The other day, I added an "Orthodoxy" category to our filing system here at GetReligion.org -- for a perfectly logical reason. Since many readers know that I am a convert to Orthodox Christianity, many readers -- Orthodox and otherwise -- keep sending me links to interesting (and often bizarre) mainstream news reports about the faith. Some of them are quite good. Others are, well, not very good.
What, pray tell, am I supposed to do with this hellish, horrid Fox News report out of Australia? Here's the lede:
Two men were arrested Friday and charged with 230 sex offenses police said they committed during prayer sessions with a woman who believed one of the men could cure her of a religious curse.
The men, aged 61 and 38 years, are highly regarded members of Sydney's Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox communities, New South Wales state police said in a statement. Officials declined to release their names.
What in the world does "highly regarded" mean? Are we dealing with fallen clergy? Corrupt laypeople? The story calls one of the accused a "spiritual mentor," yet that is not a term used in Orthodoxy. Again, there are no facts.
Then, as the story ends, we read:
The Coptic Church is the native Christian church of Egypt, and has a doctrine similar to the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches. ... (Both) women come from religious families and were raised to follow the Orthodox faith, which includes a belief in the evil eye -- a glance believed to harm those on whom it falls.
There are all kinds of superstitions common in many ethnic groups and cultures and I would never deny that that is the case -- to one degree or another -- in some "Orthodox lands." But since when has the ancient Orthodox Christian faith included some kind of theology of the "evil eye"? Where in the world did this statement come from?
UPDATE: Here is a very helpful comment from a reader, worth pulling out front here for everyone. Father Theodore writes:
I saw this and followed it back to the Australian press. It looks like they got their information from a press release from the New South Wales Police. The next day the NSW police released this:
CLARIFICATION Regarding two men charged with 229 sexual offences during prayer sessions Friday, 12 Sep 2008 04:13pm
In a media release issued this morning reference was made to two men arrested over sexual offences as being "highly regarded members of the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox communities". Investigators would like to clarify there is no evidence linking either of the two men to the Coptic community or the Coptic Church.
A victim and witness in the investigation told police the 61-year-old accused man had claimed to be a high-ranking member of the Coptic community. This claim is denied by Coptic community leaders and the Coptic Church in Sydney.
Clarification regarding references made to belief in the "evil eye": This is not an accepted belief within the Greek Orthodox faith or Coptic Orthodox faith."
Some media, such as ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Company have updated their stories and now say the the Greek Orthodox Church has no knowledge of the men either. Others news outlets have not updated anything. It looks like a case of the media just printing what they are told without checking the facts.