Pod people: Catholic oath story goes full Godwin

Last week, I wrote about the Washington Post's horror that a local Roman Catholic diocese was asking its Sunday School teachers to affirm their Catholicism. The story, which was put on the front page of the paper provoked quite a bit of reaction against the Arlington Diocese or the Post itself. I earlier critiqued some of the more obvious problems with the story. For instance, for a story all about this ghastly, terrifying profession of faith, the newspaper quoted only four substantial words from it. And the words didn't really tell us what we needed to know to determine whether such a profession of faith was shocking or not.

It turned out that the profession of faith asked for a fairly minimal Roman Catholic commitment. In addition to the Apostles' Creed, there was some language about the Magisterium. While the documents weren't online when I first wrote about the story, they ended up on the site later in the day after various internet sleuths had figured out, roughly, what the profession of faith included.

While online platforms enable the sharing of such information, it's also important to put more info in the actual copy of the story, too.

On this week's Crossroads, host Todd Wilken and I discussed this story and some of the underlying assumptions that go into crafting a story in which it's major news that a religious organization would expect its religious teachers to publicly profess the teachings of the religion.

The reporter who covered the story took some heat for ending her story with a comparison of the oath to Nazi Germany. She defended herself by saying she doesn't weed out powerful anecdotes. I joked with her that my only concern was that the Nazi reference was just too subtle for readers.

Another religion writer thought it interesting, though, that when a Roman Catholic bishop compared some opponents of a measure he supported to Nazis, he took major heat. The comparison alone generated major national coverage. The headline in the Post, in fact, was "Pennsylvania Catholic bishop criticized for Hitler comment."

Elizabeth Scalia tweeted:

As Per WaPo, if a bishop alludes to Nazis he's an idiot. And if anyone listens to a bishop, he's a Nazi.

Again, I understand that if you're trying to convey that asking your Sunday School teachers to publicly profess the teachings of your religion is somehow nefarious, a Nazi reference for the kicker is great. But I do think that if you're going to let someone compare this to Nazism (on the grounds that it's simply a powerful anecdote, no more and no less) than at the very least you should let someone who supports the Christian tradition of professions of faith respond to the comparison.

We also discussed my coverage of the public relations firm that is simultaneously succeeding in getting two seemingly contradictory campaigns into major papers: that supporting the fight for religious liberty is too partisan and that a bus tour for a few nuns fighting a Republican-passed budget is awesome and not partisan in the slightest.

Again, the Crossroads podcast can be found here.

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