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.
According to Rome Reports’ translation, Pope Francis told members of the press on Monday, July 29, “As far as the ordination of women, the Church has already spoken out and the answer is no,” and, “the door is closed.” He then emphasized the importance of women – a point the press appeared only too happy to censor, “But let me tell you something, Our Lady was more important than the apostles, bishops, deacons, and priests. Women play a role that’s more important than that of bishops, or priests.” Rome Reports, an “independent international TV news agency based in Rome, Italy, specializing in covering the Pope and the Vatican,” reaches an audience of over 1 billion.
The media went berserk, and ignored his second sentence on women’s importance. The Guardian’s Sadhbh Walshe bashed the pope’s “no” on female priests, whining, “the pope's mind appears to be ‘definitively’ closed on this issue” – or, in other words, “thanks for nothing, Pope Francis.” Walshe labeled the Catholic Church as sexist, and ranted, “The church has gotten away with blatant sexism for so long.”
Trying his luck at Italian, The Huffington Post’s Charles Clymer sarcastically translated for the pope by applying gay clergy teaching to women priests: “If someone has a vagina and she searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” because, “I mean, come on... they bleed every month, amirite?!” Clymer clamored that even this “candor” fails to “change Francis' assertion that being a woman is an additional flaw beyond original sin.”
More traditional media, such as USA Today, whined that the pope’s remark “closes door on women’s ordination” – suggesting the door was open to begin with. The International Business Times raised the question of whether or not Pope Francis was a “sexist.” Reuters also noted the decision, but refrained from announcing women’s importance.
Other sources hinted at Pope Francis’ acknowledgement of the Church’s need for women, but only in passing. CNN, via Alice L. Laffey’s opinion, admitted, “His comments conveyed a deep respect for women,” but, “Whatever Francis' own virtues, however, the church will continue to be accused of sexual discrimination, especially by many Americans and Europeans, as long as it denies the priesthood to women.”
The Washington Post also mentioned the pope’s statements on women’s greater role within the Church, but closed off the sentence with women’s ordination, describing, “he said the church must develop a more profound role for women in the church, though he said ‘the door is closed’ to ordaining women to the priesthood.” In a blog, Reuters used a similar strategy, minimizing the good with bad, as well as CBSNews.com, and The Wall Street Journal.
Out of the traditional news sources, TIME stood on its own and recognized the comparison Pope Francis made between male clergy and women, saying, “He reminded listeners that he holds women in the highest regard: ‘The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother.’”
That’s the kind of thing more journalists might learn, if they were interested in more than confirming their own preconceptions and actually listened to the pontiff. But then, the media can’t claim the closest friendship with popes in the past either.