Washington Post looks at Kentucky same-sex marriage wars, sees only two armies

Washington Post looks at Kentucky same-sex marriage wars, sees only two armies

If you are following the mainstream media coverage of the case of Kim Davis, the elected clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, then you have basically been reading about a dispute with two sides.

On one side are the gay citizens who want to get married in this county. On the other side is an outspoken Christian who, as an act of Christian conscience, has stopped handing out marriage licenses to anyone, rather than be forced to hand them out to those planning same-sex unions.

The mainstream coverage has been very vivid and full of human details. However, there is an interesting void in the stories that I am seeing in elite media (and let's not even talk about television). To spot this gap, ask yourself this question as you read the news coverage on this story in the next few days: Is Ms. Davis trying to stop gay citizens from getting married? Yes or no. In fact, is her primary goal to stop them from getting married in he county?

Now, let's look at some of the Washington Post coverage, starting with an update filed late in yesterday's news cycle. The following passage gives readers both a status report in the standoff and a look at the drama on the scene:

U.S. District Judge David Bunning has set a hearing for 11 a.m. Thursday to determine whether to hold Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in contempt, a charge that could carry with it a fine or jail time.
Davis’s decision came on a day of heated protests here. Dozens of supporters -- and critics -- of the county’s elected clerk gathered outside the courthouse, and at times inside the lobby, as gay couples tried, unsuccessfully, to get marriage licenses. After one couple was rebuffed, Davis emerged from a back office to explain that she would not be issuing any licenses.

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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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Here's your up-to-date roadmap of the so-called American 'culture wars'

Here's your up-to-date roadmap of the so-called American 'culture wars'

On August 20, what was billed as an “unprecedented” alliance of 130 national organizations wrote President Barack Obama asking an end to federal grants for  religious social-service agencies that hire only employees who share their beliefs. The petition denounced the Bush administration Department of Justice’s “erroneous and dangerous” 2007 argument allowing such discrimination.  Ninety such groups sent a similar protest to then-Attorney General Eric Holder last year.

This is an important church-state issue that has entangled the Salvation Army, among others, in local situations, and a change in federal policy would certainly be news. Such petitions are a routine  feature of interest group maneuvers in Washington, but this particular one gives reporters an up-to-date roadmap of America’s “culture wars.” Like so:

The petition signers’ unnamed opponent is Evangelical Protestantism. The DOJ’s 2007 legal blessing responded to complaints about a $1.5 million federal grant to World Vision for mentoring, tutoring, and job training with “at-risk” youths. Like many evangelical organizations, World Vision famously hires staff members who agree with its religious beliefs and values, including traditional heterosexual marriage. 

The endorsers have been regular antagonists of Evangelicalism and also of Catholicism on a variety of issues.

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The New York Times isn't sure what to make of Pope Francis and Medjugorje

The New York Times isn't sure what to make of Pope Francis and Medjugorje

It’s been 25 years since I visited Medjugorje, the village in Bosnia and Herzegovina where six teenagers claimed the Virgin Mary began appearing to them daily. Marian appearances aren’t uncommon; look at the devotion around places like Fatima and Lourdes. But these teenagers, ages 10-16, had a late 20th century take on Mary’s purported sayings; threats of worldwide cataclysms and a sign that would appear on a local mountain.

Despite a number of hardships in the early years, they stuck to their story. I’d been following this phenomenon for several years when in May 1990, a Roman Catholic group invited me to accompany them to the site for an article I published to the Houston Post. 

Not being Catholic, there were some aspects, such as the constant praying of the Rosary by seemingly everyone there, that didn’t appeal. Of course I noticed the souvenir shops (of which there were only a few at that point) and how much they were charging for a simple Mary statue. Then again, pilgrims were tramping all over their tiny roads, vineyards and tobacco fields, making a normal life fairly difficult. Were I a local, I’d have opened up a shop and B&B too.

And then nearly 10 years to the day the apparitions began, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, sparking a war that ravaged that part of the world. Thus, some of Mary’s purported prophecies of war were fulfilled, at least in the short term. Which is why I was interested to see the New York Times’ story about the site now that the Vatican is poised to make a ruling on the authenticity of the apparitions.

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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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America's hidden nightmares: Where did Wes Craven's haunting visions come from?

America's hidden nightmares: Where did Wes Craven's haunting visions come from?

Does it really matter that the Rev. Billy Graham and Hollywood shock-master Wes Craven are both products of Wheaton College, one of America's most important and symbolic evangelical Protestant institutions of any kind?

Well, that depends. On one level -- as someone who has taught in Christian colleges -- I find it interesting that a school as good as Wheaton has not produced legions of excellent screenwriters, journalists, directors, popular musicians, etc. However, the school (and this is normal for the evangelical world) has produced many fine thinkers and scholars, along with armies of people who work in Christian magazines, Christian publishing, Christian video production, Christian public relations, etc.

In a lecture on faith and vocations linked to the creation of culture, I always ask my students to name 10 famous evangelical Hollywood film directors. Then I ask them to do the same with Catholic film directors (devout and struggling). It's not a fair fight.

But back to Craven. At the heart of his most famous work was an image of a monster created by the sins of PARENTS, coming back to slice and dice their CHILDREN, who are attacked while they are, as one critic put it, safe in the "womb" of sleep. And what are those things on the monster's fingers? Surgical curettes?

Craven insisted that the key to his success was an understanding of what Americans fear the most, the subjects that cause intense nightmares of guilt, pain, shame and terror. Children dying because of the sins of their parents? Now that's an interesting vision right after, oh, 1973 or so.

Thus, I was rather stunned that The Los Angeles Times obituary for Craven (1) does not even include a reference to his famous alma mater and (2) did so little to explore the creative urges of this particular superstar director. And the New York Times? Hold that thought.

Here's the key material from the Los Angeles Times piece:

For Craven, making a scary movie was far more than simply a matter of delivering cheap shocks. It was an exercise in societal catharsis, a foray into the audience's collective unconscious.

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New York Times unveils the lies and scams of fortunetelling -- or does it?

New York Times unveils the lies and scams of fortunetelling -- or does it?

It's nice when a newspaper answers its own questions so fast, even leading with a quote it repeats right away. Like when the New York Times ran a gleeful expose' on psychics, fortunetellers and others around the city. But the Times leaves other big questions unanswered.

The article is meant to show that the diviners are increasingly giving up and fessing up that it's all a scam. But the article doesn't prove the point -- either that it's all "baloney" or that growing numbers of psychics are coming clean.

Here is how the 1,100 words start:

Is it real? Or a bunch of baloney? It’s a question New Yorkers and visitors to the city may ask themselves when they pass any of the seemingly countless storefront fortunetellers.
Celia Mitchell, 38, was pointedly asked that exact question last year: “What is the psychic business? Is it real, or a bunch of baloney?”
She answered, “It’s a scam, sir.”
“The whole thing is a scam?”
“Yes.”

Mitchell thereby "joined a very specific group: convicted psychics who, seeking an early release from prison, sit for interviews before the parole board," the Times says. Specific and limited, although the newspaper says "that number may soon grow."

In the article, Mitchell is one of four psychics who admit fakery to parole boards. She took $159,205 to banish a "dark spirit." Another psychic admitted telling customers what they wanted to hear.  A third got people to pay her to buy "charms and rituals," according to a previous Times story. Still another is charged with promising to reunite two lovers, even though the woman was dead.

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#RNA2015: Yes, Peter Smith wins again as Religion Newswriters Association honors best of the Godbeat

#RNA2015: Yes, Peter Smith wins again as Religion Newswriters Association honors best of the Godbeat

We don't play favorites here at GetReligion.

OK, sometimes we do — such as where Pittsburgh Post-Gazette religion writer Peter Smith is concerned.

When it comes to quality journalism on the religion beat, a Peter Smith byline generally is a slam dunk.

So we weren't surprised over the weekend when Smith won the Religion Newswriters Association's first-place award for religion reporting at metropolitan newspapers.

Again.

The Pittsburgh writer was just one of a number of Godbeat all-stars who received recognition at the RNA's annual awards banquet in Philadelphia (see the full list of winners).

You can find links to all the winning stories on RNA's website. 

Smith's first-place entry included his in-depth project on immigrant religion — the subject of a 5Q+1 interview last November.

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There he goes again? Pope Francis sends 'apostolic blessing' to gay writer and her family

There he goes again? Pope Francis sends 'apostolic blessing' to gay writer and her family

At various times and in many different ways, priests bless things.

Most notably, at the end of a liturgy, the priest blesses the whole congregation -- pretty much no matter who is out there in the pews or what these people may or may not have done. Priests have been known to entire bless crowds at other public events.

It's a blessing. Priests give out lots of them. So does the pope, come to think of it..

Most importantly, it's not the moment at the end of Confession when, after hearing the penitent confess his or her sins, the priest extends his hand over the person's head and says:

ABSOLUTION
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
The penitent answers: Amen.

This brings us to yet another one of those moments when Pope Francis takes an action that shocks people in the mainstream media, even though it is not all that shocking to people who are active in the Catholic Church.

Wait, is The Daily Beast mainstream media? Well, this particular story is pretty straightforward news, so let's go for it since it has the key information in one chunk. We'll jump in at the summary material:

The latest in a long list of dust-ups came this week when Francis apparently gave his blessing to Francesca Pardi, a children’s book author who happens to be lesbian and who has a title on the list of banned books in the Venice school district that has sparked a feud between Venice mayor Luigi Bugnaro and the likes of Elton John. 

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