Did Pope Francis really give his own Curia a "blistering attack" for Christmas?

Did Pope Francis really give his own Curia a "blistering attack" for Christmas?

Call it truth in advertising--though not in reporting. Religion News Service's story on Pope Francis's Christmas address to the Curia bears a headline that aptly sums up its spin: "Pope Francis to Curia: Merry Christmas, you power-hungry hypocrites."

The lede signals that we have before us the mainstream media's familiar "Francis as radical" meme:

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis launched a blistering attack on the Vatican bureaucracy on Monday (Dec. 22), outlining a “catalog of illnesses” that plague the church’s central administration, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and gossipy cliques. 
The pope’s traditional Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was more “Bah! Humbug!” than holiday cheer as he ticked off a laundry list of “ailments of the Curia” that he wants to cure. 
In a critique that left many of the assembled clerics clearly uncomfortable, the 15 ailments in Francis’ “catalog of illnesses” reflected the take-no-prisoners approach he promised when he was elected nearly two years ago as an outsider with little direct experience in Rome. 

The pope is an "outsider" with a "take-no-prisoners approach"? Don't hold back, RNS; tell us what you really feel.

  Seriously, did Francis's tone in speaking to the Curia actually warrant such hyperbole? A GetReligion reader who read the full text of the pope's address says no:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Pope Francis writes (cue: news crickets) urgent letter on Islamic State and religious persecution (updated)

Pope Francis writes (cue: news crickets) urgent letter on Islamic State and religious persecution (updated)

Maybe I am wrong on this, but I was under the impression that media superstar Pope Francis could say just about anything right now (other than affirming Catholic moral teachings, of course) and draw major coverage from the mainstream press.

Apparently I was wrong. Why do I say this?

Well, right now the biggest religion-news story in the world is the rise of the Islamic State and its reign of terror in the Middle East. You can look that up.

At the same time, Pope Francis remains the most important religious voice on the planet, in terms of media coverage. You can look that up, too.

Now, toss in the annual editorial need to find valid Christmas news stories and one would assume that journalists would devote quite a bit of attention if Pope Francis issued a strongly-worded Christmas letter of encouragement to people being massacred by the Islamic State. Am I right about that?

Apparently not.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

So, who’s training tomorrow’s 'mainline' Protestant pastors?

So, who’s training tomorrow’s 'mainline' Protestant pastors?

Seasoned by a religion bachelor’s from the University of Chicago and a Harvard divinity degree, John Lomperis now monitors his United Methodist Church for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. This small, controversial D.C. think tank, devoutly conservative in both theology and politics, follows developments in U.S. “mainline” Protestant denominations, which others often ignore nowadays.

A Lomperis item for www.realclearreligion.org spotted hopeful signs for fellow conservatives, leading off with this: “Far more American United Methodists ordained last year graduated from [Asbury Theological Seminary] than seven of the UMC’s official seminaries combined. This continues a longtime trend of Asbury contributing an outsized pipeline of new, evangelical clergy coming into United Methodism.”

There’s a much broader Protestant story here awaiting development.

Independent evangelical seminaries that have grown exponentially since World War II affect not only conservative groups but the pluralistic or liberal “mainline” denominations where minority evangelicals exercise minimal influence on national programs but persist at the local level.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Rites of mourning, anger and faith in New York City's changing public square (updated)

Rites of mourning, anger and faith in New York City's changing public square (updated)

Anyone looking for the high-church rites of American civil religion need only pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where the symbols of government, power, duty and sacrifice are blended into the religious traditions of those who have died.

The same thing happens in major cities, especially in New York, when police officers and firefighters die in the line of duty. This is made perfectly clear in a lengthy and fascinating news feature from the metro desk of The New York Times, following the stunning execution of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.

All of the political intrigue is included in this story, of course, amid the rising and very public tensions between the city's police and Mayor Bill de Blasio. If you have not already seen it, watch the video at the top of this post for one of the key events.

But this story focuses on the next step -- the funerals. Will the mayor speak? What happens if he chooses to do so? The mayor has already stated that he will attend both events.

"Events"? How about "worship services"? This is where the story, briefly, gets very interesting:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

Back in January, former Seventh-day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell made national headlines with his New Year's resolution to "live without God" for a year.

Now, with Bell's publicity-grabbing experiment nearly over, he's back in the news — courtesy of an in-depth, front-page story in the Los Angeles Times.

The Times piece opens with this scene:

"Uh, I'm not exactly sure about all this," Ryan Bell said as he scanned the scene inside a darkened Las Vegas convention hall.
A stripper whirled her hips. A rock band pumped out a song about cannibalism. A man's shouting hung briefly over the packed crowd: "God is dead!"
For nearly two decades, Bell had pastored congregations of Seventh-day Adventists, among the most conservative denominations in Christianity. How had he ended up at a gathering of atheists and skeptics in Sin City?
It had been a long time coming. For years now, it felt as if his prayers weren't being answered. He secretly wondered whether a higher power existed at all.
So, last Dec. 31, he published a blog post that went viral.
"For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God," he typed. "I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result)."
Now it was July, just over midway in his journey. Bell had spent as much time as he could reading about science and philosophy, interviewing agnostics and atheists, working to decide what he would believe when the year was done.

Keep reading, and the writer explores Bell's faith journey — journey away from faith, that is — primarily from Bell's own perspective.

As for what the article means when it describes Seventh-day Adventists as "among the most conservative denominations in Christianity," readers are left to wonder.

 

 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Le Figaro finds that pope Francis may have lost his touch

Le Figaro finds that pope Francis may have lost his touch

Only a very few journalists working in the field of religion reporting today consistently produce quality work distinguished by a pleasing and fluid skill with language, a deep knowledge of the field, discrimination, and a maturity of insight that enables the journalist to offer just the right remark or vignette that takes a story a level beyond reporting to journalism.

Jean-Marie Guénois, Le Figaro’s religion reporter, is just such a craftsman. His reports from Pope Francis’ trip last month to Strasbourg to address the European parliament have been the most well rounded, considered and intelligent of the reports I have read of this event.

A great deal has been written about what the pope said on November 25 when he addressed the European Parliament -- and most of what has been written is of high quality. The BBC, New York Times, the wire services, and major European newspapers have accurately conveyed the concerns Francis has for Europe.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The Baltimore Sun covers most of the voices in that controversial non-controversial D.C. art exhibit about the Virgin Mary

The Baltimore Sun covers most of the voices in that controversial non-controversial D.C. art exhibit about the Virgin Mary

The current exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts is, as described in a weekend Baltimore Sun feature, certainly sounds like an "embarrassment of riches," featuring works by Michelangelo, Durer, Botticelli and Titian. Some of the art has never been in an American exhibit before. As the museum's website notes:

Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea explores the concept of womanhood represented by the Virgin Mary as well as the social and sacred functions her image has served through time. This landmark exhibition organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts brings together more than 60 Renaissance- and Baroque-era masterworks from the Vatican Museums, Uffizi Gallery, and other museums, churches, and private collections in Europe and the United States.
Divided into six thematic sections, the exhibition presents images of Mary as a daughter, cousin, and wife; the mother of an infant; a bereaved parent; the protagonist in a rich life story developed through the centuries; a link between heaven and earth; and an active participant in the lives of those who revere her.

However, there is a problem.

Since the exhibit takes a rather conventional approach and focuses on a specific period of time in art history, it suffers from an shocking lack of elephant dung.

In other words, this exhibit has -- among a elite art critics -- become controversial because it is not causing controversy among (wait for it) religious believers who are, by definition, opposed to modern art. As the Sun report notes:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Violence against Christians in India: Washington Post reports undercovered story

Violence against Christians in India: Washington Post reports undercovered story

You just might stop complaining about the Christmas rush after reading a horrendous Washington Post story about persecution of Christians in India.

The story goes in depth, but it also carries a fierce, urgent note. I don’t usually paste at length, but this passage is worth it:

ALIGARH, India — The trouble started a few months ago, when Hindu nationalists swept into a small village where several families had converted to Christianity more than a decade earlier. They held a fire purification ceremony with the villagers, tore a cross off the local church and put up a poster of the god Shiva. The space was now a temple, they declared.
Then right-wing Hindu groups announced a Christmas Day ceremony where they planned to welcome hundreds of Christians and Muslims back to Hinduism. A fundraising flier solicited donations for volunteers to do the conversions — about $3,200 for each Christian and about $8,000 for each Muslim.
After a nationwide furor, organizers postponed the ceremony on Tuesday. But one of them, Rajeshwar Singh Solanki, said in an interview Thursday they will demonstrate against any church baptisms performed on the holiday. He said his group’s ultimate aim is to ensure that Islam and Christianity “cease to exist” in India.
Christians in Aligarh say they are afraid of what might happen on their holiest of days.
“We just want security from the government, particularly on Christmas,” said Ajay Joseph, 39, a lab technician.

The sweeping article musters three reporters who quote seven sources, including church and political leaders. It also draws from Indian outlets, Scroll and New Delhi Television. And it gets background from three articles in the Post's own deep database.

The story also gives some numbers. It notes, for instance, that Christians comprise just a little more than 2 percent of India's 1.2 billion people. It doesn't have to drop the other shoe: "Militants are getting upset over a group this small?"

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Your weekend think piece(s): Listening in as conservative Catholics cheer for Pope Francis

Your weekend think piece(s): Listening in as conservative Catholics cheer for Pope Francis

Yes, this is an op-ed piece by George Weigel who is a Catholic conservative. But every now and then, it really helps to read advocacy pieces by thinkers on the right and the left, especially when they bring up interesting facts that cut against then grain of normal coverage in the mainstream press.

In this case, Weigel is noting what many doctrinally conservative Catholics have noted, as of late, which is that the contents of remarks made by Pope Francis the media superstar are often more complex when viewed in context. This is the latest piece noting that, yes, this pope is in fact Catholic. Here is how this piece was framed in the morning memo from Religion News Service:

... Catholic theologian George Weigel says the Francis Effect is overdrawn. The pope is pretty conventional on a bunch of Catholic issues. That may be true, but he did just buy 400 Roman homeless sleeping bags as part of his birthday celebration. So maybe another way to look at it is that he’s a doer, not just a talker.

Uh, what is unconventional -- in terms of basic Christian doctrine -- about a shepherd providing aid for the poor?

Meanwhile, back to Weigel's "Francis filtered" piece. The metaphor here is that once journalists decided that Francis was learning to the left on doctrine, that narrative spread like bamboo. Here's a key chunk of his pro-Francis piece:

Please respect our Commenting Policy