Doctor Who

Using the journalism TARDIS: Why was Cardinal McCarrick such a crucial news source?

Using the journalism TARDIS: Why was Cardinal McCarrick such a crucial news source?

When a big news story gets rolling -- like the fall of Cardinal Theodore "Uncle Ted" McCarrick -- the digital waves keep crashing in day after, even if there are no new developments in the mainstream press.

Here at GetReligion, it's hard to know what is worth an update or a critique. We will err on the side of keeping readers connected to some of the discussions that are taking place in serious blogging and social media.

Some of the most important issues in this case are linked to journalism questions in the past. If you have followed the must-read posts of GetReligionista Julia Duin (start here and here) and others (Rod "Benedict Option" Dreher, for example), then you know that news organizations had pieces of this puzzle years ago, but could not land the on-the-record interviews needed to satisfy lawyers and editors. One of the big questions: What happened to the New York Times Sunday Magazine story in 2012 that almost made it to print?

There are many "what ifs" to consider. Old-timers like me -- people who covered events in which Cardinal McCarrick was a player and watched journalists encircle him -- may also want to pause and consider why this man was such a prominent news source, in front of cameras and behind the scenes.

The bottom line: The Catholic hierarchy chose to put him in Washington, D.C.

So with that reality in mind, let's do something that your GetReligionistas hardly ever do (with good cause), which is jump in a journalism TARDIS (a Doctor Who reference, of course) and travel back in time. In this case, it's quite educational to pause and examine a glowing 2004 Washingtonian profile of Cardinal McCarrick. Here is the epic double-decker headline: 

The Man In The Red Hat

With a Controversial Catholic in the Presidential Race, the Cardinal Is Seen by Many as the Vatican's Man in Washington -- and He May Play a Big Role in the Selection of the Next Pope

Here is the overture. Pay close attention to the information about this cardinal's clout with journalists:

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How did 'Christian' — as an adjective in mass media — come to mean shallow and lousy?

How did 'Christian' — as an adjective in mass media — come to mean shallow and lousy?

On one level, this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) is a follow-up discussion of my recent blog here about the New York Times article that, allegedly, tried to look for Jesus at Comic-Con 2015. That event in San Diego is, as I described it in my discussion with Todd Wilken, the great annual gathering of the pop-culture tribes for a "sacred dance" of hero worship and, of course, marketing.

The Times team apparently went to this event looking for evidence that the emerging mini-industry of films and television miniseries targeting "Christian" consumers -- in this case, "Christian" clearly means "evangelical" -- just isn't with it, or cool enough, when it comes to competing in the pop-culture major leagues. But that article, I argued, really didn't pay attention to (a) the work of Christians in mainstream media and (b) the ongoing debates, decade after decade, about aith questions raised in franchises such as "Star Wars," zombie movies, the X-Men, Doctor Who, etc., etc., etc.

In the end, the podcast ended up focusing on how the term "Christian" -- used as a adjective for marketing purposes -- has in our times become another way of saying shoddy, cheap, shallow and derivative. This led to some obvious questions.

Was J.S. Bach a "Christian" composer? Is Christopher Parkening a "Christian" classical guitarist?

Was J.R.R. Tolkien a "Christian" novelist?

How about C.S. Lewis? How about Jane Austen? How about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? When Fyodor Dostoyevsky sat down to write, was he thinking to himself, "How can I please the 'Christian' marketplace?" How about Flannery O'Connor? By the way, her work was the subject of my "On Religion" column for Universal this past week.

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How to miss a few scary angels at Comic-Con, as well as zombie theology debates

How to miss a few scary angels at Comic-Con, as well as zombie theology debates

First thing first, let me offer a cry of personal outrage about one passage in that interesting New York Times piece about God and the annual Super Bowl of American pop culture -- Comic-Con. We're talking about the news feature that ran under this headline: "At Comic-Con, Faith-Based Entertainment Stays in the Shadows."

(Cue mock voice of indignation) What? There is no one on the copy desk of the world's most influential newspaper who knows the Doctor Who canon? That newsroom is a Whovian-free zone?

What does this question have to do with this story? Well, the interesting thing about this piece is that it seems to define the missing "faith" content at Comic-Con 2015 in terms of products produced by the niche-entertainment industry that strives to appeal, for the most part, to pew-sitting evangelical Christians. It seems tone-deaf to the religion content in mainstream culture, including some of its most popular products.

In that context, there is the following passage:

... There was almost no obvious contemporary, faith-based cultural presence on a convention exhibit floor that was crammed with gods, spirits and cultic outcroppings of almost every stripe.
The Christian Comic Arts Society was supposed to have a spot in the small press pavilion, but was not to be found in its assigned spot on Thursday and Friday. If the group indeed showed up, it was lost somewhere in the crowd of 130,000 attendees. The closest approach to Christian imagery was a large drawing that portrayed a dragon-conquering woman beneath a halo.
A couple of “angels” were strolling about, but they were ominously covered, head to toe, in dark makeup.

#DontBlink #WeepingAngels #DUH

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Context, please: About the 'controversial statements' by San Francisco's 'conservative' archbishop

Context, please: About the 'controversial statements' by San Francisco's 'conservative' archbishop

Hold on for a wild ride because there's breaking news in San Francisco.

Believe it or not, the Roman Catholic archbishop of the City by the Bay is, apparently, Catholic. 

You read it here first. No, I'm kidding. The San Francisco Chronicle actually broke the news:

The conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has developed a new document for Catholic high school faculty and staff clarifying that sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are “gravely evil.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s document applies to faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo. It states that administrators, faculty and staff “affirm and believe” the controversial statements, which will be part of the faculty handbook.

So right away, the Chronicle makes clear that Cordileone is both "conservative" and making "controversial statements." 

What makes the archbishop "conservative?" His "controversial" beliefs, apparently.

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What M.Z. said: Doctor Who vs. Jesus at BuzzFeed?

First things first: Yes, I am a big Doctor Who fan. Thus, I find the role that the whole “Whovian” phenomenon plays in the following M.Z. Hemingway post to be fascinating, to say the least.

Nevertheless, suffice it to say that I think our beloved Divine Mrs. M.Z. nails this one and, yes, this is clearly a case of serious religious content giving some journalists sweaty palms.

So, I’ll simply say, “What M.Z. said.” And does the top of her post — at The Federalist, of course — sound kind of familiar here in the context of GetReligion.org? Take that double-decker headline, for example:

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For BBC, Doctor Who faith is real, but never really Christmas

“Go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine”

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