Friday, May 7, 2010

Time and Again, Get Religion Shows Us How to Really Read a News Story

Seriously. They remind me to think when I read. Papal Politics or Piety is a sterling example as you can see from this bit.
Jason Berry of the National Catholic Reporter has done some great reporting on how Father Maciel was able to cultivate allies in the Vatican — by buying them off, basically. His work is mentioned in this article, too.

As much as the story attempts to link the delays in dealing with the case to Ratzinger, Cardinal Angelo Sodano is the one who comes off as the culprit. But it’s this part of the story that I want to highlight:
In 2001, all clerical sex abuse cases had been ordered sent to Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation. [Italian journalist Sandro] Magister said he believed that as the cardinal became increasingly aware of the problem’s magnitude, he ordered that old cases — including the Maciel matter — be re-examined.

And in late 2004, it was clear that Cardinal Ratzinger would be playing an important role in a future conclave to elect the next pope. And with the pope’s health and power waning, Cardinal Ratzinger may have felt a freer hand in acting against a figure protected by others in the Vatican — possibly to clear the decks for the next pope, possibly to remove a stain on John Paul’s record or his own, should he be considered for the papacy.
One of the worst things a reporter can do is make claims about the motivation of actors in the story. Unless you’re a reporter with a special talent for mindreading, I guess. So these motivation claims really shouldn’t have been made. Particularly since they are sourced to precisely no one.

But isn’t it interesting that when the reporters were pulling motivations out of the air, they didn’t suggest that Ratzinger might have actually moved against Maciel because he wanted to do the right thing and he finally had the opportunity? There are people who would suggest just that. Including Magister, who has made such statements on the record. And in this interview, he speaks very favorably of the Pope’s work in eradicating “the filth” in the priesthood — also suggesting he’s motivated not by politics but by a desire to purify the church.
Yes, their stories are all that interesting, that good at pinpointing where a reporter turned a blind eye or didn't think far enough.

Go read it all and then take a further look around. We should be reading all news stories this way, but more than anything we should be dissecting how the news covers faith.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I thank God that the Pope is now acting to reform/refound the Legionaries of Christ. It's a cult and I hope it gets shut down ASAP.