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.

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John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

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Pope Francis eases forgiveness of abortion for Jubilee Year of Mercy

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By John-Henry Westen

ROME, September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- In an announcement today, Pope Francis said that he is enacting an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy from December 8, 2015 through November 2016. As part of the Jubilee, the pope has allowed priests to forgive the sin of abortion, which St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae (paragraph 58) is “murder.”

The statement marks the most extensive remarks on abortion that Pope Francis has made during his pontificate. Rather than downplaying the seriousness of abortion, as some media contend, in the statement the pope encourages the millions of women who have aborted their children to go to confession and seek God’s forgiveness.

In the Catechism, the Church calls abortion a “criminal” practice, and imposes the penalty of excommunication on those who do it -- essentially, removing those who commit abortions from the Church. In the past, typically re-entry into the Church for those who have separated themselves from it by excommunication can only be undertaken by a bishop. However in much of North America priests have already been given standing permission by their bishops to forgive abortion.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput explained in an email sent to LifeSiteNews today, “For many years now, parish priests have been given permission to absolve the sin of abortion here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia archbishop, who will play host to Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit later this month added, “But the practice has not been common in various other regions of the world.”

“This action in no way diminishes the moral gravity of abortion,” concluded Chaput. “What it does do is make access to sacramental forgiveness easier for anyone who seeks it with a truly penitent heart.”

The pope declared that all priests may forgive the sin of abortion for “those who have procured it and who with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.'"

The pope says in his letter that abortion is a “tragedy” wherein “extreme harm” takes place, and calls it “profoundly unjust.”  He admits however, as does the pro-life movement, that it is an “agonizing and painful decision” and many women “believe that they have no other option.”

In order to be forgiven by God of such a serious offence, the pope says the one who has procured the abortion must be made aware of the “gravity of the sin committed” and be truly repentant. They must come, says Francis, with a “contrite heart, seek forgiveness for” the abortion and hoping for “reconciliation with the Father.”

The full statement from the Pope on the matter of abortion follows:

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured itand who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

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TLC stars Kody Brown and his four "wives"
Fr. Mark Hodges

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Surprise, surprise: New suit says gay ‘marriage’ ruling laid ground for legal polygamy

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – When "The Pill" was made available to the public in 1964, Christians warned it could lead to promiscuity and disassociation of sex with marriage and children.  They were ridiculed as religious fanatics.

When abortion was made legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy in 1973, Christians warned that it would not save women's lives, but would instead lead to devaluing all human life, especially children's lives. They were dismissed as moral-legislating hate-mongers.

When euthanasia was legalized in Oregon and other states, Christians warned that the non-terminally ill and eventually the mentally handicapped, or simply the unwanted, would be killed in the name of mercy. They were mocked as right-wing crazies.

When sodomy laws in Texas and elsewhere were stricken from the books in 2003, Christians warned that societal approval of that harmful practice would lead to an increase in disease and further perversion. They were ignored and vilified.

When DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) rules for the military were reversed, Christians warned that the epidemic of rapes in the armed services would increase, not decrease, and that combat readiness would continue to diminish. They were called bigots, their words "hate speech."

And so on. Recent history is rife with examples of conservatives warning against societal degradation being vilified as "slippery slope" straw man creators, who want only to legislate morality.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

That's how those who warned that the Supreme Court's same-sex "marriage" decision would lead to legalization of any and all kinds of "marriage," such as a man and several wives or vice versa.

And, as in every case cited above, what Christian conservatives warned is exactly what has now happened.

In a U.S. 10th Circuit court filing, reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives point to the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling on same-sex marriage to buttress their pro-polygamy case.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth, summarized to LifeSiteNews, "The left's chaotic cultural agenda knows no boundaries. Once 'marriage' could be redefined to accommodate sexual perversion, it would be impossible to stop other perversions from being recognized." 

The American Family Association's Ed Vitagliano told LifeSiteNews, "It has been clear for decades that sexual radicals in America have been targeting the God-ordained institution of marriage for destruction. Toss in a handful of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, beginning in 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas), and ending with this summer's debacle (Obergefell v. Hodges), and we are on the verge of seeing the secularists succeed." 

The AFA executive vice president concluded to LifeSiteNews, "We have no doubt that the polygamists will be next to step into the federal courts."

Indeed. Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, have asked the court to uphold a judge's ruling striking down part of Utah's law against polygamy. To prove their case, they cite precedents involving same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges), and a case that struck down a ban on sodomy (Lawrence v. Texas).

"From the rejection of morality legislation in Lawrence, to the expansion of the protections of liberty interests in Obergefell, it is clear that states can no longer use criminal codes to ... punish those who choose to live in consensual but unpopular unions," Brown's filing states. "This case is about the criminalization of consensual relations."

LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews that the move to legalize polygamy is no surprise. "Once the argument for homosexual so-called 'marriage' became 'Love Is Love,' it was only a matter of time before multiple-partner activists would start defending the 'right' to have THEIR [perversion of] 'love' legitimized by state-recognized 'marriage.'"

The Browns, who appear on the television show "Sister Wives," sued the state of Utah over its ban on polygamy, which Brown calls "plural relationships." They argue that the law violates their right to freely practice their religion and their right to equal protection under the law.

Specifically, Brown is challenging the state's assertion that polygamy is harmful to societies that condone it.

Brown argues that the state should not have "the right to impose criminal morality codes on citizens, compelling them to live their lives in accordance with the religious or social values of the majority of citizens."

LaBarbera concluded, "Social conservatives and Christians must work to overturn Obergefell, just like homosexual activists worked to overturn the Supreme Court's Bowers v. Hardwick decision in 1986 that allowed anti-sodomy laws. Otherwise, we are guaranteed to lose more and more freedoms as 'gay' power grows, using legalized 'marriage' as leverage."

Arguments in the Brown polygamy case could take place before the 10th Circuit Court in Denver before the end of the year.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, MD, on March 6, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Sen. McConnell: GOP won’t push Obama on Planned Parenthood defunding

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Planned Parenthood won't lose its funding for at least 18 months, says America's top senator.

Speaking on WYMT TV, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said, "The president’s made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that’s another issue that awaits a new president, hopefully with a different point of view about Planned Parenthood."

“We just don’t have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like,” he said. “Again, the president has the pen to sign it. If he doesn’t sign it, it doesn’t happen. But, yeah, we voted on that already in the Senate, we’ll vote on it again, but I would remind all of your viewers the way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it and the president has to sign it.”

McConnell's comments came despite pressure from Senators and Representatives alike, as well as pro-life groups, who want Republicans to make defunding a priority.

"If the president of the United States and Harry Reid think it's more important that Planned Parenthood get your tax dollars than to pay our troops, then they are shutting down the government,” Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan, R-OH, told CNN last week.

Jordan and others have pushed GOP leaders to attach defunding efforts to must-pass pieces of legislation, such as a highway bill earlier this summer and the upcoming Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government running. GOP leaders have generally opposed this strategy, which has created a schism within the party.

Conversely, Democrats have been largely united. Leaders and rank-and-file members in both parties have generally supported taxpayer funding of the abortion giant, despite the possibility of illegal abortions being done to illegally harvest fetal organs and other body parts.

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