One of the biggest obstacles to learning about the Church is the misrepresentation by the secular media of the Church, often by means of pithy soundbites. In the last couple of weeks there have been a number of attacks on Pope Benedict XVI for lifting the excommunication of four bishops who belong to the Society of Pius X. The Society is a group that separated from the Church in 1962 when it chose not to accept the Church’s teaching authority with regard to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The subsequent ordination of these four bishops was not legitimate in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.
When the excommunication was lifted to make one small step toward the reintegration of the Society of Pius X into the Catholic Church it became public that one of the four bishops in an interview denied the historical reality of the holocaust. “How could the Pope lift the excommunication of a Holocaust denier” was the accusation lobbed at the Pope by the media and even some politicians. Yet, from the perspective of the Church, the lifting of the excommunication had nothing to do with the denial of the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust denial was not the reason for the excommunication, the lifting of the excommunication could not have been withheld because of the denial. It is not the practice of the Church to excommunicate people for lunatic views. Excommunication is reserved for grave sin. For more see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1463).
Yesterday, various papers condemned Pope Benedict’s assertion that condoms were not only unhelpful in the fight against AIDS, but to the contrary could even be harmful. While condemning the Pope for his statement, the mainstream media failed to include that the use of condoms gives only a false sense of security given that the failure rate is higher than many people think. This false sense of security leads to increased promiscuity thus undermining the only true defense against Aids: abstinence. The successful experience in Kenya with a policy focused on abstinence education is one example of this fact.
Both stories are examples of how the secular media fails to appropriately report on the Church’s teaching and practice. It raises the question of where you can find accurate reporting on the Church. It is important for Catholics to know the Church’s teaching and to approach media reporting with a solid foundation and a critical eye. There are a few sources whose mission is to be a daily source of Church news. The Vatican has a news service that can be found at http://www.vatican.va/news_services/press/vis/vis_en.html. Catholic News Service is a U.S. based Catholic news service. http://www.catholicnews.com. A local arch/diocesan newspaper is a good source of local news. In the Archdiocese of Washington we have the Catholic Standard and http://cathstand.org and ElPregonero. http://www.elpreg.org
There is a large body of Catholic magazines and journals that look at Church life from a wide variety of perspectives. Take a look at your parish reading rack or one of our local Catholic book stores to see what they offer. Newman Books is near Catholic University at St. Paul’s College, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a book store, and the Catholic Information Center in downtown D.C. are all good sources.