Offensive roundup

bodyofChristIn the discussion of a previous post about coverage of the Kathy Griffin brouhaha, Religion News Service reporter Kevin Eckstrom says the following about his piece:

My point . . . was that Christians can take a joke, but when it comes to the person of Jesus, the rules change. People's guard goes up, and understandably so. It's not so different from how Muslims react to what they see as insulting portrayals of Muhammad.

I thought of that when a reader sent along an interesting Religion News Service story by Daniel Burke about Archbishop Raymond Burke:

A hardline U.S. Roman Catholic archbishop is urging ministers to deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights, arguing that it's a "mortal sin" to offer the sacrament to "the unworthy."

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, a veteran of clashes between Catholic bishops and politicians, has attempted for years to enlist fellow bishops to deny communion to wayward politicians.

It's a really interesting story, thorough and well written. The reader who sent it along wondered why the reporter went to the typical sources (the Revs. Richard John Neuhaus and Thomas Reese), although their viewpoints added the necessary context. But look at what some tone deaf editor at the Winston-Salem Journal did with the headline:

'Wafer Wars' heat up: Archbishop pressures clergy to deny Communion to 'unworthy' politicians who support abortion rights

Newsflash: Sacramental Christians take grave offense at referring to the body of Christ in such a flippant and disrespectful manner. How could the editor in question not know this?

Speaking of insulting, I was quite surprised to read Jeff Israely's Time article with the scandalous and way undersourced suggestion that Pope John Paul II was euthanized:

In a provocative article, an Italian medical professor argues that Pope John Paul II didn't just simply slip away as his weakness and illness overtook him in April 2005. Intensive care specialist Dr. Lina Pavanelli has concluded that the ailing Pope's April 2 death was caused by what the Catholic Church itself would consider euthanasia.

Surely Time has higher standards than this, no? JPII's death had to have been one of the most chronicled events of the last few years. The medical professor bases her conclusion on her observations of the pope on television. I mean, really. It's a one-source story. I'm not saying it's not newsworthy for, but Time? The article didn't even get the Roman Catholic side of the story straight. Take this explanation of doctrine:

Catholics are enjoined to pursue all means to prolong life.

As Father Jonathan Morris explains in a piece for FOX News:

The Time article sets up the case for John Paul II's alleged hypocrisy with this statement: "Catholics are enjoined to pursue all means to prolong life."

This is false. It's good for the story, but it's not true. Time magazine will never find such a pronouncement in any official teaching of the Catholic Church. On the contrary. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, commissioned and approved by Pope John Paul II, clarifies that our moral obligation to preserve life in its last stages does not include applying extraordinary or disproportional means:

"Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted." (#2278)

Morris interviewed Israely for his piece and he said, "There is a fine line between creating an open discussion and doing a story just for the sake of scandalous controversy. I hope this article isn't seen as such."

I think the way to make sure you're on the right side of the line is to think carefully about which stories are selected. And if you decide to run with a one-source story about a respected head of the church, perhaps you might want to be very careful about how you treat it.

priestessIn the final installment of my offensive roundup, I offer the latest tired "female Catholic priest" story. The dishonor du jour goes to Marianne Lucchesi Hamilton of the Los Gatos Weekly-Times and the San Jose Mercury News:

Like many devout Catholics, Juanita and Don Cordero kicked off their Sept. 15 wedding anniversary by attending Mass. Four of the couple's five grown children were in attendance, helping to mark the occasion of the Corderos' marriage 36 years ago.

But the entire family wasn't sitting in the front pew during the service. Instead, the Rev. Juanita Cordero, an ordained Catholic priest, was up on the altar, celebrating the Mass.

Cordero, a Los Gatos resident, has been a priest since July. Prior to her ordination she spent 10 years as a Holy Names nun. Though extremely happy in the order, she still felt that something was missing in her life.

Around the ninth paragraph, Lucchesi Hamilton gets around to mentioning that the priest in question isn't Catholic so much as Catholic. Rome doesn't recognize her ordination as in any way valid. I guess it's too much to hope we've seen the last of the "female Catholic priest" stories.

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