Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

The Mainstream Media and religious illiteracy: why be ignorant, when you can be misinformed?

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, April 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The very first phrase in a recent news article from the BBC relating to the Catholic Church in Ireland brought to mind something that has been rolling around in my head lately: the trouble with the Mainstream Media on Catholicism, Christianity and the life and family issues, (ie: sexual morality) is not actually their vicious mendaciousness and ignorance.

Malice against the Church is nothing new or exciting, but there is also an awareness starting to dawn that these media people don’t know much about it. We are starting to hear more admissions that there is a bias in the media.

But I’ve been thinking lately, that even this doesn’t adequately cover it. It isn’t their total ignorance of anything about the Church whatsoever, but the total impenetrability of that ignorance.

There is in the mainstream media, which the BBC more or less embodies, not even enough of a clue to cause them to pause for a moment and wonder whether they should look something up. The real trouble is their ignorance of their ignorance.

Today’s example is a story from the BBC, with the totally-and-completely-unbiased-we-swear headline, “Concern at Vatican ‘silencing’ of Irish priest,” the first sentence of which tells us that “The body that represents priests in Ireland has said it is disturbed over the Vatican’s silencing of one of its members for his liberal views.”

“The body that represents priests in Ireland” eh? Do tell. Which body would this be, exactly? It certainly sounds official and important. Gosh, I mean, could this be yet another example of the wicked old arch-conservatives in Rome trying to squash another progressive, forward-thinking movement to usher in a new era of reform, openness and wonderfulness in the Church?

It’s the first sentence in the story, so it must be important. And it’s the BBC, so naturally, we would never dream of wondering whether it is true.

The story goes on to say that the group has “warned that forcing Father Tony Flannery …to stop writing for a Redemptorist Order magazine would fuel belief of a disconnect between Irish Catholics and Rome.”

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I mean, here is this nice group of priests, just trying to keep things together in Ireland’s difficult times, and these horrible old guys in Rome are just tearing things down, for no better reason than to maintain their medieval power structures.

But wait, here’s something funny. The group the story is talking about is the Association of Catholic Priests, that the BBC hastens to tell us is “800-strong”. What association is this, you might now be wondering. No? You weren’t wondering that? Could it have been the BBC’s use of the term, “body” in a way that might have allowed you to assume that this is some kind of officially recognised organisation of the Catholic Church?

Could it possibly have been that the BBC writer was hoping no one would cut that name out of his story and paste it into the LifeSiteNews search engine? And what do we come up with there?

Woah-nellie! That’s not any official body of the Catholic Church, either in Ireland or anywhere else! In fact, this is a group of priests who have set themselves up in deliberate opposition to the Catholic Church, specifically to tear it down. Precisely what the BBC writer is implying the Vatican is doing… what gives here?

And, why, look at this, they’re trying especially to convince the Church that the old sexual morality was wrong. That wouldn’t be at all in line with the BBC’s unofficial position on the matter, would it?

Nor, it seems, did anyone think we might take Fr. Flannery’s name and put it into Google. Let’s see, what can we learn about Fr. Flannery CSSR?

It turns out that he is the author of no fewer than six books, a multitude of articles, and, one little online bio notes, is well-known for his criticisms of the Catholic Church: “…he is widely regarded as a spokesman for liberal reform of the Catholic Church”. He is, in short, a campaigner, a full-time professional anti-Catholic lobbyist, ironically, being paid a salary by the Catholic Church to undermine its own teaching, and discredit its leaders and institutions, (a job, I might add, that the Irish bishops have made much easier). This movement seeks to knock down the institutions, moral teaching and structures of Catholicism, a project that is obviously dear to the heart of the BBC.

So, in fact, three or four clicks will reveal that this “article” by the BBC is, in fact, a piece of political propaganda, carefully fashioned to point a totally-unbiased-we-swear finger at the Pope for trying to hold his priests accountable for being… well… Catholic.

A lot of this is malice, of course. The deliberate pushing, lobbying essentially, of a particular set of political ideas, without the courage to come out and admit that is what they are doing. The fact that everyone who reads an article online is also capable of uncovering this naked partisanship with a few clicks of the trackpad doesn’t seem to have dawned on them yet. Nevertheless, we still try to give the benefit of the doubt where we can.

We still say that much of this is based on “religious illiteracy” in the media, and among the public who believes what they read there. And obviously this is true, but I have noticed that this is only the first layer of the problem.

The term “religiously illiterate” simply doesn’t cover it; people, particularly the media, are religiously ignorant. There isn’t much about the Catholic Church that the media, and the wider public informed by it, doesn’t not know.

To complicate matters, on top of that ignorance and malice there is a large inventory of ideas, completely absurd nonsense, that “everyone knows” about the Catholic Church, that are total rubbish. (Here, Robert Spencer does an amusing job of shredding a sample of the problem from the New York Times.)

Put these four problems together, malice, blank ignorance, the total lack of awareness of that ignorance and wild misinformation, and it creates a perfect disaster for the public. How can we expect ordinary people, many of whom have never heard the term “media bias” to know where or when to click? How many out there would have read that story by the BBC and have known what questions to ask?

I’m afraid I laughed when I read recently about some Vatican occasion when a bishop or cardinal or someone was ever so delicately tiptoeing around the notion that many people in the western countries are a little in the dark as to what Catholicism actually teaches.

I could not help thinking of the occasion, many years ago, when I went to Catholic school in Ontario to give a talk. I have noted before that the lower grades, 8s and 9s, were quite receptive and interested, though ignorant as 10th century Inuit. The later grades, however, the 16-17 year-olds, had at some point heard the vague rumour that the Catholic Church taught two things they didn’t like and they were having none of it, or me. They had heard that they weren’t allowed, as Catholics, to sleep with whomever they pleased, and that they also weren’t allowed either to contracept away or simply to kill the products of their amusements afterwards. The shocking cheek of those old guys in Rome, trampling all over their rights like that!

I went into the class and it was immediately obvious that they were ready to tear me apart. I asked a few questions and quickly found out what I already knew.

“So you guys have been in Catholic schools all your lives and by this time, you figure you know everything the Church teaches, right?”

Nod nod nod.

“And based on that knowledge, you have examined these teachings in the light of your consciences and have come to the rational and well-informed decision that you don’t agree, right?”

(General murmurings, foot-shuffling.) “Yeah…I guess so…”

“OK, so you won’t mind a little pop quiz then. I teach catechism to some kids at my parish who are about 13 or 14 and are getting ready for their Confirmations, and I’ve just finished writing their exams, so it’s still fresh in my mind.”

(Worried looks, but still defiant.)

“Ready? ...What is the Hypostatic Union?”

A room full of more impenetrably blank looks you could not find at a convention of Italian medical secretaries.

“No? OK, maybe that was a little obscure. Then what about the difference between venial and mortal sin?”

...We all listen to the crickets chirping for a few seconds…

“Uh huh. Well, what about the difference between the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception?”

...chirp… chirp…

“OK, well this one is the easiest, a give-away… Ready? Who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity?”

I had to stop here because I thought one of us was going to cry and it wasn’t going to be me.

“So, you have come to the considered opinion that you reject the Church’s moral teaching on sexuality, but you don’t have a third-grader’s knowledge of what that teaching is, or the reasons behind it. Have I got it about right?”

This situation feeds itself, particularly in the media, who also don’t know enough about religion to know what they don’t know, and are equally sure they are fully possessed of What Everyone Knows About Catholicism, thus creating an almost impenetrable wall that admits no possibility of communication.

What can be done? Read LifeSiteNews, for one thing. And fight back, for another. First equip yourself for the discussion (I won’t say “fight”). Learn everything you can about how to answer the arguments against traditional Christian morality (This is not proposed as an exercise only for Catholic Christians).

This is something for which LifeSiteNews is the ideal tool. We write in these pages about both sides, what the other side is doing, thinking and saying, and why, and what is being done about it on the other side.

The peddlers of anti-Catholic, anti-Christian hatred, are counting on your ignorance. The author of this piece I have focused on here was depending on his audience not wondering whether this were a legitimate organisation of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

He was selling you a paradigm that liberals base all their hate-mongering on: that there is a “good” Christianity that is all for abortion, homosexuality and sexual libertinism, in the name of “freedom” and “conscience” and on the other side, the dark forces of “conservatism” whose only interest is in squashing your fun for their own nefarious purposes. It sounds silly when you write it out like this, but that really is it in a nutshell. Whether they are paid by the BBC or whether the Redemptorist order in Ireland is signing the cheques, the desired outcome is precisely the same.

They can only sell it to you if you are buying. And you will only be in the market for these ideas if you are not already in full possession of the Truth.

Red alert! Only 4 days left.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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