How Not to Report the Pope’s Visit

By Mollie
September 17, 2010

You know how The Screwtape Letters was written from the perspective of a senior demon to his nephew demon? This article on the Pope’s visit to Britain by Washington Post foreign service writer Anthony Faiola reads better — and much funnier — if you imagine it written by someone pretending to be a demon.

It’s bad. You don’t have to trust me on that.

To be sure, not everything on Ignatius Press’ tongue-in-cheek guide to the British press is there. Here’s a sample from that list:

—Prominently mention that young Ratzinger served in the Nazi army. Don’t provide any context—just let the association be made. After all, it’s pretty hard to dig out of that hole!

—Immediately follow up with mention of the sex scandals. Imply that it is somehow the Pope’s fault that certain priests are perverts and certain bishops are pathetic, or worse. Make it sound as though molestations and abuse are happening right now, rather than pointing out that vast majority took place over thirty years ago.

—Have plenty of quotes from those openly opposed to the Pope, as well as unnamed Catholics who question, doubt, or dislike the Pope and “his” positions. Anonymous priests, bishops, and nuns are best.

Here’s just a sample from the actual article, which I don’t think is intended to satirize itself:

Benedict’s unprecedented visit has provoked strong feelings across this island nation from the start. Months before he arrived, for instance, a memo making the rounds at the British Foreign Office suggested that the pontiff be invited to preside over a same-sex marriage and visit an abortion clinic while in town.

The young diplomats responsible were reprimanded, but the note’s mixture of comedy and outrage aptly captures the mood of many Britons. By visiting this heavily secular nation, Benedict is, to quote the Guardian newspaper, “entering the lions’ den.”

Various groups — including the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests — have banded together into an alliance dubbed “Protest the Pope” and are set to march Saturday through the streets of London as the German-born pontiff hosts a vigil in Hyde Park. A number of Britons, some with deeply held suspicions of Vatican motives, are also smarting from a campaign launched by Benedict to woo dissident Anglicans angry over the ordination of gay and female clerics. Still more are furious over the $30 million price tag for the trip, largely funded by British taxpayers as is customary for state visits.

There’s really no dispute that some Anglicans have worked tirelessly for years for, well, an Anglican option under the Pope. To spin those many years of joint effort as “a campaign launched by Benedict” is hilarious, if completely inaccurate.

The entire article reeks of snark and vitriol. If you are into that (and, frankly, many reporters are), you’ll love the article. If you were hoping for a more accurate or sober or respectful treatment of an important state visit by the pope, you’ll have to find it elsewhere.


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