Deacon Greg Kandra

Is there a holy ghost in Andrew Luck's shocking decision to retire? His comments made us wonder

Is there a holy ghost in Andrew Luck's shocking decision to retire? His comments made us wonder

I don’t follow the National Football League closely.

I’m an extremely casual Dallas Cowboys fan. That means I pay attention at playoff time — a sporadic period that, for Jerry Jones’ Cowboys, hasn’t lasted long the past two-plus decades.

However, even a wayward NFL follower couldn’t help but catch the shocking news of Andrew Luck’s retirement.

As always, the holy ghost antennas of GetReligion’s resident sports observers (that would be Terry Mattingly and me) went up when we read some of the reports about the Indianapolis Colts quarterback’s decision.

Religion has, of course, played a role in past surprising exits of professional athletes. You remember Adam LaRoche, right? In 2016, he walked away from a Chicago White Sox contract worth $13 million rather than yield to demands by management that he cut the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spent with him and his team.

“Sports fans, you have to be blind as a bat not to see the religion ghost in this one,” tmatt wrote when LaRoche retired.

So what about Luck? Any ghost haunting this bombshell sports moment?

I wondered that as I read Gregg Doyel’s front-page Indianapolis Star column on the QB who gave up million (how many millions?

Doyel wrote:

Luck, the most private of public superstars, was opening up in a way he never has, telling us just how hard these last four years have been.

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Tim Conway was a kind soul, with a gentle sense of humor. Maybe his faith played a role in that?

Tim Conway was a kind soul, with a gentle sense of humor. Maybe his faith played a role in that?

If you are of a certain age, then you know that there was a decade or two in which Tim Conway was the funniest man alive. If you looked into the details of his life and personality, then you knew that he was more than that.

Watching The Carol Burnett Show was one of the few pop-culture rituals in the Southern Baptist preacher’s home in which I grew up. Conway was the star of the show, as far as I was concerned. It was interesting, last week, to read the mainstream media obituaries and tributes that followed his death.

The key? It was all about the adjectives — “kind,” “gentle,” “loving,” “impish,” “humble,” etc. — as today’s reporters tried to hint at the style and content of the work done by this master of the semi-improvised variety show skit.

I kept looking for one more crucial word — “Catholic.” Check out the EWTN interview at the top of this post.

As you would expect, scribes made that connection in the Catholic press, but nowhere else that I could find. Here’s the faith-free opening of the tribute at The Hollywood Reporter. Maybe the angel reference in the lede is supposed to be a hint?

Tim Conway, the cherub-faced comedian who became a TV star for playing the bumbling Ensign Parker on McHale's Navy and for cracking up his helpless colleagues on camera on The Carol Burnett Show, has died. He was 85. 

A five-time Emmy Award winner, Conway died Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. at a health care facility in Los Angeles, his rep told The Hollywood Reporter. According to recent reports, he was suffering from dementia and unable to speak after undergoing brain surgery in September.

For four seasons beginning in October 1962, the impish actor provided the heart and a lion's share of the laughs on ABC's McHale's Navy as the sweet, befuddled second-in-command on a PT boat full of connivers and con men led by the show's title character, played by Ernest Borgnine.

When dealing with Hollywood royalty, what really matters is the obituary in The Los Angeles Times.

Of course, Burnett was featured right up top:

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Friday Five: Twitter mobs, Covington Catholic controversy, ABC journalist's faith

Friday Five: Twitter mobs, Covington Catholic controversy, ABC journalist's faith

In the age of outrage, it’s hard to escape social media mobs.

People screaming from behind smartphones and keyboards feed a seemingly endless loop of headlines like this one: “Twitter rips Savannah Guthrie for 'appalling' interview with Nicholas Sandmann on 'Today.'“

Certainly, Guthrie’s interview of the Covington Catholic High School teen at the center of this past weekend’s viral videos is fair game for criticism and debate. But isn’t there a more productive way to do that than succumbing to a clickbaity “Twitter rips” approach?

What would happen if newspapers such as USA Today stopped biting or at least insisted on doing actual interviews and quoting smart sources with strong, nuanced opinions? That used to be called journalism, right?

Speaking of a better way, over at Poynter, Tom Jones makes a fair, sensible case for why “Guthrie did her best and did well.” He notes:

When you’re getting criticized from both sides, there’s a decent chance you did a good job.


Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The villains were clear — or seemed to be — in the original stories Saturday (examples here, here and here). But by Sunday, a much more complicated pictured emerged. And days later, we’re still talking about this.

There’s still time to catch up on all the excellent analysis and commentary on this subject here at GetReligion:

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Predator priests: CNN notes pope is silent on (a) secular holiday or (b) holy day celebrating purity?

Predator priests: CNN notes pope is silent on (a) secular holiday or (b) holy day celebrating purity?

Every reporter knows this truth: The typical news story -- even a longer feature -- doesn't have room for every single detail that you want to include.

Ah, but how do you decide which details make the cut? 

In my experience, reporters and editors think about the potential audience for a particular story. On the religion beat, I have always assumed that there is a good chance that people who read religion stories care about the religious details -- especially when they serve as symbols of major themes in the story. I also love details in liturgies, hymns, biblical texts, etc., that offer poignant or even ironic twists on the news.

This brings me to a rather angry note that I received from a reader -- a nationally known historian, who will remain anonymous -- about a symbolic detail in a CNN report linked to the stunning Pennsylvania grand-jury report covering seven decades of Catholic priestly sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The headline: "Critics slam Vatican's 'disturbing' silence on abuse cover-ups."

The CNN report noted that Paloma Ovejero, deputy director of the Vatican's press office, simply said: "We have no comment at this time." Meanwhile, U.S. bishops of all stripes have urged Pope Francis to speak out. That led to this passage, with an expert academic voice offering commentary:

"The silence from the Vatican is disturbing," said Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. "I don't think the Pope necessarily has to say something today. He needs time to understand the situation. But someone from the Vatican should say something." 

Faggioli noted that Wednesday is a national holiday in Italy, and many church offices are closed. But he also noted that it was well-known that Pennsylvania's grand jury report, which was in the works since 2016, would be released on Tuesday. 

"I don't think they understand in Rome that this is not just a continuation of the sexual abuse crisis in the United States," Faggioli said. "This is a whole different chapter. There should be people in Rome telling the Pope this information, but they are not, and that is one of the biggest problems in this pontificate -- and it's getting worse."

Ah, what was this national holiday? 

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So the New York Times executive editor said, 'We don't get religion" ... So what? Now what?

So the New York Times executive editor said, 'We don't get religion" ... So what? Now what?

People keep asking me a predictable question: "Did you and the whole GetReligion team feel vindicated (or words to that effect) when New York Times editor Dean Baquet admitted (or "confessed," or words to that effect) that elite newsrooms, including his own, just "don't get religion"?

What do you think, Einstein?

Sure enough, this was the first question that Crossroads host Todd Wilken asked this week when we were on the air, recording the basics for the podcast. Click right here to tune that in.

For those of you who have been on another cyber-planet, or missed my earlier post on this topic ("New York Times editor: We just don't get (a) religion, (b) the alt-right or (c) whatever"), here is the most quoted piece of Baquet's interview with Terry Gross on National Public Radio's Fresh Air program, during a discussion of the alt-right and Donald Trump:

I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don't quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she's all alone. We don't get religion. We don't get the role of religion in people's lives.

My reaction? Of course I thought this was nice, in a laugh to keep from crying kind of way. I mean, your GetReligionistas have published about 10 million words over the past 12-plus years making that argument. Sure, it's nice to hear the Times editor say those words.

But what about it? That was Wilken's next question: If I could say three things to Baquet about the implications of that statement, what would they be?

You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear the answer. So there.

But as a hint, check out this short commentary about the Baquet statement -- "Dog bites man: New York Times editor admits ‘We don’t get religion’ " -- written by Deacon Greg "Headlines and Homilies" Kandra.

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Deaconesses or female deacons? Journalists do you know the history of these terms?

Deaconesses or female deacons? Journalists do you know the history of these terms?

Once again, it is time to play that popular news-media game, "What did Pope Francis say and what might it mean?" The goal is to fit a bite or two of church history into the rapid-fire and breathless responses of journalists in some elite newsrooms, where a papal call for clarification on female deacons is being hailed as a possible door to the ordination of women as priests. 

Let's start with some basics: The word used in Romans 16:1 to describe the woman named Phoebe is diakonos -- which some have translated as "servant," while others use "deacon. In the New International Version, that would be:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

In the classic King James Version, that reads: 

I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.

Scan through this Bible Hub search and you'll see a variety of translations that go each way. But we can start our discussion with an acknowledgement that the early church did include some kind of role for women known as "deaconesses." 

Now, we also need to recognize that in the modern world, a rapidly rising number of Catholic parishes and ministries are featuring the ministry of men ordained as "permanent deacons," as opposed to deacons who will soon transition into the priesthood. This is a very newsworthy trend.

So, when you clicked on your news source of choice (or perhaps even opened a newspaper) today, did the story you read contain some material resembling the following from the report in Crux?

Currently, canon 1024 of the Code of Canon Law says that only a baptized male can receive the sacrament of ordination, so the law does not presently permit female deacons. The question, however, especially in light of the Biblical evidence for women being referred to as “deaconesses” in early Christianity, is whether that law could be changed.

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Deacon Greg Kandra states the obvious: That Newsweek 'nuns' story was beyond absurd

Deacon Greg Kandra states the obvious: That Newsweek 'nuns' story was beyond absurd

No doubt about it, news professionals do love images of nuns who look like nuns. How many news stories have you seen, in recent years, about tensions between the Vatican and liberal religious orders for women (those who lean toward pant suits and similar business attire) that have been illustrated with photos of old-school nuns wearing traditional habits?

Journalists also like stories about nuns doing things that would shock the public, or at the very least might shock traditional Catholics. Remember this recent example?

This brings me to that recent Newsweek story that ran under this headline (all upper-case letters in the original):


The top of the story offered this information:

Two Northern California habit-wearing nuns, the self-proclaimed “Sisters of the Valley,” say their cannabis business is under threat now that the Merced City Council is considering a full ban on all marijuana cultivation in the city. Should the measure pass next week, Sister Kate and Sister Darcy may need to eliminate the small crop of pot plants they have growing in their garage.
The pair produces salves, tonics and tinctures from the plants they sell on Etsy for pain management.

That produced this epic headline on a response post at by Deacon Greg Kandra, a former CBS News writer with 26 years of news experience, two Emmys and two Peabody Awards to his credit.

Newsweek, Go Home. You’re Drunk. Those Aren’t Nuns.

Now the key here are two words slipped into the Newsweek lede -- "self-proclaimed." I

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Associated Press serves up Pope Francis for dummies: Affirm the doctrines, ignore the rules?

Associated Press serves up Pope Francis for dummies: Affirm the doctrines, ignore the rules?

As he so often does, Deacon Greg Kandra looked at a news story about the Catholic church and summed it up in a crisp one-liner, a skill honed to a fine edge during his quarter of a century with CBS News. At his "The Deacon's Bench" blog (must reading for journalists on the Godbeat) he proclaimed: "BREAKING: The pope is still Catholic."

Pope Francis is Catholic? As opposed to what?

That's a big issue in the mainstream press, these days. Kandra's ironic headline pointed readers toward this Associated Press report from the recent papal stop in the Philippines, which began like this:

Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception, using a Friday rally in Asia's largest Catholic nation to urge families to be "sanctuaries of respect for life."
Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued the Philippines for decades and urged officials to instead work to end its "scandalous" poverty and social inequalities during his first full day in Manila, where he received a rock star's welcome at every turn.

The "sanctuaries" quote led into a very interesting passage that deserves close attention. You see, it is one of those doctrine-affirming statements that Francis often makes, yet these affirmations tend to draw minimal mainstream media coverage, especially in comparison with the waves of coverage that have followed some papal remarks that, when edited, seem to undercut orthodoxy.

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That deacon and CBS veteran sacks a Womenpriests 'story'

Should visitors to GetReligion choose to search our archives for the term “Womenpriests” they will find eight pages of results, most of them dedicated to dissecting alleged news reports about this tiny splinter movement on the left side of the world of American Catholicism. I say “alleged” because most of these stories resemble public relations essays, rather than news reports that take seriously the beliefs of people on both sides of this issue. In at least one case (“If Womenpriests were rabbis“) it appeared that the Baltimore Sun team actually cooperated with the organizers of a Womenpriests ordination rite to help protect local Catholics (some on the payroll of the real church) who attended the event. For a few other hot links to past coverage, including the work of GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway, click here, here, here and here.

Now, Deacon Greg Kandra — scribe at the fine weblog “The Deacon’s Bench” — has taken his turn at pounding his head, as a veteran journalist, on this particular wall. For those not familiar with his work, Kandra is a former CBS Evening News writer with 26 years, two Emmys and two Peabody Awards to his credit. So when this Catholic clergyman chooses to dissect a report from a CBS affiliate, his commentary has a unique level of clout.

This is poor on so many levels. Reporter Maria Medina should be embarrassed. My only conclusion is that it’s sweeps month and the affiliate is desperate for ratings.

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