Millions of angles

anglesSo yesterday I was working on a big post about news coming out of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore when tmatt posted about the curious difference in edits of the Associated Press' story. But there's so much out there, I think another post is in order. Go here for Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's take on Pope Benedict XVI's April visit to the United States. The Associated Press' Rachel Zoll wrote up the election of Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, as new president of the conference.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tim Townsend did a good job of writing up an even more interesting election:

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke lost an election Tuesday for chairman of the committee that advises the nation's bishops on legal issues. He was defeated by Bishop Thomas Paprocki, an auxiliary bishop in Chicago who received 59 percent of the bishops' votes. . . .

Burke's defeat surprised some, because he is widely recognized as one of the sharpest legal minds in the Catholic church and is a sitting member of the Vatican's highest judicial authority.

Some bishops, though, have chafed at his strict interpretation of canon law, including his position on denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.

Townsend speaks with several bishops who rejected the notion that Burke wasn't elected because of his views, saying both candidates were excellent canon lawyers capable of doing the job well. Rodgers' separate story on the bishops' take on Iraq is great -- probably because she was covering the conference in person and picked up many of the nuances of the debate.

But the biggest news was the mention of abortion in latest guide for Catholic voters. It's not a guide in the sense of telling people who to vote for so much as what Catholics should consider as they participate in the public square. I highlighted Eric Gorski's excellent preview of the guide in draft form a few weeks ago.

As Terry pointed out yesterday, it is absolutely fascinating to see the different ways reporters are handling the issuance of the final document. Or even just headline writers. Compare the headline for Mark Silva's piece in The Swamp ("Catholic bishops: Remember abortion in 2008") to the headline for Neela Banerjee's New York Times piece ("Catholic Bishops Offer Voting Guide, Allowing Some Flexibility on Issue of Abortion").

I guess it's all in the eye of the reporter. Again, I thought Townsend handled the news very well:

Six weeks before the first presidential primaries, the nation's Catholic bishops voted almost unanimously Wednesday to adopt a 40-page statement on voting and conscience. The document states more clearly than ever before that Catholics should weigh abortion, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia more heavily than other issues such as war and poverty when they enter the voting booth.

Racism, the death penalty, unjust war, torture, war crimes, "the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger, or a lack of health care or an unjust immigration policy," write the bishops, "are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act."

But, they continue, "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many."

The fairness and balance in his account is not coincidental: he goes to the source and quotes from the carefully worded document. Always a good idea to let the bishops speak for themselves more than put words in their mouths. Anyway, lots of fascinating different takes.

I rather liked the Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Kay's explanation of the significance of the document. Los Angeles Times staff writer Theo Milonopoulos emphasizes that Catholics who support candidates because of their support of abortion are guilty of cooperation in "grave evil." However, he also does a good job of showing the full breadth of issues the document covers.

democratsblue 01The Houston Chronicle says that the document links voting with salvation, a point that Chicago Tribune religion reporter Manya A. Brachear also emphasizes. Again, go to Rodgers for the best explanation of this salvation angle. Both in her comments here and her story.

In this context, the Boston Globe's Michael Paulson had a fascinating look at how seriously the church is taking support for candidates who advocate legalized abortion:

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, saying the Democratic Party has been persistently hostile to opponents of abortion rights, asserted yesterday that the support of many Catholics for Democratic candidates "borders on scandal."

In his sharpest comments about the political landscape since he was installed as archbishop of Boston four years ago, O'Malley made clear that, despite his differences with the Republican Party over immigration policy, capital punishment, economic issues, and the war in Iraq, he views abortion as the most important moral issue facing policymakers.

"I think the Democratic Party, which has been in many parts of the country traditionally the party which Catholics have supported, has been extremely insensitive to the church's position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues," O'Malley said.

Acknowledging that Catholic voters in Massachusetts generally support Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, O'Malley said, "I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I'm concerned."

Gosh. Someone should write a book about how Democrats have lost some of the Catholic vote . . . Anyway, Paulson's piece is very fair and quotes O'Malley extensively so that the fullness of his views are conveyed. O'Malley's comments are the Globe's hook for the entire document, and Paulson explains in detail how support for the right to life ranks among other priorities.

Let us know if there is any other particularly good or bad coverage out there on this topic as we head into the weekend. Judging from the comments, readers were particularly displeased with CNN's coverage yesterday. They sought commentary from such diverse Catholics as those who support abortion rights and Fr. Thomas Reese, the Jesuit former editor of America magazine (asked to resign last year over differences with the Vatican). My favorite was the Los Angeles Times' editorial (headline: "Teaching the Pope") telling Pope Benedict how to act. I'm a Lutheran and even I find that hubristic.

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