This is why the media just can't resist a chainsaw-wielding nun helping after Hurricane Irma

It's clickbait.

Take that back — it's chainsaw bait.

As NPR put it, "(N)o one, it seems, can resist a story about a chainsaw-wielding nun."

And you know what? I don't blame them. What's not to like about this story?

The basics from Emily Miller at Religion News Service:

(RNS) — Now here’s something you don’t see every day: A Carmelite nun, in full habit, cutting trees with a chainsaw.
Sister Margaret Ann, principal of Miami’s Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School, caught the attention of an off-duty police officer, who posted photos and video of her at work on the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Facebook page on Tuesday (Sept. 12).
The post said acts of kindness like hers “remind us all that we are #OneCommunity in #MiamiDadeCounty” and included the praying hands emoji for good measure.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, snagged an interview with the nun:

Sister Margaret Ann, principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in Miami, said the street from her convent to the campus was blocked Monday by downed trees, forcing drivers to steer onto the sidewalk, where they were sliding in mud and debris.
Although yard work is not something the sister would typically do, she said, she walked out to SW 104th Street wielding a roaring power tool — and praying for those who were affected by the storm.
“People were kind of stopping and taking pictures,” Sister Margaret Ann said Wednesday afternoon.
She said one of them was an off-duty Miami-Dade police officer, who captured the moment on video and posted it Tuesday on social media, where it has since been shared tens of thousands of times. The video shows the sister wearing gloves, slicing through tree branches on the side of the road.
Sister Margaret Ann told The Washington Post the officer told her, “You know, the police will do this.”
“I said, ‘Well maybe so, but it will take a while — and they have more important things to do, really.’ ”

The Post story ends with this quote:

The sister said people have been reaching out to the high school as well, saying, “This is great. This is what people need to see. This is really what the Catholic church is all about.”


So why did the coverage of the nun's kindness make one GetReligion reader a little grumpy?

For one thing, the reader wasn't happy that the NPR report failed to identify her as "Catholic." But honestly, I didn't notice that omission — given that the piece refers both to the nun serving as principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School and being a part of the Carmelite Sisters. 

The rest of the reader's message:

Here's the thing. It's a cute story, sure, but as a Catholic I can tell you this sort of thing is not weird. It is drilled into us to *serve* because that is part of love which is (explicitly) the most important thing. Read half a chapter from any gospel.

What irks me about media coverage of my Church is that this sort of thing is treated completely separately from our opposition to paying for contraception. Readers are given no opportunity to connect this joyful, helpful nun with the big bad chauvinistic institution that hates everyone. The nun's views on abortion or gay marriage might not be super relevant to this article, but if this kind of joyful service is rooted in her faith (the article doesn't say), maybe the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion is rooted in something not actually hateful.

As the reader noted, abortion and same-sex marriage aren't super relevant — or relevant at all — to this story.

But I'd agree with the main point — that NPR could have done a better job of linking the nun's action to her faith, as the Post did.

Please respect our Commenting Policy