You knew it and I knew it. Whatever the Pope would have said in his latest document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, the secular media was going to misinterpret it. Not to lump all media together, and not to pick on the New York Times, but I’m going to use them as an example. My reason is that they are the New York Times. It should mean something when reporters’ average pay is $100,000. I know it barely pays for an annual parking permit in New York, but there used to be a minimum standard for reporters called “the facts.”
The Times' headline on Pope Francis’ latest document, reads: "Pope, Urging Less Judgment, Signals Path for Divorced on Communion." What exactly does the Times think a “signal” is in the Catholic Church? Someone needs to inform them that the Catholic Church doesn’t leave hints in a document as a secret code for the clever among us. The Times’ headline revealed that in spite of winning more Pulitzer Prizes than any other news organization, they are still capable of making things up when the mood strikes.
In a good news story, the main points to be covered should be explained right away. This they did. “Pope Francis on Friday called for the Roman Catholic Church to be more welcoming and less judgmental, and he seemingly signaled a pastoral path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion.”
Everything before the first comma is correct. But since when does a lead sentence morph into ill-informed conjecture midway through? The word “seemingly” alone should have warned some editor that the reporters were using their imaginations.
In their next paragraph, it is explained that the document calls for priests to “welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together.” The word “welcome” often throws people off. Jesus “welcomed” sinners. It’s a Christian thing to do—to welcome people. And to love them. And to inform them correctly. That is why I’m taking the time to inform the New York Times that wanting the world to be a certain way doesn’t make it so. It’s okay for little children to believe in Santa Claus but it is not okay for a reporter to believe that the word “welcome” can mean, “change Catholic teachings to accommodate your lifestyle.”
What is very odd to me—the sort of thing that reporters used to get fired for—is that in the very body of the article, facts are reported that make the headline and lead sentence impossible. Contradictory reporting is not good reporting. “The document offers no new rules or marching orders, and from the outset Francis makes plain that no top-down edicts are coming.”
Think about that a moment. If divorced and civilly remarried couples (no annulment and no sacramental marriage) were given a signal to a path to receive Holy Communion, that would have to mean at least one of the following:
· Sacramental marriages can now be put asunder.
· It’s no longer adultery to leave your sacramentally wedded husband or wife for another.
· Adultery is not a biggie anymore.
· Mortal sin does not preclude someone from receiving Communion now.
Since none of these is true, and since even by the Times' own reporting there are no new rules, why would their headline claim that the Pope just sent out a signal stating otherwise? If the Church suddenly reverses itself on over 2,000 years of Catholic teaching, it will not just be a “signal.” No, the whole world will know because it will be the end of the world and we won’t need to wait to read about it in the Times.
(Note: Later in the day, the Times changed the headline to Francis' Message Calls on Church to Be Inclusive. The rest of the article remains the same and the original headline was picked up by dozens of other sites.)