The thought for the day and, perhaps, for the next week or two, care of Father James Martin, the chaplain of The Colbert Report and author of the essential "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life." The problem, as you will see in this Facebook entry, is that -- other than a choice poke or two -- I don't think this particular Jesuit is laughing at the moment. Hang on.
The conclave hasn't even started, and I'm already submerged by a sea of stupid articles, idiotic commentary and boneheaded op-eds about the Catholic Church, by people who have no clue what they're talking about. I'm not talking about people with whom I disagree, or who challenge me with new ways of thinking about the church, but writers who seem completely clueless about the most basic concepts. Some of this is to be expected: the church is a highly complex institution with 2,000 of history behind it.
But the number of misinformed articles I've read about celibacy, the priesthood, the papacy, the church in this country, the causes of the sexual abuse crisis, church authority, papal infallibility, the role of the magisterium, life in a religious order, the vow of chastity, and Benedict XVI, just boggles the mind. Or at least my mind, which perhaps is too easily boggled. Needless to say, I don't expect commentators to know everything about the church. (I sure don't.) But I think it's a reasonable to expect that people should refrain from commenting (especially publicly) on stuff that they clearly don't know much about.
Wait, there's more! Trust me on that.
In response, I'm going to start writing pieces and submitting op-eds about the most recent developments in quantum physics, the challenges of the last three months of pregnancy, the most efficient way to install a dishwasher and what it's like to be the following: a single mother working in a low-paying job, an elementary-school teacher working in a wealthy suburb, and an African-American living in the inner city.
I know nothing about any these topics, or about the lived experiences of these people, but hey, I have an opinion.
Actually, this is one of the realities that is driving the news business at the moment.
You can take it to the bank: Information is expensive, but opinion is cheap.
I thought, before I ran back into class, that I would put this Martin broadside up and invite, in the comments pages, GetReligion readers to offer some URLS for the best and the worst of the current papacy horse race coverage.
Be kind and tell us how -- backed with informative URLs -- you think some of these trains came off the rails. We would welcome some positive feedback for the mainstream press, as well.
Just do it.