Breaking news about the pope of Rome

What we have here is an example of a very serious religion-news story, one that is worthy of serious coverage in the mainstream press. A newspaper has covered it and that is good. Kind of.

However, this story from Toronto also contains one of the scream-out-loud hilarious mistakes that I have seen in the entire history of GetReligion. You literally could not make this one up. No way.

So where to start? The serious story, of course. What we have here is another clash between an ancient faith (in this case Coptic Orthodoxy) and the moral tug of modernity (symbolized this time around by the government of Canada). What makes this case interesting is that educators in Catholic institutions have been caught in the middle of the conflict.

Here's the top of this Toronto Star report by the "visual arts" (?!?) reporter:

The president of the Canadian Egyptian Congress is urging parents to reject a call by a Coptic Orthodox priest to pull some 4,000 children out of the Catholic school system if it adopts a policy more accepting of homosexuality and religious difference.

The school board has proposed an Equity and Inclusive Education policy, to be voted on at the end of August, that softens some strictures of Catholic doctrine to fall more in line with provincial standards.

“The kids have friends, they have a place to go, and they would lose that,” Nazeer Bishay said. ... “And besides, we don’t have enough schools for all of them. So we will lobby, we will pressure the board, we will keep up the fight. But we do not recommend withdrawal.” He and others in the Coptic Orthodox community plan to schedule a meeting with the Toronto Catholic District School Board to discuss their concerns.

At this point, the Star does something very logical, which is to explain why Coptic Orthodox children would be attending Catholic schools in the first place.

Oh, sorry, the story doesn't really do that. That would have been an interesting point to make, since I would be willing to bet that Coptic parents have been making these decisions in order to send their children to schools with moral doctrines that echo those in their own faith. In this case, the parents may also have hoped that the schools would stand firm on underlining the differences between ancient Christianity and Islam, a subject that matters to Copts.

However, what this story does attempt to do is, in one paragraph, explain the differences between Copts and Catholics, since someone must have mentioned that both churches have hierarchies that feature a leader with that highly newsworthy title -- "pope."

If you are holding a beverage of any kind, please put it down on a flat surface several feet away from your computer keyboard.

Ready? Proceed with caution.

Though most in the Coptic Orthodox community send their children to Catholic school, they are not Catholic themselves. The differences are slight -- they use the same liturgies, though Orthodox Christians differ from Roman Catholics in their belief that the Pope is a human being, not a divine figure -- which has meant Coptic Orthodox children most often are sent to Catholic school.

All together now: Catholics teach that their pope is WHAT?!?!

A "divine figure"? What in the world does that mean?

While we are at it, in Associated Press style the word "pope" should be lower-case when it stands alone. Also, I should mention that there are major liturgical differences between the Divine Liturgy as celebrated in Coptic Orthodox congregations and the Mass as observed in Western Rite Catholic parishes.

All of that, needless to say, is small potatoes compared with the howler about the pope somehow sliding into the Holy Trinity or Holy Quartet as some kind of "divine figure."

Obviously there should be a correction. However, it does not appear that the editors of the Star will take that honorable path. Instead, the online version of the story now reads:

Though most in the Coptic Orthodox community send their children to Catholic school, they are not Catholic themselves. The differences are slight, which has meant Coptic Orthodox children most often are sent to Catholic school.

No mention of an error being corrected.

Nothing to see here. Please move along.

Images: Coptic Pope Shenouda III and, second, Pope Benedict XVI.

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