"Enough already"

PopeCelebrates.jpgMary Jordan of the Washington Post Foreign Service reports in today's Post that Pope Benedict XVI wrote an "unusual letter" to "quiet" protests after his "embrace" of excommunicated bishop and conspiracy theorist Richard Williamson. Scare quotes are among the cheapest and most distracting tricks in reporting. They diminish rather than enrich a story. It's understandable that Jordan would avoid a full sentence from the Pope's letter in her lede, but she also scare-quotes the perfectly clear word clarify in her third paragraph:

Benedict said his decision to welcome back to the church the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X, to which the excommunicated bishop belongs, had been mishandled and "not clearly and adequately explained." The pope said he wanted to "clarify" that the breakaway group would not be allowed to rejoin the church unless it clearly accepted the modernizing Vatican II reforms of the 1960s, which include a repudiation of anti-Semitism.

Jordan eventually manages to include full sentences from the Pope:

"I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics, who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility," said Benedict, 81, in the letter addressed to Catholic bishops but clearly intended for the worldwide congregation of 1.1 billion.

... "I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news," the pope said.

She also includes good point-counterpoint remarks from George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Rev. Thomas Reese of Georgetown University.

Some of the best remarks in Jordan's story are in the penultimate graph:

"You can't understand the pope through a sound bite," said Donna Orsuto, director of the Lay Center, an international community in Rome for graduate students from different religious backgrounds. "I would encourage people to look at the whole picture and to see these situations in a wider context," said Orsuto, a native of Ohio. "If you do that, you will see that the pope is committed to dialogue with the Muslims, he is committed to dialogue with the Jews, and above all he is committed to promote Christian unity."

It's amazing how insight emerges when people are allowed to speak for themselves, without being bowdlerized.

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