The dictionary defines prejudice as premature judgment: making a decision before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case or event. Some forms of prejudice are fading, racism being the primary and obvious example. The backlash against prejudice is so intense it has spurred its opposite, the call toward tolerance.
But for one sector, the prejudice remains intact. It is perfectly acceptable to spew intolerance against Christians in general and Catholics in particular. But the bonanza of prejudice is reserved for Catholic priests.
In our sex-drenched society, the idea of a single man taking an oath of lifelong celibacy sounds sacrificial to the point of freakish. The world says abstinence is impossible, and pledging abstinence is ridiculous. So when the crisis over child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church erupted, it didn’t matter that a tiny minority of unfaithful priests (and their supervisors) had betrayed the faithful. Hollywood and other champions of unbridled lust broke out the prejudice, smearing all Catholic priests as stunted at best, and predatory at worst.
It’s not a cartoon of a turban-shaped bomb, and probably nobody will threaten violence over it, but members of a religion are outraged over a depiction, and the networks aren’t interested. Only Fox News covered the story about a blasphemous condom advertisement.
Catholics and Protestants alike are furious over a flier that appeared on the University of Georgia campus displaying the famous Michelangelo painting of God reaching out to touch Adam’s hand. The fliers included a condom between God and Adams’ fingers, accompanied by the text, “Condom Tip #5: Carefully open condom wrappers with your fingers- don’t use a sharp object.” The fliers were posted around campus as a promotion for the university’s Sexual Responsibility Week.
Amy Sullivan’s article on Time.com on Thursday, “The Catholic Crusade Against a Mythical Abortion Bill,” tried to downplay President Obama’s past and current support for abortion, and tried to use a technicality to “prove” that there is no chance of passage for the staunchly pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA): “...FOCA has also provided ammunition for those on the right who want to paint Obama as ‘the most pro-abortion president ever.’ It’s been less than a month since he took office, but so far the President has given social conservatives little evidence to back up that charge. He did repeal the Mexico City policy banning federal funds to foreign family planning organizations that provide abortion referrals or services — but so did Bill Clinton.” In reality, the Obama adminstration’s record on the issue consists of much more than merely support for legislative proposals and signing executive orders.
Does the media show religious discrimination in their news judgment? The founder of a TV network devoted to improve the image of Muslims being charged in the beheading of his wife is not a story the major media have leaped on. On Friday, news broke that Muzzammil Hassan, founder and CEO of Bridges TV, was charged with murdering his wife Aasiya after she filed for divorce. After some Nexis research, here’s a listing of major media outlets that have yet to report it: ABC, NBC, NPR, the NewsHour on PBS, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
But on November 12, 1993, all these networks (including NPR) reported within hours on the charges made against Chicago's Catholic cardinal at the time, liberal-leaning Joseph Bernardin, by a 34-year-old AIDS patient, who had just "remembered" he was sexually abused 18 years after the alleged event, and wanted $10 million for his anguish. It led newscasts on CNN and NBC. Connie Chung's sensational introduction on the CBS Evening News typified media reaction: "The Roman Catholic Church in America was rocked today by charges of scandal against one of its most prominent leaders and reformers." (The accuser, Steven Cook, recanted the lawsuit in March of 1994.)
Updated: while the Nexis search showed no CBS story on the beheading, MRC's Kyle Drennen found a news report on Wednesday's Early Show.
A discussion on The View on Wednesday about sin quickly devolved as the hosts reiterated common media myths about the Catholic Church and its teachings. Elisabeth Hasselbeck read a bogus list of seven “new” sins that the Vatican supposedly came up with, while Joy Behar misrepresented the Catholic Church’s teachings on papal infallibility. When Barbara Walters later asked what the “biggest sin” was, in their opinion, Behar and Whoopi Goldberg agreed that it was “intolerance.”
Goldberg began the discussion by bringing up how a “new study by the Vatican says that men and women sin differently. They said men are more likely to commit sins of lust and gluttony and sloth, and for women, it’s pride, envy, and anger.” She then prompted her co-hosts for their take on this. Barbara Walters joked, “Yeah. I mean, with men, it’s much more the sexual and the lust, and the women are angry that it’s much more the sexual and the lust....They cheat more.” It’s funny that the ABC veteran put it that way, since she admitted to having an affair with former Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke.
Pope Rebukes Pelosi, Tells Her Catholic Legislators Obligated to Protect Life
The Vatican Press Office released a note this morning detailing part of the conversation which Pope Benedict XVI had with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Vatican insiders inform LifeSiteNews.com that such releases are always phrased in diplomatic language and thus the correction of the Speaker who fancies herself a faithful Catholic despite her abortion advocacy can be taken as a rebuke.
The text of the note reads: "His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."
Those interested in learning how the press will minimize the Pope's rebuke have an early example to peruse at Agence France-Presse (AFP). It contains the expected watering-down of the rebuke, and more (AFP link is dynamic; its report as it appeared when this post was drafted is here):
ABC World News Sunday gave face time to supporters of divisive spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, but brushed over those “Christians” who say Tolle is ‘dangerous.’”
The Feb. 15th broadcast of ABC’s Sunday evening news featured Eckhart Tolle, a widely touted spiritual leader to stars such as Cher and Paris Hilton. While his books have, with Oprah’s help, sold more than 10 million copies, many Christians believe his teaching on “spiritual awakenings” is dangerous.
“Paris Hilton took his book with her to prison,” reporter Dan Harris quipped. “Cher swears by him… so does Meg Ryan. Oprah Winfrey even hosted an unprecedented ten-part online series with him.” Viewers were treated to videos of Tolle’s superstar supporters and crowds of people listening intently with Harris saying, “His many fans say he has changed their lives.” But when Tolle’s Christian opposition is briefly mentioned, the segment literally takes a dark turn.
Update (13 Feb. | Ken Shepherd): Tomaso responds here, dismissing the notion that he exhibited any liberal bias. Commenters to his blog post are divided.
Condescending secular elitism isn’t just for the coasts anymore. It can even come from red state Texas.
On The Dallas Morning News’s Religion blog Feb. 12, Bruce Tomaso wrote a post called “Alabama and Iran Have Something in Common.” It stemmed from a recent Gallup poll that asked people around the world, “How important is religion in your daily life?” The poll found, among many other things, that nearly the same percentage of the population of Iran (83 percent) and Alabama (82 percent) said that religion was important to them.
Tomaso thought this was a riot: “Since I've never been to Iran and haven't spent enough time in Alabama to have a well-formed opinion, I refrain from cleverly drawing further comparisons,” he wrote. “But that doesn't mean you wiseakers can't!”
That's how Chicago Tribune religion blogger Manya Brachear began her Feb. 11 The Seeker blog post, practically considering the Pope to be another politician who must watch out for how his PR blunders affect his poll numbers (emphasis mine):
Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI quelled concerns last week regarding the excommunication of a Holocaust denier, he caused another stir closer to home. He reportedly tapped a bishop who once described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for sin and debauchery in New Orleans.
According to the Times of London, Father Gerhard Maria Wagner, an ultraconservative parish priest at Windischgarsten in Austria, published his theory of divine retribution in his parish newsletter four years ago.
President Barack Obama's pick to head his faith-based initiative is a 26-year old former Pentecostal pastor by the name of Joshua DuBois. The media have largely noted DuBois's religious affiliation in a matter-of-fact manner.
In a Newsweek Web exclusive, Lisa Miller and Amanda Coyne set out to find something juicy about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's house of worship, Wasilla Bible Church. But finding a "staid" worship environment that "steer[s] clear of politics" and whose main attraction is Biblical preaching, they opted to focus on where the governor used to worship regularly years ago, an Assemblies of God church:
Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing branches of Christianity in the world, and the Assemblies of God is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the country, claiming 1.6 million members. Pentecostals are generally characterized by a strict adherence to moral codes--no tobacco, no alcohol, no social dancing, no sex outside of marriage--and by their belief that the Holy Spirit bestows upon some the gift of "speaking in tongues," a reference to Acts 2: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues." A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign has said that Palin attends many churches and does not consider herself to be Pentecostal.
Maddow explained how this provision had been in the bill for over 40 years, then played a portion of DeMint's speech on her Feb. 6 MSNBC show.
"Student's can't meet together in their dorms, if that dorm has been repaired with this federal money and have a prayer group or a Bible study," DeMint said in the clip Maddow played. "[S]omeone is so hostile to religion that they're willing to stand in the schoolhouse door like the infamous George Wallace to deny people of faith from entering any campus building renovated by this bill. This cannot stand."
As we've stated before, no one can challenge the awful harm wrecked upon youth at the hands of Catholic clergy. The harm is real, incredibly sad, and unspeakably damaging. But that is no excuse for the Los Angeles Times to continue its dishonest practice of false and misleading presentations on the narrative of Cardinal Roger Mahony and the Los Angeles Catholic Church abuse scandal.
The Washington Post's Susan Kinzie whipped up a 12-paragraph Metro section article for the February 3 paper on an apology by George Washington University College Democrats for the action of an unnamed member who defaced crosses used by the campus Young America's Foundation chapter for a recent pro-life demonstration.
Kinzie then noted that student "admitted responsibility and had been expelled" from the College Dems but that the "alleged offender" was not named by the campus group and will "face action through the code of student conduct" according to GWU officials.
While it's laudable that Kinzie has reported this story, it's unlikely that the Post will milk the incident for outrage, as it did with the display of a small noose at the University of Maryland in September 2007. A Nexis search shows a total of nine stories or news briefs that mention that incident during that month alone.
What's more, while a September 10, 2007 article on the UMd. noose included an Associated Press video on the Web site edition, neither Kinzie's February 3 print or Web articles included photos of the desecrated crosses, even though there are some available online.
Blogger Pat Dollard has the photos on his eponymous site, and I've included one of them below. You can judge for yourself, but to this writer, Kinzie's description doesn't do justice to just how sacrilegious the vandalism was:
Does anyone think that a major newspaper like the Los Angeles Times would ever allow a hateful and patently false anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim personal attack to be published in its letters to the editor? Of course not. But check out this whopper of anti-Catholic vitriol that is in the pages of the Times today (Mon. 2/2/09):
The Jesuits have a saying, "Give me the boy until he is 7, and I will give you the man." You can now add, "Give Adolf Hitler the boy until he is 7, and he will give you the pope."
ABC has apparently never heard that phrase, "There are two sides to every story." On Feb. 1, "World News Sunday" helped shamed former-pastor Ted Haggard take shots at the Christian conservatives who he says "shunned him."
Reporter Dan Harris introduced the piece by qualifying Haggard as a former "insider, a powerful pastor at the highest levels of the Christian conservative movement."
Haggard, who made headlines two years ago for getting caught in a gay sex scandal, is now offering advice to the Christian conservative movement; and ABC gave him the megaphone. Here is a portion of Harris' interview with Haggard:
As we've noted severaltimesbefore, Los Angeles Times Opinion Editor Tim Rutten hardly misses an opportunity to bash the Catholic Church. So imagine my shock and amazement when I picked up his Saturday column (1/30/09). Rutten rips a reported federal grand jury investigation of L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony's handling of the abuse scandal as "frivolous" and "overreaching." (For the record, the archdiocese's attorney has said that he was told that Mahony is not a target of an inquiry.)
Did a wave of clarity and sanity suddenly overcome Rutten? Rather than bellowing the hysterical falsehoods that have often been aired in the Times and in the media in recent years, Rutten's must-read piece wipes away a number of myths.
Evangelical magazine Christianity Today is using the term "anti-abortion," rather than "pro-life," to refer to a CatholicVote.com ad which NBC has refused to air during the Super Bowl. (h/t @pdavidy8)
The term "anti-abortion" isn't used by reporter Sarah Pulliam in the body of her article posted at CTliveblog, but it is used in her January 30 article's headline -- Anti-Abortion Super Bowl Ad Rejected by NBC -- on the magazine's Twitter page (see screencap at right).
By using "anti-abortion" in its headline, Christianity Today appears to be following the lead of the Associated Press. The AP calls for the term "anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice" in its Stylebook. AP goes further and frowns on the term "abortionist," saying it "connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions," so a reporter should "use a term such as abortion doctor or abortion practitioner," it counsels.
While many journalists and news agencies outside the AP follow the Stylebook, including (for the most part) this organization, they are free to supercede the manual where they see fit. For example, our very own NewsBusters Style Guide has this mandate for our contributors:
On Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith played the role of amateur theologian as he interviewed disgraced evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, who had an affair with a gay prostitute, asking: "You believe that gays are sinners?...You think God hates homosexuals?" Haggard ultimately replied: "Jesus proved his faithfulness to me more than ever. You know, he said he came for the unrighteous, not for the righteous...so I don't fit into the religious righteous crowd anymore. He really came for me. I'm the chiefest of sinners." Haggard’s wife, Gayle, also added: "And I think the teachings of Jesus are forgiveness and love. And what he tells us not to do is judge." Smith liked that non-judgmental response, saying to Ted: " She says is better than you do, I'm sorry."
Throughout the segment, Smith preached moral relativism over "fundamentalist" Christian beliefs. At one point, Haggard explained why he waited so long to seek counseling: "I wish I'd done it 20 years ago, but I think the culture that I was in kept me from being able to do that." Smith replied:"Having grown up in a fundamentalist church and an evangelical background, there's -- everything is very black and white." Haggard agreed: "Very black and white." Smith then attacked Haggard’s former church: "You've spent your life building this church. This church is really, literally, your community. And your church says you have to leave this day...you have to go away. And in the best New Testament sense, isn't that the point at which the church should be embracing you?"
A liberal Catholic blogger who last November inveighed against "extremist" and "Pharasaic" bishops who have said they will deny Communion to pro-choice politicians is cited today by Dallas Morning News religion blogger Bruce Tomaso as an "abortion foe" who, surprise, surprise, has unkind words for the March for Life:
Writing for a blog of America, the Jesuit magazine, Catholic author and "pro-life American" Sean Michael Winters says the annual March for Life -- held last Thursday, on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade -- "has failed utterly to make a difference in this nation's abortion policy."
The mass protest, he says, "probably alienates the very people we should be trying to reach: women facing crisis pregnancies." The marchers' rhetoric tends "to equate abortion with murder which may be objectively true but also lacks the empathy with the desperate circumstance of many women that is the necessary precursor to an effective evangelization of the Gospel of Life."
As for his part as an "abortion foe," the liberal Winters certainly has shown a penchant for criticizing more strident foes of the slaughter of the unborn, such as bishops in his own church. From a November 19 blog post at America magazine's Web site (emphasis mine):
Back in December, you may recall, slapped around a Catholic priest and parochial school principal for pulling an Obama book off the shelves out of concern that it may push values contrary to Catholic moral teachings. Tomaso quipped that at least the priest didn't conduct a book burning.
The inauguration of the first African-American president is an historic affair, one that should be properly celebrated by all. But when the so-called "objective" network anchors begin comparing a routine political ceremony to a spiritual awakening, have they gone too far?
"Sacred." "Majesty." "Sacrament." "Pilgrimage." These are words loaded with religious and spiritual meaning. And they're words used to describe the inauguration of President Barack Obama by CBS, NBC and ABC anchors on their evening and mornings news shows.
While she pronounced his prayer as a "good job" for being generally non-offensive and inclusive-sounding, Newsweek's Lisa Miller -- who earlier this month suggested ditching inaugural prayers altogether -- was nagged by the "lingering question" that "remains" from the way evangelical pastor Rick Warren closed his inauguration ceremony invocation in the name of Jesus:
Warren's conservative theology teaches him that there is one path to God, and that is Jesus. So when he wraps his great big arms around Muslims and Jews (and homosexuals), does he really believe there's hope for us? Or is he just being nice?
Miller, as a religion reporter, should know better. Yes -- the evangelical Christian would answer -- there is hope for everyone who puts his or her hope in Christ alone, and that's why preachers like Rick Warren preach the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone. They truly believe it, and as such, it's not nice to keep the good news of salvation and peace with God to one's self for fear of the niceness cops of the media world.
Imagine for a moment that Sen. John McCain won the election in November and that John Hagee gave a sermon at Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University the Sunday preceding the inauguration wherein he slammed the "egregious menage a trois of homosexuals, Hollywood, and hell-bound atheists" for destroying the United States.
The coverage would be non-stop and President-elect McCain would be pressed to repudiate the remarks from his stalwart evangelical supporter, even though he's already distanced himself during in the campaign.
Yet it's a vastly different story when it was Rev. Jeremiah Wright at Howard University's chapel and the "egregious menage a trois" was that of "racism, militarism and capitalism."
While his colleague Michelle Boorstein helpfully edited Wright's more embarrassing rhetoric (see more below the fold), Washington Post's Dana Milbank reminded readers just how loopy Rev. Wright is in his page A9 January 19 article, "You Thought the Jeremiad Was Over?" (emphasis mine):
In a January 18 ABC News exclusive interview, former Obama pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright confessed to, but did not repent of, his inflammatory rhetoric directed at the media. Wright's excuse:
"They were arrogant, they were evil, they were devious and I responded in kind," Wright said. "I just talked to you about a 500-year tradition but you don't ask me one question about that because that's not your interest, your interest is to taint Barack Obama. So no, I'm not going to be conservative, I'm not going to kiss anybody's behind and if I'm standing up straight you can't ride my back.
Yet apparently ABC staffers Tahman Bradley and Ferdous al-Faruque failed to question Wright on whether his demeanor from the pulpit exhibited more the gospel of class and race warfare than the gospel of Jesus Christ. What's more, Bradley and al-Faruque failed to point out that some print journalists such as Newsweek's Eleanor Clift have hailed Wright as a "prophetic" voice, something that cuts against Wright's view that the MSM has had it in for him.
A federal judge threw out a spurious lawsuit by serial atheist litigant Michael Newdow. Yet in reporting the story in its January 16 print edition, the Washington Post made it sound like a federal judge has ended the suspsense and permitted prayers to be offered at the inauguration, as though they were seriously in danger in the first place.
"Judge Clears the Way for Prayer at Swearing-In," declared the page B4 headline in the Inauguration Watch digest. Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber echoed the headline's language in his lede:
A federal judge yesterday cleared the way for government officials and ministers to pray and make references to God during the swearing-in.
Wilber explained that "U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton refused to grant an injunction in a lawsuit seeking to block such references." Nowhere in his 3-paragraph-long brief did Wilber mention Newdow by name, nor his history of frivolous litigation such as trying to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency.
CBSSports.com columnist Gregg Doyel has had it with all the hero worship, the idolatry, the 'canonization' of the guy:
This one's going to hurt. It's going to hurt you, and it's going to hurt me..... It's directed at those who would beatify the man.... Because he's just a man.
No, he's not referring to President-elect Obama but rather Tim Tebow, the University of Florida quarterback who led the Gators to a national championship on January 8. Yet in his January 13 column, Doyel went from waging a legitimate complaint about excessive hero worship to hashing out liberal talking points regarding the open practice of faith by Christian athletes (emphasis mine, h/t NewsBusters commenter Blonde):
Invoking the threat of "religious fundamentalists abroad" and tacitly comparing them to religious conservatives in the United States, Newsweek's Lisa Miller advises President-elect Obama to ditch the practice of having clergy offer prayers at the presidential inauguration:
Our new president might use his Inauguration then to showcase the values that have made this country great: pluralism, moderation—and the separation of church and state. Though not as politically expedient, the better choice might be to pray in private.
Miller wrote her article for the January 19 print edition in light of a lawsuit "filed by the atheist gadfly Michael Newdow." While she noted that "[e]ven some of Newdow's ideological allies are steering clear," Miller went no further in exploring whether it may be Newdow who is showcasing a modern value that threatens the country's greatness: the filing of spurious lawsuits.
Instead, Miller sought to show that historians are uncertain just how traditional the role of religious faith plays in presidential inaugurals. Indeed, as far as Miller is concerned, the convention is all too recent and worse, a musty relic of the Cold War (emphases mine):
Perhaps the New York Times is just predestined not to get religion.
Taking on Calvinistic preacher Mark Driscoll's brand of Reformed theology, writer Molly Worthen -- herself a graduate of a formerly Puritan university -- gave readers of the New York Times magazine a skewed picture of what exactly the evangelical pastor's theology teaches about sin and redemption.
In her January 6 article, "Who Would Jesus Smack Down," Worthen -- who studied American religious history at Yale University-- portrayed the founding pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church as an edgy hipster "cussing" pastor who chagrins religious conservatives and liberals alike, all while confounding evangelicals with his Calvinistic take on biblical theology.
While there is a grain of truth to the characterization of Driscoll* having critics to his left and right, Worthen betrays her ignorance about Calvinism, starting in the third paragraph of her article (emphasis mine):
USA Today's religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman apparently has little use for Christian ministers who believe the Bible's teachings on sexual ethics.
Apparently already annoyed with evangelical pastor Rick Warren's stance on California's Proposition 8, Grossman took the California preacher to task for a letter offering use of his Saddleback Church to conservative Anglicans who have left the liberal Episcopal Church USA but were deprived of their church parish property due to a recent California court ruling (emphasis mine):
After sticking a fork in the eye of gay rights advocates by actively supporting Proposition 8 -- which overturned the legalization of gay marriage in California -- Warren compounded their outrage by equating gay marriage with incest in an interview with Beliefnet.
A group that "celebrate[s] the inherent goodness of adolescent sexuality" and calls for clergy to "speak out against... coercive parental notification and consent for reproductive health services" has just released a study that concludes by calling on American theological seminaries to go over the birds and bees with their students.
Yet in reporting on the study by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, Chicago Tribune's Manya Brachear failed to label the group as liberal or to find conservative theologians to dispute its arguments. [Click here for our archive on Brachear]