Pope Francis speaks out on Catholic world's biggest story: No biggie, saith the press

Pope Francis speaks out on Catholic world's biggest story: No biggie, saith the press

The nearly 900-page Pennsylvania grand-jury report (.pdf here) about clergy sexual abuse cases contains all kinds of quotes that challenge notions about what journalists can or cannot include in news stories.

But journalists who have worked on this story for decades already knew that would be the case.

However, there is another passage in this secular document that bluntly addresses another side of this journalism puzzle. Thus, two questions: What words do we include in news reports? Do we speak clearly or do we allow parts of this subject to remain hidden in fog? We wrestled with these questions during this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

Here is the crucial statement that I'm talking about, in the grand-jury report. It focuses on the methods that many Catholic leaders uses to hide these crimes:

The strategies were so common that they were susceptible to behavioral analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For our benefit, the FBI agreed to assign members of its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime to review a significant portion of the evidence received by the grand jury. Special agents testified before us that they had identified a series of practices that regularly appeared, in various configurations, in the diocesan files they had analyzed. It’s like a playbook for concealing the truth:

First, make sure to use euphemisms rather than real words to describe the sexual assaults in diocese documents. Never say “rape”; say “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.”

This leads us to an interesting story from this past week, as in the letter from Pope Francis that addressed the Pennsylvania report. This letter received way less coverage than I expected. Hold that thought.

One of the things that I like to do, when reading documents of this kind, is call up the full text and then run some computer searches to see what terms the text contains and what terms are missing.

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Mitt Romney is still a Mormon: The Washington Post takes a shot at the 'pastor' vs. 'bishop' question

Mitt Romney is still a Mormon: The Washington Post takes a shot at the 'pastor' vs. 'bishop' question

Back in the 1980s, when I was working at The Rocky Mountain News (RIP, maybe) in Denver, I was in regular contact with press officials in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints both locally, especially during the building of the Colorado temple, and those working in the big white tower in Salt Lake City, Utah.

We frequently discussed issues of newspaper style and how the church's unique beliefs were handled in the mainstream press. We didn't always agree, of course, but I knew where they were coming from. We had many discussions, for example, about what to call the leaders of local and regional Mormon flocks. The key: Mormons don't have professional, full-time clergy in the same sense as other churches. The word "ordain" isn't used in the same way.

Thus, it has been interesting to follow the many interesting comments on my recent post about the New York Times story covering the ongoing political and religious pilgrimage of Mitt Romney. The key reference was right near the top:

WASHINGTON -- A prominent Republican delivered a direct request to Mitt Romney not long ago: He should make a third run for the presidency, not for vanity or redemption, but to answer a higher calling from his faith.
Believing that Mr. Romney, a former Mormon pastor, would be most receptive on these grounds, the Republican made the case that Mr. Romney had a duty to serve, and said Mr. Romney seemed to take his appeal under consideration.

It seems clear to me that Mormons have, in recent years, continued in their efforts to find ways to talk about their lives in language that is less foreign to other Americans. Thus, rather than saying that a local LDS leader was the "bishop" of his "ward," it is becoming more likely that -- when talking to outsiders -- Mormons are more likely to say that some is the "pastor"  of their local "church" and THEN go on to explain the differences.

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