Dawn Eden

Friday Five: A reindeer's lament, Jessica Hahn, Democratic faith, Bob Dylan's Jesus and more

Friday Five: A reindeer's lament, Jessica Hahn, Democratic faith, Bob Dylan's Jesus and more

Welcome to the Merry Christmas edition of the Friday Five!

Enjoy the video with the holiday classic "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

You may not be aware that there's a religion angle (isn't there always?) on the unfortunate tragedy with Grandma. According to veteran religion writer Bob Smietana, the reindeer wrote an apology. And Smietana penned a song about it. 

By all means, listen to the reindeer's lament.

Back to the "Five":

1. Religion story of the week: Charlotte Observer religion writer Tim Funk interviews Jessica Hahn, the woman at the center of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker's fall 30 years ago. I commented on Funk's intriguing story in a GetReligion post earlier this week.

Bakker trivia and plug at the same time! Who can name the GetReligionista who took the original Charlotte newsroom anonymous call on this topic? It included this statement: "Just remember this name -- Jessica Hahn."

2. Most popular GetReligion post: My analysis titled "Trump + Gillibrand + faith: 'Why is religion only talked about when reporters profile Republicans?'" was our No. 1 post of the week. My thanks to Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons for asking the question that sparked the post and to former GetReligion contributor Mollie Hemingway (among others), who shared it on social media.

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Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

So you thought Pope Francis began a storm of news 'n' views three years ago, when he said, "Who am I to judge" gays? Well, brace yourself for the summertime blizzard of news and commentary with his latest remark -- that the church should apologize to gays, women, children, the poor and, apparently, anyone who likes weapons.

It was on another of those in-flight press conferences, like the one in 2013 when he dropped his non-judgmental bomb. Mainstream media love to pounce on Francis' off-the-cuff remarks, but few of them recognize the conversations flowing just under the surface -- even when they occasionally break into the open.

Yesterday, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked Francis if the church should apologize to gays in the wake of Omar Mateen's shooting spree, killing 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando. She was asking because Cardinal Reinhard Marx had said the church had marginalized gays.

The pope answered with, well, an apology spree. Says the Associated Press:

Francis responded with a variation of his famous "Who am I to judge?" comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.
He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being "a bit offensive for others." But he said: "Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?"
"We must accompany them," Francis said.
"I think the church must not only apologize ... to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons" and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.

Does this signal the dawn of a "progressive" era in the church? Not according to a particular Dawn -- Catholic scholar and GR alumna Dawn Eden:

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BBC: Confused about the difference between a bishop and a book writer

BBC: Confused about the difference between a bishop and a book writer

It seemed like a dream interview: BBC wanted to quiz our GetReligionista-on-leave Dawn Eden on a revised version of her 2006 book The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On

The pre-recorded interview was cut to a five-minute segment, then spliced onto a discussion with several British panelists who were to react to Dawn’s words and chat about whether people could realistically be expected to be sexually abstinent in this day and age. 

And everything was going just right until the voiceover by host Audrey Carville that identified Dawn as “a former rock journalist hoping to be a bishop.”

Problem is: Dawn, a very doctrinally traditional, observant Catholic woman, has no plans to become a bishop. That would be, you know, an act of rebellion against the church.

What she had explained to Audrey is that she’d privately consecrated herself to lead a celibate life and that she hoped to formalize her vow in a future ceremony with a bishop. I’m assuming what she has in mind is something similar to the consecration of virgins ceremony recently explained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dawn has made it very clear she is no virgin, so a different rite would be called for. 

Anyway, BBC got it completely wrong as you’ll see from the following Twitter feed:

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RNS story on Burke's feminism comments is laced with snark

RNS story on Burke's feminism comments is laced with snark

If you were to ask me the easiest part of writing for GetReligion, I would say it is coming up with items for "What is this?" --  the label we give to stories that are presented as hard news, but are so biased as to be indistinguishable from commentary. 

Religion News Service, which lately has unfortunately become a reliable source for "What is this?" items, presents another example of the genre with "Cardinal Raymond Burke: ‘Feminized’ church and altar girls caused priest shortage." The story's facts are straight, but the language is charged in such a way that it manipulates the reader into making negative conclusions about the cardinal. 

Understand, I am not denying that many readers could take offense at the cardinal's comments. Personally, I'm with Madeleine Teahan of the U.K. Catholic Herald, who notes the disconnect between his identifying discipline and strength as "manly" qualities while painting men as passive victims of feminists. But if I wanted a commentary on Burke's interview, I would read a story in the "commentary" section of the news outlet (as is Teahan's). RNS, however, markets its piece under the news label (though it did in fact run a commentary on Burke's interview as well; more on that in a moment). 

The first two paragraphs of the story are factual, though there are the little digs that Catholics have grown accustomed to seeing in stories about Burke:

(RNS) Cardinal Raymond Burke, a senior American churchman in Rome who has been one of the most outspoken critics of Pope Francis’ push for reform, is roiling the waters yet again, this time arguing that the Catholic Church has become too “feminized.”
Burke, who was recently demoted from the Vatican’s highest court to a ceremonial philanthropic post, also pointed to the introduction of altar girls for why fewer men are joining the priesthood.

Right away, Burke is set in opposition to Pope Francis, who has "demoted" him. Readers are prepared to dislike him before they even read his comments.

 Then the comments come:

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Ignatius, what happened? The Atlantic looks at 'rebranding' of Jesuit colleges

Ignatius, what happened? The Atlantic looks at 'rebranding' of Jesuit colleges

A new article in The Atlantic looks at how many Jesuit colleges are rebranding themselves to project an image of fidelity to so-called "Catholic values" without proclaiming fidelity to actual Catholic teachings.

There is a lot to chew on in Autumn Jones' "The New Brand of Catholic Universities," and more than a few religion ghosts -- that is, hints of valuable religion angles that are left unexplored. Key words? Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Two points especially call out for clarification. The first is that of what happened to the Jesuits. Jones writes:

A fourth of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities currently have lay presidents, and the number of Jesuit priests who are active in everyday operations at the schools isn’t nearly as high as it once was.

That is putting it mildly. Here's how the Washington Post reported the decline in local Jesuit vocations in 2011, which reflects a global trend:

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Did Pope Francis really give his own Curia a 'blistering attack' for Christmas?

Did Pope Francis really give his own Curia a 'blistering attack' for Christmas?

Call it truth in advertising--though not in reporting. Religion News Service's story on Pope Francis's Christmas address to the Curia bears a headline that aptly sums up its spin: "Pope Francis to Curia: Merry Christmas, you power-hungry hypocrites."

The lede signals that we have before us the mainstream media's familiar "Francis as radical" meme:

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis launched a blistering attack on the Vatican bureaucracy on Monday (Dec. 22), outlining a “catalog of illnesses” that plague the church’s central administration, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and gossipy cliques. 
The pope’s traditional Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was more “Bah! Humbug!” than holiday cheer as he ticked off a laundry list of “ailments of the Curia” that he wants to cure. 
In a critique that left many of the assembled clerics clearly uncomfortable, the 15 ailments in Francis’ “catalog of illnesses” reflected the take-no-prisoners approach he promised when he was elected nearly two years ago as an outsider with little direct experience in Rome. 

The pope is an "outsider" with a "take-no-prisoners approach"? Don't hold back, RNS; tell us what you really feel.

  Seriously, did Francis's tone in speaking to the Curia actually warrant such hyperbole? A GetReligion reader who read the full text of the pope's address says no:

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To the AP, there are no 'liberal' Catholics — just 'rank-and-file' faithful

To the AP, there are no 'liberal' Catholics — just 'rank-and-file' faithful

Readers of the Associated Press's coverage of the release of the Vatican's report on its probe of American religious sisters will note a curious juxtaposition, one that has, alas, become all too familiar in AP reporting on Catholic issues. Here are the relevant paragraphs; the italics and boldface are mine:

The probes also prompted an outpouring of support from rank-and-file American Catholics who viewed the investigations as a crackdown by a misogynistic, all-male Vatican hierarchy against the underpaid, underappreciated women who do the lion's share of work running Catholic hospitals, schools and services for the poor.
Theological conservatives have long complained that after the reforms of the 1960s Second Vatican Council, women's congregations in the U.S. became secular and political while abandoning traditional prayer life and faith. The nuns insisted that prayer and Christ were central to their work.

Got that? The faithful who saw the probe of the sisters "as a crackdown by a misogynistic, all-male Vatican hierarchy" aren't liberals--they're just "rank-and-file American Catholics." On the other hand, those complainers who knock women's congregations for "abandoning traditional prayer life and faith" are "theological conservatives" who apparently don't even deserve the title "American."

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Listen now: How a fake story about Pope Francis landed the New York Times in the doghouse

Listen now: How a fake story about Pope Francis landed the New York Times in the doghouse

At first glance, the New York Times story sounded like a pet lovers' dream. Upon closer examination, however, it wasn't even fit for lining a birdcage. 

In the latest GetReligion podcast, I talk about why, in my post here last Friday, I had a bone to pick with the Times story that claimed Pope Francis suggested pets go to heaven. Among other errors, the article included a made-up quote that the reporter attributed to John Paul II.

Shortly after I gave the interview and published the post, David Gibson did some more digging and found that the error I had noted was just the tip of the iceberg.

The headline of Gibson's story says it all: "Sorry, Fido. Pope Francis did NOT say our pets are going to heaven." I'm surprised, though, that RNS didn't go with the headline he used when he tweeted the story:

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Tin foil hats at NYTimes as fake JP2 quote on animals becomes conspiracy fodder

Tin foil hats at NYTimes as fake JP2 quote on animals becomes conspiracy fodder

The problems with the New York Times story "Dogs in Heaven? Pope Francis Leaves Pearly Gates Open" begin with the fact that the article itself is a mutt. Although reporter Rick Gladstone uses a recent quote from Pope Francis as a news hook, the body of the piece reads like a domestic rewrite of the U.K. Guardian's Nov. 27 article "It’s a dog’s afterlife: Pope Francis hints that animals go to heaven."

Both the Times and Guardian's main point may be gathered from the satirical headline of Mark Shea's excellent rebuttal to the Guardian"Pope Discusses New Heaven and New Earth for Very First Time in Catholic History." The Times, however, adds a new, conspiratorial wrinkle: John Paul II said that animals had souls, but the Vatican failed to "widely publicize" this, perhaps because it contradicted Pius IX, under whose pontificate the doctrine of papal infallibility was defined.

You can't make this stuff up. Or, rather, you can, and Rick Gladstone, or his editor, has done so.

Saith the Times:

The question of whether animals go to heaven has been debated for much of the church’s history. Pope Pius IX, who led the church from 1846 to 1878, longer than any other pope, strongly supported the doctrine that dogs and other animals have no consciousness. ...
Pope John Paul II appeared to reverse Pius in 1990 when he proclaimed that animals do have souls and are “as near to God as men are.” But the Vatican did not widely publicize his assertion, perhaps because it so directly contradicted Pius, who was the first to declare the doctrine of papal infallibility in 1854.

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