This opioid addiction recovery program relies on the 12 steps. So why didn't Washington Post mention God?

This opioid addiction recovery program relies on the 12 steps. So why didn't Washington Post mention God?

We're going to do a little opioid-related ghostbusting today.

As regular GetReligion readers know, our journalism-focused website is built on the premise that "millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.

"They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there," editor Terry Mattingly wrote when GetReligion launched in 2004. 

"One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.

"A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there."

Many of our faithful readers have become quite adept at spotting these ghosts and sharing them with us.

Today's tip comes via email from a reader who is a long-term member of a 12-step program. It relates to this recent story from the Washington Post.

The Post's compelling opening:

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Anglicans OK casual-dress liturgical option: Did The Guardian know this is part of an old war?

Anglicans OK casual-dress liturgical option: Did The Guardian know this is part of an old war?

As a rule, your GetReligionistas critique religion-beat stories in the mainstream press when journalists get something really right or really wrong. Often we simply note the presence of "religion ghosts" in stories, our term for a religion-shaped hole in the content that makes it hard for readers to know what is going on.

On weekends, I often point readers toward "think pieces" linked to religion-beat trends and issues -- essays, op-ed page columns, etc. -- that we wouldn't normally feature, because of our emphasis on basic news reporting.

The following piece from The Guardian -- "Clergy to ditch their robes in further sign of dress-down Britain" -- is a little bit of all of this.

First, it's a news piece about a highly symbolic and rather edgy decision made by the Church of England. Second, it contains material that -- think-piece style -- points to larger trends in England. Finally, while the story is pretty solid, it does contain an important hole that editors could have filled with a few sentences of content by a religion-beat pro who knew what she or he was doing.

The overture does a great job of putting this church decision in a wider cultural context:

First it was ties in parliament, now it is surplices at communion.
Following Speaker John Bercow’s decision last month to relax the convention requiring male MPs to wear jackets and ties in parliament, the Church of England is to allow clergy to conduct services in civvies.
The C of E’s ruling body, the synod, meeting in York, has given final approval to a change in canon law on “the vesture of ordained and authorised ministers during the time of divine service”. The measure needs to be approved by the Queen, who swapped her crown for a hat at last month’s state opening of parliament in another sign of dress-down Britain.

So what, pray tell, is a "surplice"? What are "vestments"?

This is where The Guardian team needed to add a few extra sentences. For starters, the editors seemed to think that all Christian bodies are branches on the same tree, when it comes to traditions about liturgical details. Instead, this latest Anglican innovation is yet another sign of a church body moving toward Protestant influences and away from it's ties to ancient Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

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Christian Century does winning profile of Catholic cleric who 'steals' Protestant evangelism tricks

Christian Century does winning profile of Catholic cleric who 'steals' Protestant evangelism tricks

I’ve only been to Halifax once and the visit was brief. But Atlantic Canada, as that section of the country is called, is not exactly known as a revival center and the province of Quebec next door is a graveyard for churches.

Thus, I was surprised to find a piece in the Christian Century about an enterprising Catholic priest who cheerfully admits to stealing church-growth ideas from evangelical American Protestants. His primary instrument is the Anglican evangelistic program Alpha.

These ideas aren’t entirely new, as charismatic Catholics have been appropriating Protestant methods since the 1970s. But this time, the institutional church is taking notice.

As the article begins:

"Do you know what amazes me about Father Mallon’s book?” I said to Pavel Reid, head of outreach for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Reid had just told me that Catholic dioceses across Canada were using Mallon’s book Divine Renovation as a guide to parish renewal.
“Let me guess,” said Reid. “That he stole it all from the Protestants?”
Precisely.
James Mallon, pastor of Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was recently named vicar for parish renewal throughout Canada. He has fielded more than 150 speaking requests since the 2014 publication of Divine Renovation, a book that has gone through multiple printings and been translated into French and Spanish. Divine Renovation and its sequel, Divine Renovation Guidebook (2016), are full of insights from people such as Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and Andy Stanley, and from the Alpha course, an Anglican evangelization video series. Mallon jokes that he subscribes to the CASE method—“copy and steal everything.” And it’s mostly Protestant practices that he’s been stealing.

If you can’t beat them, join them?

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This is why some Catholics are questioning media reporting on gluten-free communion

This is why some Catholics are questioning media reporting on gluten-free communion

What's new?

That's Catholic media professional Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz's question. In an email to GetReligion, Szyszkiewicz writes:

The gluten-free host bit is old. The regulations have been in place for years and, for some reason, were raised again, this time by Pope Francis. 
Cardinal Sarah's letter is almost entirely made up of quotes from previous documents and nothing more. It's obvious that the journalists who reported on this didn't read the text to see that it's a rehash — or they didn't care about that fact. 
So what's the purpose of the reporting? To make the Vatican look like a bunch of bad guys who don't give a damn about celiacs?

What reporting is Szyszkiewicz talking about?

Here's the lede from the New York Times:

The unleavened bread that Roman Catholics use in the celebration of Mass must contain some gluten, even if only a trace amount, according to a new Vatican directive.
The directive, which was dated June 15 but received significant attention only after it was reported by Vatican Radio on Saturday, affirms an existing policy. But it may help to relieve some of the confusion surrounding church doctrine on gluten, a protein that occurs naturally in wheat and has become the subject of debates over nutrition and regulation.
The issue is especially urgent for people with celiac disease, a gastrointestinal immune disorder that causes stomach paindiarrhea and weight loss and that can lead to serious complications, or for those with other digestive conditions that make them vulnerable even to small amounts of gluten.
Many other people who do not have celiac disease may nonetheless have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten, and yet others have adopted a gluten-free diet in the belief that it is healthier — although science is far from clear on this point.

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Pastor of America's largest parish retires, with lots of (solo) shots at Catholic conservatives

Pastor of America's largest parish retires, with lots of (solo) shots at Catholic conservatives

A long time ago -- the early 1980s -- I wrote a front-page feature for The Charlotte Observer about life in the tiny Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. The news hook was an interview with the first bishop of what was, at that time, America's smallest diocese.

Things have changed in the Queen City, when it comes to Catholic life. In fact, if you follow news about American Catholicism you know that one of the most important stories is the explosion of Catholic statistics in the Bible Belt, including the Deep South and the Southeast. The rising Catholic tide in the Southwest is, to a large degree, linked with issues of immigration. That's a factor in the South, but the growth is also linked to large numbers of converts and transplants from the North.

Just the other day, Crux ran little story -- "In the U.S. South, the Church is in ‘growth mode’ " -- focusing on a meeting of bishops from the South. It noted:

“We are all in a growth mode. That’s a good thing,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta told the Diocese of Charleston’s newspaper The Catholic Miscellany.
“We are spending part of our time here talking about the need to establish new parishes, expand pastoral outreach, and respond to growing numbers both from immigration and those moving here from other parts of the country,” the archbishop continued. “We all are sharing in this growth.”

So, the Observer recently had a perfect opportunity to dig into some of these complex and important subjects.

The hook for this long story was the retirement of Msgr. John McSweeney, the senior priest at St. Matthew Catholic Church -- America's largest Catholic parish. To add to the symbolism, the lede notes that this New Yorker was the first priest ordained in the Charlotte diocese.

This is where things get interesting. This long, long piece is based on an interview with the outspoken McSweeney and, well, that is that. The bottom line: He is highly critical of many things that would be affirmed by traditional or even middle-of-the-road Catholics in the Bible Belt. As the Observer puts it, he believes the Catholic Church often puts the "Book of Law before the Book of Love."

Who gets to respond to his views on a litany of hot-button topics?

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Sexbots, slavery and The Salvation Army: The Daily Mail explains why it doesn't compute

Sexbots, slavery and The Salvation Army: The Daily Mail explains why it doesn't compute

I don't believe Isaac Asimov, the late science fiction author of the I, Robot series, ever imagined this scenario -- the Salvation Army getting involved in a debate about sex with robots.

The Salvation Army has a long tradition of getting involved in debates that link morality, politics and labor. However, in this case we are talking about a whole different kind of work and, to say the least, a different kind of worker -- "sexbots."

Let's turn to a predictable source of information, Britain's Daily Mail -- a populist source of news if there ever was one.

Headlined "Sexbots will encourage sex to be viewed as a ‘commodity’ and could increase objectification of women and children, warns Salvation Army," we read:

Last week, a report about sex robots warned about the 'dark side' of the technology, which could involve issues of rape and paedophilia.
And now The Salvation Army has had its say on the controversial sexbots.
The charity claims that sex robots could 'fuel demand for sex with people', and even lead traffickers to exploit more vulnerable individuals to meet this demand.

Unlike many of the hair-on-fire reports from this newspaper that have a religion angle, this time, the Daily Mail is relatively restrained, even kind, to the Army's viewpoint. (Disclosure: I was a Salvation Army church member, or "soldier," for 17 years before joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and retain a high regard for the organization and its people.)

However, there is a missing bit of journalism in the Daily Mail report, and we'll get to that in a moment.

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Vatican! Drugs! Police! Gay clergy! Orgy! Clickbait! What happens next will not shock you

Vatican! Drugs! Police! Gay clergy! Orgy! Clickbait! What happens next will not shock you

So here is a rather stupid question to ask news consumers in the age of social media and online news. Did you hear that there was apparently some kind of police raid on a drug-fueled gay orgy at one of the most prestigious addresses in Vatican City, an apartment building many call the Holy Office?

All kinds of people live there, but it also is known as home base for the Vatican's powerful -- in terms of working to promote traditional teachings -- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Combine this location with activity that fits years and years of rumors about a "gay lobby" at the highest levels of Catholic hierarchy and the odds are good that you will get a news-media firestorm.

Maybe you saw the story at The New York Daily News, since this is the kind of subject that has "tabloid" written all over it. The headline: "Vatican police raid drug-fueled gay orgy at top priest's apartment." Let's look at the top of this report.

Vatican police raided a drug-fueled gay sex party at a top priest’s apartment near the city, according to an Italian newspaper report.
The apartment’s occupant, who was not named by police, serves as a secretary to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, a personal adviser to Pope Francis.
The apartment belongs to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith -- the branch that reviews appeals from clergy found guilty of sexual abuse of minors, according to Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, which first published the explosive report. Police raided the apartment in June after neighbors complained of unusual behavior among frequent nighttime visitors.
Police arrested the priest and hospitalized him to detox him from the drugs he had ingested, according to the newspaper. ... He’s currently in retreat at a convent in Italy, according to the report. Coccopalmerio’s aide was reportedly under consideration for promotion to bishop.

Now, you may not have seen the Daily News report. On newsstands in the Big Apple, that would have been sitting right next to The New York Post, proclaiming (it what is a rather restrained headline for this newspaper): "Vatican cops bust drug-fueled gay orgy at home of cardinal’s aide."

Let's face it. Readers had lots of opportunities to see a lurid headline about this case.

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Why folks are freaking out over article on Marco Rubio tweeting 'Most Republican Part of the Bible'

Why folks are freaking out over article on Marco Rubio tweeting 'Most Republican Part of the Bible'

To the casual observer, it looks like news.

Politico certainly does nothing to present it as something else — say, a single liberal theologian's opinion.

I'm talking about the article published over the weekend with this clickbait of a headline:

Marco Rubio Is Tweeting the Most Republican Part of the Bible

The piece has a byline and reads — to some extent — like straightforward, fact-based journalism:

Marco Rubio had a message for his nearly 3 million Twitter followers on the morning of June 26: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11.”
That one might have been his most head-snapping, but Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, had been tweeting verses like that one since May 16. He has tweeted a biblical verse almost every day since then. Almost all of them come from the Old Testament, and specifically the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is notable in that is presents a fairly consistent view of the world: The righteous are rewarded, and the wicked are punished. In the understanding of Proverbs, everyone gets what is coming to them; behavior is directly linked to reward or punishment. This worldview has social consequences: Those who succeed in life must be more righteous than those who struggle.

Some, including The Hill, interpreted it as a news story, reporting on Rubio's response:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday pushed back at a news article that claimed the conservative lawmaker was tweeting "the most Republican part of the Bible."
"Proverbs is the Republican part of the bible? I don't think Solomon had yet joined the GOP when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs," Rubio said tongue-in-check, while retweeting Politico Magazine's story on the matter.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a former Southern Baptist youth pastor, also weighed in via Twitter:

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Covering Linda Sarsour: When press affirms those who say 'jihad' has only one meaning

Covering Linda Sarsour: When press affirms those who say 'jihad' has only one meaning

The recasting of the word “jihad” is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the 21st century. The contemporary spiritualizing of the word to mean merely something akin to an inner struggle would have been news to the half of the known world who were conquered by Islamic armies in the 7th , 8th  and 9th  centuries across southern Europe.

(For a fascinating treatment of what jihad was like in medieval Spain as it was being sacked by Muslim armies in the 8th century, you must read “The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise,” a new book out by Dario Fernandez-Morera).

Thus, it’s no surprise that the use of the j-word by a Muslim activist caused quite a ruckus recently. As the Washington Post reported:

Linda Sarsour, a lead organizer of the Women’s March on Washington and one of the most high-profile Muslim activists in the country, gave an impassioned speech last weekend that at first gained little attention.
Speaking to a predominately Muslim crowd at the annual Islamic Society of North America convention in suburban Chicago, Sarsour urged her fellow Muslims to speak out against oppression.
In her speech, Sarsour told a story from Islamic scripture about a man who once asked Muhammad, the founder of Islam, “What is the best form of jihad, or struggle?
“And our beloved prophet … said to him, ‘A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad,'” Sarsour said.
“I hope that … when we stand up to those who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihad, that we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or on the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America, where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reigning in the White House.”

I agree that one should be allowed to speak frankly to one’s own group but Sarsour is smart enough to know that the word “jihad” carries a lot of baggage.

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