On Tuesday's CBS Evening News, Katie Couric asked Father Thomas Williams (formerly an NBC expert) to comment on Pope Benedict's arrival in America. Couric, who fretted out loud in 2006 about Catholic orthodoxy "infringing on civil liberties" in a new Florida town, stressed to the priest that the Pope was "extremely conservative," and "very conservative," and at odds with "62 percent of Catholics" who say the church doesn't reflect their views. It's a little strange for an anchor to note someone else is "out of touch" with the public when their network is consistently dragging behind in third in the ratings.
After two generic questions about what the Pope is like, and whether succeeding John Paul II is a tough act to follow, like Gordon Brown replacing Tony Blair as British prime minister, Couric brought up Benedict's first two papal encyclicals, deep intellectual tracts that aren't easy to characterize for TV anchors:
One constant refrain in media coverage of papal visits is the insistence that the Pope is out of touch with American Catholics. The front page of Tuesday's Washington Post promsied a story on how "Pope Benedict XVI will confront a sense among some Catholics that the Roman Catholic Church is not in sync with their views." A bar graph showed a poll result:
Q. In general do you think the Roman Catholic Church is in touch the views of Catholics in America today, or out of touch? (Among Catholics)
NOW: In touch 34 % / Out of touch 62 %
APRIL 2005: In touch 44 % / Out of touch 52 %
But you'd have to turn to the 14th and very last paragraph of Jon Cohen's story on Page A-6 to learn this poll has a whopping margin of error of six points plus or minus:
On Tuesday's "Good Morning America," news anchor Chris Cuomo used the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to label the pontiff as uncompromising and assert that the Catholic Church sees the visit as "an opportunity for the Pope to come here and reinforce hard-line doctrine." Earlier in the segment, Cuomo described Benedict as "a hard-liner charged with protecting Catholic orthodoxy."
Cuomo also went on to claim that the Pope's goal is to strike a balance "between placating conservative followers and giving hope to liberals who seek social reform." The ABC journalist went on to mention the pontiff's background and note, "Born in Germany, Benedict's seminary studies were interrupted by World War II when, reluctantly, he says, he became a member of the Hitler youth and the Nazi army..." Cuomo provided no elaboration on that statement, but, as a New York Times AP report stated in April of 2005, then-Joseph Ratzinger was indeed reluctant about Germany's war:
In an interview with Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George about the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith was concerned about the reaction of the American people to the new pontiff: "Explain the difference between the private man and the public Pope that some Americans are maybe even a little unsure or fearful of."Monday’s "Early Show" identified the Pope as a "hard liner" numerous times. [Audio available here]
Smith went on to ask about the priest pedophilia scandals and if the Pope’s mission was meant to "heal" those scandals: "The Pope was talking to reporters about priest abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States, and he said, quote, "we are deeply ashamed and we'll do whatever is possible so that this does not happen in the future." Is this -- this trip to the United States, would you say that this -- part of the mission of this church is some healing?"
Finally, Smith concluded the interview by asking Cardinal George about the Pope’s opposition to the Iraq war: "He is going to be addressing the United Nations, he's going to be speaking to the President of the United States in private chambers. Among the messages of the Catholic Church is an anti-war message. Will he deliver that to President Bush?" The Cardinal responded by explaining: "He is eager, however, that whatever happens next is good for the Iraqi people, that they can live in peace and that we don't leave a very violent Iraq behind. So I'm sure the conversation won't just be anti-war or pro war, it'll be what do we do next?"
A woman in the throes of passion, a crucifix, and a book, presumably a Bible with a cross emblazoned on the cover. Those are the elements of a photo illustration (via PhotoDisc) gracing ABCNews.com's front page and teasing an article entitled "Christian Sex: Holy and Hot!"
Published the same day Pope Benedict XVI is set to arrive in Washington, D.C., the article's timing in and of itself might turn heads. Of course the subject matter -- how Christian ministers approach preaching and teaching on sex and romance in the context of marriage -- is in and of itself perfectly fine for a general news publication. But the illustration in question is, to say the least, uncalled for.
At the beginning of Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith exclaimed: "Coming to America. Pope Benedict XVI arrives on American soil tomorrow. How will Americans receive his hard line and soft style?" In the later segement, correspondent Allen Pizzey continued the "hard line" theme: "Since becoming Pope Benedict XVI three years ago, the man who used to be the Vatican's chief hard-liner has undergone an image makeover...when Americans see him next week, they may get a pleasant surprise."
Pizzey went on to describe the Pope’s "makeover":
Benedict has made what one ambassador to the Holy See called a smooth transition from scholar to universal pastor. It may not quite fit the miracle category, but it is nonetheless an extraordinary transition for a man who was once known as God's Rottweiler. As Pope he has not gone out of his way to appease the more liberal wings of the Catholic Church in the U.S., but Benedict's chief image maker is unfazed.
Following Pizzey’s report, co-host Julie Chen interviewed left-wing priest, Father Thomas Reese, who was editor of the Catholic magazine "America," until the Vatican pressured him to resign for allowing numerous liberal opinion pieces critcizing the Church to be published.
Bill Maher, true to form on his "Real Time" program on HBO on Friday, went on a tirade against Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church, only days before the Pope’s visit to the U.S.. He stated that the Pope "used to be a Nazi" and compared him to a cult leader. He then went on to call the Church a "child-abusing religious cult" and "the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia." "And that’s the Church’s attitude: 'We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it,' which is fine, far be it from me to criticize religion."
Following a profanity-tinged one-liner concerning the raid on the Texas compound of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Maher quipped, "In fact, whenever a cult leader sets himself up as God’s infallible wingman here on Earth, lock away the kids. Which is why I’d like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult. Its leader also has a compound, and this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he used to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. That’s right, the Pope is coming to America this week and ladies, he’s single!" At the "funny hat" line, Maher displayed a picture of Pope Benedict wearing a wide-brimmed hat called a saturno
Do we all get free wooden shoes? Barack Obama didn't say. But he does have an Impossible Dream to cut poverty that would make Don Quixote proud. Put people to work . . . building windmills. His idea came in response to a question at last night's Compassion Forum on CNN from Jim Wallis, a leading member of the religious left whose focus is "social justice." Wallis wanted Obama to commit to a new War on Poverty.
JIM WALLIS: As you reminded us a week or two ago, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed 40 years ago, he wasn't just speaking about civil rights. He was fighting for economic justice. Was about to launch a poor people's campaign. Yet, four decades after the anniversary of his death, the poverty rate in America is virtually unchanged and 1 in 6 of our children are poor in the richest nation in the world. So in the faith community, we are wanting a new commitment around a measurable goal, something like cutting poverty in half in ten years. Would you commit -- would you at this historic compassion forum, commit to such a goal tonight and if elected, tell us how you would mobilize the nation, mobilize us to achieve that goal?
Surely, you'd think, the candidate wouldn't fall into that big-government trap. Think again . . .
On World News Sunday, ABC anchor Dan Harris filed a report on Pope Benedict's upcoming trip to America, labeling the Catholic leader as "sometimes controversial," and calling him a "hard-liner" for "strenuously condemning divorce, homosexuality, and abortion." Harris also suggested that he has a "tin ear" because of a 2006 speech in which he used a quotation of a historical figure calling Islam "evil" that sparked riots by Muslim extremists around the world, without mentioning that the Pope later clarified that it was not his personal view that Islam is evil. (Transcript follows)
Before a commercial break, Harris plugged the story: "And coming up here on World News this Sunday, who is Pope Benedict? The sometimes controversial Pope comes to America this week."
Pope Benedict XVI hasn’t even arrived in the United States, and mainstream media outlets are featuring feminist Catholic dissenters in their reporting of the upcoming papal visit. In one such example, the Voice of America, the "international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government," decided to cover a former Catholic nun who has been "ordained" as a priest. As the report by Jeff Swicord stated, "Bridget Mary Meehan is one of 24 Roman Catholic women in the United States conducting mass [sic] in defiance of church doctrine... In July 2006, a woman bishop not recognized by the Vatican ordained Meehan with seven other women."
Swicord also featured in his report Father Arne Panula, "a member of Opus Dei, a conservative Catholic organization." On the one hand, Swicord and the Voice of America identify Father Panula as being part of a "conservative Catholic organization," but doesn’t identify Meehan and the "Roman Catholic Womenpriests" as not only supporting the ordination of women, but also active homosexuality and contraception.
Clarification: Apparently the Thursday night "Idol" included the "Jesus" lyric. In a somewhat-related item of interest to our readers, my colleague Tim Graham reminds me that West Coast viewers of ABC's "The View" in May 2002 heard a bleep when co-host Joy Behar said the word "Jesus."
Finding Christian leaders concerned with global climate change is one thing, but it's hard for the secular media to find an evangelical Christian who can assent to one of the Left's most favored sacraments, abortion.
That's where Newsweek's Lisa Miller comes in finding a new challenge to the traditionally pro-life political views of evangelical Christians. Miller invites readers to meet Adam Hamilton, a Methodist pastor and pro-choice "evangelical" (pictured at right). Or as Hamilton prefers, a pro-lifer with a "heavy heart."
From Miller's article "How Would Jesus Choose?" in the April 14 issue (emphasis mine):
CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen, reporting live from in front Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," presented a sympathetic view of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his house of worship as being "under siege" -- from the national media. "Beyond what they say is the hurtful glare of the cameras, church leaders also say parishioners are hounded by reporters and they say the church received bomb threats. A church that feels under siege, now getting national support." Nearly the entire three minute segment, outside of Roesgen’s voice-overs and on-camera reporting, consisted of sound bites of the supporters of the church.
Besides featuring nobody but its supporters, Roesgen also painted the church and its congregations as victims of the controversy and of the news media. "I think they feel angry and they feel used. When they have talked about certain reporters, they were basically talking about reporters who were rude enough to go into the pews and hand out their business cards during the services, something of course CNN would never do."
Appearing on Morning Joe a couple weeks ago, Time editor Rick Stengel was quick to blame the controversy over Rev. Wright's past remarks on "the incredible ignorance of white Americans" about what goes on in black churches.
But the Time editor wasn't quite so forgiving when it came to the past of the current pontiff. Appearing on today's Morning Joe to discuss Time's cover story on Pope Benedict XVI's impending visit to America, Stengel blithely referred to the Pope as having been the Vatican's "hatchet man" during his years as a cardinal.
As excuses go, it was right up there with "but oshifer, I was too drunk to see that stop sign." That's the league in which I'd put the defense of Barack Obama over the Rev. Wright mess that Mika Brzezinski offered this morning.
Responding to Chris Matthews' question on yesterday's Hardball as to why he never left Rev. Wright's church, Obama claimed "I never heard [Rev. Wright] say those things that were in those clips." On today's Morning Joe, two of the three panelists weren't buying. The genial Willie Geist came down off the fence where he often resides to frame the issue.
WILLIE GEIST: The fact remains, a lot of people, and these are people we've all talked to, say "if I went into a church with my children, and the pastor said 'God damn America' and the rest of these things, you just wouldn't go back to that church." There are other places to go.
That's when Brzezinski began her bad Johnnie Cochran impression.
Eric Alterman was the latest in a long conga line of liberal authors plugging their books on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report on Monday night. He began by confusing the audience about God. Liberals refuse to take orders from God (since he doesn’t exist, or isn’t important enough to take orders from) or the Fatherland (conservatives-are-Nazis jokes always work with the stilted studio audience). But in the next breath, Alterman was claiming Jesus for the liberal side:
ALTERMAN: To be a liberal, Stephen, just means you believe in the truth. You don't take -- you don't take orders from God. You don't take orders from the Fatherland, you don't take orders from --
COLBERT: But God is truth. Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the light [sic]. What part of that don't you understand?
ALTERMAN: Jesus was a liberal. There he is [on the Alterman book cover], right next to Willie Nelson.
The April 7 edition of Time includes an article by Richard Lacayo hailed the peace symbol, "50 years old and still working." It was the ready-made icon for the sixties counterculture. But then Lacayo decided to compare it to the Christian cross, and things got ugly:
There were people who didn't like the symbol any better than they liked the movements it represented. They saw it as an inverted broken cross or "the footprint of the American chicken." But it kept spreading through the culture. Like the Christian cross, which has served the purposes of soup kitchens and Crusaders, the Sisters of Mercy and the Ku Klux Klan, it was adaptable. Over time, it evolved from its narrow association with nuclear disarmament into an insignia for countercultures of all kinds. Hippies made it a sort of all-purpose symbol of peacefulness. The environmental group Greenpeace, the militant wing of flower power, adopted it for its eco-defense campaigns.
While the Klan and the burning cross certainly go together -- and the Klan definitely saw itself as righteous Christians -- this is still a bit of free association that burns and singes the vast majority of Christians (including black ones) who loathe the Klan.
Mollie Z. Hemingway at Get Religion is confounded by an obnoxious Newsweek essay by Christopher Dickey titled "Christian Rage and Muslim Moderation." In it, you can see the Cold War echoes in it, with Newsweek taking up the usual schtick: the American (or conservative, or anti-Islamic) side is being clumsily, pointlessly, tastelessly provocative, while the Ayatollahs are calmly, reasonably planting seeds of a new detente. But it’s Muslim rage, not the headlined Christian rage, that Dickey is suggesting that the "wrong" side is hoping to foment:
Pope Benedict XVI, an exiled Egyptian journalist, a bleach-blond Dutch parliamentarian and Danish cartoonists all have something in common with a Teddy bear named Mohammed. They have been at the center of that seething storm called Muslim rage in the last few months, and, with the exception of Mohammed T. Bear, they appear to be testing that anger to see if it will erupt … yet again.
Just when you thought the conflagration over James Carville's Judas analogy might be dying down, here comes Derrick Z. Jackson to pour gasoline on the flames with a return-fire Judas shot of his own.
Readers will recall that when Bill Richardson endorsed Obama, Clinton fan Carville chose Good Friday to say:
Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic.
Offered the chance to apologize or withdraw his remarks, the cantankerous Cajun declined, choosing instead to rub in his remarks:
I was quoted accurately and in context, and I was glad to give the quote and I was glad I gave it. I’m not apologizing, I’m not resigning, I’m not doing anything.
Enter Obama fan Jackson with his column of today, On race, Clinton misses the call, in which the Boston Glober sees "signs that [Hillary] will continue to skate the thin ice of race politics and risk the Democratic Party falling through." He saves his Judas shot for last [emphasis added]:
Eric Alterman’s new book on Why We're Liberals isn’t just plagued with errors, it makes wild charges, like attacking conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, suggesting she was anti-Semitic for cheering on the movie The Passion of the Christ. In a chapter about how conservatives mock the elites, when they themselves are rich and pampered, Alterman wrote about conservatives: "In Ingraham’s case, as in many others, one detects a strain of anti-Semitism in her insistent elite-bashing." From pages 173-74:
In observing the members of the conservative elite denouncing "elitists, it can be difficult to tell your players without the proverbial scorecard. For instance, the radio talk-show host and former conservative cable host Laura Ingraham has written an entire book about the dangers posed by liberal elites, entitled Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the Media Are Subverting America. In it, this daughter of a Connecticut lawyer, and graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia Law School, who now lives in an expensive home in Washington D.C., distinguishes between liberal elitists and those whom she terms "true Americans."
National Public Radio knows how to identify itself as the secular liberal media. On Good Friday, the show Fresh Air with Terry Gross recycled a 2004 interview with retired academic John Dominic Crossan, a co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, a man who believes the Gospels are largely mythology, someone's ahistorical hopes, and that the resurrection of Jesus never occurred, and that perhaps the body of Jesus was consumed by wild dogs. In this interview, Gross also asked him to comment on (disparage) the movie The Passion of the Christ, which he eagerly did. He suggested too much focus on the passion of Christ is "dangerously close to pathological." (Photo from NPR.org)
In all the brouhaha last week over the incendiary comments made by Barack Obama's pastor the media seemed to forget to partake in their traditional Holy Week Christian-bashing excercise. There were a few entries in the "Easter Hit Parade," like the Comedy Central show "Root of All Evil" which my boss, Brent Bozell, wrote about in a column recently, and an episode of "Law and Order" which featured another Christian-stones-someone storyline.
I suppose it's good news that there was less faith flagellation courtesy of the liberal media, and yet at the same time it's sad that I was expecting to find it at Easter time. But the fact remains that Christmas and Easter are generally times when the media attacks on Christians are more pronounced.
If you ask the average man on the street, regardless of his religion, he'd probably tell you that anyone who would disrupt an Easter Mass with a political protest -- complete with stage blood and attempted "die-in" -- is a jerk with little if any reverence for God or the sanctity of a church as a place of worship.
But according to the Chicago Tribune's Manya Brachear the so-called Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War are representative of a "frustrated faction" of Catholic faithful (emphasis mine):
Cardinal Francis George has long opposed politics at the communion rail. But Sunday’s anti-war protest at the start of his Easter homily spotlighted a frustrated faction in the Roman Catholic church who believe committed Catholics must do more than preach and pray for peace.
The rantings of Barack Obama's pastor sound strange to most Americans, Christian or non-Christian, black or white. Yet to some in the media, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's preaching is in the "mainstream" of Christian doctrine.
Take the Chicago Sun-Times's David Roeder, reporting on Trinity United Church of Christ's (TUCC) Easter Sunday service:
Theirs is a mainstream Christian theology, but shaped by oppression that they feel yields a connection to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. It's a church they said most Americans could embrace if they only got beyond media sound bites.
Roeder noted that TUCC, as it proudly declares on its Web site, is "Unshamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian." The TUCC Web site also celebrates the church's identity as "an African people" that "remain[s] 'true to our native land,' the mother continent, the cradle of civilization."
Now, of course, there's a wide array of debate among "mainstream" Christians over varying points of Christian doctrine, both between and within denominations, but the notion of ethnocentric identity within the church itself is alien to the preaching and teaching with which most American Christians, black or white, would be familiar:
The Huffington Post has learned that Bill O'Reilly -- who claims to love America -- spent Sunday at a "church" run by a former Hitler Youth named Joseph Alois Ratzinger. Ratzinger has gone to elaborate ends to hide this connection, including taking on the absurd pseudonym "Pope Benedict XVI." Which, even if it doesn't prove anything, certainly makes you think.
This shocking revelation comes only a week after Barack Obama admitted he attends a church formerly run by Jeremiah Wright, who talks smack about America, although probably less than Goebbels did.
It would be enough to make Rev. Jeremiah Wright's accusation that the government created AIDS for purposes of perpetrating a black genocide sound almost rational. OK, scratch that. Nothing will render reasonable that morsel of moonbattery. But has the Rev. Wright's replacement suggested that NPR is . . . a Republican front operation?
As per this Fox News article, the theme of today's Easter sermon at the Trinity United Church of Christ was “How to Handle a Public Lynching,” the victim in question being the Rev. Wright. The controversial pastor's successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, lit into the national media, coming up with a string of plays on their names to express his contempt:
Somebody better break it to the New York Times: they might still be the paper of record in their own minds, but to the rest of the world they're just one more dead-tree joint struggling for attention.
The Old Grey Lady's unjustified conceit was on display during this afternoon's Hardball, when one of its columnists was aghast that Chris Matthews had had the audacity not to have read her oeuvre.
Deborah Solomon, who has a weekly column in the NYT Sunday magazine, had interviewed the Rev. John Hagee, a minister who has endorsed McCain and has made a number of controversial statements. I'd mention in passing that while Hagee's critics have accused him of anti-Semitism, he has in fact received numerous awards from Jewish groups for his steadfast support of Israel.
Barack Obama’s interview with Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night's "Anderson Cooper 360" on CNN was quite gentle. While Cooper did press Obama to address some of the criticisms that have erupted over his pastor Jeremiah Wright, he did not press him about Wright’s criticism of white people, or his claims of the government giving blacks AIDS, only one (truncated) 9/11 passage. Cooper used ten-foot-pole language about those people who would be alarmed by Wright’s America-bashing remarks: "Patriotism is going to be used by whoever it is you are facing." Used? Have you ever noticed how the media never asks if America is being "used" by leaders who spit on America?
Obama was spinning furiously.
I never heard anything nasty about America.
COOPER: In the past, you said you didn't think that your church was particularly controversial. Yesterday, in the speech, you said that -- you admitted that you did hear in the church remarks that could be considered controversial. Do you know specifically? Do you remember what you heard?
Anti-Catholicism still thrives at the Los Angeles Times, even though readers of the paper continue to call them on it. Last week, the Times published a smarmy op-ed by "humor" writer Barry Gottlieb ("That 'thou shalt not' list just got longer," 3/17/08). In addition to propagating the false story that the Vatican had composed a list of "new sins" (it didn't), Gottlieb mocked Catholic belief, ridiculed the sacraments, and derided the Church. In other words, it was just another episode of Catholic bashing at the Times.
Today (Thu. 3/20/08) - to its credit - the Times published three letters to the editor from readers who objected to the column's blatant bigotry. (I couldn't help but embolden some of the right-on points.)
This screed [Gottlieb's piece] insulting the Catholic religion is inexcusable. To publish this in a daily paper is an insult to every Catholic reader.