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.
On Monday, ABC's World News with Charles Gibson highlighted and seemed to glorify anti-America comments made by a young Egyptian woman, whom the show interviewed as part of a regular series about young people in other countries, who compared the States to a dumb "jock" that in a few years will "die down and burn out, and what's left is a totally useless nation."
The young woman, named Ro'ya, charged: "In the past, if the States was a strong country, it was because it had thinkers, but right now, it's kind of like, it's kind of like a jock, okay -- very powerful, very athletic, in a couple of years, die down and burn out, and what's left is a totally useless nation." Without challenge, Weir added: "Ro'ya says she would only live in America if it would help Americans understand the Arab world. She'd much rather move to Italy..." (An online version of the story can be found at ABCNews.com.) (Transcript follows)
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.
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show,"a story on the controversial comments by Barack Obama that people in small Pennsylvania towns are "bitter," was introduced by co-host Julie Chen this way: "The battle among Democrats and Hillary Clinton's relentless attempt to turn Barack Obama's words against him." Rather than focus on what Obama actually thinks about small town voters, correspondent Dean Reynolds followed with a report in which he declared:
Clinton hammered Obama all weekend over his suggestion that Americans from small economically hard pressed towns turn inward, become bitter, and cling to their guns or their religious faith during tough times, rather than look to Washington for leadership. Clinton, who is trying to hold on to what polls say is a slim lead here in Pennsylvania, said she found the statement demeaning, even snobbish. And she said so just about everywhere she went.
With Obama looking like the victim, Reynolds went on to briefly mention that the Illinois Senator apologized for the comments: "Obama was thrown on the defensive, forced to acknowledge his words were clumsy and later to apologize if he offended anyone." However, Reynolds immediately followed with the Obama campaign’s defense: "But he said his opponent was intentionally twisting his meaning...Obama also said Clinton's attempt to paint him as the sportsman's adversary and herself as their champion was laughable."
Can it be a coincidence that just hours after Bob Novak published his column reporting that it's unclear just who is directing Hillary's campaign--Mark Penn or Geoff Garin--the latter dashed off an email to supporters claiming to be in charge? But if Garin really does have the reins, why is the campaign employing tactics that Novak suggests would be worthy of the "kamikaze" Penn?
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."
You might think MSM support for the raid by Texas state authorities on the polygamist compound in Eldorado would be a slam dunk. After all, the religion involved is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Not just Mormons: fundamentalists Mormons! Throw in patriarchy and allegations of exploitation of young women, and surely the feminist-inspired liberal media would be cheering on the bust.
But not so fast. Support this intervention, and perhaps a precedent is established for restrictions on unorthodox family arrangements of a more PC tint.
Take the comments of Jonathan Turley on today's Good Morning America. The George Washington law school professor went so far as to strongly suggest that the ban on polygamy is unconstitutional. And co-anchor Bill Weir was anything but unsympathetic to Turley's arguments.
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."
Update (13:40 EDT-- see bottom of post for reaction from Faith in Public Life official)
Last June, CNN allied with the left-wing religious group Sojourners for a 60-minute "debate" on faith for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards. Falling neatly in line with the Democratic aspiration to appear more friendly to religious voters, each candidate was interviewed separately for about 15 minutes on their faith. How soft was it? Obama was never asked anything about his minister, Jeremiah Wright. CNN's Soledad O’Brien claimed at the show’s end that it would eventually be balanced out with “a similar forum on faith and politics with Republican candidates.” It never happened.
TVNewser reports that CNN is now doing it again, granting time to Democrats in association with another left-wing religious group called Faith in Public Life. In a 90-minute program aired from Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, Clinton and Obama will each get about 40 minutes in separate interviews with CNN's Campbell Brown and Newsweek editor Jon Meacham. So what about 40 minutes for John McCain?
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):
"The View" co-hosts will go so far to defend Reverend Jeremiah Wright and by extension Barack Obama, that they will even throw Martin Luther King Jr. under the bus. Discussing Wright again on the April 7 edition, the ladies justified Wright’s words by noting some very controversial remarks by the late Dr. King. Sherri Shepherd, apparently taking Michael Eric Dyson’s cue, quoted King predicting America "will put black people in a concentration camp." Joy Behar, in a hopeful tone, added "Maybe someday Reverend Wright’s words will be taken out of- in a different context. It’s possible."
Whoopi Goldberg also justified Wright’s extreme sermons, opining he is bringing his anger from a different era. Elisabeth Hasselbeck wondered what happened to "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Whoopi Goldberg again justified Wright’s anger.
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."
"Good Morning America" reporter Nick Watt smeared Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders as a racist on Saturday's edition of the ABC program. Watt, who interviewed the director over his new movie about radical Islam's incompatibility with Dutch culture, sneered, "You believe the Western Judeo Christian culture is superior. You believe immigration should be stopped. I mean, you're a racist, no?"
Wilders is under fire from Islamic protests in much of the Middle East and has been criticized by the Netherlands prime minister. GMA co-host Kate Snow seemed skeptical as well. Speaking of Wilders's movie, she derided, "So, is this hate speech or free speech?" Snow failed to explain how, exactly "hate speech" is not also free speech. At one point, after Wilders touted the superiority of western culture, Watt incredulously replied, "What do you mean, better?" Leaving no doubt as to what his opinion is, Watt closed the segment by asserting, "Wilders calls this freedom of speech. Others call it fanning the flames."
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.
On its face, Hillary's email to supporters that just arrived in my inbox is a call to the highest civic values. In support of her demand to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida, Hillary righteously writes [emphasis added]:
No matter where you were born or how much money you were born into, no matter the color of your skin or where you worship, your vote deserves to count.
But let's consider this a bit more closely. Has anyone previously suggested that the reluctance to seat the delegates from Florida or Michigan has anything whatsoever to do with the race or religion of voters there? Can Hillary allege with a straight face that this is some nefarious plot against voters of a certain hue or denomination? Of course not. We all understand what this is about. Obama doesn't want to seat the delegates because it would help Hillary in the delegate and popular vote count. And the DNC is reluctant to do so because the two states flouted party rules in moving up the dates of their primaries.
Note also Hillary's specific formulation. She could have simply written "your religion" but instead opted for "where you worship."
Chicago Tribune columnist/ blogger Eric Zorn is a liberal, but from what I'm familiar of his writing, he's not a cartoonishly goofy one. So at first I thought his post today -- Coming out of the dark on Earth Hour -- was a bit of an April Fool's joke. But reading and re-reading it, it became clear to me Zorn was being serious, even as he invoked quasi-religious language to describe his joy in observing the sanctimonious green gimmick (emphasis mine):
Earth Hour was so cool.
I was surprised.
During the buildup, it all sounded a bit earnest to me — reproachful and grim.
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.
On Sunday’s "60 Minutes" on CBS, anchor Scott Pelley interviewed Murat Kurnaz, a german-born Muslim man who was released from Guantanamo Bay after five years, having been found innocent of terrorist activity, and as Pelley declared: "At the age of 19, Murat Kurnaz vanished into America's shadow prison system in the war on terror...The story Kurnaz told us is a rare look inside that clandestine system of justice, where the government's own secret files reveal that an innocent man lost his liberty, his dignity, his identity, and ultimately, five years of his life."
Pelley went on to describe Kurnaz’s claims of being tortured by the U.S. military:
Kurnaz claims his interrogations at Kandahar turned to torture. He told us that American troops held his head underwater...Kurnaz says the Americans used a device to shock him with electricity that made his body go numb. And he says he was hoisted up on chains, suspended by his arms from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar for five days.
After Kurnaz described how a doctor would monitor his health during such torture, Pelley asked: "The point of the doctor's visit was not to treat you; it was to see if you could take another six hours hanging from the ceiling?"
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."
"The View’s" Joy Behar is so partisan as to spin an ethnic slur from Barack Obama’s pastor into a compliment. Discussing Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s "garlic nosed Italians" comments on the March 28 edition, Behar noted "he’s talking about the ancient Romans here," (apparently Reverend Wright did not know that Italy did not exist as a country until 1861) and claimed "the Roman nose has been celebrated in art and history...I don’t think it’s insulting." She also added that garlic in her diet helps with her "gorgeous complexion."
Elisabeth Hasselbeck compared it to the use of the nose as an anti-Semitic stereotype. Behar disagreed asserting "the Roman nose hasn’t been used against Italians the way the Jewish stereotype of a hook nose has been used against the Jews."
Also of note in the segment, Whoopi Goldberg compared Obama’s pastor problem to John F. Kennedy’s challenge to run for president as a Catholic. Barbara Walters immediately responded that the comparison was not valid.