If you look up the word "conception" in a dictionary, it's not all that hard to understand.
At Dictionary.com, the first definition is: "the act of conceiving; the state of being conceived." The second meaning is, "fertilization; inception of pregnancy."
On the religion beat, this is -- #DUH -- a crucial thing to remember when covering anyone who makes a reference to the Catholic Church's doctrine known as the Immaculate Conception (click here for the Catechism explanation). The key Catechism concept:
Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854
For some reason, many mainstream journalists -- those who are not skilled religion-beat pros -- tend to confuse the Immaculate Conception of Mary with the doctrine proclaiming the Virgin Birth of Jesus, which is affirmed by all creedal Christians. This can show up in all kinds of bizarre references in news coverage (click here for a classic M.Z. Hemingway GetReligion post from 2013).
This leads us to in interesting twist on this topic, a clip in which CNN's Chris Cuomo gets to read the doctrinal riot act to Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who served up a strong early nominee for the most bizarre religion image of the year.
Things get weird as Gaetz offers a "Deep State" theory about professionals inside the U.S. government who are trying to take down Donald Trump. Yes, we are talking about those five months of missing text messages between two big-league Trump haters. The CNN piece notes that Gaetz said, on Fox News:
"It would be the greatest coincidence since the Immaculate Conception that it just happened to be the case that right after Obama sics the intelligence community on Trump, the text messages go dark, and they only reappear the day that Robert Mueller is hired to investigate the President. Come on, the American people won't believe that's a coincidence, and I don't believe it, either."
Then on "Cuomo Prime Time," there was the following.
Let us attend.
Cuomo: What do you mean by the Immaculate Conception?
Gaetz: Look, I was making a point that this is an absurd coincidence.
Cuomo: By what? What do you think happened with the Immaculate Conception?
Gaetz: The immaculate conception, it's obviously a religious doctrine that deals with the Christian faith.
Cuomo: I know. Where is the analogy? That's what I don't understand. What do you think happened with the Immaculate Conception?
Gaetz: Look, did you really bring me on to discuss my religious views, Chris? I'm a Christian and I believe the Immaculate Conception was how Jesus was born.
Cuomo: I'm saying you made the analogy, and I don't understand. The Immaculate Conception is not how Jesus was born.
Gaetz: It was the conception. That's the nature of the Immaculate Conception.
Cuomo: No, it wasn't. It was Mary's conception. It was the mother's conception without original sin. It was not the conception of Jesus. Facts matter, congressman. If you're going to make an analogy, at least know what you're talking about because you've got to have a basis for these things.
May I add a comment at this point? Note to all Republicans: At this moment in American political life, it makes no sense at all for you to tick off traditional Catholics.
Meanwhile, journalists who care about these things have enough trouble getting the picky details of religious belief and life covered accurately in mass media without politicians adding to the confusion.