Reporting on the Church

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 Catholic News Service is a U.S. based Catholic news service. A local arch/diocesan newspaper is a good source of local news. In the Archdiocese of Washington we have the Catholic Standard and and ElPregonero.

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.

7 Replies to “Reporting on the Church”

  1. Thanks for all these great articles. But what happened to the pictures and the videos? The site looks rather bland now.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. We are working at getting back the original look. The webmaster has been contacted.

  2. AIDS is without argument a serious problem in many African countries. The Holy Father is correct in upholding the teachings of the church. We also should keep in mind that many of these countries are Muslim and allow for men to have many wives. Monogomy is not practiced because of religious beliefs. Many young girls are sexually abused at an early age by older men. There are many things we can do to eleveate this wide spread disease without condoning the use of condoms, but this is not my blog and I don’t think I have enough space in the box to discuss things like education, women’s rights, war, poverty, adequate health care, all of which contribute to this wide spread disease and finally the conversion of many to the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. But there is one thing we can not do, and that is to attack the Holy Father for supporting the doctrine of the church.

    1. Thanks for adding to the conversation. The Muslim factor is such an important one.

  3. To quote Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult for a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” The media is a business, a business exists to make money, and the best money comes with controversies, whether real or “cultured” (as in pearls) by omitting key details. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to convince a news reporter, for example, that Papal Infallibility does not actually mean “everything the Pope says is right.” In fact, that’s part of the reason I just cancelled my Washington Post subscription (that and the financial pinch we’re all feeling) – too many people pushing narratives instead of reporting facts. I can get the good stories for free online anyway – and usually find links explaining the things the story left out.

    And if I may, I’m going to plug one of my favorite Catholic blogs, Rocco Palmo’s “Whispers in the Loggia,” (, which actually takes the time to get the facts right about the things the Church is saying and doing.

    1. Actually there is a lot of good media coverage of the church, particulalry local stories. Remeber the great coverage of the pope’s visit last year? Also Whispers gets a lot wrong, but gossip columns do that. Check out the blog at It’s more accurate.

      1. Josie, I was thinking I should say something about what great coverage we did get last year during the visit and then left it out. Thansk for setting the record straight!

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