Bill Donohue

Once again, Pope Francis fails to make headlines (with conservative words on sex)

Once again, Pope Francis fails to make headlines (with conservative words on sex)

As a rule, controversial statements by the Pope of Rome tend to make news.

As a rule, controversial statements by the current occupant of the throne of St. Peter make news.

Do I really need to note that, as a rule, controversial statements by Pope Francis about sexuality almost always inspire headlines in major news sources?

With that in mind, raise your cyber-hand (leave a comment even) if you have read the following information reported in a mainstream news source in the past few days — especially in elite media, either printed on dead-tree pulp or in any electronic form.

Meanwhile, the following is from the Catholic News Service, as printed in the conservative National Catholic Register:

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church,” the Pope says in the book The Strength of a Vocation, set to be released Dec. 3 in 10 languages.

In an excerpt from the book, released Friday by Religión Digital, the Pope said he is concerned about the issue of evaluating and forming people with homosexual tendencies in the clergy and consecrated life.

“This is something I am concerned about, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention,” he said.

Francis said that with candidates for the priesthood or religious life “we have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously discern, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in discerning all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can happen that at the time perhaps they didn't exhibit [that tendency], but later on it comes out.”

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case,” the Pope reiterated.

Wait, there is more to this nuanced, but still newsworthy, statement.

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AP turns anti-Catholic superstar Jack Chick into an all-purpose fundamentalist hero

AP turns anti-Catholic superstar Jack Chick into an all-purpose fundamentalist hero

This will be risky, but I'd like to talk about Adolf Hitler and religion for a moment.

The problem with creating a metaphor involving Hitler is that, as journalist Ron Rosenbaum told me long ago (this is a paraphrase): What people say about Hitler usually reveals more about their biases and beliefs than about those of Hitler. (Rosenbaum is the author of an amazing book, "Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil.")

So here goes. Readers, especially Jewish readers, what would you think if you read a news feature covering the life and legacy of Hitler and, right at the beginning, it stressed that he was known for his oppression of Marxists, Catholics, faithful Lutherans, gays, Jews and gypsies?

On one level, all of that is true. That is an accurate list of groups in Germany, Poland, France and elsewhere that Hitler attacked. But isn't it rather strange to see his war on the Jews turned into a mere bullet item in a list of what appear to be similar offenses?

Now, please hear me say this: I am not about to compare the work of Jack T. Chick with that of Hitler. So what am I attempting here?

I am saying that, when I read the Associated Press obituary for the famous -- many would say "infamous" -- cartoonist the lede struck me as strange. Click here for the version that ran in The Los Angeles Times -- which is symbolic since Chick was based east of LA.

Now, Chick was famous for using his pen to attack lots of different targets. But there is no question that he attacked one body of religious believers more than any other and in ways that were uniquely scandalous. But read the AP lede and try to figure out which body got stabbed the most:

Jack T. Chick, whose cartoon tracts preached fundamentalist Christianity while vilifying secular society, evolution, homosexuality and the beliefs of Catholics and Muslims, has died. He was 92.

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Surprise! Catholic League spotted other flaws in New York Times abuse story

Surprise! Catholic League spotted other flaws in New York Times abuse story

I will admit right up front that much of the following information is not shocking. The Catholic League upset at The New York Times? Never!

So here is the background. The other day I praised, in a modest sort of way, a Times piece about the clergy sex-abuse scandal that is still unfolding in the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, in Western Pennsylvania.

I raised questions, however, about some vague language in this report, especially focusing on legislation being pushed by Representative Mark Rozzi, a Democrat, who experienced abuse by a priest in his childhood. Concerning the legislation, the Times report noted, the time-frames defining windows of opportunity for new lawsuits:

These window laws can leave the church and other institutions open to legions of suits. Lobbyists with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the insurance industry have pressed lawmakers to hold the line, and they were working the Capitol’s corridors last week.

Other institutions?

Often, people fighting sexual abuse of children and teens go after the church and fail to target abuse taking place in other major institutions, such as public schools. Thus, I argued that the key vague phrase in that Times passage was "and other institutions." So what other institutions are we talking about? I continued:

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Journalism 101: Little crowd equals big news, while big crowd equals no news -- right?

Journalism 101: Little crowd equals big news, while big crowd equals no news -- right?

During my nearly 40 years in the news biz, I think I have heard the following question more than any other. Yes, even more than, "Why don't journalists get religion?"

The question is this: "Why do journalists consider some 'small' events to be big news, while other really 'big' news events are hardly covered at all?"

This is, of course, a question of news values. It's the old "What is news? Well, we know it when we see it" situation, with journalists trying to explain what is, frankly, an equation that reveals quite a bit about what they think is important and what they think is not very important. (Yes, you heard this recently in the Charlie Hebdo vs. Baga massacre in Nigeria debate.)

The tensions here frequently make non-journalists really mad. This, of course, leads us to veteran press button-pusher Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Yes, this is a man who rarely uses a flyswatter when a baseball bat will do. However, the following blast at The Los Angeles Times perfectly echoes the "What is news?" question that news consumers -- and many former newspaper subscribers -- keep asking.

Thus, let us attend.

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