CBS released this clip last week, previewing the Sunday 60 Minutes piece. Talk about hard-hitting! Talk about the opposite of obsequious! Oh wait. It looked horrific.
Apparently it was. After it ran on Sunday, one person tweeted:
"60 minutes" tonight marked the election of Pope Francis with an outrageously slanted Bob Simon piece hammering the Church
aaaand first up on 60 Minutes: Will Pope Francis continue using the same office as the Inquisition to persecute American nuns?
yeah, reporting is one thing. Glowing as you question the subject is quite another.
You can watch the whole thing and make your own judgment, but Godbeat veteran Jeffrey Weiss said the piece failed on a number of counts.
So he begins by praising 60 Minutes and notes he has no particular interest in the dispute between the Vatican and the nuns, "but the job of objective journalism, even investigative journalism, is to lay out the facts and even suggest conclusions -- without tipping the scales beyond where the facts go." He makes some excellent and reasonable points, after he cites a few of the problems early on in the piece. One is the over-the-top reference to a "new Inquisition."
Another is this passage:
"The crackdown last year on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has sparked outrage -- creating yet another rift between those who want the Church to reform, and those who do not." ...
And then there's the "rift between those who want the Church to reform and those who do not." Let's look at a definition for "reform."
"To put or change into an improved form or condition."
Which side of this argument is pushing for change into an improved form, do you suppose?
One way of looking at it would be that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has drifted away from the doctrines and authoritative positions of the Catholic Church and are in need of, ahem, reform but do not want to reform. Which means the Vatican wants the American branch of the church to reform. Do you think that's what Simon was suggesting?
There's much more from Weiss and it's well worth a read. OK, I have to pull out another part:
Simon sits down with Sr. Pat Ferrell, the now-former president of the LCWR, to discuss her view of the dispute. And we have this exchange:
She met with the enforcers of church orthodoxy who ordered the investigation that found her group had undermined the Church -- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Bob Simon: This is the same group, is it not, that ran the Inquisition?
Pat Farrell: It is the same office, under a different name, that's right.
This, apparently, in case you missed the first reference.
Sigh. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, under exactly the same name, illegally investigated American citizens and interfered with civil rights and anti-war organizations not so many decades ago. What exactly does that tell us about the current agency? Maybe something. Maybe not. That's what reporting is supposed to reveal.
Weiss, like any good critic, is sure to praise what's good about the piece. And he reminds us that this is an interesting story to tell and one that can be told without taking sides.
Great media analysis of a piece that failed to achieve some important standards.