Just the other day, I praised The New York Times -- mildly -- for making a smidgen of a journalistic attempt to frame the infamous "Who am I to judge?" ad lib by Pope Francis with information that hinted at what he was talking about. Today, I want to note that Associated Press editors appear, in one distressing case, to have lost all interest in journalism about a related Catholic case.
Once again, for those inclined to sweat the details, here is the YouTube link for that famous encounter between the pontiff and the press. It's crucial to remember that he is addressing the case of a specific priest and the issue of a "gay lobby" in the church. The problem, the pope states, is when people rally around the gay issue, thus forming a "lobby." Here is some of that context:
... If a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought.
But, returning to your more concrete question: in this case, I’ve done the investigatio previa and we found nothing. This is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Goodness knows! So much is written of the gay lobby. I still have not met one who will give me the identity card with “gay." They say that they exist. I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?
Now there is another quote in there which the pope underlined, the one that says, "This is important: A theology of sin." How often have you seen t-shirts with Pope Francis saying that as part of his ongoing emphasis on the need for Confession?
But I digress. In a news story that, in a way, warned the pope not to stray too far from the gospel according to the Times editorial board, there was the following:
In his first year, he shocked the world with his comment, “Who am I to judge?” uttered in response to a question during an airborne news conference about his attitude toward a celibate gay priest serving in the Vatican. In doing so, he appeared to jettison the punishing tone used by his predecessors, including Benedict XVI, who called homosexuality an “objective disorder,” phrasing from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. ...
But he has shown no indication that he intends to lead the church toward changing its teaching that gay people are “called to chastity” and marriage is only for a man and a woman. On a visit to the Philippines in January, Pope Francis said in a speech that “the family is threatened by growing efforts” to “redefine the very institution of marriage.”
So there was (a) some context there for the "judge" quote, (b) a reference to the "objective disorder" quote in the Catechism and (c) some orthodox Pope Francis material on a related doctrinal issue. Even if pro-Catechism Catholics didn't like that whole Times story, there was a tiny ray of hope that readers were being given a hint of what Pope Francis has said on these matters, other than a few words yanked out of context.
So with that in mind, let's turn to yet another Associated Press report about the battle over teachers in Catholic schools who openly oppose church doctrines on marriage and sexuality.
This lede is a classic.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Pope Francis refined his vision for the church last week when he said long-spurned divorced and remarried Catholics should be welcomed with "open doors." And he has famously parsed centuries of thought on homosexuality into a five-word quip: "Who am I to judge?"
"Who am I to judge?" doesn't even parse what the pope had to say in that one press op, let alone what Francis has had to say on these issues in other settings. But "centuries of (church) thought" on same-sex temptations and, yes, sexual acts outside of the sacrament of marriage that the church considers objective mortal sins?
This copy went through supposedly neutral Associated Press editors? Let's continue with the next section of this AP story:
Yet the Archdiocese of Philadelphia opened its door only briefly when married gay teacher Margie Winters, trailed by supporters, arrived Monday with 23,000 petitions seeking reinstatement to her job at a Catholic elementary school.
"The school and the Sisters of Mercy allowed me to work there for eight years. Once the diocese was notified, something changed," said Winters, who was disappointed that a security guard, and not a church official, took her petitions at the chancery door.
Winters, 50, lost her job at Waldron Mercy Academy in June after a parent complained about her 2007 marriage to a woman. Her case highlights the shifting fault lines over gays in the church -- and in church workplaces -- just before the pope visits Philadelphia next month for the World Meeting of Families.
It's all in the word, "yet." In other words, church leaders in Philadelphia have ignored their pope's alleged parsing of church tradition. That's bad, saith the AP desk.
Now, a reader thought that it was nice that the AP did let a church press official say the following:
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, wading into the issue amid Winters' case, stressed that Catholic schools are responsible for "teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief," referring to the church's condemnation of homosexual activity. He said the Mercy officials showed "character and common sense" for sticking to church teachings.
"A great number of people like to pick apart the remarks of the Holy Father and manipulate them to drive their own agendas," his spokesman, Ken Gavin, said Thursday in response to questions about the pope's latest comments. "Keeping the doors open does not mean that basic church teachings will be changed. ... The Holy Father has not given any signals that teaching on the meaning and sanctity of marriage will be changing."
But that's it, in terms of representing what the Catholic church -- including Pope Francis -- has had to say on matters linked to same-sex marriage and the moral status of sexual acts outside of marriage, as defined by the church.
The body of the story consists of apologetics for the teachers who want to continue to teach in Catholic schools, while redefining the Catholic faith through their actions. There is no debate in this story, in terms of clear, articulate, logical content on both sides of the key issues. Where are the voices of, let's say, Catholic gays and lesbians who teach in schools in that region while upholding the doctrines of the faith? Where are the voices of parents who support the archdiocese and, well, would pull their children from classrooms if teachers were allowed to openly reject the Catechism in word and deed?
In other words, where is the journalism in this piece? Journalists do not -- as your GetReligionistas keep repeating -- have to agree with the views of the religious believers that they cover. They do, however, need to understand them well enough to cover them in a fair, accurate and, on issues this divisive, balanced manner.
This is the best the Associated Press can do these days?