Denver Archbishop Laments Media Not Treating Them Nicely

By Bridgette P. Lavictoire
Lez Get Real
September 29, 2010

Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told a conference of 150 religion reporters on 24 September that the mass media seems more hostile to Christian values. He called upon journalists "to understand believers and religious institutions as they understand themselves." Indeed, this is wonderful advice right out of the pages of Sun Tzu's Art of War "know your enemy as you know yourself." Of course, this is not what he is urging because what he is actually upset about is the fact that the media has not done things like ignore the fact that Senatorial candidate from Wisconsin Ron Johnson's testimony in order to destroy a bill that would have extended the statute of limitation in pedophile cases aimed at the Roman Catholic Church or the fact that Roman Catholic priests actually rape children.

He went on to say "Freedom of the press clearly includes the right to question the actions and motives of religious figures and institutions. But freedom doesn't excuse prejudice or poor handling of serious material, especially people's religious convictions. What's new today is the seeming collusion –or at least an active sympathy — between some media organizations and journalists, and political and sexual agendas hostile to traditional Christian beliefs."

In his talk "Religion, Journalism, and the New American Orthodoxy", he also said "This new orthodoxy seems to influence the selection of religious news and how that news gets presented. It seems to frame which opinions are appropriate and which ones won't be heard. And it seems to guide the historical narrative that media present to their audiences.

"This new thinking seems to presume a society much more secular and much less religious than anything in America's past or warranted by present facts. A society where people are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they don't intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on government, the economy or culture."

He was asked by New York Times reporter Laurie Goodstein why he has not been taking interviews, but he has stated that he was not doing so because in 2004, a Times reporter misquoted him during the John Kerry presidential campaign. The paper apparently portrayed the Catholic bishops as trying to derail Kerry's campaign because of his support for legal abortion.

Chaput apparently did signal that he might change his mind regarding granting interviews if the newspapers showed differences in how they cover issues such as Pope Benedict's handling of the sexual abuse scandals.

The Archbishop praised the now defunct Rocky Mountain News for its fair approach to the Church, and stated that "The Denver Post was generally fair in its coverage, if not in its placement." Of course, one has to wonder just where his concern for fairness was when the Catholic Church transferred priests who sexually molested children from place to place instead of handing them over to the police.

He went on to say how religion journalists are some of the "the most introspective people I have ever known in my life." He went on to say

"The late media scholar Neil Postman liked to argue that social science isn't really 'science' at all. but a disguised form of moral theology. The deficiencies in today's coverage of religion are too real to ignore, and they're not simply issues of deadlines and resources. They're also attitudinal; even ideological.

"One of the worst habits many Catholics had at the start of the clergy sex abuse crisis, including many bishops, was to minimize a very grave problem, but news media show many of the same patterns of denial, vanity, obstinacy and institutional defensiveness in dealing with criticism of their own failures.

"We now commonly see religion coverage that's illiterate about the subject matter, or narrows the scope of facts or sources to fit an unfriendly narrative — especially when it comes to the Christian faith and its traditional content. Coverage of Islam tends to be equally ill-informed and confused on matters of history; but also more respectful and even sympathetic, as in the recent New York mosque controversy.

"Know yourself and your prejudices. Acknowledge mistakes, and don't make them a habit. Be as honest with yourself as you want your sources — me — to be. Understand believers and their institutions as they understand themselves. And if you do that — and do it with integrity, fairness and humility-then you'll have the gratitude of the people you cover, and you'll embody the best ideals of your profession."

Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, which has donated a large amount of money to the National Organization for Marriage, Carl Anderson also shared his thoughts on religion and Americans by noting that eight-four percent of Americans believe in God, three quarters of Americans believe religion is somewhat important in their lives, and two-thirds look to religion help define their morals. He stated "It's almost as if we have two Americans. There is a moral center to America." Of course, the author of the book "Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street and the Media Divided" wants Americans to follow a Christian morality that follows the Catholic Church's beliefs without noticing that the morality that many people support includes people who support LGBT rights and even same-sex marriage.

Of course, the Catholic Church would really like the media to stop taking on their failings including the fact that they have a history of shielding child molesters instead of protecting child abuse victims.


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