Passing the 'Shrek' test: USA Today peels back the Catholic layers on Boston bombing trial jury

It's been a while since I quoted "Shrek." 

But every now and then, I like to recount one of my favorite scenes in the original movie. It's the one in which the title character explains that "there's a lot more to ogres than people think."

"Example?" Donkey responds.

“Example … uh … ogres are like onions,” Shrek says, holding up an onion that Donkey sniffs.

More of the dialogue:

Donkey: “They stink?”
Shrek: “Yes. ... No!”
Donkey: “Oh, they make you cry?”
Shrek: “No!”
Donkey: “Oh, you leave ‘em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.”
Shrek (peeling an onion): “No! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

I've used this analogy before, but too many news stories lack layers.

That's what impressed me about a USA Today story this week on the exclusion of some Roman Catholics from the Boston Marathon trial's jury: It's multilayered.

The lede nails the enterprising religion angle:

BOSTON – As the quest for a jury in the Boston Marathon bombing trial approaches its fourth week, some of the area's 2 million Roman Catholics are growing frustrated with criteria that effectively disqualify followers of church teachings.
Potential jurors in bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial must be able to impose the death penalty or a life sentence with no possibility of release. That standard eliminates Catholics who heed the catechism of the Catholic Church, which says a death sentence is not to be used when "non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor." Cases warranting the death penalty "are very rare, if not practically non-existent," according to the catechism, because government has other means to keep the public safe from convicts.
"It is both ironic and unfortunate that Catholics who understand and embrace this teaching will be systematically excluded from the trial," says the Rev. James Bretzke, professor of moral theology at Boston College. "It is frustrating."

But the writer — a Godbeat pro named G. Jeffrey MacDonald — doesn't stop there.

He provides important context, including this:

Greater Boston is 46% Catholic, according to Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, but religion isn't necessarily a strong shaper of local attitudes. Massachusetts is the fourth least religious state after nearby New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, according to the Gallup Poll, which looks at worship attendance and how important people say religion is in their daily lives.
Yet when faced with extraordinary decisions, even less-observant Catholics turn to church teachings for guidance, according to Dillon. They're apt to do so if tapped for the Tsarnaev trial, she said.

And this:

Nationwide, 62% of Catholics favor the death penalty for murderers, according to the General Social Survey's most recent data from 2012. That is a substantial decline from 30 years ago, when 82% of Catholics favored it. ...
Catholics aren't obligated to heed church teaching on the death penalty, Bretzke said, because the teaching is not considered infallible.

It would be easy for such a story to present Catholics as a monolithic group who all believe the same thing and place the same level of importance on their faith. This story doesn't do that. It has layers.

Kudos to MacDonald and USA Today for peeling back those layers.

This story definitely passes the "Shrek" test.

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