Digging between the lines in UK media responses to the testimony of Archbishop Viganò

The flight from reporting to opinion and advocacy journalism is on full display in the first day reports from the British secular press of the Viganò affair. Like their American counterparts, leading mainstream news outlets are portraying the revelations of coverup and abuse in political left/right terms.

While none have gone farther over the edge than the New York Times’ article: “Vatican Power Struggle Bursts Into Open as Conservatives Pounce," journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have spent more time denigrating the accuser, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, than in reporting on the content of his “testimony." Conservative and centrist papers like The Times and Daily Mail focused instead on the misconduct of Pope Francis and Vatican insiders alleged by the former papal nuncio to the United States.

The British and American media responses to the publication of Viganò’s testimony in four conservative American and Catholic religion outlets confirm the December 2016 thesis put forward by Francis X. Rocca in the Wall Street Journal. In the lede to his article entitled: “How Pope Francis became the leader of the global left," Rocca wrote: 

When Pope Francis delivers his Christmas message this weekend, he will do so not just as the head of the Catholic Church but as the improbable standard-bearer for many progressives around the world.

In 2016 Rocca argued:

With conservative and nationalist forces on the rise in many places and with figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande on their way out, many on the left -- from socialists in Latin America to environmentalists in Europe -- are looking to the 80-year-old pontiff for leadership. … Pope Francis has taken bold positions on a variety of issues, including migration, climate change, economic equality and the rights of indigenous peoples. 

Reading the first day reports from Britain in the BBC and the Guardian leaves one with the impression that they will stand by their man -- Pope Francis. In its coverage, the BBC ran a news report accompanied by an news analysis piece by its religion editor, Martin Bashir.

The BBC news cycle starts from the papal plane during Francis’ visit to Ireland. In crisp, single sentence paragraph terms it describes the situation.

Pope Francis has refused to respond to claims by a former Vatican diplomat who has called on him to resign. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano also accused the Pope of covering up reports of sexual abuse by a U.S. cardinal. The pontiff was asked about the accusations by reporters on his flight back to Rome after this weekend's Papal visit to Ireland.

After the who/what/where/when the BBC offers the why -- opining this is may be an orchestrated attempt to remove the pope.

The timing of the letter, released as the pope addressed sexual abuse by priests during his visit to Ireland, has raised questions about whether Pope Francis is facing a coordinated attack from traditionalists within the Catholic hierarchy.

The accompanying piece by Bashir entitled: “A public challenge to the Pope” expounds on the coup claims.

The timing of Archbishop Vigano's letter has been described by a Vatican source as "suspicious" and may have been part of an orchestrated attack from those within senior levels of the Church who have opposed Pope Francis from the moment he was elected in 2013.

The Pope's informal leadership, baptizing a baby on the street and even marrying a couple during a flight, has concerned some traditionalists and his document about the family -- Amoris Laetitia -- provoked four cardinals to release a series of queries that became known as "dubia."

Archbishop Vigano is known to be an ally of the so called dubia cardinals, who have publicly challenged Pope Francis to correct his teaching on family life -- and have suggested that there may be occasions when a Pope should be challenged and disobeyed.

The pope's decision not to offer any comment about Archbishop Vigano's document is in keeping with his desire to avoid public spats with senior clerics. But his silent treatment of Archbishop Vigano's letter, on the papal plane, told its own story.

Continue reading "UK media responses to Vigano testimony" by George Conger, at the website of The Media Project.

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