CNN Hammers Catholic Church to Change Teaching on Gay Marriage, Birth Control

On Monday night, CNN's Erin Burnett badgered the Catholic church to change its doctrine and accept birth control, gay marriage, and women priests. All day long on Monday, CNN asked if the church was going to change with the times but Burnett was blatant in her push for liberalization of doctrine.

"Isn't it time for the church, which is supposed to be an inclusive, generous, giving organization, to move ahead on gay rights?" she asked her guest a loaded question. When he answered no, she hit back, "Even if they [gay people] love each other, isn't the Catholic Church supposed to be about love?"

That was only the beginning of Burnett's liberal barrage. She interrupted with this snarky line: "Okay, it's hard to say they [gay couples] have inherent human dignity and then say they can't be part of your church."

And Burnett turned to women's ordination, another liberal cause, and remarked "Why a lot of people have been frustrated with the church in this country that have abandoned it."

When liberal nun Sister Simone Campbell said the church could reconsider the issue, Burnett turned on Brian Finnerty of Opus Dei: "Quickly before we go, in a word, women priests? She's right. Back before the Middle Ages, women had more rights."

Burnett's antics were only one in a string of questions from CNN anchors about the church liberalizing its teaching to fit with the prevailing sentiment.

"[D]o we think that there's going to be anything concrete when it comes to any kind of change in position in the church?" asked anchor Suzanne Malveaux during the 1 p.m. EST hour of Newsroom. "Because we know that Benedict was very conservative when it comes to gay rights, when it comes to women being ordained in the church, when it comes to birth control. Many of those things that people are looking to and wondering if the church will, in fact, alter or adjust to the times."

"Change takes a long time, I think," Malveaux chuckled after her guest Fr. Thomas Reese predicted no big changes in the next papacy.

Host Wolf Blitzer teed up Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on The Situation Room: "You're Catholic....Are you hoping that the next pontiff will have, shall we say, a more liberal position when it comes to gay marriage, for example, or abortion rights for women? You support both of those."

On Monday morning, when new anchor Chris Cuomo mentioned that some Catholics want the church to be more "inclusive and inviting," anchor Carol Costello interjected "Especially when it comes to women and contraception!"

"If the new Pope is Italian, as Italians will be pushing for, or American, as Americans will be pushing for, is it more likely that the church will bend on perhaps allowing women to use birth control?" she had speculated earlier during the 9 a.m. hour of Newsroom.

The MRC's Katie Yoder also noted that HLN host (and former CNN anchor) Kyra Phillips pushed for a liberal pope on Monday.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 11 on Erin Burnett OutFront at 7:01 p.m. EST, is as follows:

ERIN BURNETT: But let me start with you, Sister Simone. The church, I want to start with a very serious issue, $3.3 billion have been paid out by the church over the past 15 years to settle rape and molestation charges of boys against priests. Pope Benedict has been accused of failing to act by some. The executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests today spoke. His name is David Clohessy and he told USA Today, I want to read his quote. "When forced to, he talks about the crimes but ignores the cover-ups, uses the past tense as if to suggest it's not still happening. He has vast powers and he's done very little to make a difference." Is that true?

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, executive director, Network: I don't know exactly what the Pope has done to atone for what's happened. I do know that this has been a scandal in our church, but worst of all, it has been – caused serious harm to children for many years. And that we as a church need to atone for that. Paying money is one thing, but we all know that doesn't make up or atone for the sin of these crimes against children. We have a lot still to do. We need leadership that will engage that issue.

BURNETT: And do you think, Brian, that the next pope needs to be active on this? I mean, there are still cases now in this country where there are priests who abuse children and there were people, perhaps, at the highest levels of the Vatican, who covered up for that?

BRIAN FINNERTY, U.S. Communications Director, Opus Dei: I think the next pope absolutely needs to be sensitive to this, but I think it also needs to be recognized that Pope Benedict did a huge amount on this issue, so he was the first pope to meet with victims of sex abuse. He was a pope who pushed through new procedures so that the church would be sensitive to the needs of victims. So I think a tremendous amount has been done, and the church will continue to try to be sensitive to the needs of victims.

BURNETT: All right, I want to ask about a couple of other issues and I want to start the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Brian, the church is opposed, so here in America, one in four Americans identify themselves as Catholic, and of Catholics in the United States of America, 54 percent of them support gay marriage. So clearly, the will of the Catholic people in the United States is in favor of gay marriage, not the church. Isn't it time for the church, which is supposed to be an inclusive, generous, giving organization, to move ahead on gay rights?

FINNERTY: Well, I think the reality is almost every single time, there has been one case in which gay marriage was put to the voters and the voters actually supported gay marriage. And I think when people are educated on the issue and have a chance to reflect on it, that people will vote against it and part of the reason is –

BURNETT: Do you think in the United States, the tide is going to actually turn back and people are going to go against gay marriage?

FINNERTY: I can't prognosticate for the future, but what I can say – what I do know as a Catholic and what I believe as a human being is it's good for a child to be able to experience the love of both a mother and a father. And the love of a mother and a father is irreplaceable. And also, if we start tinkering with marriage, I think we're going off in very dangerous directions. And so I would think we should be very cautious in doing that.

BURNETT: Even if they love each other, isn't the Catholic Church supposed to be about love?

FINNERTY: Yes, the Catholic Church is about love, and the Catholic Church is about telling all of us that we should love in a genuine way, and a way which is good for the other human being and a way which is good for families. And what the Catholic Church is saying is that this indeed, in the end, is not good for families, is not good for society. But at the same time, it is – the Catholic Church does recognize that gays have inherent human dignity. I think it can be –

BURNETT: Okay, it's hard to say they have inherent human dignity and then say they can't be part of your church. But Sister Simone, why don't you jump in here? Is this going to be a deal breaker?

CAMPBELL: I'd love to jump in. I think the challenge is our church looks at it from the church perspective, from the hierarchy's perspective. But we live in a pluralistic world, and we know that Jesus welcomed in all and said go, teach all, and love is the measure for how we love all. And it's that welcoming embrace that we need as a church, not censure and judging each other. Jesus said do not judge and so I urge our church and our leaders to be as Christ was, the welcoming heart of faith, and that's where we need to move. Not in judging and creating lines that divide and separate. That's wrong.

BURNETT: And Brian, are you willing to lose people over this issue? I was raised Catholic. A lot of people I know were, and most of them are no longer practicing. And the reasons – some of them have to do with women's rights, and those issues, women priests, but a lot of it has to do with the stance on gay marriage. Are you willing to lose people if they don't go along your point of view?

FINNERTY: I think the reality is that if the churches that are quickest to embrace the spirit of the times are the churches in fact that are losing numbers. And so what the Catholic Church needs to do, the Catholic Church needs to say, Christ calls you to love, to love to love. To love Him, to love all of humanity. And He calls you – and part of that is conversion as well. And with respect to homosexuality, the church is saying there are forms of behavior that are destructive, that are not consistent with human dignity, but we love you and we can work with you. And that's what the church is trying to say.

BURNETT: I want to move on quickly before we go to one other issue, Sister Simone, the issue of women. Why a lot of people have been frustrated with the church in this country that have abandoned it. Could there ever be a change here, where women are allowed – you're Sister Simone. What about having a priest that was a woman? What about the symbol that that would send to little girls?

CAMPBELL: I actually grew up as a young girl and played mass with my sister, and I didn't realize that as a girl I couldn't do it. So I have a long history of thinking we are leaders within our church. I do think that there's room for reconsidering this issue. When you look at the artifacts and the early writings, women were deacons in the early church. Women provided leadership. Women celebrated sacraments with the people. So I think we can return to our early roots as opposed to the middle ages where there was more of an emphasis on the patriarchy. So I think if we recovered our real heritage, that women would once again be in their rightful place.

BURNETT: Thank you very much to Sister Simone. Quickly before we go, in a word, women priests? She's right. Back before the Middle Ages, women had more rights.

FINNERTY: The church has to follow the example of Christ who only ordained men as priests, but who also embraced having women in leadership roles in the ministry that he carried out. So we have to be faithful to Christ.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014