My older daughter had a research paper to do for tenth grade. The paper would also have to be persuasive in nature, and she was given a list of topics to choose from. She chose the topic dealing with bias in the media against the Catholic Church. There was no shortage of material for her, so she carefully selected three topics to focus on, showing the bias by demonstrating that a little effort would have given each report a balance that was sorely lacking.
The paper has just been submitted for grading, and we don’t know how that will pan out, even though we asked a couple of other mothers whose children had already written similar papers to critique it and help her edit it. With her permission, I am sharing the fruits of her labor. The only thing omitted are her footnotes (which didn’t translate when I copied and pasted into WordPress), though I’ll include the bibliography after her conclusion.
°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°The mainstream media reports on many important issues in our nation, making sure that millions of people are aware of issues and topics influencing our culture and society. In addition, the Catholic Church has multiple news outlets and other easily-accessible sources to ensure that there is an accurate account of Church teachings and events that occur throughout the world. Even with this presence, the media rarely gives a truly fair report on these topics. Despite the media’s claim of fair reporting, there is a prevalent bias against Catholics in today’s news organizations that can easily be seen in such topics as abortion, same-sex marriage, and women’s ordinations.
The New York Times reported on the March for Life in 2013, but the March was not accurately represented. While the March itself is not a purely Catholic organization, it is run largely by Catholic laity and clergy. The single picture provided of the March that year cut out most of the participants and instead focused on the few, greatly outnumbered abortion supporters present. It did nothing to mention the record-breaking 500,000 men, women, and children at the 2013 March for Life, choosing instead to focus on the incorrect assumptions about the intentions of the March. In addition, some mainstream media articles made their bias in favor of abortion clear in the articles written. “These laws have one real purpose: to make it almost impossible for a woman to get an abortion, no matter what circumstances she may be facing,” quoted an article on CNN’s website, discussing the desired laws being proposed by the pro-life citizens in Louisiana. When it came to the laws themselves, the same article read, “Last week, the Louisiana legislature passed a bill that could force all but two of the state’s abortion providers to close their doors, which means Louisiana is preparing to join Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi to the list of Southern states on the verge of wiping out access to safe and legal abortion.” By not truly representing and displaying the March’s side of the story, these news organizations prevented the public from having a fuller and more open view of the world and of the March itself.
Priests for Life, a group of clergy and laity who actively oppose and fight against abortion, is often criticized in the media for their contributions to the pro-life cause. Pam Chamberlain of the Huffington Post wrote an article condemning the group’s assertions when it came to racism in abortion statistics. The report reads:
The anti-abortion right wing is hard at work trying to drive a wedge into communities of color. A conspiracy theory — which alleges that abortion amounts to genocide perpetrated by white people on minority communities — is gathering steam. It started this summer in Birmingham and Atlanta, targeting African Americans, and quickly spread to the Midwest. … Mark Crutcher, a white anti-abortion activist (and associate of Priests for Life president Fr. Joe [sic] Pavone) can really pull old ghosts out of the closet.
The article does nothing to provide the true Catholic standing on abortion, focusing on out-of-context quotes and alleged mistakes made in the past by Priests for Life.
Though a definite bias exists against Catholic teachings on abortion, it can be counteracted by simply looking at news sources from a Catholic or Catholic-supporting viewpoint. These sources can be found either online or in magazines written by priests or the laity. One such source is on the official March for Life website, especially the “About Us” page. The first two paragraphs of the page state:
January 22, 1973 is ingrained in the minds of pro-lifers because on that infamous historic day the Supreme Court invalidated 50 state laws and made abortion legal and available on demand throughout the United States in the now-infamous decisions in Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton.
The March for Life in Washington, D.C., began as a small demonstration and rapidly grew to be the largest pro-life event in the world. The peaceful demonstration that has followed on this somber anniversary every year since 1973 is a witness to the truth concerning the greatest human rights violation of our time, legalized abortion on demand.
The March for Life site is not the only source for accurate information about the pro-life cause and the Catholic Church’s teachings on it A specific and reliable website based around pro-life views is the 40 Days for Life site. This organization focuses on arranging daily protests outside abortion clinics throughout a forty day period. They have an About page which describes, to some extent, the semi-annual protests against abortion outside of abortion clinics around the world from the standpoint of the Catholic Church. By looking at sources such as these and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which has an entire section devoted to the teachings of the Church on abortion, a fair representation of both the mainstream media and the Church can easily be found in articles and discussions of the topics being debated in the news.
Discussions and articles on the topic of same-sex marriage are also highly biased, which results in many people getting the wrong impression when it comes to the Church’s teachings and views of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. For example, many people had hopes that the recently elected Pope Francis would change the Church’s teachings on issues and topics such as gay marriage. A quote taken from a CNN article reads:
“He told me. … ‘I’m in favor of gay rights and in any case, I also favor civil unions for homosexuals, but I believe that Argentina is not yet ready for a gay marriage law,'” said Marquez, a gay rights activist, a self-described devout Catholic and a former theology professor at a Catholic seminary.
However, Edward Pentin, a writer for the National Catholic Register, cleared up any mistaken beliefs in one article, saying:
The Holy Father was also ‘saddened’ by legislative proposals in Malta to extend equality legislation to homosexual couples, particularly those who wish to adopt. … In an interview with the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire published today, Auxiliary Bishop of Malta Charles J. Scicluna said that when he met Pope Francis on Dec. 12, he expressed his concern to the Pope about the proposed law. ‘The Pope showed his sadness at this development, especially on the question of adoption.’
In this article, he presented the Catholic viewpoint of same-sex marriage clearly, while also making certain that people would realize that the Church does not consider homosexual activity to be any worse than fornication or adultery.
Even more recently, there have been articles and reports posted in regards to the belief that Pope Francis would change the Church’s standing on same-sex marriage. In February of 2014, the New York Times published an article, stating, “As they reel from a succession of defeats in courtrooms and legislatures, opponents of same-sex marriage have a new chance this week to play one of their most emotional and, they hope, potent cards: the claim that having parents of the same sex is bad for children.” This report argued about the “injustice” of not supporting same-sex marriage, but never mentioned any Catholic reasoning for not supporting it; instead, Mr. Eric Eckholm proceeded to accuse the Church of oppression and discrimination against homosexuals and their demand for marriage.
In opposition to the mainstream media, the Catholic apologetics website, Catholic Answers, the Catholic approach to same-sex marriage is well-explained and simply put in the questions and answers section of the website. The answer is as follows:
The reason homosexual acts are wrong is not simply that they take place outside of marriage, but that they are contrary to natural design. For various reasons, both inside and outside of their control, some people have desires that are not in accord with nature. When these desires are acted upon, the result is an unnatural and immoral act. Even if two homosexuals were ‘married,’ they would still be having unnatural sex.
The Church cannot change its teaching on marriage, which is grounded in natural law. Under natural law a man can marry only whom he was designed to marry: a woman. He cannot validly marry another man any more than he could an animal or a plant. Any attempted marriage between a man and another man would be invalid by definition. It might be recognized by the state as a legitimate marriage, but it would not be so before God.
Because these mainstream journalists, such as Pam Chamberlain, Erik Eckholm, and Cecile Richards, are seemingly so lax in their investigations of true Church teaching, they are failing to assist the public in learning about the morality of homosexual marriage. Due to this, the modern culture has a twisted view of the morality, and for those who read only the stories of popular media sources, there is little chance for them to find the truth when it comes to these matters.
Women’s ordination is another highly debated topic in the media, and another issue about which the Church is constantly condemned. Judith Levitt, a writer for the New York Times, reported in an article, “Reformers within the Roman Catholic Church have been calling for the ordination of women as priests. The Vatican, however, refuses to consider the possibility and uses its power to silence those who speak out.” In this commentary, when it comes to Church doctrine, Ms. Levitt offers only the statement, “The Roman Catholic Church’s argument against the ordination of women is simple and relies on the logic of tradition: ‘that’s what we have always done.’ Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter in 1994 saying that the church had no authority to ordain women because, among other reasons, Christ chose only men to be his apostles. Pope Benedict XVI agrees with his predecessor and insists that the church need offer no further justification for its opposition to women as priests, calling instead for a ‘radicalism of obedience.’” There was no mention in this column that the Church does agree that women have a particular calling in the Catholic faith; instead, she portrays the pope and all clergy in union with him in a misogynistic, oppressive, and sexist light.
Another example of this kind of bias can be seen in a 2012 write-up on women’s ordinations found in the Los Angeles Times. Maria L. La Ganga, the publisher of the article, wrote, “The Vatican has said that women who presume to be priests, and those who help them, are committing a grave sin. And like Catholics who have abortions or commit heresy, female officiants are subject to the ultimate penalty — automatic excommunication. The church [sic] does not acknowledge ordained women or the sacraments they offer.” With that being said, there was little further mention of the Church’s teachings on women’s ordinations. The report mainly focused on the “liturgies” the women in question were leading, rather than on the morality of these women’s actions, and she did not truly condemn the women’s behavior.
The truth in this matter of women’s ordinations is made clear in an answer on the Catholic Answers website, given by a man named Jim Blackburn. He wrote:
The Church does not have the authority to ordain women. In his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II declared ‘that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.’ Some of the reasons cited include: 1. The example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his apostles only from among men; 2. The constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; 3. The Church’s living teaching authority has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.
Another well-written explanation can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The section in question reads, “Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. … The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the 12 apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.” This sheds light on the fact that ordaining men alone as priests is part of the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition, and that the Church has no plans to change that part of Tradition.
In conclusion, it is virtually impossible to find a completely unbiased report on current events, whether it be against the Catholic Church or not. There will never be a report on these matters entirely uninfluenced by someone’s opinion, whether the news source be the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or the Huffington Post, because it is rare that a journalist sufficiently checks his facts and resources. The only thought on these matters that is closest to being unbiased is the Catholic Church’s, because the Church’s teachings are from the Creator himself. Journalists in the media who stand against Catholic teaching publish articles that suggest a lack of research into what the Church teaches, despite how simple the information would most likely be to find. That being said, the best way to counteract the bias and ignorance in the media against Catholics is to research any topics of interest in Catholic media sources, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Answers website, and the Life News website.
“40 Days for Life: Mission.” http://40daysforlife.com/mission/, (July 7, 2014).
Blackburn, Jim. “Why can’t women be ordained priests within the Catholic Church?” in “Catholic Answers: Quick Questions.” http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/why-cant-women-be-ordained-priests-within-the-catholic-church, (July 11, 2014).
Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington DC: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997.
Eckholm, Erik. “Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage Taken Bad-for-Children Argument To Court.” February 22, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/us/opponents-of-same- sex-marriage-take-bad-for-children-argument-to-court.html? module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI %3A13%22%7D, (July 9, 2014).
Jervis, Rick. “Texas Abortion Law Creates Obstacles for Valley Women.” May 17, 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/17/texas-abortion-law- women-valley/8804871/, (July 7, 2014).
La Ganga, Maria L. “Women Becoming Priests Without Vatican’s Blessing.” May 25, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/25/local/la-me-female-priests-20130526, (July 12, 2014).
Levitt, Judith. “Women as Priests.” September 29, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/opinion/sunday/women-as-priests.html?_r=0, (July 12, 2014).
“March for Life History.” http://marchforlife.org/about-us (July 7, 2014).
Pentin, Edward. “Pope Repeats that Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ is ‘Anthropological Regression.’” January 3, 2014 http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope- repeats-that-same-sex-marriage-is-anthropological-regression (July 8, 2014).
Peters, Jeremy W. “Parties Seize on Abortion Issues in Midterm Race.” January 20, 2014, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/us/politics/parties-seize-on-abortion-issues-in-midterm-race.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B %222%22%3A%22RI%3A16%22%7D&_r=0 (July 8, 2014).
Ragusea, Adam. “Gay Teacher Files Sex Discrimination Claim Against Georgia School.” July 9, 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/07/09/329235789/gay-teacher-files-sex- discrimination-claim-against-georgia-school (July 9, 2014).
Richards, Cecile. “Women Won’t Stand for Abortion-Rights Rollback.” May 28, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/28/opinion/richards-abortion-access-restrictions- south/index.html?iref=storysearch (July 8, 2014).
Romo, Rafael; Rodriguez, Jose Manuel; and Shoichet, Catherine E. “Behind Closed Doors, Pope Supported Civil Unions in Argentina, Activist Says.” March 21, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/world/americas/argentina-pope-civil-unions/, (July 23, 2014).
(Unknown Author.) http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/could-the-church-ever-allow-homosexuals-to-marry (July 11, 2014).