[Update, 4:10 pm Tuesday: Father Grandon wrote NewsBusters to clarify his statement during the segment: "I was very clear during the interview that we convert priests have no interest in agitating for married clergy generally and that, in fact, the Catholic Church has always had married priests in her Eastern Churches, but alas, those comments were edited out. My comment...in no way proposed that change....Yes, much was left unsaid and unexplained, but do please note that I am not on the side of the liberals! In the end, we were happy that the editing was not as malicious as it could have been."]
On Monday's CBS This Morning, correspondent Michelle Miller highlighted one of the 77 married Catholic priests in the U.S. who converted from the Episcopal Church in recent years and boosted a favorite pet cause of left-leaning dissenting Catholics: ordaining married men. Miller trumpeted that Father Doug Grandon's example "begs the question: should all Catholic priests have the option to marry?"
Father Grandon stated that "the most we could say is that having a married priest...allows them to look and see how it would work if they wanted to change it." The morning show's religious and faith contributor, Father Edward Beck, also acknowledged that the several dozen former Episcopalian clerics are "bringing a whole liberal notion with them," but also noted one of the main reasons for Catholic clerical celibacy - that parish priests can devote all 24 hours of each day to their ministry.
After 19 days of controversy, CBS Evening News on Tuesday finally got around to covering the growing dispute between the Obama administration, who wants to impose a mandate for sterilizations and birth control on religious institutions, and the Catholic Church and its allies, who see it as a violation of religious liberty. All of the Big Three networks' evening newscasts on Tuesday covered the issue.
On Wednesday morning, CBS This Morning was actually the only network morning show that devoted a segment to the "hot-button issue," as anchor Gayle King labeled it. NBC's Today show gave a mere news brief on the "uproar" over the new federal policy, while ABC's Good Morning America ignored it.
On their Wednesday morning shows, the Big Three networks continued their trend of all but ignoring the Obama administration trying to force religious institutions to include coverage of sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraceptives in their health care policies without a co-pay. The new mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services would force Catholic hospitals and schools to decide whether to submit to the new policy or follow the Church's teachings against birth control.
Instead of covering this growing dispute between the Catholic hierarchy of the United States and the federal government, CBS This Morning brought on Rev. Edward Beck, a Catholic priest, to respond to a story that might cast the Church in a bad light with regards to how it manages the donations it receives.
Friday's The O'Reilly Factor on FNC gave attention to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to exclude all clergy from taking part in the upcoming commemoration of the 9/11 attacks. Substitute host Juan Williams introduced the segment.
According to the man ABC News relies on for religious analysis, it's impossible to say whether Osama bin Laden was "evil." Father Edward Beck, the network's religion correspondent, appeared with Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday and offered moral equivalence on the subject of the terrorist's death.
When the O'Reilly Factor anchor pressed Beck on whether bin Laden truly represented malevolence, Beck replied, "That's not for me to judge. His actions were certainly were evil."
O'Reilly pressed Beck on this point, prompting the ABC News analyst to assert, "No, I think that's up to God to ultimately decide who's evil."
At face value, it seems harmless enough. According to ABC "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts, every Christmas the show features various "spiritual leaders" to talk about the role of faith in their lives. And this year's Christmas Day broadcast was no exception.
"And now, it is a ‘GMA' tradition on Christmas Day, to talk about the role of faith in all of our lives," Roberts said. "We gathered a group of spiritual leaders from different traditions to talk about the importance of belief, in good times and belief in bad times, too."
After promoting the controversial, religion-baiting film "Angels & Demons" for a combined 19 minutes last week on "Good Morning America," ABC finally featured a Catholic priest to object to the movie. Unfortunately, the interview was relegated only to the network's website, not the ABC morning show. (Considering the four days of fawning coverage to the film's stars last week, this hardly seems fair.) Father Edward Beck appeared on the internet-based "Focus on Faith" to talk to Chris Cuomo and point out the inaccuracies.
Beck critiqued the filmmakers behind "Angels & Demons," which falsely features the Catholic Church participating in a brutal massacre of a secret society, asserting that they should be more responsible for "doing their homework, even with a work of fiction." Cuomo bizarrely responded by claiming Beck needed to consider "the atheistic [position], which is, 'It's all fiction.' So, the church doesn't have any right to hold its own truth when it is a fiction in and of itself." He reiterated the disbelievers take, stating, "Anything you say you believe in is based on a fiction, because God is a fiction. So, what's wrong with having a fiction about fiction?"
Beck quickly retorted, "No. Whether or not the church kills people is not fiction. Either they do or they don't." Beck went on to note other offensive elements of the movie, such as the fact that the deceased Pope in the movie turns out to have fathered a child through artificial insemination. The New York-based priest complained, "Now, I mean, how unrealistic do we really want to make this?" Appearing to miss the point, Cuomo replied, "You taking yourself too seriously in the organized church?" (It should be pointed out that some of the tone was light-hearted as Cuomo and Beck are apparently friends.)
On Monday's "Good Morning America," the morning show featured a new religious expert who explained away some of the radical statements heard at Barack Obama's now former church. Father Edward Beck, the host of "Faith Matters Now" on ABC News's video site ABC News Now, also defended Father Michael Pfleger, the latest religious leader to make incendiary remarks at Trinity United Church. (In a video, Pfleger can be heard condemning, "I also believe that America is the greatest sin against God.") Co-host Chris Cuomo prompted, "You say he's much more than how he's being characterized as this kind of bad parody of an African-American preacher. Tell me."
Responding to the softball, Beck justified, "Well, everybody is more than a few sound bites can demonstrate." The two, along with NPR analyst Juan Williams were discussing not only Pfleger, but also the enthusiastic response the mostly African American congregation gave him and (on other occasions) the incendiary Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Again, Beck, who was appearing on GMA for the first time as a religious expert, offered standard liberal guilt by asserting, "But I think you have to understand underneath [the congregation's cheering] there is real sentiment. There is a feeling of being disenfranchised."