Hey, reporters and editors: Can we talk? Let's include people who work at religious publications and wire services (Catholic, especially, in this case), as well as those who work in the mainstream press.
Some things are getting into cyber-print, during the tsunami of Pope Francis coverage, that really have me scratching my head.
Trust me, I understand that there are plenty of journalists out there who do not agree with the teachings of the Catholic church. #Duh. I have disagreements with Rome myself. No one needs to agree with a religious group in order to cover it accurately.
I also know that there are reporters who do not know very much about what the Catholic church teaches. That's OK, too, so long as they know what they don't know and are willing to apply their journalistic skills to finding on-the-record sources who can help them get details right, as well as handle the debates that take place when Catholics argue with one another.
But then there are headlines and stories like this one in that ran in The Chicago Sun-Times that just don't make sense. In this case the headline proclaims: "Fired from Catholic school for being gay, she's now seeing the pope." Right, this story was linked to the White House invitations that were award to outspoken critics of Catholic doctrines.
But before we look at the story, let me ask -- just between us journalists -- a question or two. Here goes. How many of you know gay and lesbian Catholics who, when it comes to what the Catechism says about sexual morality:
(a) Agree and are striving to live by those teachings?
(b) Quietly disagree with those teachings?
(c) Disagree and make their stance public?
Now, take into account that -- in this era defined by issues like the Health and Human Services mandates linked to health care -- our government is turning up the heat on the leaders of religious non-profits, including schools and hospitals, to explicitly show that their work is doctrinally defined and linked to specific religious institution and tradition. Rules that were once vague are growing more specific.
So journalists, jumping back to the Chicago headline, how many of you think it's safe to assume that Catholic schools are continuing to employ gay and lesbian Catholics from group (a) above? Obviously. How many of you assume that these schools are willing to employ gay and lesbian Catholics who quietly remain in the (b) group and may sign lifestyle covenants agreeing not to publicly clash with the church? Now, clearly there will be trouble with the (c) group, those who "disagree and make this public."
Nevertheless, it's clear that gay and lesbian Catholics continue to teach in these schools, especially traditional Catholics in the (a) group.
So, look at the top of the Sun-Times report:
Margie Winters isn’t holding a grudge against the Catholic church, even though she was fired from her job at a Catholic school because she’s gay.
In June, she was let go from her position at Waldron Mercy Academy in suburban Philadelphia, where she had worked for eight years. She married her wife, Andrea Vettori, in 2007 and was always open about her sexual orientation with school administrators and faculty.
However, she was fired once a parent complained to the archdiocese about her same-sex marriage.
But now, Winters is at the White House to see Pope Francis.
So, for years Winters worked in this school and leaders knew about her sexual orientation, according to the facts of this story. Then something changed and she was fired.
What changed? Simply stated, she went from the (a) or (b) group above and made a public jump to the (c) group, through an act that is forbidden by the Catholic church at all levels.
So, is it accurate to say that Winters was fired simply "because she's gay"?
No, it isn't. If that was the case she would not have worked in the school for eight years. If that was true, there would be no (a) group homosexuals living and working in Catholic schools and other institutions defined by church teachings. So is this story accurate? Would it be more accurate to state that she was fired because she publicly defied church teachings?
Once again, journalists do not have to agree with church teachings on this issue in order to cover this story accurately. One simply needs to be able to think logically, in light of the facts that are actually reported in this story.
OK, here is another one of these face-palm stories, from the other day -- a report from MSNBC.
Pope Francis begins his first visit to the U.S. on Sept. 22 and has plans to stop in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. The pope has parted ways from his predecessors on several issues, including climate change and gay clergy.
In 2013, he asked “who am I to judge” gay people -- although he has yet to take any specific action on the matter.
Say what? Please name a single way in which Pope Francis, at the level of doctrine, has "parted ways" on issues linked to the environment and on the status of gay clergy. Can anyone name one? With a URL to back that up? Did an editor even look at this piece?
As a certain Professor Digory Kirke would say: "Logic!"