When Reporting on the Catholic Church, Media Can't Even Get Headlines Right

(HT: Phil Lawler/CatholicCulture.org) Major news outlets delivered a collective message about the Catholic Church this week. Here were the headlines:

  • "Pope orders sex abuse summit" (Boston Globe)
  • "Pope to Hold Sex-Abuse Summit" (Wall Street Journal)
  • "Italy: Cardinals to Ponder Response by Church to Sexual Abuse Cases" (New York Times)
  • "Pope summons cardinals over abuse: Vatican" (AFP)
  • "Cardinals to address sex abuse" (UPI)
  • "Pope calls meeting of cardinals on sex abuse" (Washington Post)

From what is presented, one would guess that Pope Benedict XVI called Cardinals and said, "Hey, let's get together and discuss the sex abuse scandals."

The problem: It didn't happen.

Indeed, the Pope has summoned Cardinals for a day of "reflection and prayer" on the eve of an upcoming consistory (formal meeting). However, as Phil Lawler at CatholicCutlure.org has shown, there are five items on the daylong agenda: "two major topics, three lesser ones. The sex-abuse scandal is one of the lesser ones." The two main topics to be discussed in the morning are religious freedom and the Catholic liturgy. In the afternoon, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, will contribute the topic, "The Church's response to cases of sexual abuse." This is one of the three afternoon issues. (There was a press release from the Vatican.)

Yet you wouldn't know this from the headlines. The headlines are not only false and/or misleading, they scream only about the one issue that the media wants to talk about when it comes to the Catholic Church: the terrible abuse of minors from decades ago.

Just days ago, I remarked how the AP's Nicole Winfield actually wrote a lengthy November 7 piece about the Pope's visit to Spain without mentioning the abuse scandals. "Wow," I thought to myself. "Maybe this will mark the beginning of the end of the media's single-topic obsession."

Silly me.

-- Dave Pierre is the author of the heralded new book, Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church.