Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

This is why some Catholics are questioning media reporting on gluten-free communion

This is why some Catholics are questioning media reporting on gluten-free communion

What's new?

That's Catholic media professional Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz's question. In an email to GetReligion, Szyszkiewicz writes:

The gluten-free host bit is old. The regulations have been in place for years and, for some reason, were raised again, this time by Pope Francis. 
Cardinal Sarah's letter is almost entirely made up of quotes from previous documents and nothing more. It's obvious that the journalists who reported on this didn't read the text to see that it's a rehash — or they didn't care about that fact. 
So what's the purpose of the reporting? To make the Vatican look like a bunch of bad guys who don't give a damn about celiacs?

What reporting is Szyszkiewicz talking about?

Here's the lede from the New York Times:

The unleavened bread that Roman Catholics use in the celebration of Mass must contain some gluten, even if only a trace amount, according to a new Vatican directive.
The directive, which was dated June 15 but received significant attention only after it was reported by Vatican Radio on Saturday, affirms an existing policy. But it may help to relieve some of the confusion surrounding church doctrine on gluten, a protein that occurs naturally in wheat and has become the subject of debates over nutrition and regulation.
The issue is especially urgent for people with celiac disease, a gastrointestinal immune disorder that causes stomach paindiarrhea and weight loss and that can lead to serious complications, or for those with other digestive conditions that make them vulnerable even to small amounts of gluten.
Many other people who do not have celiac disease may nonetheless have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten, and yet others have adopted a gluten-free diet in the belief that it is healthier — although science is far from clear on this point.

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Jailhouse religion and the case of the elite national newspaper that chose to ignore it

Jailhouse religion and the case of the elite national newspaper that chose to ignore it

Today's post falls under the general heading of "jailhouse religion."

Speaking of which, a story I wrote on a Texas woman who might have gotten away with murder — but became a Christian and turned herself in — was published this week.

GetReligion's own Mark Kellner described it "as an incredible true crime, confession, redemption story superbly told." I didn't even pay him to say that. So feel free to check it out.

End of shameless plug.

Back to our regularly scheduled analysis of religion — and holy ghosts — in the mainstream press: Today's focus is a Washington Post profile of a redeemed bank robber.

Catholic media professional Thomas Szyszkiewicz tipped us to this haunted story:

There's talk of "redemption" (it's even in the title of his book). His parents were pastors who founded some (unnamed, generic) church. He's teaching at a Catholic university (OK, we won't get into the discussion about how Catholic it is or isn't). There were moments of "grace," etc. What's missing? 

Um, could it be religion?

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When is mortal sin not that big a deal? The National Post debates 'medically assisted death'

When is mortal sin not that big a deal? The National Post debates 'medically assisted death'

News stories about issues in medical ethics -- take physician-assisted suicide, for example -- tend to be rather complicated affairs.

Add in ultimate questions about Catholic theology and things get even more complicated. Changing the name of the procedure in question to "medically assisted death" doesn't erase the moral and doctrinal questions involved in all of this.

Thus, editors at The National Post had to know they were headed into tricky territory when working on a recent story that ran with this headline: "Catholics hoping for a funeral after assisted death face different answers from different churches." Read the following carefully -- Catholic readers, especially -- and see if you can spot any problems that start right at the top of this story.

VANCOUVER -- A proper funeral is far more than an end-of-life celebration for practising Catholics, who believe last rites cleanse the soul of sin in preparation for eternal life in heaven.
But for the faithful questioning whether those final sacraments are available to a loved one who has chosen a medically assisted death, the answer may depend on whom in the church they ask.

See the problem? Have the journalists who worked on this story confused Catholic teachings about funerals with teachings about what are commonly known as the "Last Rites," in which a priest -- whenever possible -- hears a dying person's final Confession and offers absolution? The crucial Catechism reference states:

In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of "passing over" to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection. ... The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.

A funeral service may be "final" rites for the deceased, but they are not the Last Rites, in the traditional sense. So, does the funeral service itself "cleanse the soul of sin in preparation for eternal life in heaven"?

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Catholic scribe notes the hidden news story: This pope's emphasis on Confession

Catholic scribe notes the hidden news story: This pope's emphasis on Confession

We get all kinds of comments and email here at GetReligion, some of which readers see online, some of which we refer to in posts using careful language and some troll offerings -- few of which have anything to do with journalism -- that we trash before we start laughing or crying or both.

Quite a few -- critical and/or supportive -- come from working journalists, including religion-beat pros. I wish that I could share more of these, including the ones that are critical of the website, yet also constructive. It would be great to dialogue with these professionals, but most cannot let us use their real names.

As you would expect, we frequently hear from the same readers over and over. Quite a few of these people are professionals in religious or denominational newsrooms, the kinds of people who spot the errors and holes (real and, every now and then, not so real) in mainstream news reports about their own flocks.

For years, one of the website's most loyal and most constructive readers of the site has been Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz, the veteran Catholic scribe currently is a producer at The Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio. He is the former editor of The Catholic Times in the Diocese of La Crosse in Wisconsin. He has a degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

Earlier this week, during the latest media explosion on Pope Francis, abortion and moral theology (post by Bobby Ross, Jr., here and then Julia Duin here), he wrote us a note with some very precise reactions to the mainstream coverage. I asked him if he would flesh out his thoughts a bit, as a memo to reporters covering this story. Here is what he produced.

***

Remember back in March of this year when Pope Francis told a gathering of seminarians and priests that Confession should not be a form of torture? The subsequent reporting featured a lot of emphasis on that torture part, but something was missed:

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