True or untrue!?!

newsboyGreetings from London, GetReligion readers! My five days in the British capitol find me on the edge of my seat, per the huge news I keep reading in the easy-to-read-in-the-tube tabloids! So much seems to be happening! The families of delinquent children receiving £5,000 for misbehaving! Fathers receiving 6 months paternity leave! And the BBC asking for more British taxpayer money! OK, so it's not that exciting over here, but it's certainly a change of pace from the staid Washington papers. I have noticed, in my completely unscientific poll of the London papers, an absence of religion coverage, but that's not saying that there isn't any.

Speaking of which, let's move onto more important things that don't include the newspaper headlines I've been reading.

One of our readers, Francis, found this article in the Times of London "interesting." On a first read, I also found it interesting and also completely frustrating because it reads as a hit piece by an authority who knows little about religion. The headline, "Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible," is enough to give anyone who knows anything about the Catholic Church heartburn. After that, the piece is all downhill:

The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect "total accuracy" from the Bible.

"We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision," they say in The Gift of Scripture.

The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.

I'm sure the Catholic bishops of England, Scotland and Wales were thinking of the rise of the evil religious right when they "warned" their parishioners that Catholics do not swear to the absolute truth of the Bible. And since when was a group of bishops from Great Britain "the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church"?

Sullivan weighs in, and is predictably caught up in the misleading nature of the article:

Of course. Anyone who believes that the world was literally created in six days a few thousand years ago is not expressing his or her "religious beliefs". Believing something that is demonstrably and empirically untrue is not religion. It is simply superstition or lunacy. It has nothing to do with faith in things we cannot know. The notion that it should actually be taught in public schools as science is beneath even debating.

I am not a Catholic, but I do know a thing or two about the Catholic Church, and one is that official Church doctrine has long rejected its traditional position regarding the absolute accuracy of the Holy Scriptures from a modern historical and scientific perspective. Then why is this paragraph in the article, referring to this somehow groundbreaking document?

The document shows how far the Catholic Church has come since the 17th century, when Galileo was condemned as a heretic for flouting a near-universal belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible by advocating the Copernican view of the solar system.

Right. From condemning Galileo to "some parts of the Bible are not actually true."

And while this is possibly an editing oversight, the end of the article contains a list of passages from the Old and New Testaments citing, as fact, those that are true and those that are untrue, but it fails to cite a source.

Jimmy Akin has a much thorough breakdown of the articles failures than I could ever provide (and delivers quite a smackdown, by the way), so I encourage you to read more here if you're interested. Here's a snippet:

Ooooooh! That's completely different, then! It ain't "the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church" but just the bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland that issued the document!

Gledhill must have been raised in a non-Euclidian universe where the fallacy of composition works, so that you can identify the part with the whole without fear of inaccuracy.

Things -- including news reporting -- must be so much simpler in Gledhill's universe of origin, what without having to worry about that pesky part/whole distinction.

Over there the Vatican has probably not bothered calling any ecumenical councils gathering all of the world's bishops to speak for the Church. They've just let the bishops of Great Britain issue all of the Church's official statements. Maybe the pope is even based in non-Euclidian England!

So why is this, along with the many other 32-point type headlined stories that I've read in the last few days, news to anyone? I guess you have to do something to sell newspapers these days, along with free DVD offers blasted across the upper folds. With these trends making their way across the Pond, I worry about the future of American journalism, though I wouldn't mind a tabloid size Post or Times for my morning yogurt and eggs, minus the big headlines of course.

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