I would have thought that, in the wake of the recent media storm about the Synod on the Family, almost anything that Pope Francis said in public on that topic would be big news in the mainstream press.
Turns out, that is not the case. But I will plunge on.
What if Pope Francis -- media superstar, par excellence -- even said something blunt and controversial about the meaning of a word like "family"? What if, in said quote, he even used a typically earthy Francis term like "bastardized"? Surely that would draw coverage?
With all of that in mind, consider the top of this Vatican City report from the Catholic News Agency (as opposed to The New York Times, NPR, Comedy Central or something mainstream):
In an audience with members of an international Marian movement, Pope Francis warned that the sacrament of marriage has been reduced to a mere association, and urged participants to be witnesses in a secular world.
“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience. He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”
“What is being proposed is not marriage, it's an association. But it's not marriage! It's necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed. He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”
OK, that was blunt. Did he get into any specifics?
Noting that there are many who cohabitate, or are separated or divorced, he explained that the “key” to helping is a pastoral care of “close combat” that assists and patiently accompanies the couple.
Notice that these quotes, drawn from a question-and-answer session, actually mentioned several of the most controversial topics from the recent synod. Based on what I am reading, the issue of working with divorces Catholics is actually the topic that, over the next 12 months, stands a good chance of jumping out of Catholic cyberspace chatter and into reality.
Surely it would be news in Pope Francis openly shared some of his views on what has happened to modern marriage -- inside and outside the church?
Consider this CNS material. Would there be a reaction of the pope was quoted saying this in The Washington Post?
... Pope Francis explained that contemporary society has “devalued” the sacrament by turning it into a social rite, removing the most essential element, which is union with God.
“So many families are divided, so many marriages broken, (there is) such relativism in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage,” he said, noting that from a sociological and Christian point of view “there is a crisis in the family because it's beat up from all sides and left very wounded!”
So what is the key issue here? Why didn't these remarks draw ink?
It's kind of like when the world press rushed to quote this pope saying that the church needed to stop being obsessed with issues such as abortion -- even suggesting that Catholics who continued to speak out on the topic were violating the new "spirit" or "tone" established by Francis. The same journalists were not as interested, a day or three later, when this same pope spoke at a major pro-life gather, offering some very strong words on the materialistic worldview that fuels what Saint John Paul II called the "culture of death."
Pope Francis made these new remarks on the family at a Marian conference, for heaven's sake. Who covers conferences about Mary? That can't be a valid setting for news. Right? And maybe the pope didn't say, well, the right things about the family?