The National Catholic Reporter

How a past and (maybe) future pope are providing crucial leadership in age of Francis

How a past and (maybe) future pope are providing crucial leadership in age of Francis

The events of the past few days have truly been monumental for the Roman Catholic church.

You may not have noticed — unless you’ve bothered to read the ever-growing list of Catholic news websites on both the right and left. While liberals and conservatives within the church continue to wage a very public war over everything from the future of Christendom in the West to the ongoing clerical abuse crisis, two prominent voices have led the charge when it comes to these two issues.

Again, it was conservative Catholic media that proved to be the preferred mouthpiece for Cardinal Robert Sarah and Pope Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Both men — with help from right-leaning news organizations — have been very vocal about the problems plaguing the modern church in our ever-secular world.

It is fitting that these two men — one considered a potential future pope, the other already a pope — are the ones leading the charge as the church continues to become polarized. Under Francis’ papacy, the ideological split has become more pronounced. As the curia continues to polarize itself in public on issues like immigration and homosexuality, church leaders like Sarah and Benedict refuse to be silenced. Once again, it’s those Catholic media voices on the right that are helping to spread their message.

Case in point: this past week. At a time when Christians around the world continue on their Lenten journey, Sarah and Benedict are making a statement about the direction of Catholicism, the legacy of Vatican II and where the church is going. Sarah, who hails from the majority-Muslim nation of Guinea in Africa, contrasted Pope Francis’ statements in telling Christian nations they should open their borders to Islamic refugees.

The 73-year-old cardinal, in his new book” Evening Draws Near” and the “Day is Nearly Over,” argues that it’s wrong to “use the Word of God to promote migration.” Sarah laments the “collapse of the West” and what he calls “migratory processes” that threatens Europe’s Christian identity. As birthrates continue to drop across Europe, and workers from other continents are needed to take jobs, the culture of the continent is changing.

“If Europe disappears, and with it the priceless values of the Old Continent, Islam will invade the world and we will completely change culture, anthropology and moral vision,” he wrote.It’s worth noting that Sarah has been at odds with Pope Francis and his allies over an array of issues, including liturgical matters and translations of Latin texts.

The excerpt was largely ignored by mainstream news outlets.

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The 'Catholic Church' destroyed files about abuse cases. OK, who did this? Where? Everywhere?

The 'Catholic Church' destroyed files about abuse cases. OK, who did this? Where? Everywhere?

We have some real, live news coming out of the Vatican conference that is focusing on clergy sexual abuse of “children,” and maybe a few other kinds of victims.

It’s big news. But one or two of the most important facts in this story are still missing.

Looking at the coverage, it would appear that these holes are probably not the result of bad or shallow reporting. The holes may be intentional, in terms of a German cardinal’s remarks that were stunning, but also rather vague.

Let’s look at the top of a report in the National Catholic Reporter, which — as I typed this post at mid-day — had the most information in it. You can see the big hole right in the headline: "

Cardinal admits to Vatican summit that Catholic Church destroyed abuse files.

What, precisely, is the “Catholic Church”?

I realize that the Church of Rome is one church, with one leader in the Chair of St. Peter, but — at the level of administration and the supervision of priests — it is actually a complex network of ecclesiastic bureaucracies at the local, national and global levels. Let’s look at the overture in that story. This is long, but essential as journalists look forward:

VATICAN CITY — A top cardinal has admitted that the global Catholic Church destroyed files to prevent documentation of decades of sexual abuse of children, telling the prelates attending Pope Francis' clergy abuse summit Feb. 23 that such maladministration led "in no small measure" to more children being harmed.

In a frank speech to the 190 cardinals, bishops and heads of religious orders taking part in the four-day summit, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the church's administration had left victims' rights "trampled underfoot" and "made it impossible" for the worldwide institution to fulfill its mission.

"Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created," said Marx, beginning a list of a number of practices that survivors have documented for years but church officials have long kept under secret.

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Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

So you thought Pope Francis began a storm of news 'n' views three years ago, when he said, "Who am I to judge" gays? Well, brace yourself for the summertime blizzard of news and commentary with his latest remark -- that the church should apologize to gays, women, children, the poor and, apparently, anyone who likes weapons.

It was on another of those in-flight press conferences, like the one in 2013 when he dropped his non-judgmental bomb. Mainstream media love to pounce on Francis' off-the-cuff remarks, but few of them recognize the conversations flowing just under the surface -- even when they occasionally break into the open.

Yesterday, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked Francis if the church should apologize to gays in the wake of Omar Mateen's shooting spree, killing 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando. She was asking because Cardinal Reinhard Marx had said the church had marginalized gays.

The pope answered with, well, an apology spree. Says the Associated Press:

Francis responded with a variation of his famous "Who am I to judge?" comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.
He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being "a bit offensive for others." But he said: "Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?"
"We must accompany them," Francis said.
"I think the church must not only apologize ... to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons" and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.

Does this signal the dawn of a "progressive" era in the church? Not according to a particular Dawn -- Catholic scholar and GR alumna Dawn Eden:

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The Oscars put the spotlight on “Spotlight” and on news reporting about religion

The Oscars put the spotlight on “Spotlight” and on news reporting about religion

GetReligion readers are well aware that quality news reporting in the print media, and investigative reporting, are continually sliding in America due to shrinking news holes, budgets and staffing. Nostalgia aside, this has obvious negative consequences for a republic.

On Sunday, Hollywood did its bit to boost the news biz by giving the best picture Oscar to the must-see “Spotlight,” correctly regarded as the best movie depiction ever of real newspaper work. The film, of course, depicts The Boston Globe effort that exposed the extent of Catholic priests’ sexual molestation in the area archdiocese thanks to shoe-leather fieldwork and documents gained by a strategic lawsuit and a state judge’s edict.

Let’s admit that the entertainment business will not weep over travail that afflicts Catholicism. However that should not obscure the fact that the entire church and its parishoners owe a deep debt to the Globe team for unearthing accurate information.

Along with the hurrahs, religion reporters and other news people should reflect on lessons to be learned from this episode. Put bluntly, where were the mainstream news media prior to the Globe’s 2002 publication? There’s a good article waiting to be written in coming days about who gave how much coverage and when.

Some analysts imply that nobody did much of anything prior to the Globe extravaganza. Not so. The Associated Press faithfully supplied the nationwide press corps with coverage, outrage by outrage. There were good articles in the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Time and elsewhere.

Yet truth is, while local dailies did their duty the national “mainstream” print media (that pretty much set the agenda for TV and radio news) failed to provide sufficient, sweeping examinations with dramatic display about the over-all Catholic abuse syndrome, as opposed to this or that individual case.

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