So here is our thought for today: It's hard for journalists to write accurate news reports about confusing religious topics without a basic knowledge of the doctrinal subject material that is being discussed and often twisted.
That said, it is with some hesitation that I ask GetReligion readers to ponder the top of the recent "Faith and Belief" feature from the International Business TImes that ran under the headline, "Pope Francis Supposedly Claimed Virgin Mary At Second Trinity, At Godhead Level -- Report."
Say what? What in the world is the "Second Trinity"? Hold that thought, because it gets worse.
However, before we plunge in, let me note that -- as someone who has walked the long path from Southern Baptist life to Eastern Orthodox Christianity -- I have had more than my share of conversations with Protestants about what the ancient churches did or did not believe about the Theodokos and her role in the Incarnation. I have also had many conversations with Roman Catholics about the differences that have developed, through the centuries, between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox churches on this topic.
Folks, this is complicated territory. It is almost impossible to write a single paragraph of factual material on this subject without expert help. So with that said, check out the top of this story.
Pope Francis, with his open-mindedness and more humanist approach to Catholicism, reportedly bestowed the Virgin Mary a position at the second Holy Trinity, possibly even at Godhead level.
Pope Francis recently attended the morning mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows ... at Casa Santa Marta. He preached on how the Virgin Mary "learned, obeyed and suffered at the foot of the cross," according to the Vatican Radio.
"Even the Mother, 'the New Eve', as Paul himself calls her, in order to participate in her Son's journey, learned, suffered and obeyed. And thus she becomes Mother," Pope Francis said.
The Pope further added that Mary is the "anointed Mother." Pope Francis said the Virgin Mary is one with the church. Without her Jesus Christ would not have been born and introduced to Christians. Without the Virgin Mary there would be no Mother Church.
Much of that material sounds very familiar and ordinary to me. The key, however, is the introduction of this concept of a "Second Trinity," which, frankly, seems to have come out of the blue or left field, or both.
Is it possible that the pope merely made a statement about Mary playing a unique role in the introduction of the second person of the Trinity into human history?
So, is there anyone out there in GetReligion reader-land who has run into this "Second Trinity" term before? If you run a search for "Second Trinity" and "Mary," all of the references basically circle back to this IBT report, which points to the writings of sites critical of Francis.
In other words, this report is essentially a work of aggregation, with little or no actual reporting from original sources. And there is the new (and to me rather scary) bottom line in our current digital news age: We have people out there basing alleged news reports on material taken from advocacy publications without knowing the factual basics of the material being discussed. Here is what that looks like in practice.
Let's read on in the IBT "story," which states that these statements by Pope Francis:
... according to Inquistr are raising eyebrows and even upsetting Evangelical Christians. The sitecredits this assertion to an article posted in Now The End Begins. Pope Francis' reflection on the Virgin Mary reportedly suggests that people's hope is Mary and the Mother Church and not Jesus Christ. ...
The article claims his sermon somehow indicates a change in the position Jesus holds in the Holy Trinity. Jesus "has been demoted to third place behind 'mother' Mary and the 'Holy Mother Church'. Pope Francis reportedly "bestowed a position and title to the Virgin Mary equal or greater than that of the second Holy Trinity."
OK, that is enough. This makes my head hurt. At the very least, editors are going to need to make sure that there are copy editors and reporters who know the basic facts of Christian history and thought before they wade into these kinds of deep waters.