Let’s look at the way the print media reacted to Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis after their first six months as pontiff.
We looked at the editorials in 15 of the nation’s largest newspapers to see what they said about the current pope, and his predecessor, after their first six months in office (Pope Francis will celebrate his first six months on September 13).
On Friday's CBS This Morning, Mark Phillips all but hinted that Pope Francis had "taken sides" with Russia's Vladimir Putin and against President Obama in the international debate over military strikes in Syria. Phillips proposed that the Pope's letter to Putin "must have been music to the Russian president's ears."
The journalist also turned to a "Vatican historian" who once publicly attacked Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, as a "dictator", and likened him to Islamists. He also labeled the Pope's upcoming prayer and fasting vigil for peace in Syria a "religious street protest." [audio available here; video below the jump]
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious begins its annual assembly today in Orlando. The group of Catholic nuns from various orders is certain to be considering a response to the Vatican’s finding that LCWR’s liberal activism strays from Church doctrine on a variety of issues.
But the sisters probably aren’t too worried. They have something the Vactican doesn’t – a friendly news media.
You knew the warm fuzzies for Pope Francis couldn't last that long. While the media initially went gaga over Pope Francis, hoping beyond hope he was some liberal reformer who would open up the Catholic Church to all kinds of heterodoxy, the reality is slowly setting in. The first-ever Latin American pontiff is warm, genial, charismatic, and an excellent communicator with both the public and the press, but he's solidly conservative in doctrine, particularly the issue of biggest concern for the liberal media: sexual ethics.
The other day, it was TIME's Tim Padgett, blasting the pope over the Church's teaching on homosexuality. Today it's Vanity Fair contributing editor Janine di Giovanni, who penned an attack on Francis in a "world news" feature at the Daily Beast that was not tagged as commentary and headlined, "What About Women, Pope Francis?" Out of the gate, di Giovanni went after the bishop of Rome (emphasis mine):
During a panel discussion on Thursday's NBC Today about comments from Pope Francis on homosexuality, co-host Matt Lauer asked the group of usual liberal pundits if the Pontiff's remarks were a "watershed moment for gays in the Church" or "just a very minor shift." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Advertising executive Donny Deutsch cheered: "I think it was a watershed moment. I think we're seeing a moment in time from the Catholic Church, all across what's happening in this country with laws being passed, that the gay lifestyle is finally becoming like, 'Yeah, so what?'"
The media is imagining a whole new Pope that it can hug and squeeze and calls its own. In its narrative, Pope Francis is a liberal modernizer, and everything he does sweeps that caveman Pope Benedict under the rug. See AP's Vatican reporter Nicole Winfield at the end of the pope's trip to Brazil: "The Francis Revolution is underway. Not everyone is pleased."
Catholics see the two popes as very similar in doctrine, if not in personality. But Winfield is going looking for traditionalist Catholics who are wailing and gnashing their teeth in defeat, for Francis is supposedly driving out the "poisonously homophobic culture" that surrounded the "dusty, doctrinaire" realm of Benedict. So much for AP's policy discouraging the use of "homophobia" in news stories!
Pope Francis is learning the hard way about the media’s predilection for hearing – and reporting – only what they want. First, they twisted his unremarkable restatement of Catholic doctrine on homosexuality into headlines like “POPE OK WITH GAYS.”
Now, journalists are angry about Francis’ unremarkable restatement of Catholic doctrine refuting liberal calls for women priests, and ignoring what Francis had to say about the real importance of women to the faith and in the life of the Church.
Monday's CBS Evening News offered the usual biased coverage of religion, and specifically, the Catholic Church, as it reported on Pope Francis' widely misrepresented remarks on homosexuals. Dean Reynolds' only talking head was a former priest who apparently "quit the priesthood...after he felt the Church intended to purge gays", and even wondered if the Pope was throwing out Catholic teaching: "Do you think he's breaking with the Vatican?"
Reynolds also hyped that the Roman pontiff offered a "potentially controversial position" with his recent remarks, when in reality, they are consistent with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines. [audio available here; video below the jump]
On Monday's All In show, as MSNBC's Chris Hayes rejoiced somewhat over Pope Francis's recent comments about people who have homosexual "tendencies" becoming priests, the MSNBC host also declared that it was a "heinous teaching" for the Pope to say that it is a "sin" to "violate God's law," referring to acting out on homosexual feelings. Hayes complained:
Surprise, surprise: the media still can’t seem to get their act together on the Pope’s words. Continuing the sloppy reporting on the Pope’s recent press conference, USA Today’s print version flubbed the Pope’s remarks on women’s ordination.
While hyperventilating over the Pope’s words on gays, the paper mistakenly claimed that the Pope’s remark “closes door on women’s ordination” – implying that the so-called door previously had been open.
At the top of Monday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams seized on Pope Francis expressing compassion toward gay people of faith and framed the comments as a major shift for the Catholic Church: "Making history. We're on the Pope's plane as he makes some stunning comments that sure sounded revolutionary..." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Later introducing a report on the topic, Williams proclaimed: "To the journalists sitting in the back of his plane flying him back to the Vatican from Rio, the Pope's words today during a surprise airborne news conference seemed, if not revolutionary, certainly newsworthy and historic in terms of the Catholic Church."
While most liberal media outlets have been positively giddy about Pope Francis's off-the-cuff remarks to the media about gay Catholics, Tim Padgett is having none of it, complaining, accurately, that the media have misconstrued the pontiff's comments. But Padgett's beef is not with inaccurate secular media outlets but with the church itself. "Catholic doctrine still vilifies homosexuality, and no amount of priestly 'love' makes that okay," huffed the sanctimonious headline to Padgett's July 30 story, "Pope Francis and Gays: 'Loving the Sinner' Is Still Intolerance."
"As TIME’s Stephen Faris has noted, while the Pope’s remarks might be a welcome and humane sentiment, they hardly represent a break with Catholic church doctrine, which still condemns homosexuality. The Vatican’s catechismal stance regarding the LGBTs in our midst remains the same: The church may love the sinner, but it hates the sin," complained Padgett in a post on the Time Ideas blog. Visitors to the main Time.com page were greeted this morning with a huge teaser headline which prompted readers to check out the piece, tagged as a "viewpoint" entry, not an objective news story [see screen capture below]:
Out of all the things Pope Francis said at World Youth Day, the liberal media were buzzing about his refusal to judge a gay person who "accepts the Lord and has good will" – ignoring that Pope Francis still upheld the Catholic Catechism's teaching on homosexuality.
New Day co-hosts Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan sounded hopeful that the Pope's remark would lead to change down the road. "One thing is for sure, change only comes about through dialogue. So, the fact that the pope is addressing this at all means something," Cuomo said. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Liberals in the media are doing what they do best when it comes to Pope Francis today: misrepresenting him to their hearts’ content.
When asked in a press conference about celibate priests who suffer same-sex attraction, the Pope replied: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” – a view which is exactly in line with Church teaching. But of course, the media had a field day painting this orthodox statement as a sweeping approval of the gay lifestyle.
Jay Leno took some more comedic shots at NBC Thursday.
During his Tonight Show opening monologue, Leno said, “In his speech earlier this week in Latin America, the Pope told the people to give up the false idols of success and money. That's the same thing NBC just told me.”
While thousands of young people gather in Rio de Janeiro this week to celebrate World Youth Day with Pope Francis for the very first time, gay rights activists can’t wait to welcome the pontiff to Brazil – with an offensive gay “kiss-in.”
According to Huffington Post, a gay rights group plans to stage a gay “kiss-in” during the Pope’s World Youth Day appearance. The obscene protest is scheduled for July 25, during the speech Pope Francis will give on Copacabana beach. Gay couples will meet there and kiss each other on the lips to demonstrate their opposition to the Church’s stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.
It seems as though some media personalities never miss an opportunity to slam the Catholic Church. Take for example the July 18 Imus In The Morning on Fox Business, in which host Don Imus took an unnecessary swipe at Pope Francis and the sex abuse scandal surrounding the Catholic Church.
Speaking with Father Jonathan Morris, a regular Fox News contributor, Imus suggested that, “because of all the problems the church has had, he [should] get an ice cream truck," presumably making that crack because ice cream trucks are quite the draw for children. [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
"Pope Francis canonized more than 800 Catholics in Saint Peter’s Square Sunday – the largest number to be elevated to sainthood at once in the history of the Catholic Church," Lavanga noted. But alas, "The choice of some of the new saints was also striking, touching on the already-fragile relationship between Christianity and Islam" because the "new saints included hundreds of laymen from the southern Italian port town of Otranto who were slain in the 15th century by the invading Ottoman Turkish army after they refused to convert to Islam."
The mainstream media are in love with Pope Francis, but it's not because of his conservative theology. It's because they see him as a potentially liberal pioneer for the Catholic Church. On Saturday’s CBS This Morning, the network ran a story that cheered on the pope in his supposed struggle against more traditional voices within the church.
Vatican correspondent Allen Pizzey drew the battle lines at the top of his report and let his viewers know who is winning the fight: “Well, the Easter celebrations are highlighting a struggle between the new, simple ways of Pope Francis and the conservative old guard of the Catholic Church. So far, Francis is keeping one step ahead of his critics.” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
In a report for Friday's NBC Today, correspondent Jim Maceda seized on an account in a 2012 book in which Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, recalled being attracted to a woman when he was a young seminarian preparing to enter the priesthood: "Well, it turns out that Francis...came to the priesthood rather late, at age 32, and not before he had his own moments of doubt and temptation." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Maceda went so far as to make a sensational comparison to a soap opera about a priest falling in love with a woman. After a clip of the show played, Maceda declared: "Like the conflicted Catholic priest in the 1980 TV mini-series Thorn Birds, the former Jorge Bergoglio admitted in a book published in Spanish last year, to be 'dazzled' by a young woman at the time he was studying to be a priest."
As I noted on Monday, the "On Faith" section at the Washington Post is hard at work attacking faithful Catholics by publishing, bit by bit, excerpts of a Sally Quinn interview with Garry Wills, a critic of the church. Well, on Tuesday -- the day of Pope Francis's installation Mass -- the attack continued with another excerpt in which Wills was given a platform to wish the papacy would become a mere figurehead position, much like the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
On Faith editor and religious agnostic Sally Quinn opened with the query, "What do you think should be done with the papacy? Do you think it should be abolished?" That softball over the plate allowed Wills to swing for the fences with his attack on thousands of years of church tradition. Wills went on to give his advice to recalcitrant Catholics, which was not to leave the church but rather to simply ignore the pastoral oversight of the bishops and the pope himself, whom the church teaches is the successor of St. Peter:
Many millions of Catholics around the world were joyous with the naming of a new pope – a holy man from the Third World, no less. Even in choosing his name, Pope Francis is emphasizing a devotion to the poor, and a humility in his clothing and manners.
The liberal media should be lapping this up. There was an accurate recounting of the global rejoicing, especially in Argentina. There were hopeful words about his pastoral modesty. But as the day came for the Pope to be installed, the natural secular liberal nastiness toward the oldest Christian faith bubbled up in demands for “tolerance” and women’s liberation.
Allen Pizzey readily identified Pope Francis as a "conservative" on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, but failed to give an equivalent ideological label to Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who attended his installation Mass in St. Peter's Sqaure. Pizzey spotlighted the apparent "stark contrast" between the new pontiff and the two liberal politicians, whom he described as being "pro-choice and support[ing] same-sex marriage."
The media backlash against Pope Francis may be beginning. After relatively positive coverage last week, ABC and NBC on Monday both highlighted the Argentinean President denouncing his "medieval" views on social issues. World News's Ron Claiborne offered no ideological label for the country's left-wing leader, praising, "Cristina Kirchner stands for a new view of a changing world-- embracing gay marriage, sex education in schools, free contraceptives in hospitals." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
He added, "But when [the now-pope] was a cardinal in Argentina, Kirchner described his social views as medieval." Yet, while Claiborne didn't call Kirchner a liberal, he made sure to point out that although Francis is "enormously popular," "what the world is just beginning to learn is how conservative he is on social issues."
Secular reporters can easily show a lack of expertise when they crack wise that the pope is “infallible” in everything he does, as if he never sins or makes mistakes -- as if he's the man to fill our your March Madness bracket, because he cannot fail. In fact, the definition of church teaching is much narrower, only that the pope cannot err when he speaks for the church on matters of faith or morals.
This happened in Tuesday’s Washington Post, when reporter Jason Horowitz lightly wrote the pope’s clothes make the “infallible man,” which should require a correction:
Appearing on Monday's NBC Today as part of the Today's Professionals panel discussion, the network's chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman urged the Catholic Church to abandon its opposition to contraception: "Here's one thing I really would implore the Catholic Church to do on a global issue.... poverty without birth control begets more poverty....So this is a chance to take the humility and the poverty and say now we're really going to talk about this in a civilized way and move it forward." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Advertising executive Donny Deutsch chimed in: "Well that's my point, we're not talking about the real issues....And we can talk about tolerance with gays and attitudes towards women." Snyderman agreed: "And women in the Church."
As we've documented time and again, the Washington Post's On Faith section is hostile to traditional religious faith. Section editor Sally Quinn failed to disappoint on St. Patrick's Day with her publication online of an excerpt from an interview with liberal Catholic author Garry Wills, who is promoting his new book, "Why Priests? A Failed Tradition."
Coming a mere four days after the election of Argentina's Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio as Pope Francis, Quinn published a portion of her interview wherein Wills argued that the papacy was irrelevant and that the priesthood was an arrogant "monopolization" of power by the clergy. On March 14, just one day after Pope Francis's election, Quinn published another excerpt of Wills which she entitled "The pope shouldn't be king," where she let Wills flesh out his thoughts on the papacy being a "crime":
This past weekend, the media dug up decades-old accusations against Pope Francis from his time in Argentina. While CNN provided context and a critical eye toward the grave accusations, Sunday's ABC World News aired a one-sided report with damning overtones against the Pope.
ABC correspondent Matt Gutman interviewed a family member of multiple victims of the dictatorship who accused the Pope, then just a priest and superior of the Jesuit order, of failing to rescue her family. "Estela claims he had the power to help her family. But didn't," Gutman reported, providing no comment from the Vatican on her accusations. He also reported that two Jesuit priests accused Pope Francis of cooperating with the Argentinian dictatorship, adding only a brief mention of Francis' testimony in his defense.