Occasionally it happens that a mainstream news organization publishes a story so blatantly biased that it seems incredible it should appear under the label of "news" rather than "commentary." That, I am afraid, is the case with a Boston.com piece on Catholics and others who refuse to support the ALS Association's "Ice Bucket Challenge" because it funds embryonic stem-cell research.
The headline of the article by Boston.com staff reporter Sara Morrison (who calls herself a "noted Internet snark woman") says it all: "There’s a New Anti-ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge." Normally, your GetReligionistas don't call out reporters by name, but this case is rather obvious.
Right away, according to Boston.com (an online subsidiary of the Boston Globe), the pro-lifers who oppose the viral fund-raising campaign are painted as an "anti-ALS Association" -- as though they were not only against destroying embryos, but were even against the association's mission of curing ALS.
Am I exaggerating? You tell me whether the story's first few paragraphs paint pro-lifers as cold and heartless:
You’d probably think that raising millions of dollars to fund research to find a cure for a terminal illness that robs sufferers of the ability to move or speak would be a good thing. Well, some pro-life advocates found a way to disagree.
Pro-life activists and religious leaders are encouraging people to stop donating to the ALS Association. Their logic: at least one of the studies funded bv the ALS Association uses embryonic stem cells, and embryos (i.e. babies) must be ‘killed’ in order to harvest those cells. While those opposed to the research are still okay with the pouring of cold water over one’s head, they want donations to instead go to ALS charities that only fund research that uses adult stem cells, or that don’t fund research at all.
Again, as I read the lead, my head is spinning.
This is a news story? Boston.com is saying flat-out that pro-lifers "disagree" with the premise that "raising millions of dollars to fund research to find a cure for a terminal illness that robs sufferers of the ability to move or speak would be a good thing." But that is an utter distortion and is not supported by the information reported in the body of the article. Opposition to the challenge by Catholics and other pro-lifers is solely over one very specific life issue:
According to New York magazine, it was pro-life news site LifeNews.com that first advocated against donating to the ALS Association, saying: “if you give to the ALS Association your money may end up supporting clinical trials that use aborted fetal cells. Even if the money is not directly going to facilitate such research, it will be going to organizations that see no problem in using aborted innocents as biological material for medical use.”
The anti-ALS Association ‘cause’ was recently taken up by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which encouraged area Catholic schools to tell students to donate money to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. The Institute does not use embryonic stem cells. ...
In trying to explain how it could advocate taking money out of a charity’s pocket, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese told another pro-life website, LifeSiteNews.com: “It’s a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that end must be morally licit.”
"Taking money out of a charity's pocket"?!
Biased much? With language like that, you would think that the archdiocese was upending the wheelchairs of ALS sufferers to shake them down for change. And what's with the condescending characterization of the "anti-ALS Association ‘cause,'" complete with scare quotes?
Granted, I am Catholic and strongly pro-life. But my uncle died of ALS, and a dear Catholic friend whose father died of the disease now battles it himself. So this is an issue that hits home for me in many ways, and I am angry to see a news publication that should know better paint Catholic objections to the fundraiser as motivated by a desire to shortchange the suffering.
It is not impossible to briefly explain -- using the basic tools of journalism -- Catholic opposition to the Ice Bucket Challenge in a way that does justice to the issues at stake. The day before the Boston.com article appeared, Time magazine's Justin Worland did just that with "Why Some Catholics Won't Take the Ice Bucket Challenge." Worland's piece begins:
Not everyone is jumping to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which has gone viral and raised millions for research into Lou Gehrig’s disease. Following the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s decision to ban its schools from donating to the ALS Association and a widely read blog post by a Catholic priest, some Catholics are questioning the ethics of contributing to ALS charities that fund research with embryonic stem cells.
“We deeply appreciate the compassion, but there’s a well established moral principle that goods ends are not enough. The means must also be morally licit,” said Cincinnati Archdiocese spokesperson Dan Andriacco.
If the quote Worland cites from the Cincinnati Archdiocese looks familiar, that is because it appeared in the Boston.com article as well -- but with a twist. Boston.com left out the first six words: "We deeply appreciate the compassion, but ..."
Perhaps the mention of compassion might have conflicted with Boston.com's angle that the Archdiocese advocated "taking money out of a charity’s pocket"? Again, Boston.com, biased much?