Guardian

Digging between the lines in UK media responses to the testimony of Archbishop Viganò

Digging between the lines in UK media responses to the testimony of Archbishop Viganò

The flight from reporting to opinion and advocacy journalism is on full display in the first day reports from the British secular press of the Viganò affair. Like their American counterparts, leading mainstream news outlets are portraying the revelations of coverup and abuse in political left/right terms.

While none have gone farther over the edge than the New York Times’ article: “Vatican Power Struggle Bursts Into Open as Conservatives Pounce," journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have spent more time denigrating the accuser, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, than in reporting on the content of his “testimony." Conservative and centrist papers like The Times and Daily Mail focused instead on the misconduct of Pope Francis and Vatican insiders alleged by the former papal nuncio to the United States.

The British and American media responses to the publication of Viganò’s testimony in four conservative American and Catholic religion outlets confirm the December 2016 thesis put forward by Francis X. Rocca in the Wall Street Journal. In the lede to his article entitled: “How Pope Francis became the leader of the global left," Rocca wrote: 

When Pope Francis delivers his Christmas message this weekend, he will do so not just as the head of the Catholic Church but as the improbable standard-bearer for many progressives around the world.

In 2016 Rocca argued:

With conservative and nationalist forces on the rise in many places and with figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande on their way out, many on the left -- from socialists in Latin America to environmentalists in Europe -- are looking to the 80-year-old pontiff for leadership. … Pope Francis has taken bold positions on a variety of issues, including migration, climate change, economic equality and the rights of indigenous peoples. 

Reading the first day reports from Britain in the BBC and the Guardian leaves one with the impression that they will stand by their man -- Pope Francis.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

It's not just DC and the Vatican: Saudi Arabia and Indonesia make worrisome news

It's not just DC and the Vatican: Saudi Arabia and Indonesia make worrisome news

It's time for an update on the inseparably braided political and religious goings-on in two key Muslim nations; Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, and Saudi Arabia, Islam’s birthplace and site of the recently concluded hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.

As you may expect, it’s not good news.

Moreover, it’s news that’s in danger of going under-appreciated because of the undeniably more alluring headlines -- for American news junkies, at least -- related to the Catholic Church’s sexual corruption cover up, and the Trump administration’s equally crumbling cover up of sexual, financial and all-around political corruption.

Let’s start with Indonesia, which once enjoyed, and capitalized on, a reputation for being one of the most politically moderate and religiously open-minded of Muslim nations.

These two pieces provide a refresher, should you require it. The first is a news report from Reuterswhile the second is a previous GetReligion analysis by editor Terry Mattingly ("That wave of attacks on churches in Indonesia: Is the 'moderate' Muslim news hook gone?"

Now, it seems, the situation in the Southeast Asian archipelago nation has gone from bad to worse, and perhaps to the absurd.

Here’s what The Washington Post reported last week.

A Buddhist woman’s conviction this week on blasphemy charges has alarmed many in Indonesia who were already worried about the erosion of religious pluralism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.


Please respect our Commenting Policy

The Maldives: Why does this exotic spot produce a disproportionate number of jihadi fighters?

The Maldives: Why does this exotic spot produce a disproportionate number of jihadi fighters?

“Discover the sunny side of Life: Sunny all year long, Waves like nowhere else, Underwater beauty like paradise! Visit Maldives for a perfect holiday.”

Ah, the Maldives -- the ultimate exotic tropical beach vacation, or so the above pitch for tourist dollars promises. Public relations is what it is, but judging by the photos I've seen (I've never visited), the Maldives may live up to all that’s promised.

Unfortunately, the Indian Ocean island nation may now have to add a discreet asterisk to its pitch.

Because once again, there’s trouble in paradise. And once again, the problem is growing Islamic radicalism and the threat of terrorism.

This recent piece from The New York Times lays it out.

MALÉ, Maldives -- This island paradise made news recently for a reason other than its pristine beaches and high-end resorts: the gruesome killing of a liberal blogger, stabbed to death by multiple assailants.
The killing in April of Yameen Rasheed, 29, a strong voice against growing Islamic radicalization, has amplified safety concerns -- particularly for foreign tourists, a highly vulnerable group and one that the islands’ economy depends on. It is no idle threat, in a country that by some accounts supplies the world’s highest per-capita number of foreign fighters to extremist outfits in Syria and Iraq.
Last summer, the government introduced the country’s first state policy on terrorism, calling for increased safety awareness at resorts and security assessments at seaports and in airports. In January, the Republic of Maldives’ Islamic Ministry released policy recommendations that included a provision instructing tourism companies to provide visitors with written rules on how to conduct themselves in a Muslim country
But critics say these initiatives are cosmetic, doing little to standardize safety policies, and have come only after international stakeholders pressured the Maldivian authorities to acknowledge the threat extremism poses to visitors.

I'm guessing relatively few Americans can find the Maldives on a map, and that even fewer have visited. (Most tourists are visitors from China and Europe.)

So why care about the woes of a small nation of less than 400,000 people scattered across some 1,200 atoll islands -- one that may, it seems, as well be a universe away from Main Street, USA?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Russia pulls trigger on Jehovah's Witnesses and, this time, mainstream media take notice

Russia pulls trigger on Jehovah's Witnesses and, this time, mainstream media take notice

This will be no surprise to anyone who's paid attention, but President Vladimir Putin's Russia has officially lowered the boom on its Jehovah's Witnesses.

The government's plan is to obliterate the organization's ability to function as a viable religious movement within its borders, treating it as a dangerous, hostile movement from outside Russian culture. The key slur is "Western."

That's a growing trend in Russia, as you have not noticed.

Here's the meaty top of a New York Times piece that delivered the news last week:

MOSCOW -- Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, an extremist organization, banning the group from operating on Russian territory and putting its more than 170,000 Russian worshipers in the same category as Islamic State militants.
The ruling, which confirmed an order last month by the Justice Ministry that the denomination be “liquidated” — essentially eliminated or disbanded — had been widely expected. Russian courts rarely challenge government decisions, no matter what the evidence.
Viktor Zhenkov, a lawyer for the denomination, said Jehovah’s Witnesses would appeal the ruling. He said it had focused on the activities of the organization’s so-called administrative center, a complex of offices outside St. Petersburg, but also branded all of its nearly 400 regional branches as extremist.
“We consider this decision an act of political repression that is impermissible in contemporary Russia,” Mr. Zhenkov said in a telephone interview. “We will, of course, appeal.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Has the United Nations become a tool for advancing Muslim nations' religious agenda?

Has the United Nations become a tool for advancing Muslim nations' religious agenda?

It's a journalistic truism that mixing biblical archeology and religious claims with contemporary Middle East politics generally condemns a story to a tar pit of irreconcilability. But of course it's done all the time by all involved parties, with deadly consequences. It's standard fare in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Some Palestinians argue that they're indigenous -- and hence the rightful political heirs -- to what today is Israel/Palestine. Their claim -- dubious, I'dsay, given the scarcity of provable evidence -- is that they descend directly from the ancient Canaanite tribes that once roamed the area. That, despite the region's thousands of years of history involving marauding armies and cultural upheaval -- not the least of which was the 7th Century C.E. Arab Muslim conquest of the Levant.

Most traditional Jews (supported by some Christians but not by some anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects) point to the biblical Book of Genesis that says God promised Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) to the patriarch Abraham, making Israel the rightful political power.

This takes us into the realm of theology; either you believe it or or you don't.

Islam, of course, has its own narrative about the land -- and in particular Jerusalem -- further complicating the picture.

Get the United Nations involved and it becomes even more of a briar patch -- which is what's happened of late with the UN's chief cultural agency, the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organizational (UNESCO).

I'm referring to the recent series of votes by UNESCO and its World Heritage Committee that referred to what Jews -- and, hence, Israel -- call (in English) the Temple Mount, and what Muslims -- and, therefore, the Palestinians -- call the Noble Sanctuary. In addition to criticizing Israeli actions there, the resolutions referred to the sites using only their Muslim names.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Targeting churches: Fox News produces ominous report on threats in America

Targeting churches: Fox News produces ominous report on threats in America

No one is saying, yet, that terrorists are ready to attack American churches the way they have in the Middle East or, more recently, against the Rev. Jacques Hamel in France. But as Fox News reports, the threats are already looming.

And before you say, "What else would Fox say?", consider the examples in the article: hate speech, death threats and aborted attack plans of the type that would be familiar to Jewish leaders.

This is how ominous it can get -- and how some police are slow to address the situation, according to Fox:

As Father Josiah Trenham prepared to read the Gospel, several parishioners discreetly scooped up their babies, retreated up the aisles of St. Andrew Orthodox Church and out into the spring air, so as not to allow the crying of little ones to disturb the divine liturgy.
The time-honored tradition was shattered when a car passed by the Riverside, Calif., church, slowing down as the front passenger leaned out of his window and bellowed menacingly through a bullhorn, according to witnesses.
"Allahu Akbar!" the unidentified man repeated several times as the unnerved parents drew their infants close and exchanged worried glances.
Witnesses were able to give Riverside police a description of the green Honda Civic, but not of the three occupants. Some told police they believed one or more of the men may have been taking photographs, according to Officer Ryan Railsback. Although Trenham insisted multiple congregants heard the Arabic phrase, Railsback noted no mention of it was in the police report. 
Whatever the case, no law was broken – even if an unmistakable message was sent and received.

Fox, of course, is hardly the only news outfit to notice the hatred of jihadis against Christians. As The Guardian reports, more and more voices are calling for branding the "genocide" label onto the brutalizing of Christians in the Middle East.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Muslims at slain priest's funeral: AP thinks they should be seen but not heard

Muslims at slain priest's funeral: AP thinks they should be seen but not heard

What a wonderful story of solidarity: Muslims joining French Catholics at the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, uniting in sympathy for the victim of knife-wielding ISIS sympathizers. 

Let's hear the thoughts and feelings of the Muslims after the funeral. 

Or not. At least not if you read the Associated Press' account. Or those of many other media.

Muslims are mentioned six times in the AP story, including the headline. A hundred of them, just at the Rouen cathedral. And dozens more around France and Italy for Mass, "as a gesture of interfaith solidarity following the attack on the priest."

Yes, it's nice to show not that all Muslims are haters. And it's true that actions speak louder than words. But since a news story is made of words, shouldn't some Muslims have gotten to say a few of them?

I'm not even sure how much original reporting AP did here. Looks like at least some of the story is borrowed from other reports:

ROUEN, France — French media reported Tuesday that roughly 100 Muslims attended the funeral Mass of a Catholic priest slain by two men who claimed allegiance to the Islamic States, capping a week in which Muslims in various European nations attended Masses to express sympathy and solidarity.
The Archbishop of Rouen, leading Tuesday’s solemn funeral Mass, said Father Jacques Hamel tried to push away his attackers with his feet, saying "go away, Satan," remarks that underscored the horror of the murder at the altar that touched a chord throughout France.
Hundreds of priests and bishops filled the sumptuous Rouen cathedral along with many hundreds more people, including Muslims who have joined in the grieving since the murder of the 85-year-old priest, slashed by his attackers while celebrating morning Mass.

Who were those 100 Muslims? Imams?  Professors? Quranic scholars? How many mosques did they represent? Why did they feel the need to come? 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Silence on sex abuse? Nope, 'The Vatican' didn't tell that to its bishops

Silence on sex abuse? Nope, 'The Vatican' didn't tell that to its bishops

It's doubly nice to see a concise, incisive media critique like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League wrote yesterday. Nice to have someone do some of our work on a frantic Friday afternoon. Also nice to remind us at GetReligion that we're not the only ones who notice these things.

Donohue took mainstream media to task for saying the Vatican has told its new bishops they don’t have to report instances of sexual abuse. The flap revolves around remarks of a French monsignor, and whether he was spelling out church policy.

The highly cited Guardian, for instance, reported on this new "Vatican document":

The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.
A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.
“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.

Things are no different on this shore of the Atlantic.  

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Why the press silence about persecution by radical Islamists in the West?

Why the press silence about persecution by radical Islamists in the West?

The harassment of Christians of Middle Eastern extraction in the West by immigrant Muslim extremists appears to be one of the unexplored angles in the unfolding Islamist story.

While the press is quick to run stories warning of a backlash against Muslims in the West in response to the actions of their coreligionists here and abroad, we seldom see serious reporting on incidents that are happening in Europe, America and Australia.

A wire service story from the AAP (Australian Associated Press) run by the Guardian last week left me frustrated by its lack of detail. The story entitled "Two teens charged after death threats allegedly screamed at Christian school" reported:

Two teenagers have been charged after death threats were allegedly screamed at a Christian school in Sydney’s west. A 14-year-old was in the front passenger seat of a red hatchback when he allegedly began yelling abuse outside the Maronite College of the Holy Family in Harris Park on 16 September. Onlookers said the boy and the car’s driver threatened to "kill the Christians" and slaughter their children while brandishing an Islamic State flag out the window.

The article goes on to say the two were arrested, but offers no further details. What is the Maronite College of the Holy Family? Who attends this school? Who made these remarks? 

Please respect our Commenting Policy