Vatican slams Halloween (not really)

Big BenDevilAll together now, religion-beat pros (and fans), let's chant this together: L'Osservatore Romano does not equal the Vatican. You've seen the headlines, right? L'Osservatore Romano runs an article on some controversial issue in Italy, or somewhere else in the world, and some journalists jump the gun and produce stories that say the Vatican, or even the pope, has released a statement that changes its stance on some crucial doctrinal, moral or cultural issue. You know, something like: "Vatican says that Dumbledore isn't really gay."

So here is a classic that is just right for today, care of the Telegraph. You'll get a kick out of the headline, for example:

Vatican condemns Hallowe'en as anti-Christian

The Vatican has condemned Hallowe'en as anti-Christian, saying it is based on a sinister and dangerous "undercurrent of occultism"

As a regular reader noted, does the Vatican ever take a stance that is more nuanced than "condemned"? You'd never know it from most mainstream news coverage.

But that's besides the point. Read the story and see if you can find a single statement in it that comes from the Vatican, let alone from a Vatican office that is charged with making pronouncements about holy days, liturgical questions, church traditions, etc.

First there's the headline. Does the Vatican ever take a more nuanced stance on anything besides condemning?

But that's beside the point. Read the story and see if you can find any material that is actually from the Vatican. Instead we get:

The Vatican issued the warning through its official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, in an article headlined "Hallowe'en's Dangerous Messages". The paper quoted a liturgical expert, Joan Maria Canals, who said: "Hallowe'en has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian."

Parents should "be aware of this and try to direct the meaning of the feast towards wholesomeness and beauty rather than terror, fear and death," said Father Canals, a member of a Spanish commission on church rites.

OK, in addition to the problem with identifying the newspaper with the teaching authority of the Vatican, the article also misses a key point: Is the Vatican warning parents about Halloween, or about certain types of costumes and celebrations linked to Halloween? After all, the language -- from a priest on a Spanish, not Vatican, commission -- suggests that there are beautiful and wholesome ways to celebrate the holiday. Right?

Read on. There are other voices quoted and none of them are Vatican officials, let alone Vatican officials who make pronouncements on doctrinal matters.

As they say on ESPN: Come on, man! Photo: How some Vatican critics view the current pope.

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