Last week we discussed the invention of a quote and related fraudulent framing of a story so that Pope Benedict XVI's words on the importance of baptism became a treatise on celebrity baby naming trends. Some readers were surprised that journalists might stray so far from reality when composing their stories. Others pointed out that it happens often when the subject of the story is the Pope. For another recent example of that, check out this headline and story (many, many other examples found here):
Pope Challenges Big Bang theory
Pope Benedict is offering his thoughts on how the universe was created. Thursday, the Pope said God's mind was behind the complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang, and Christians should reject the idea the universe was created by chance.
The Pope has rarely talked about specific scientific concepts such as the Big Bang, which scientists say caused the formation of the universe some 13.7 billion years ago.
The Pope added scientific theories on the origin and development of the universe and humans leave many questions unanswered.
The only problem with this? Well, as the lack of quotes might suggest, Pope Benedict never talked about the Big Bang Theory. In fact, characterizing the Pope's homily for Epiphany as a treatise on the Big Bang would be really funny if it weren't actually intended as "eyewitness news." It is true that the Pope, as part of commenting on lessons learned from the Magi's search, says:
The universe is not the result of chance, as some would like to make us believe. In contemplating it, we are asked to interpret in it something profound; the wisdom of the Creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God, his infinite love for us.
We must not let our minds be limited by theories that always go only so far and that -- at a close look -- are far from competing with faith but do not succeed in explaining the ultimate meaning of reality. We cannot but perceive in the beauty of the world, its mystery, its greatness and its rationality, the eternal rationality; nor can we dispense with its guidance to the one God, Creator of Heaven and of earth.
If we acquire this perception we shall see that the One who created the world and the One who was born in a grotto in Bethlehem and who continues to dwell among us in the Eucharist, are the same living God who calls us, who loves us and who wants to lead us to eternal life.
As Jimmy Akin at the National Catholic Register notes, it's certainly not news that the Pope believes God is the creator of heaven and earth. To write this up as news, much less as a pontification against the Big Bang Theory, requires some serious tone deafness to the actual words of the homily (which you can read here).
The homily has many interesting things. The last bit excerpted above, for instance. Or there's this provocative little piece:
Herod is a figure we dislike, whom we instinctively judge negatively because of his brutality.
Yet we should ask ourselves: is there perhaps something of Herod also in us? Might we too sometimes see God as a sort of rival? Might we too be blind to his signs and deaf to his words because we think he is setting limits on our life and does not allow us to dispose of our existence as we please?
It's interesting to note how incapable the media are of even attempting to write about these other concepts. That doesn't mean they should make up papal attacks on the Big Bang Theory, but it does show how difficult it is to get accurate news about what the Pope is preaching on. That's a problem with more than one source, as Akin notes in his further comments lambasting the Vatican's communications shop.