Gay marriage a threat to journalism's future

Here's something I posted last January:

I wrote yesterday about Pope Benedict XVI’s speech to the diplomatic corps, in which he called for a focus on religious liberty. That didn’t get much news coverage, but guess what is! That’s right, remarks that Pope Benedict XVI didn’t even make. And such is the state of affairs in reporting on the pontiff.

Looks like it's going to be an annual tradition! Let's look at the headline to this week's Reuters report about Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps:

Gay marriage a threat to humanity's future: Pope

Now, I've seen enough coverage of reporters to be somewhat skeptical when they say, well, anything about the Vatican. So I knew enough to look for the substantiating quote. Here's the article's lede:

Pope Benedict said Monday that gay marriage was one of several threats to the traditional family that undermined "the future of humanity itself."

The pope made some of his strongest comments against gay marriage in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican in which he touched on some economic and social issues facing the world today.

He told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper "settings" and that "pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman."

So if he made such "strong" comments against same-sex marriage, why don't any of the quotes mention same-sex marriage? Isn't that odd? It is certainly true that he reiterated the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew: marriage, between one and one woman, is important. But I'm pretty sure it's not news that Pope Benedict XVI agrees with Jesus that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman. Or, at least, it shouldn't be news for a Vatican reporter. The rest of the article goes somewhat non-sequitur, talking about Archbishop Timothy Dolan and his support of Catholic teaching on marriage.

So where are the strong comments against same-sex marriage? Where are the words "same-sex marriage"? I mean, the headline isn't saying that the Pope said divorce is the greatest threat. It's not saying abstaining from marriage is the greatest threat to humanity's future. The headline doesn't mention polygamy. How does Reuters know that Benedict is talking specifically about same-sex marriage and not children being raised by single parents?

For supposedly strong comments on same-sex marriage, it's kind of interesting that the quotes have to be chopped up, isn't it?

I'd encourage you to read the actual text of Pope Benedict's speech. He discusses civil unrest, economic problems, religious freedom and family. Here's the shocking, strong part that demonstrates that Benedict sides with Jesus on marriage:

Blessed John Paul II stated that "the path of peace is at the same time the path of the young", inasmuch as young people embody "the youth of the nations and societies, the youth of every family and of all humanity". Young people thus impel us to take seriously their demand for truth, justice and peace. For this reason, I chose them as the subject of my annual World Day of Peace Message, entitled Educating Young People in Justice and Peace. Education is a crucial theme for every generation, for it determines the healthy development of each person and the future of all society. It thus represents a task of primary importance in this difficult and demanding time. In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, "openness to life is a sign of openness to the future". In this context of openness to life, I note with satisfaction the recent sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union forbidding patenting processes relative to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.

That's just one paragraph out of 11, and the only one that mentions marriage. So word to the wise: If you want to get an accurate sense of what the Pope has said, you should be sure to read his actual words in context.

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