Is the awkward, passive language intentional or just bad writing?
That's my question about a single line that stands out to me in an Associated Press story on the Boy Scouts of America:
More on the specific sentence in question in a moment, but first a little background: A year ago, the Boy Scouts made headlines when the national organization ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders.
A few of our posts at that time:
Kudos to the AP for revisiting the decision at the one-year mark.
However, this is one of those stories that feels squishy — as in broad, sweeping statements supported by quicksand — from the beginning. Throughout the piece, there are more anecdotes than hard data. Feel free to read the whole thing and tell me if I'm wrong.
NEW YORK (AP) — There were dire warnings for the Boy Scouts of America a year ago when the group's leaders, under intense pressure, voted to end a long-standing blanket ban on participation by openly gay adults. Several of the biggest sponsors of Scout units, including the Roman Catholic, Mormon and Southern Baptist churches, were openly dismayed, raising the prospect of mass defections.
Remarkably, nearly 12 months after the BSA National Executive Board's decision, the Boy Scouts seem more robust than they have in many years. Youth membership is on the verge of stabilizing after a prolonged decline, corporations which halted donations because of the ban have resumed their support, and the vast majority of units affiliated with conservative religious denominations have remained in the fold — still free to exclude gay adults if that's in accordance with their religious doctrine.
OK, there were dire warnings. By whom? What exactly was said? Who said it? And what do they say now? AP doesn't engage such questions.
But that's not the awkward, passive language that stands out to me. Instead, see if you can spot it in this next paragraph:
Catholic Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, whose duties include liaising with the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, says he knows of no instances where a Catholic unit — there are more than 7,500 — has taken on an openly gay adult leader since the policy change. Gay sex and same-sex marriage are considered violations of church teaching.
Did you catch that? (emphasis below mine)
Gay sex and same-sex marriage are considered violations of church teaching.
Are they violations of church teachings or not? If they are, why not write this?:
Gay sex and same-sex marriage violate church teaching.
That's much more active and clear, right?
So why did AP write it the way it did? Is there some question on the wire service's part as to whether gay sex and same-sex marriage actually violate church teaching? If so, doesn't the "are considered violations" part of the sentence need attribution?
What other possible reason (or motive) could the AP have for couching the theology in the terms it did?
Is the awkward, passive language intentional? If so, why?
Or is it just bad writing?
I don't know. But I'm definitely curious.