CBS's Morning and Evening Shows Hype Vatican's 'Inquisition' of Dissenting Nuns

CBS made little effort to hide that it was siding with liberal dissenters inside the Catholic Church on Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Thursday's CBS This Morning. Scott Pelley hyped that there was a Vatican "crackdown on America's 57,000 nuns." Gayle King touted how "some Catholics compare it to the dark days of the Inquisition, a crackdown on a prominent organization of nuns accused of being radical feminists."

King and co-anchor Charlie Rose sympathized with the group of dissenting sisters during an interview of left-wing public radio host Sister Maureen Fiedler, and hinted that the Catholic hierarchy was "out of touch." Correspondent Wyatt Andrews also overwhelmingly slanted towards the disobedient religious and their supporters during his reports on the two programs, and played only one brief soundbite from a spokeswoman for the bishops.

Pelley used his loaded term in his introduction to Andrews' first report, and spotlighted the apparent outrage at the Vatican's action against the sisters: "Pope Benedict is feeling a backlash from American Catholics, angry over his crackdown on America's 57,000 nuns. A letter from the Vatican warned them that the group that represents most of the nuns is straying from Church teachings on abortion and homosexuality. That group is meeting in Washington this week to consider a response."

The following morning, King and co-anchor Charlie Rose gave their own slanted introduction to the second report from the CBS journalist. Rose stated that "leaders of the Roman Catholic Church are targeting an unlikely group for harsh criticism: an influential organization of nuns in the United States." The close associate of Oprah Winfrey heartily replied, "Unlikely is right."

During his two reports, Andrews featured clips of Sister Karen Schneider, who works as an emergency physician at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, and pointed out how she "makes frequent trips to treat children in Haiti and Guyana." He also gave a biased outline of the dispute between the Catholic religious and the bishops:


ANDREWS (voice-over): While many Catholics remember nuns as habit-wearing school teachers, Sister Karen is the new version of Catholic nun. Most are highly educated, and are managers of schools, colleges, and hospital chains. It explains why many nuns were stunned when the Vatican accused their leadership of promoting 'radical feminist themes' and of being too 'silent' on issues like 'the right to life.' In daily life, most nuns see those questions as outside their mission.

The correspondent left out that the recent document from the Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith outlined that the annual meetings of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious "manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors." One sister gave an address where she proposed "'moving beyond the Church' or even beyond Jesus." The document concluded that "this is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is...incompatible with religious life." He also failed to mention that there was another organization of Catholic sisters in the U.S., the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, that formed because of the radical atmosphere inside LCWR.

Andrews also played up the recent demonstrations that were held in support of the LCWR, highlighting that "hundreds of Catholics have rallied behind the sisters," and that "protests in support of the nuns have been held in almost 50 cities for the last three weeks. They see the nuns doing the work of the Church - running schools and charities - and not as a group in need of reform." However, a May 22, 2012 CNN report noted that "about two dozen parishoners and former clergy gathered in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral" in New York City. Apparently, this minuscule protest in a city of millions is newsworthy, but the March for Life in Washington, DC, which draws hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers (mostly Catholics) every year, gets ignored year after year by CBS and other liberal media outlets.

Rose and King brought on Sister Fiedler just after Andrews' second report aired on Thursday's CBS This Morning. They introduced the sister as merely "an activist for social justice and racial and gender equality for more three decades," and asked her leading and sympathetic questions:

KING: ...[D]id you ever think we'd ever come to a time where the Vatican is criticizing nuns, and there are rallies around the country in support of nuns?

Sister Maureen Fiedler; Screen Cap From 31 May 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgFIEDLER: ...[T]his is about a lot more than just the Vatican versus the nuns. This is about what kind of a Catholic Church we're going to be, because when I hear that Vatican mandate, what I hear is the voice of the Church of the 19th century; the voice of the Church before that wonderful reforming council, the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, when it was exhilarating to be a Catholic in those days; when the windows were open and the fresh air was let into the Church. And that's what nuns today have embraced, is that kind of a church - not a dictatorial one, but a collaborative one.

ROSE: So the question comes, how are they going to enforce these accusations?...

FIEDLER: I don't know. I don't know. They say in their mandate that they're going to send in an archbishop and two bishops, who will work with the nuns in order to -- but get this: revise their statutes; their handbook; their plans and programs; their conferences, their speakers - everything. If this were the corporate world, I think we'd call it a hostile takeover. (Fiedler and King laugh)

ROSE: ...Do you read the Vatican's accusations as saying that, we want you to be more concerned about same-sex marriage and those issues, than we want you to be concerned about poverty?

FIEDLER: Yes, that's what they're trying to say. And yet, I think nuns, embracing the teachings that came from the Second Vatican Council, have become deeply involved in issues of poverty, injustice, in peace, in the environment. We're very concerned about those things. Those are our whole lives, that -- our vows call us to give our lives to other people. And if we're at all concerned about people of a gay or lesbian orientation, we believe they're equal, too.

ROSE: What will it take for the Church to change in the way that you would like to see it change, and other people who believe as you do - other nuns?

FIEDLER: Well, what I would like to see is a truly collaborative model of Church, where the laity, who have, in wondrous numbers, come out to support us, have a real voice in the Church; where we begin to develop more democratic decision-making structures at the parish level, at the diocesan level....

KING: You know, it's interesting that the nuns are being accused being out of touch. Could it be that, perhaps, maybe, the Vatican is out of touch on this particular-

FIEDLER: It could be. Yes, I think so. Right now-

ROSE: Could be or is?

KING: Yes- (laughs)

FIEDLER: All you've got to do is look at the statistics, at least for Catholics in the United States. Ex-Catholics are the second largest denomination in the United States today - ex-Catholics. And it's because of these structural issues, their lack of voice in their parishes and in their church; and because they, frankly, disagree with the hierarchy on some issues like contraception, for example.

It should be pointed out that Fiedler made her loyalties clear back in 2002, when she attended the "ordination" of seven women on the Danube River, all of whom were automatically excommunicated. She also never recanted signing a 1984 ad sponsored by the pro-abortion Catholics for Choice (then called Catholics for a Free Choice). As you might expect, CBS never got around to mentioning these details on the air.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center