And now for something completely different. Let's take a glance at some mainstream news coverage of that other recent pronouncement by Pope Francis, the one that didn't get very much ink.
Why is that? Well, the problem is that the pope, in this case, warmly and publicly embraced a key element of Catholic moral theology linked to marriage and sexuality. This is not the sort of thing that ends up getting major play in major American newspapers.
What did the pope say? Speaking on issues linked to parenting, at a conference held by the Diocese of Rome, Francis noted the following while talking about the meaning of "communion," with a small "c":
… Being parents is based on the diversity of being male and female, as the Bible reminds us. This is the 'first' and most fundamental difference, constitutive of the human being. It is a wealth. Differences are wealth. …
"We men learn to recognise, through the female figures we encounter in life, the extraordinary beauty that women bear. And women follow a similar path, learning from male figures that the man is different and has his own way of feeling, understanding and living. And this communion in difference is very important also in the education of children”.
In the end, the pope issued a ringing affirmation of traditional marriage and the importance of children having both a mother and a father. In the current context, this is rather a rather shocking statement and worthy of coverage, even though it is basic, orthodox, 2,000 year-old Christian doctrine.
This is the kind of statement, in other words, that was granted a 250-word, bare-bones news report by the Religion News Service. Yes, imagine an RNS story that short about a topic linked to LGBT rights.
That may sound a bit snarky. Thus, let me note that the 250 words that RNS offered are pretty good and captured the essence of the pope's remarks, while noting a key element linked to the timing of this event. Here's two chunks of that mini-report, starting with the crisp lede:
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Sunday stressed the importance of children having heterosexual parents, just a day after Rome’s gay pride march demonstrated the changing attitudes about same-sex couples outside the Vatican walls.
The pontiff's remarks were covered like this:
The pontiff likened a long-lasting marriage to a good wine, in which a husband and wife make the most of their gender differences.
“They’re not scared of the differences!” the pope said. “What great richness this diversity is, a diversity which becomes complementary, but also reciprocal. It binds them, one to the other.”
Heterosexual marriages not only ensured couples’ happiness, the pontiff said, but were deemed essential for good parenting.
“Children mature seeing their father and mother like this; their identity matures being confronted with the love their father and mother have, confronted with this difference,” Francis said.
So what is missing? The story offers another bite or two of information about the gay-rights scene in Italy, but fails to offer any kind of reaction from Catholics and other social activists on the two sides of the Western world's bitter debates on marriage and sex.
That's strange. Imagine the reaction if the pope had in any way endorsed same-sex parenting, moving beyond words of compassion to material that -- as in this speech -- linked these unions to core concepts in Catholic doctrine. More than 250 words? Some reactions from the usual suspects?
Speaking of which, the Human Rights Campaign staff did note the pope's words and responded like this (care of Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of the HRC's Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives in its Religion and Faith Program office):
“At a time when so many children across our world lack loving, welcoming homes, it is heartbreaking to hear Pope Francis dismiss a whole swath of potential LGBT parents who continue to prove that they are fully capable of providing safe and nurturing environments, just like many of their non-LGBT counterparts. ...
“We call on the Pope and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church to reconsider their harmful statements and renounce the message of exclusion that only serves to hurt all families.”
Did this statement, and the debate it inspired, deserve more coverage?