Some stories don't get religion because they lack necessary details. Of course, few stories can get at the whole truth. But too many stories about religion are bland and unedifying. For example, consider The Los Angeles Times' piece about a former Australian bishop of the Catholic church whose book tour is not welcome among California bishops.
Give reporter Duke Helfand credit, however, for an interesting and informative lede:
Four of California's leading Roman Catholic bishops, including Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, have taken the extraordinary step of urging an Australian bishop to cancel a monthlong tour of the United States to promote his controversial new book about clergy sexual abuse.
Following direction from the Vatican, the California religious leaders and eight other prominent bishops around the country have asked former auxiliary Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Sydney to steer clear of their dioceses because of his "problematic positions" on priestly celibacy and other issues.
That left me wanting more. When it comes to the sexual abuse scandal in the church, there is a rough consensus among Catholics that the facts should come out and not be denied. Wanting more information to come out is not a "left" thing or a "right" thing, when it comes to matters of faith and doctrine.
Yet the story only suggests that Robinson had something to say. Other than noting that he had a high-ranking job in examining clerical abuse in Australia, Helfand failed to flesh out details of his storyline. Take this passage below:
In his book, "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus," Robinson argues that the church's celibacy requirement has contributed to the sex abuse crisis. He openly criticizes the papacy for failing to provide leadership. And he wonders whether the Catholic Church has been more concerned with managing the scandal than confronting it.
That's fine as a summary paragraph. But Helfand fails to add a sentence or two that might give Robinson's charges merit or provocation. How has the celibacy requirement contributed to the sex abuse crisis? How has the papacy failed to lead on this issue?
Also, Helfand fails to elaborate on the concerns of California's bishops. Take this passage:
The dioceses said they are not trying to silence Robinson, who notified each of his plans, but to guard against what they believe is his misinformation.
Again, the absence of details drags down the story. What information do the bishops consider Robinson to be peddling? This is an important question because the bishops' original claim was that Robinson was guilty of heresy, not getting his facts wrong.
Finally, Robin's status in the Catholic Church is unclear. Read this passage below:
Robinson said he ultimately concluded that he could not continue to serve as a bishop of a church that left him with such "profound reservations." He resigned and began to write his book, which was published last year.
This paragraph, too, requires more details. Does Robinson still consider himself Roman Catholic? Does he have any official status as a cleric in the church? If not, that angle is worth a sentence or two. (For what it's worth, I have never heard of a Catholic bishop being considered a former bishop.)
More details, please: They are the spice of a story -- any story.