St. Patrick

Mark Hemingway takes GetReligion-like stroll through years of New York Times religion gaffes

Mark Hemingway takes GetReligion-like stroll through years of New York Times religion gaffes

There was an interesting op-ed the other day in The New York Post that had a very GetReligion-esque feel to it, to say the least. The headline stated: “New York Times hits new low with mortifying Notre Dame correction.”

Then there was that familiar Hemingway byline.

“Mark Hemingway, that is.”

I realize that I have already written a post about this latest Gray Lady offense against 2,000 years of Christian doctrine, history and language. If you missed that one, click here: “Priest rushes under the flames inside Notre Dame Cathedral to save a ... STATUE of Jesus?” Here is a refresher, care of Hemingway:

… The New York Times later appended this correction to the story: “An earlier version of this article misidentified one of two objects recovered from Notre-Dame by the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier. It was the Blessed Sacrament, not a statue of Jesus.”

How could the newspaper possibly confuse these two things? The most logical explanation is that Father Fournier referred to the “body of Christ,” and the reporter took his words literally and not seriously. It doesn’t appear to be a translation error; the reporter who wrote the story, Elian Peltier, appears to be fluent in French and tweets in the language regularly.

Why return to this subject?

What Hemingway offers in this short piece is a collection of stunning and, at times, unintentionally hilarious Times errors linked to essential Christian doctrines — including the narrative of Holy Week and Easter. (For Western Christians, this past Sunday was Easter. For Eastern Christians, such as myself, this week is Holy Week and this coming Sunday is Pascha, or Easter.)

Since we are talking about GetReligion basics, let me stress that no one believes that editors at the Times — the world’s most prestigious newspaper — need to BELIEVE these essentials of Christianity. The goal is to understand them well enough to be able to write about them without making embarrassing errors. Try to imagine Times-people making errors like these when dealing with the basics of Judaism, Islam or, for heaven’s sake, the latest Democratic Party platform.

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Thinking about missionaries: Arrogant fools or believers obeying core Christian doctrines?

Thinking about missionaries: Arrogant fools or believers obeying core Christian doctrines?

It didn’t take long for the John Allen Chau affair (see previous Julia Duin post) to make the leap from hard-news coverage to newspaper op-ed pages and other “Culture War” venues.

Before looking at two examples, from the cultural left and then the right, let’s pause for a second for a bit of background.

Faithful GetReligion readers may remember the “tmatt trio,” a set of doctrinal questions that I have, for several decades now, found useful when exploring debates inside Christian flocks or cultural conflicts about the Christian faith. I am convinced that the Chau affair is linked to one of these hot-button questions.

Please remember that the purpose of these questions is journalistic. I have learned that asking them always leads to answers that contain all kinds of interesting information. Here is the “tmatt trio” once again:

(1) Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6)?

(3) Is sex outside of marriage a sin?

Now, the Chau story is, in my opinion, linked to question No. 2.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at a Boston Globe piece that ran with this killer headline: “Missionary didn’t die from tribesmen’s arrows. He was killed by his own arrogance.” The author is Globe associate editor and columnist Renee Graham. Here is a crucial early thesis statement:

In the Old Testament, Proverbs 16:18 warns, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Haughty pride caused John Allen Chau’s destruction and fall.

He’s the young man from Washington state who decided that what a small tribe on a remote island needed was his personally delivered taste of that ol’ time religion. What he found was an early grave.

Chau didn’t die from the tribesmen’s arrows. He was killed by his own arrogance.

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St. Patrick of Ireland: It's time to make one tweak in the Religion News Service 'Splainer

St. Patrick of Ireland: It's time to make one tweak in the Religion News Service 'Splainer

The headline on a timely "'Splainer" feature from Religion News Service could not be more direct: "The ‘Splainer: Who was St. Patrick, and would he drink green beer?"

You know, or think you know, St. Patrick.

The guy with the shamrock. The cultural excuse for some of the most rowdy parties in the history of humanity, anywhere on earth where there are people who have any claim to be Irish.

Allow me a moment, along those lines, for a personal note: I am about an English as one can be, in terms of family heritage. However, my patron saint is St. Brendan of Clonfert, better known as St. Brendan the Navigator, who is another great hero of Irish Christianity. So cut me some slack on this topic.

So how does one start a news-you-can-use explainer feature about someone who is famous as a cultural figure, yet not as well known as the great Christian saint that he actual is? Let's look at the RNS overture.

Hint: My major problem with this piece is right here at the top.

For Catholics, Episcopalians and some Lutherans, March 17 is the Feast Day of St. Patrick. For the rest of us, it’s St. Patrick’s Day -- a midweek excuse to party until we’re green in the face.
But who was Patrick? Did he really drive the snakes out of Ireland or use the shamrock to explain the Trinity? Why should this fifth-century priest be remembered on this day?

OK, hold it right there.

Now, as everyone knows, there are about 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. That ancient communion goes right at the top of the list, if you are talking about feast days for St. Patrick. And it's true that there are about 85 million Anglicans in the world and, here in America, the small flock of Episcopalians is still a major player when it comes to making news. When you add up the various branches of Lutheranism, you get nearly 80 million believers.

Now, who are we missing there in this list of Christian communions that honor St. Patrick?

That would be the world's second largest Christian communion, as in the various Eastern Orthodox churches. So do the Orthodox have a feast day to honor St. Patrick?

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Gray Lady celebrates LGBT St. Patrick's Day victory (with two crucial words missing)

Gray Lady celebrates LGBT St. Patrick's Day victory (with two crucial words missing)

It's time for a news update -- care of The New York Times -- on National Irish Pride, Political Clout and Green Beer Day (previously known as St. Patrick's Day).

If you have followed the political wars over New York City's iconic St. Patrick's Day Parade, you know that they have boiled down to one basic question: Does this event have anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church and, well, one of the greatest missionaries in the history of Christianity, a saint beloved in both the Catholic West and, increasingly, in the Orthodox East.

Now, there isn't much question about how the organizers of this parade would answer that question. Yes, most of New York City goes nuts, for reasons that have little to do with a feast day for a holy man. I get that. I once accidentally spent the evening of St. Patrick's Day in a hotel directly above an Irish bar, which was not a wise choice.

However, if you go to the official website for the New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade, you can still read this:

The New York City St. Patrick’s Parade is the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world. The first parade was held on March 17, 1762 -- fourteen years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The parade is held annually on March 17th* at precisely 11:00 AM in honor of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of New York. The parade route goes up Fifth Avenue beginning at East 44th Street and ending at East 79th Street. Approximately 150,000 people march in the parade which draws about 2 million spectators.

That's pretty clear.

However, if you read the new Times update mentioned earlier you will certainly notice that it is missing two rather interesting and important words, for a story on this topic.

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The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

If you have, through the years, followed the legal and cultural wars about gay rights and the New York City and Boston St. Patrick's Day parades, you know that these battles have often included discussions of a very interesting question.

That would be this question: Do these St. Patrick's Day events have anything to do with one of the greatest missionary saints in Christian history, the bishop now called St. Patrick? The saint associated with these words:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

As is often the case, fair-minded journalists should note that this is an emotional story about a debate that has, at the very least, two sides.

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Is it legal to let St. Patrick be St. Patrick? (Plus MZ zinger)

I guess that the crucial question — at this moment in time — is whether St. Patrick’s Day parades have anything to do with St. Patrick. In other words, are these events connected, in any meaningful way, with Catholic tradition, doctrine and history? I know that, in the past, it has been easier to argue that these parades — especially in America’s major urban centers in the Northeast and upper Midwest — have been testimonies to Irish culture, pride and political clout. The archbishop may be there, but the essence of the event was found in the presence of local politicians who needed the votes of Irish laborers.

But what is the reality right now, at this moment in church-state history?

You can find some clues in the rather stock Reuters report about the pro-gay-rights pressures on Guinness — which were successful — to pull it’s sponsorship of the New York City parade.

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