In the aftermath of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, CBS has made up its mind about Catholicism: the Church is in crisis and must be reformed! Whereas Martin Luther tacked his theses on the Wittenberg church door, however, CBS opted to ensure its stab at church reformation would go largely unnoticed by including the segment on Saturday's CBS This Morning. [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
To discuss this topic, CBS anchor Anthony Mason brought in three liberals: Jim Frederick of Time Magazine, the Rev. Paul Raushenbush of the Huffington Post -- the great-grandson of Baptist minister and Social Gospel champion Walter Rauschenbusch -- and Sister Maureen Fiedler, who hosts her own public radio show. All three agreed with the premise that the Catholic Church needs to change. If the message wasn’t clear enough, a screen behind the guests read “Catholic Church in Crisis” (with no question mark) and the chyron read “Catholic Church in Crisis: Is the Vatican Capable of Reform?”
It was clear where this discussion was headed. Nobody questioned whether the Church needed to change. Mason inquired of Frederick, “Jim, do you think the church is conscious that it needs to reform and change here?”
Frederick responded by criticizing the cardinals: “ I think it's really an open question whether this college of cardinals perceives that there’s enough of a crisis that they want to change or reform.” These cardinals are unlikely to amend the Church’s positions on birth control, homosexuality, or celibacy of priests, Frederick lamented, because “this is a really conservative bunch of cardinals.”
Later on, Mason piled on the cardinals as well. As photographs of some of the cardinals flashed across the screen, Mason proclaimed, “You can't help but notice that it's a line of – a long line of old men who are just by generation not prone to want to reform things.” He then addressed the panel: “It seems to me you're saying [reform] can't necessarily come from within the cardinals. So if it's not going to come from that group, how is it going to happen?”
But the most radical voice on the panel undoubtedly belonged to Sister Fiedler, who has clashed with the Vatican in the past. Speaking about the conclave, she said, “And when I look at that gathering in Rome, all I can ask myself is, where are the women? Where is the younger generation in the church? Where are the married people?”
Sister Fiedler essentially called for the Church, a hierarchical body for 2,000 years, to do an about-face and become more democratic and less dogmatic. She called for a new council, not like the exclusive councils of the past, but one that includes “laymen and laywomen as well as priests and bishops from every continent and culture of the world, so they would come together and discern a future of the church.”
Not only is CBS guilty of malicious bias, it's guilty of the deadly sin of sloth. There are plenty of orthodox defenders of the church who would be happy to come on national TV to balance out a panel like this. CBS bookers and producers most certainly know this, but are unwilling to invite them on.
It's a journalistic transgression that should not be forgiven, and on top of that, it makes for not just biased, but trite and boring television. Shame on CBS.
Below is a partial transcript of the segment:
REBECCA JARVIS: We've been looking at Vatican City this morning and looking at what's taking place there and what will come next. What do you think should come next, and can the church get there? Can they make the types of reforms that are necessary?
REV. PAUL RAUSHENBUSH: Well, I think we're in the season of Lent, and so this is a good time, actually, for the church to really be reflective about what it needs to be repentant of and how to create new life within the church come Easter. So it's a very good season for it liturgically. And there’s gonna be a lot of soul-searching, I think, among the cardinals to figure out where is the place where – the person with whom we can trust this sacred responsibility to lead us forward, and really to, in some ways, clean the church of a difficult time. Having reported this for the last three weeks since the resignation was announced, it seems to just get kind of worse and worse. The news has gotten worse and worse as scandal after scandal comes out. So I think we're ready for the next step.
ANTHONY MASON: Jim, do you think – sorry, Maureen, it’ll just be one second – Jim, do you think the church is conscious that it needs to reform and change here?
JIM FREDERICK: Well, there’s various different communities within the church. I think it's really an open question whether this college of cardinals perceives that there’s enough of a crisis that they even want to change or reform. I mean certainly the child sex abuse scandals that have been going on for decades and have really come to the fore in the past five or ten years are one thing, but some of the bigger issues that more secular minded Catholics or even Protestants from other strains of Christianity consider really crucial, whether it’s abortion, birth control, homosexuality, celibacy of priests, I'm not really sure you're going to see a lot of movement on that because this is a really conservative bunch of cardinals that were appointed by – all of them were either appointed by Pope John Paul II or by Benedict.
SISTER MAUREEN FIEDLER: And when I look at that gathering in Rome, all I can ask myself is, where are the women? Where is the younger generation in the church? Where are the married people? There's a whole swath of human experience that's unfortunately not represented in that conclave and needs to be.
MASON: Well, how do you make that happen?
FIEDLER: I'll tell you what I would hope for in a new pope. Someone who does not take on a monarchical kind of role but who calls a new council of the church. But this is not a council of bishops I’m thinking of, but a council of the people of God. The Second Vatican Council said the whole church was the people of God. So this would include laymen and laywomen as well as priests and bishops from every continent and culture of the world so they would come together and discern a future of the church. Is there such a person in that college of cardinals? Is there a Pope John XXIII lurking there, I don't know.
RAUSHENBUSH: Can I add, I would love to see American Catholic nuns involved.
FIEDLER: I certainly would, too.
MASON: To the point that you all have been making, we just were looking at some pictures there of the cardinals, and you can't help but notice that it's a line of – a long line of old men...
FIEDLER: That's right. It is.
MASON: ...who are just by generation not prone to want to reform things. So you're basically
-- it seems to me you're saying this can't necessarily come from within the cardinals. So if it's not going to come from that group, how is it going to happen?
FREDERICK: There is a large movement within this community, meaning a small and very devout and traditional Catholic community that is saying it's okay if the Catholic church gets smaller and more devout. And that might be the end game of this. There's a phrase of cafeteria Catholicism, that you don't get to choose what you do and do not believe. And this isn't a matter of just the Catholic church being more popular. If, for the 21st century, we're less popular, well that's just the way it’s going to be, some of them say.
FIEDLER: But you know, there’s a whole segment of Catholics, and I would call them social justice Catholics. People who want the pope to not dwell on those issues of sexuality. People are sick of that. They want a pope who speaks strongly for economic justice and for peace in the world and the church has very strong teachings in those areas. They'd like a reemphasis, and that could help revive a church in crisis, possibly.