right to life

So how much do you trust Pope Francis? Here's why death penalty debate is heating up

So how much do you trust Pope Francis? Here's why death penalty debate is heating up

St. Pope John Paul II condemned the death penalty and urged government leaders to end it. 

Pope Benedict XVI did the same, in language just as strong as that used by his beloved predecessor.

Now Pope Francis has gone one step further, saying that the church can now say that the faith of the ages has evolved, allowing the Catholic Catechism to condemn the death penalty in strong, but somewhat unusual language. Is use of the death penalty now a mortal sin, like abortion and euthanasia? Well, the word is that it is "inadmissible."

This is, of course, a major news story and, no surprise, host Todd Wilken and I discussed the early press coverage in this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

But what does this change really mean?

Did Pope Francis simply take the work of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI one step further? Thus, Catholic traditionalists can chill. 

Or is this an example of Pope Francis the progressive, moving one piece on the Jesuit chessboard to prepare for further shifts in the future on other doctrines? If the church was wrong on the death penalty for 2,000 years, who knows what doctrine will evolve next?

So, is this doctrinal shift a big deal or not? 

It appears, after looking at lots of commentary on social media, that the answer to that question depends on whether someone trusts Pope Francis or not. 

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If hundreds of evangelicals gather, but don't talk about Trump, do they make a sound?

If hundreds of evangelicals gather, but don't talk about Trump, do they make a sound?

See that question up there in the headline?

It's kind of a Zen question, isn't it? The reality on the ground is that hundreds of evangelicals recently met for an event called Evangelicals For Life that coincided with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. There were major groups behind this -- the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family. It wasn't minor league.

However, if you check out the videos from the conference (click here for some archives), you'll notice that most of the talk at this event focused on abortion and other life-related issues -- but primarily looked at these subjects through the lens of ministry, as opposed to partisan politics.

Oh, there was some political talk about the U.S. Supreme Court, of course. Legislative battles loomed in the background. But if you listened carefully, few people were making references to a certain New York billionaire in the White House. Some of the primary speakers were from the world of #NeverTrump #NeverHillary.

So did anything newsworthy take place at this event?

It would appear not, if you surf around in Google News looking for mainstream -- especially elite -- news coverage. That was the hook for my Universal syndicate column this past week, as well as for this week's "Crossroads" podcast session with host Todd Wilken. Click here to tune that in.

Why the lack of coverage? I mean, there were influential people there -- some Democrats as well as Republicans. We are talking about real, live, evangelical folks.

Ah, but were they REALLY evangelicals, since it appears that many of them are not part of the massive choir of Donald Trump-worshipping "evangelicals" that we read about day after day in the media? After all, 80-plus percent of American evangelicals worship the ground on which Trump struts, right?

Well, I have a theory about that, one centering on the evidence that roughly half of the white evangelicals who voted for Trump in the election really didn't want to. The way I see it, the "evangelical" tent in American life is currently divided into six different camps.

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Holy ghosts in Ohio: Cincinnati Enquirer reports on debate over aborting Down syndrome babies

Holy ghosts in Ohio: Cincinnati Enquirer reports on debate over aborting Down syndrome babies

So often at GetReligion — here, here, here, here and here, for example — we call attention to the mainstream news media's rampant bias in coverage of the abortion issue.

I'm referring, of course, to the longstanding and indisputable problem of news stories heavily favoring the pro-choice side.

But guess what!?

This isn't going to be one of those posts.

In fact, I'm generally impressed with the balanced, factual nature of the Cincinnati Enquirer's story on a Down syndrome abortion ban going to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the former moderate Republican presidential candidate.

I do think, however, that the piece is haunted by ghosts. As regular readers know, we refer to them as "holy ghosts." More on that God-sized hole in the Enquirer's otherwise fine report in a moment.

But first, the compelling lede:

COLUMBUS — When a mother receives the news that her child will be born with Down syndrome, should she have the choice to obtain an abortion?
Ohio's GOP-controlled Legislature says "no." Lawmakers, with a 20-12 vote in the Ohio Senate, sent a bill to Gov. John Kasich that would penalize doctors who perform abortions after a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Kasich said in 2015 that he would sign such a bill. 
The proposed law has sparked division within the Down syndrome community.

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Surprise! Pro-life women planning to join March for Life get front-page news coverage

Surprise! Pro-life women planning to join March for Life get front-page news coverage

Hey, this is a surprise.

Pro-life women planning to join this week's March for Life in Washington, D.C., got front-page news coverage in the Detroit Free Press.

Why's it a surprise?

If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you don't need to ask: We've pointed out a time or two — or a thousand — that news stories heavily favoring the pro-choice side are a longstanding and indisputable problem. If you somehow missed it previously, check out the classic 1990 Los Angeles Times series — written by the late David Shaw — that exposed rampant news media bias against abortion opponents. 

So yes, it's unusual to see a Page 1 story in a major metropolitan daily that focuses on the perspective of the pro-life side. But that's exactly what the Free Press provides — quoting five pro-life advocates, including four women. (Amazingly, this is my second post in the last week-plus praising a mainstream news story on the abortion issue.)

Back to the Detroit story: Let's start with the lede:

While millions of women marched last weekend for equal rights around the world, many others sat on the sidelines.
They felt excluded from the Women's March on Washington because of one tenet: Its pro-abortion rights platform.
But this week, it's their turn.

The wording of the next paragraph gives me a little pause. But maybe it's just me:

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Hurrah! New York Times spots a religion ghost in Nebraska drive to kill death penalty

Hurrah! New York Times spots a religion ghost in Nebraska drive to kill death penalty

I groaned when I saw the following New York Times headline on yet another story about a political battle -- one that some would call a "culture wars" skirmish -- out in middle America, the land of red zip codes.

The headline said: "Conservative Support Aids Bid in Nebraska to Ban Death Penalty."

I assumed, of course, that the story would focus on the fiscal and legal side of the term "conservative," ignoring the fact that there are conservative people (my hand is raised as a pro-life Democrat) who believe that all human life is sacred, from conception to natural death -- even when a jury assembled by the state approves the killing.

You see, some doctrinally conservative people -- but certainly not all -- don't want to give that kind of power to the state, fearing human error and injustice linked to race and social class. As St. John Paul II once noted:

"A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made ... for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."

This is, in other words, a story with strong religious themes it and that part of the debate must be covered. I kind of assumed the Times would miss that, but I was wrong. This may be evidence that the Times team does a better job covering this kind of moral, religious and cultural issue (a) when it does not involve the Sexual Revolution, (b) when the conservatives involved happen to agree with the Times editorial page and (c) well, I can't think of a good (c) option.

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