Columbus Dispatch

Monday Mix: Sex abuse probes, 'controlling' church, Mormon Jesus, sanctuary arrest, empty churches

Monday Mix: Sex abuse probes, 'controlling' church, Mormon Jesus, sanctuary arrest, empty churches

Welcome to another edition of the Monday Mix, where we focus on headlines and insights you might have missed from the weekend and late in the week.

The fine print: Just because we include a headline here doesn't mean we won't offer additional analysis in a different post, particularly if it's a major story. In fact, if you read a piece linked here and have questions or concerns that we might address, please don't hesitate to comment below or tweet us at @GetReligion. The goal here is to point at important news and say, "Hey, look at this."

Three weekend reads

1. “The Catholic Church has proven that it cannot police itself. And civil authorities can’t let the church hide child sexual abuse allegations as personnel matters. They’re crimes. We need a full accounting of the church.”

The Washington Post rounds up the wave of state and federal investigations spurred by the Pennsylvania grand jury report:

The explosive report about sexual abuse by Catholic priests unveiled by a Pennsylvania grand jury in August has set off an unprecedented wave of investigations over the last several months, with attorneys general in 14 states and the District of Columbia announcing probes and demanding documents from Catholic officials. Those efforts have been joined by a federal investigation out of Philadelphia that may become national in scope.

The swift and sweeping response by civil authorities contrasts sharply with the Vatican’s comparatively glacial pace. While some U.S. dioceses have published lists of priests they say have been credibly accused of sexual abuse and two cardinals have been ousted, the Vatican this month put on hold a vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on measures to hold bishops more accountable until after a global synod in early 2019. In the meantime, Rome has done little to address the crisis.

2. "It totally sucks you away from all other aspects of your life. It doesn’t allow you to enjoy your life.”

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In reporting on ruling against Down syndrome abortion law, this pesky detail seems important

In reporting on ruling against Down syndrome abortion law, this pesky detail seems important

Let's consider a mirror-image scenario, as GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly calls it.

The scenario: A federal judge, who once served as a local chapter director and board president for the National Right to Life Committee, hears a case concerning abortion. In his ruling, the judge rejects a new state law friendly toward a woman's right to choose an abortion.

Might news reports on the judge's decision mention his connection to the anti-abortion movement? (You think?)

Now, let's look at a real-life scenario involving a U.S. district judge in Ohio with ties to Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading abortion provider.

CNN reports:

(CNN) — An Ohio federal district court judge blocked legislation that would have banned abortion in cases where a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law in December of last year, and it was scheduled to go into effect March 23. The legislation is now blocked until a final ruling is made in the lawsuit.
In a court order granting a preliminary injunction Wednesday, Southern District of Ohio Judge Timothy Black said that federal abortion law is "crystal clear" that "a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability."

A quick aside: My colleague Julia Duin recently delved into "Outlawing Down syndrome abortions: Isn't religion always part of this news story?" I, too, have explored the holy ghosts that have haunted much coverage of the Ohio legislation.

But for the purposes of this post, my focus is this specific question: Does news coverage of Black's ruling inform readers of his possible bias? In a case such as this, that seems like a pretty crucial detail, right?

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Popemania: How much coverage of Francis' visit to U.S. is too much?

Popemania: How much coverage of Francis' visit to U.S. is too much?

I got my first taste of Popemania in 1999.

The Oklahoman put me on an airplane and sent me to cover Pope John Paul II's visit to St. Louis. 

In my introductory post with GetReligion, I made this confession about that experience:

After nearly 10 years in the newspaper business, I knew how to chase fire trucks and police cars and burn the midnight oil with city councils and school boards. But my knowledge of the Roman Catholic Church was scant. Honestly, I had no idea what a diocese was. I didn't know the difference between a bishop and a cardinal. I had heard of the pope.
Despite a mild case of fear and trembling, I researched the basics of Catholic faith and prepared to handle the assignment. I wrote three or four Page 1 stories the week of the pope's visit. My favorite focused on a youth event where Catholic teens jammed to the ear-piercing beat of DC Talk's "Jesus Freak" before welcoming to the stage a gray-haired pontiff who walked with a cane.

No doubt, I perfected the unfine art of #PapalGoofs long before hashtags were cool.

My first pope story was a Page 1 Sunday advance on Oklahomans making the trek to see their spiritual leader in person. For The Oklahoman, John Paul's visit was a local story as much as a national and international headline.

All these years later, the same remains true for newspapers across the U.S.

While much of the local and regional coverage focuses on parishioners making the pilgrimage, a reader pointed us to a nuanced profile of Francis in the Dayton Daily News in Ohio:

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Jihad journalism: Did Southern Baptists really just declare 'spiritual warfare' on same-sex marriage?

Jihad journalism: Did Southern Baptists really just declare 'spiritual warfare' on same-sex marriage?

Them's fighting words.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Southern Baptist Convention has declared "spiritual warfare" on gay marriage.

The Journal-Constitution's inflammatory lede:

Columbus, Ohio — Declaring “spiritual warfare” on gay marriage, thousands gathered here Tuesday for the annual Southern Baptist Convention and vowed that, no matter what the Supreme Court rules this month, they will never yield on the issue.
The Baptists acknowledged that the court seems likely to legalize same-sex marriage when it rules in the next two weeks, but leaders urged the faithful to stand fast and, indeed, lead the nation in opposition.
“We are in spiritual warfare,” said convention president Rev. Ronnie Floyd. “This is not a time for Southern Baptists to stand back.”
Floyd echoed a generally defiant tone among attendees, many of them pastors, who have faced increasing criticism for their belief that the Bible declares homosexuality a sin and limits marriage to a man and a woman. At a time when society is increasingly tolerant of same-sex unions, he said, Southern Baptists must stand by their views.
“This is not the time to retreat,” said Floyd, who leads Cross Church in Arkansas. “The alarm clock is going off around the world. Now is not the time to hit the snooze button.”

A reader who shared the Atlanta newspaper's story with GetReligion said:

I'm not a Southern Baptist. In fact, I'm an ex-Southern Baptist, but even still the title and lede struck me evidencing a very basic lack of understanding about the use of the phrase "spiritual warfare" by American evangelical Christians. A little digging on the internet will find that the exact statement from the convention's president was "We are in a spiritual warfare." Twisting that into "We declare war" shows a basic unfamiliarity with the terminology.

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No gray area: Look what happened when a Godbeat pro covered '50 Shades of Grey'

No gray area: Look what happened when a Godbeat pro covered '50 Shades of Grey'

I haven't read the book. Don't plan to.

I haven't seen the movie. Don't plan to.

But alas, "50 Shades of Grey" — which opens in theaters today — has been pretty impossible to miss in my Twitter feed.

Amid the 50 shades of links — most promoting blog posts and columns — I was pleased to spot an actual news story by a top Godbeat pro quoting religious leaders.

JoAnne Viviano, as regular GetReligion readers will remember, is the award-winning religion writer for the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio.

Her story on "50 Shades" quotes a half-dozen religious people — from a Catholic bishop to a Jewish rabbi to a liberal Protestant pastor.

The lede quotes a woman familiar to me:

Lynn Stevens has been watching in horror as her friends make plans to see Fifty Shades of Grey, a film that tells the story of a recent college graduate involved with a man who introduces her to sadomasochism.
“My stance is empowering women, not overpowering women,” said Stevens, who directs We Are Cherished Ohio, a group that takes the Christian message to women who work in the sex industry.
The film, which opens Friday in advance of Valentine’s Day, “glamorizes and glorifies domestic violence” and creates a romantic image of a man who abuses and manipulates women, she said.

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5Q+1 interview: From God and guns to Death Row salvation, JoAnne Viviano excels reporting on faith and values

5Q+1 interview: From God and guns to Death Row salvation, JoAnne Viviano excels reporting on faith and values

JoAnne Viviano covers faith and values for the Columbus Dispatch, a central Ohio newspaper with a daily circulation of 120,000 and an average Sunday circulation of about 230,000.

Her Godbeat writing earned her the 2014 Cornell Religion Reporter of the Year Award from the Religion Newswriters Association. That award honors excellence in religion reporting at mid-sized newspapers.

"I grew up in suburban Detroit, where my mom fostered in me an early love for books by taking me to the library regularly and teaching me to read as a kindergartener," Viviano said.

She received a bachelor of arts degree in English and communication from the University of Michigan ("not very popular here in Columbus!") before starting working as a reporter. She recalls "an amazing mentor there named Jon Hall, who helped me find the confidence I needed to turn my writing abilities into a career as a reporter."

Her first writing job came with her Michigan hometown weekly, The Romeo Observer, followed by stints with The Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens, Mich., the New Haven Register in Connecticut and The Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio. Along the way, she covered beats ranging from general assignments to municipal governments to state courts to education to crime.

Shortly before a strike hit The Vindicator, she left an earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. That led her to The Associated Press, where she worked for several years, starting in the Detroit bureau before moving to Columbus, eventually serving as a breaking-news staffer.

"I came to The Columbus Dispatch in 2012 because I missed beat reporting and being part of a metro newsroom," Viviano said. "It was a scary choice, with the way the industry has been, but I’m glad I made it. The Dispatch has remained strong and is a supportive, positive place to work."

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