Roman Catholics

Is belief in the body and blood of Christ ‘too magical’ to handle in hard-news coverage?

Is belief in the body and blood of Christ ‘too magical’ to handle in hard-news coverage?

Journalists love polls, surveys and studies. One week, wine, for example, is good for you. Seemingly the next, it’s not. There is especially true of medical studies. It was also true during the last presidential election. When it comes to polls, studies and surveys, there has been a reckoning of sorts. Nonetheless, news outlets can’t stop reporting on them despite issues with veracity.

The primary reason is that they get clicks.

As a result, they are widely shared on social media platforms. Another reason is that they provide news sites with diverse news coverage. It “can’t be Trump all the time” has become a popular newsroom refrain the past few years.

What we learned this month is that polls, survey and studies involving politics and health — despite their polarizing natures — are fair game. The ones around faith — and specifically around a specific belief — is not. How else would one explain the dearth of coverage around a Pew Study released on August 5 around a central belief that should be held by Catholics, but is increasingly not. Catholic news sites were abuzz with coverage, but secular news outlets chose to ignore it. 

Transubstantiation — the belief that during Mass the bread and wine used for Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ — is central to the Catholic faith. Pew found that just 31% of U.S. Catholics believe that statement. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the priest’s offering of bread and wine, known as the eucharist and a re-enactment of The Last Supper, are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The reaffirmation of this doctrine came in the year 1215 by the Fourth Council of the Lateran. When consumed, God enters the life of a Catholic. This is essential to salvation.

On the other hand, let’s take another subject that sparks debate and division: belief in ghosts and UFOs. Yes, the phenomenon of people seeing an Unidentified Flying Object, sparking the belief that alien life is out there, has been taken more seriously in the press than any Catholic belief deemed too magical or strange by secular society and mainstream news outlets.

Don’t believe me? UFOs have been in the news this summer, and at other periods of the year, whenever possible. It’s a subject that stretches one’s imagination. It serves as clickbait. It’s important. These are all reasons why UFO stories may be covered, even though they border on conspiracy theory whenever the government may be involved.

For example, Politico, USA Today and the BBC all chose to do UFO stories this month. Why not transubstantiation? By comparison, the central belief of the Catholic faith — so out of reach for many reporters to understand and explain — is relegated to the religious press.

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Is it big news these days when a Catholic priest announces that he is gay?

Is it big news these days when a Catholic priest announces that he is gay?

Sometimes the biggest problem we here at GetReligion have with a piece is not so much what’s said but what’s left out.

A good example is a piece that appeared in USA Today nearly a week ago about a gay priest that came out to his Milwaukee parish.

The story was originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is known as a liberal diocese, home to former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, a social justice pioneer who came out as gay in 2009

Thus, a story about another priest in this archdiocese announcing he’s gay may not be as big a shock, as, say, a priest making a similar announcement in Lincoln, Neb., arguably the country’s most conservative diocese.

The Rev. Gregory Greiten told his congregation Sunday, "I am Greg. I am a Roman Catholic priest. And, yes, I am gay!"

The priest in the Milwaukee Archdiocese serves as the pastor of St. Bernadette Parish. On Monday, he came out to the rest of the world with a column in the National Catholic Reporter. He received a standing ovation from his parishioners when he made his announcement before the column's publication. 

Greiten said he was breaking the silence of gay men in the clergy so he could reclaim his own voice. 

While it is established that there are gay men who serve as priests, it is rare for a priest to come out to his congregation in this way. Greiten shares an estimate in his article that there are between 8,554 and 21,571 gay Catholic priests in the United States from "The Changing Face of the Priesthood." Church theology teaches that acting upon homosexuality is a sin. 

What the article doesn’t add at this point is there’s 37,192 Catholic clergy in the United States. So, if you use the higher estimate, that’s 58 percent of all Catholic priests. The lower number is 22 percent. Thus, the typical Catholic should expect that one out of every four priests they meet are gay, right?

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The National Post delivers intriguing story on Quebec and the Catholicism it loves to hate

The National Post delivers intriguing story on Quebec and the Catholicism it loves to hate

I wanted to draw your attention to a very good piece by the Toronto-based National Post on religion in Quebec, one of Canada’s most secular provinces.

Secular? One might say. The province with the famed St. Anne de Beaupre shrine? Couldn’t be.

But yes. Here’s a story about how the Catholic faith in Quebec is only skin-deep and has been for a long time. It’s not really about Muslims and niqabs as it’s about the charade that goes on in a place where true faith hasn’t existed in a long while.

... (T)here are frequent reminders that secularism in Quebec comes with an asterisk. Typically, the religions that need to be restricted are those of minorities -- Muslims, Sikhs, Jews. More often than not they are practiced by relative newcomers to Quebec. And despite the conventional wisdom that Quebecers broke free from the yoke of the Catholic Church in the Quiet Revolution, a stubborn attachment to Christian symbols remains, leading critics to label Quebec’s secularism “catho-laïcité.”
In the aftermath of the adoption of Bill 62, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of the left-wing Québec Solidaire party, saw an opportunity to correct what he saw as a glaring contradiction. The law targeting niqab-wearing Muslims in the name of religious neutrality was adopted in a legislature where a crucifix hangs prominently behind the Speaker’s chair…

That last part is very significant and there will be continued referrals to this crucifix throughout the piece. Let's keep reading. This passage is long, but essential:

Citing the need for a “separation of powers between religion and the state,” Nadeau-Dubois called for legislators to debate moving the crucifix out of the legislative chamber, which is known as the Salon Bleu because of its blue walls. His motion went nowhere when the Liberals and CAQ refused to grant the unanimous consent required to debate it. “It’s part of the history of the Salon Bleu,” Liberal member Serge Simard explained to Radio-Canada. “It’s part of the history of Quebec.”When you visit Quebec (I’ve been there multiple times, the latest being in July 2016), you see churches galore and everything in sight named after a saint. But, the article suggests, looks are deceiving.

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Missouri paper takes 'Wild Kingdom' approach to observing ... a real, live Roman Catholic

Missouri paper takes 'Wild Kingdom' approach to observing ... a real, live Roman Catholic

Television viewers from the pre-Discovery Channel epoch might remember "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," a nature program that examined wild creatures such as the anaconda (video above) with a mix of detachment and drama.

In a similar vein, the St. Joseph, Missouri, News-Press has trained its editorial eye on another rare and exotic species -- a young, faithful member of the Roman Catholic Church.

After reading the story, it seemed a bit odd for a newspaper smack dab in the middle of the so-called "Bible Belt" to take such an approach. Plus, the paper fails to ask, let alone answer, some key questions about the subject's story, a physical therapist who goes online to promote her faith.

The headline, which at first sounded like something from The Onion, reads "Woman incorporates religion into daily life, practice." For this observer, things went downhill from there:

During the age of information, it can seem as if most have turned away from religion, but as Maureen Holtz has found, incorporating her faith into her everyday routine has given her the grounding she needs.
According to a 2015 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, millennials are much less likely to be religious than previous generations, but Holtz says being raised Catholic has provided the framework for her life.
While Holtz, a millennial herself, credits her strong Catholic upbringing for her ties to the church, she also shares her faith online, too. With only 4 in 10 millennials saying religion was very important to them, there is more of an ideological divide than ever before. Coupled with social media, Holtz said it’s not uncommon to be met with negativity online when someone shares his or her beliefs.

The impression that comes from the lede is that here is an unusual specimen, someone who still believes in something during "the age of information," whatever that is.

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An ultra-conservative, charismatic Catholic? Judicial appointee Amy Barrett gets slammed

An ultra-conservative, charismatic Catholic? Judicial appointee Amy Barrett gets slammed

When a Catholic nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was dragged across the coals at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing several weeks ago, all sorts of people cried foul.

Writers from the Atlantic to the National Catholic Register wondered how come Amy Coney Barrett was sliced and diced by the Senate committee on the basis of a paper she co-wrote with one of her law school professors back in 1998. Even a Catholic archbishop filed a protest.

So it felt like a double whammy to some when the New York Times on Thursday piled on by a piece headlined “Some Worry about Judicial Nominee’s Ties to a Religious Group.” This passage is long, but essential.

One of President Trump’s judicial nominees became something of a hero to religious conservatives after she was grilled at a Senate hearing this month over whether her Roman Catholic faith would influence her decisions on the bench.
The nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor up for an appeals court seat, had raised the issue herself in articles and speeches over the years. The Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee zeroed in on her writings, and in the process prompted accusations that they were engaged in religious bigotry.
“The dogma lives loudly within you,” declared Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, in what has become an infamous phrase. Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, accused his colleagues of employing an unconstitutional “religious test” for office.
Ms. Barrett told the senators that she was a faithful Catholic, and that her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as an appellate judge. But her membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.

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Why are some journalists head-scratching over, well, a Catholic bishop's Catholicism?

Why are some journalists head-scratching over, well, a Catholic bishop's Catholicism?

If there's anything essential to being a leader in a religious organization, surely it is that with such leadership comes responsibility for promoting the doctrines of said organization.

Generally, if one does this, it's a sign of compliance with the house rules or, more properly, doctrines. But "generally," these days, doesn't seem to cover Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, who for seven years has led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, which city happens to be the state capitol.

While a supporter of Pope Francis, it appears that the bishop is not willing to embrace the media's interpretation of the "Who am I to judge" statement of the current pontiff that has commanded so much ink in recent years. Indeed, Paprocki, who offered prayers of exorcism when Illinois enacted legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage, must have known his most recent pronouncements on the subject of marriage would raise hackles.

They did, and in turn the reporting on Paprocki's statement raises some interesting journalism questions. For example, when reading these stories try to find two crucial words -- "Catechism" and "Confession."

The Washington Post, aggregating other reports, summarizes the issue:

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is calling on priests there to deny Holy Communion and even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show “some signs of repentance” for their relationships before death.
The decree by Bishop Thomas Paprocki also said that people “living publicly” in same-sex marriages may not receive the sacrament of confirmation or be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process by which many converts become Catholic, preparing them for baptism and confirmation.

Wading into the story is a Rome-based writer for The Daily Beast, who noted Paprocki's decree affects not only the adults in a given household, but also:

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Here's some of what Reuters missed in its investigation of Brazil's growing evangelical flock

Here's some of what Reuters missed in its investigation of Brazil's growing evangelical flock

I've only visited once, but even after a short trip, I understood that faith in Brazil is a complex affair.

These days, the traditionally Roman Catholic population is influenced by all kinds of spiritualistic forces, while at the same time evangelical Protestantism, Pentecostalism, Seventh-day Adventism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are playing increasingly important roles.

Reuters, the global newswire, dropped in on an Assemblies of God congregation in a favela, or slum area, of Rio de Janiero, Brazil's second-largest city, and extrapolated much about the spiritual condition of the entire nation:

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -- Pastor Marcio Antonio stands at the pulpit in a one room evangelical church built precariously above barbed wire fences and illegally hung electrical cables, exhorting his flock in a Brazilian favela to improve their morals.
A former drug dealer in Cantagalo, an informally built hillside settlement where most residents lack official property rights, Pastor Antonio and his flock at the Assembly of God Church are part of a growing trend.
Evangelical churches are expanding rapidly in Brazil, home to the world's largest Catholic community, especially in poor favelas, experts and parishioners said.
These communities, which developed from squatter settlements, often do not have the same services as formal Brazilian neighborhoods in terms of healthcare, sanitation, transportation or formal property registration.
"The government doesn't help us so God is the only option for the poor," Pastor Antonio, 37, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation following his Sunday sermon.

It is the "Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters," which claims responsibility for the story. The foundation "covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience," and an end note to the piece says the foundation should get the credit for this piece. So noted.

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Is this a news story? National Catholic Scouting committee has rejected trans policy shift

Is this a news story? National Catholic Scouting committee has rejected trans policy shift

Welcome to another edition of what could become a regular feature in these confused times for mainstream journalism. The problem is that I don't know what we would call it.

We could call this feature "Got News?" However, we tried that already here at GetReligion and the concept never caught on. The whole idea was that there is often valid news -- often highly important news -- reported in alternative news publications (think denominational press services), yet these stories rarely seem to get covered in the mainstream press.

Then again, the "Got News?" concept doesn't really work when journalists in mainstream newsrooms spot a story, then cover that story, but then fail to offer follow-up reports that let news consumers know about important developments that same ongoing story.

As any experienced journalist knows, it is very rare for major story to break then just freeze. If there is a big news earthquake, there tend to be aftershocks. What would we call this concept -- Got Aftershocks?

This brings me to the Boy Scouts of America. Again.

The other day, I wrote a post about a New York Times report about the decision to begin allowing transgender boys to join the Boy Scouts. This was an interesting report in that -- rare for the Gray Lady -- it focused almost totally on the views of conservative critics of the change and contained next to zero material from voices on the winning side of the debate.

I called that post: "Boy Scouts push trans button: So in which pulpits and pews are people celebrating?" In other words, for reporters covering religion, there were big questions that needed to be answered as the aftershocks of this decision spread into the religious groups that host Scout troops. While some conservatives would head to the exit doors, I wondered how people would respond on the religious left and in the often muddled middle. Thus, I wrote:

If you know anything about Scouting, you know that -- in addition to the Baptists -- the key players are Catholics, Mormons, United Methodists and, to a lesser degree, Episcopalians. So if the goal is to figure out what happens next with this story, readers really needed to hear from leaders in those flocks, especially from progressives who actively supported the changes.
In other words, we need to hear from the winners who now get to put these policies into action. 

Soon after this, there was an important reaction from a major religious group -- as in the Roman Catholic committee that works with Scouting programs. This would be important news, right?

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