The Kansas City Star

Monday Mix: McCarrick deep dive, Willow Creek future, Catholic losses, religious freedom worry

Monday Mix: McCarrick deep dive, Willow Creek future, Catholic losses, religious freedom worry

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. "Decisions could be made by one [Vatican official] who says: ‘Screw this, I’ll reroute it through the basement.’" Washington Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein takes a deep dive into “How the Vatican handled reports of Theodore McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct and what it says about the Catholic Church.”

Boorstein’s compelling overture:

In November 2000, a Manhattan priest got fed up with the secrets he knew about a star archbishop named Theodore McCarrick and decided to tell the Vatican.

For years, the Rev. Boniface Ramsey had heard from seminarians that McCarrick was pressuring them to sleep in his bed. The students told him they weren’t being touched, but still, he felt, it was totally inappropriate and irresponsible behavior — especially for the newly named archbishop of Washington.

Ramsey called the Vatican’s then-U.S. ambassador, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, who implored the priest to write the allegation so it could be sent up the chain in Rome. “Send the letter!” Montalvo demanded, Ramsey recalls.

He never heard back from Montalvo, and Ramsey has since destroyed his copy of the 2000 letter, he said.

“I thought of it as secret and somehow even sacred — something not to be divulged,” Ramsey told The Washington Post. It wasn’t the concept of a cleric occasionally “slipping up” with their celibacy vow that shocked Ramsey, who believes that’s common. It was the repeated and nonconsensual nature of the McCarrick allegations.

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'Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?' Yes, do take the time to read this excellent piece of journalism

'Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?' Yes, do take the time to read this excellent piece of journalism

A conversational, informative lede that draws readers immediately into the story.

An impartial, fact-based narrative that quotes intelligent sources on both sides.

A solid chunk of analysis from an independent expert with impressive credentials.

A Kansas City Star story on the question of "Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?" boasts that winning trifecta — and it makes for a quality, satisfying piece of daily journalism.

"This piece by Judy L. Thomas is the best report I've read on the subject," Star reporter Laura Bauer tweeted about her colleague's work. "Definitely take the time to read."

My response: Amen!

As we've noted repeatedly here at GetReligion, mainstream news coverage often favors abortion rights supporters. In case you missed our previous references, see the classic 1990 Los Angeles Times series — written by the late David Shaw — that exposed rampant news media bias against abortion opponents.

Given the typical imbalanced coverage, the Star's fair, evenhanded approach is particularly refreshing from a journalistic perspective.

The lede sets the scene with a history lesson:

Almost half a century has passed, so forgive Dave Heinemann if he doesn’t remember every single detail of how things went down that long spring day in Topeka.

But one thing the former Kansas lawmaker hasn’t forgotten is the intensity of the 1969 debate on a measure that made abortion more accessible in the state.

“The Legislature was rewriting the state’s criminal code, and there was one section on abortion,” said Heinemann, then a Garden City Republican serving his first term in the Legislature. “That was the only section that really became a lightning rod.”

At the time, Kansas — like most states — banned abortion except to save the life of the woman. But some states had begun to propose measures to loosen the restrictions.

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After Kennedy retirement, you'll find thousands of the nation's happiest people in ... Wichita, Kan.

After Kennedy retirement, you'll find thousands of the nation's happiest people in ... Wichita, Kan.

After Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement announcement Thursday, CNN political analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted that abortion will be illegal in 20 states in 18 months.

The Twitter post, expressing the worst fears of abortion-rights supporters, quickly went viral.

But if there is weeping and gnashing of teeth — on the pro-choice side — over the future of Roe v. Wade, the mood is something entirely different among thousands of pro-life advocates gathering in Wichita, Kan., this weekend.

Coincidentally, the National Right to Life committee's three-day national convention started this morning — the day after the Kennedy news shook the nation's political and legal landscape.

This post mainly serves as a public service announcement that regional newspapers — including the Kansas City Star and the Wichita Eagle — are following the convention and have produced some excellent coverage already. 

Today's in-depth preview of the convention by the Star mixes crucial details and relevant context both on the National Right to Life Committee and red-state Kansas itself:

For the first time in its 50-year history, the nation’s largest anti-abortion organization is holding its annual convention in Kansas, a state seen by many in the movement as a model for passing tough abortion restrictions.

The National Right to Life Committee, which has affiliates in every state and more than 3,000 chapters across the country, will open its convention Thursday morning at the Sheraton Overland Park with 90 minutes of speeches by Gov. Jeff Colyer and others.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and optimism in the pro-life base right now,” said National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. “We are seeing a lot of young people getting involved. We have a president who is issuing great pro-life orders and actions. And he’s appointing judges to the courts that we believe will strictly interpret the Constitution and not make it up as they go along.”

And yes, the Star notes the significance of Kennedy's retirement:

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Jim Bakker plus real estate plus the apocalypse plus zero new reporting equals WHAT?

Jim Bakker plus real estate plus the apocalypse plus zero new reporting equals WHAT?

Jim Bakker likes to build things.

In the old days be built really big things and news consumers with a long attention span will remember how that turned out. Click here for a recent news update.

Today he's building smaller things -- like Ozark cabins for the post-apocalyptic age. Buyers will need lots of Bakker approved religious-home furnishings, of course.

As you would imagine, there are people who want to write about that. The question is whether, in a social-media and Internet journalism age, WRITING about this topic actually requires journalists at a major newspaper in the Midwest to do any new REPORTING, other than with an Internet search engine.

Here's the Kansas City Star headline: "Televangelist Jim Bakker calls his Missouri cabins the safest spot for the Apocalypse." Read this story and count the online and streaming info sources. I'll start you off with the overture:

Televangelist Jim Bakker suggests that if you want to survive the end of days, the best thing you could do is buy one of his cabins in Missouri's Ozark Mountains. And while you're at it, be sure to pick up six 28-ounce "Extreme Survival Warfare" water bottles for $150.

Bakker, 78, made comments promoting his Morningside church community alongside his co-host and wife, Lori, on an episode of "The Jim Bakker Show," which aired Tuesday. The show is filmed there, near Branson.

Then there's a short flashback to the PTL Club days in Charlotte, with no attribution necessary. That's followed by a temptress Jessica Hahn update, care of reporting by The Charlotte Observer a few months ago. Then a bit more history, with no attribution.

Then we're back to information gained by watching the new Bakker show from Branson.

But wait. Read this next part carefully.

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This is why serious journalism is helpful when reporting on objections to immunizing a child

This is why serious journalism is helpful when reporting on objections to immunizing a child

In an an age of clickbait, I appreciate the Kansas City Star's serious, straightforward treatment of a Kansas family's objections to immunizing a child.

Yes, there's a strong religion angle to this developing story.

"Report what you know" is an old journalistic adage: The Star does a nice job of that in a news report that meticulously explains a federal lawsuit filed by the family of a 2-year-old boy.

Let's start at the top:

The 2-year-old grandson of Linus and Terri Baker has never been vaccinated.
His mother and the Bakers oppose immunization on religious and health grounds.
But now that the boy is in temporary state custody, the Kansas Department for Children and Families intends to vaccinate him despite the family’s wishes.
The Bakers, who have physical custody of the boy as his foster parents, say it’s an unconstitutional overreach and they are now fighting it in federal court.
The grandparents are particularly galled that DCF appears to be requiring people who want to exempt their children from daycare and school vaccination requirements to cite their denomination and its specific teaching opposed to immunization.
“They’ve become the religious police,” said Linus Baker, a lawyer who lives in southern Johnson County.

Given that statement, it's probably not a surprise that the family's specific religious beliefs come across as relatively vague in this story. 

The Star does report:

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My response to the election, the news media and my alleged 'blanket defense of journalists'

My response to the election, the news media and my alleged 'blanket defense of journalists'

Nineteen days until the election, it's getting testy out there, huh?

(This aside is for my editor Terry Mattingly because I'm about to embed a bunch of tweets, and he worries in these cases that readers won't realize I'm eventually going to make a real point. So, yes, keep scrolling down, and I promise to say something by the end that will rock your world. Or not. But either way, I won't charge you.)

On Twitter, I follow a wide array of journalists, ministers and other folks highly active in the two worlds in which I spend so much time — news and religion.

On the one hand, my journalist friends are frustrated with critics lumping them all together as the evil news media. A few of those friends retweeted this tweet, which made me smile.

My friend Steve Lackmeyer, a longtime reporter for The Oklahoman, joked in response to that tweet.

On the other hand, some of the stereotypes that many apply to the news media have roots in legitimate concerns, the kind we often address here at GetReligion:

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Surprise! Kansas City Star covers only one side of United Methodist debate on sexuality

Surprise! Kansas City Star covers only one side of United Methodist debate on sexuality

Let's say that you are a mainstream reporter covering a story about a liberal United Methodist congregation that has been sent a very conservative pastor who decides to take a controversial stand on gun control.

People in the region are outraged and efforts are made to replace the pastor.

Who are the crucial people and groups that journalists would need to contact for input and quotes? First, you would have the pastor. Then you would have the pastor's supporters and critics in the congregation. Then -- absolutely -- you would need quotes from the regional UMC leaders who are in charge of resolving this situation and could speak to the state of church teachings related to this issue. Finally, if reporters have the time and space, they might contact activists on both sides of this hot-button issue.

Now, with these basic journalism values in mind, let's return to the case of the Rev. Cynthia Meyer, the openly gay and non-celibate United Methodist pastor who recently was removed, with some national media fanfare, from her altar and pulpit. Click here for my previous post on this case: "Do ordination vows matter? A crucial hole in RNS report on United Methodist dispute."

Now, The Kansas City Star has an update that starts like this:

On a cold Sunday in January, Cynthia Meyer, pastor at Edgerton United Methodist Church, came out to her congregation.
She did so with hope that change regarding the denomination’s stance on homosexuality was coming. But eight months later, that hope, for now at least, is gone. And after the end of August, Meyer will be gone as well.
To avoid a church trial, Meyer and Methodist officials agreed that she would give up her duties and go on involuntary leave. Her final sermon in Edgerton in Johnson County will be Aug. 28. ... She said she was glad to avoid a trial, which could have resulted in her losing her credentials to ever pastor again.

Before we get to the sourcing issue, let's note a few questions raised in that passage.

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