him do it?

Did the Devil make him do it?

In a massive front-page story today, The New York Times delves deeper into the background of Robert L. Dear Jr., the suspect in last week's shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Earlier this week, GetReligion highlighted the two prevailing media streams concerning Dear and the "Why?" factor in an attack that left three dead and nine wounded.

In today's report, that dichotomy of certifiable lunatic vs. religious anti-abortion warrior prevails again. The Times paints an in-depth portrait of "an angry and occasionally violent man who seemed deeply disturbed and deeply contradictory."

The Times opens with a focus on Dear's religion:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The man she had married professed to be deeply religious. But after more than seven years with Robert L. Dear Jr., Barbara Micheau had come to see life with him as a kind of hell on earth.
By January 1993, she had had enough. In a sworn affidavit as part of her divorce case, Ms. Micheau described Mr. Dear as a serial philanderer and a problem gambler, a man who kicked her, beat her head against the floor and fathered two children with other women while they were together. He found excuses for his transgressions, she said, in his idiosyncratic views on Christian eschatology and the nature of salvation.
“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions,” Ms. Micheau said in the court document. “He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.”

But then the story moves to Dear's views on abortion:

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A tale of two Colorado Springs media streams: crazed gunman vs. anti-abortion soldier

A tale of two Colorado Springs media streams: crazed gunman vs. anti-abortion soldier

In the wake of Friday's shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., there seem to be two major media streams going when it comes to the gunman and any link that he has to the "why?" factor in this story. 

The last two front pages of The New York Times are a perfect place to see what I'm talking about.

First is the stream that focuses on actual facts known about Robert L. Deal Jr., the man accused of killing three people and wounding nine in Colorado's second-largest city.

Yes, there is some religion in there if you dig deep. For example, Sunday's Times delved into Deal's bizarre personal history but found no institutional links between him and either organized religion or the pro-life movement.

Readers did learn a few details about Deal's religious background, as the Times quoted Deal's former wife, Pamela Ross (no relation to this writer):

Mr. Dear was raised as a Baptist, Ms. Ross said in an interview in Goose Creek, S.C., where she now lives. He was religious but not a regular churchgoer, a believer but not one to harp on religion. “He believed wholeheartedly in the Bible,” she said. “That’s what he always said; he read it cover to cover to cover.” But he was not fixated on it, she added.

Later in the story, religion figured tangentially as the newspaper recounted Deal's interesting, to say the least, Internet postings:

He seemed to have a separate life online. An online personals ad seeking women in North Carolina interested in bondage and sadomasochistic sex showed a picture that appeared to be Mr. Dear and used an online pseudonym associated with him. The same user also appeared to have turned to online message boards to seek companions in the Asheville area with whom he could smoke marijuana.

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Pope Francis in Kenya: AP gets some details, but misses the 'big idea,' in his message

Pope Francis in Kenya: AP gets some details, but misses the 'big idea,' in his message

Pope Francis has been on the road, again, which means that it's time for more stories about the political implications of his sermons and off-the-cuff remarks to the flocks of people who gather to pray and worship with him.

This is business as usual, of course. Want to play along and see how this works in a typical Associated Press report?

OK, first we'll look at the many excellent details from one of the Kenya talks that made it into the AP report, which ran in The Washington Post with this headline: "Pope calls slum conditions in Nairobi an injustice."

As you read several chunks of the story, ask yourself this big-idea question: What does this pope believe is the ultimate cause of this injustice?

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Visiting one of Nairobi’s many shantytowns on Friday, Pope Francis denounced conditions slum-dwellers are forced to live in, saying access to safe water is a basic human right and that everyone should have dignified, adequate housing. ...
In remarks to the crowd, Francis insisted that everyone should have access to water, a basic sewage system, garbage collection, electricity as well as schools, hospitals and sport facilities.
“To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need,” he said.

Now, I think it is fair to ask: Is safe water the "big idea" in this talk, or is the pope saying that safe water is a symptom of larger problems? Hold that thought, as we head back to the AP text:

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MSNBC wins for worst headline on pope, confession, forgiveness and abortion

MSNBC wins for worst headline on pope, confession, forgiveness and abortion

 Those of us who aren’t Catholic or haven’t had abortions -- or both -- may not be familiar with the intricacies of how the Catholic Church forgives women who have had them. A woman is automatically excommunicated if she has an abortion, but if the sin is confessed and she repents, the normal policy has been that a bishop must be involved in restoring her to the church. The same policy has applied to men and women directly involved in performing abortions.

Most bishops in the United States have delegated such power of absolution to their priests, so it’s not huge news that Catholic clergy have the power to forgive abortions during confessions.

But apparently not all priests around the world have that latitude. Thus, Pope Francis, who has an amazing ability to gauge what the public wants together with what his church's doctrines will allow, announced Tuesday morning that:

I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.

The press coverage of this act has been interesting to say the least -- as you can see in the art at the top of this post. Our own Bobby Ross, Jr., dove into the topic early yesterday and here is your update on what happened later.

First, there’s the New York Post, which ran a story under this headline: “The Catholic Church will now forgive your abortion.” Well … not quite. The church has been forgiving abortions for quite some time, so that snark was undeserved. The text of the article was a bit more precise but still carried a few digs:

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Wait, did Pope Francis just change Catholic doctrine on abortion? Or did he simply tell people to go to confession?

Wait, did Pope Francis just change Catholic doctrine on abortion? Or did he simply tell people to go to confession?

I'm not Catholic.

So I was befuddled when I saw this Associated Press news alert this morning:

BREAKING: Pope to let all priests in Holy Year absolve people from `sin of abortion' if they repent.

I wondered: Can priests not forgive abortion under normal circumstances? Is abortion ordinarily an unforgivable sin for Catholics? (My apologies to tmatt for not paying close enough attention.)

In an email to GetReligion, a reader complained:

This is in the vein of "Breaking news! Pope Francis changing everything about the mean, backward Catholic church!" while Pope Francis reiterates the orthodoxy taught by all his successors. My head is exploding. May the truth reign in the hearts of all.

I started clicking links to see if I could make sense of this breaking news.

The full AP report provided important context:

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis declared Tuesday he is allowing all priests in the church's upcoming Year of Mercy to absolve women of the "sin of abortion" if they repent with a "contrite heart."
Reflecting his papacy's central theme of mercy, Francis said in letter published Tuesday by the Vatican that he has met many women bearing "the scar of this agonizing" decision to abort. He said God's forgiveness cannot be denied to those who repent, and thus is giving all priests the discretion to absolve the sin in the Holy Year of Mercy running Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016.
The church views abortion as such as grave sin that, until now, a Catholic woman who wanted to repent for an abortion could not simply go to her local parish priest. Instead, her diocese's bishop needed to delegate a priest, expert at dealing with such confessions, to hear the woman's confession.

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