There is a long piece on CNA about an address given by His Excellency Most Rev. Charles Chaput of Denver. Here are some snips with my emphases and comments:
Prejudiced journalism ‘diminishes public life,’ warns Archbishop Chaput
Denver, Colo., Sep 24, 2010 / 12:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Delivering the featured address at a religion news writers conference in Denver on Friday, Archbishop Charles Chaput commented on what he believes to be the new secular “orthodoxy” within American media and warned that slanted journalism “diminishes public life.” [Dangerous because it doesn’t seek truth.]
On Sept. 24, the Denver prelate made his remarks as keynote speaker at the 61st annual Religion Newswriters Association conference at the city’s Westin Tabor center downtown.
Opening his speech, Archbishop Chaput underscored that a “free press is part of the American identity, and also one of its best institutions. I respect that. I value what journalists do for the same reason I value the importance of religious faith in American life – both in the private home and in the public square.”
In that regard, he added, the “kind of journalism that tracks our religious life is so important because it’s the profession where two of our defining freedoms meet.”
“A responsible press, and a faith shaped by the God of charity and justice, share two things in common: a concern for human dignity, and an interest in truth,” the prelate noted. “Freedom means that our choices matter. It also means that our mistakes have consequences.”
Archbishop Chaput then referred to famed 20th century author George Orwell and how his controversial work titled “Animal Farm” – which critiqued the Soviet regime in Russia in the mid 1900s – was initially suppressed from publication.
[…]While “I do know reporters and editors whom I admire, and whose fairness and skill I commend,” said the archbishop, “I think the deficiencies in today’s coverage of religion are too real to ignore.”
The “Christian story now told in mainstream media” depicts the faith as “a backward social force and a menace to the liberty of their fellow citizens.”
“One of the worst habits many Catholics had at the start of the clergy sex abuse crisis, including many bishops, was to minimize a very grave problem,” he said. “But news media show many of the same patterns of denial, vanity, obstinacy and institutional defensiveness in dealing with criticism of their own failures.”
I wish Archbp Chaput had not said this. First of all, it seems to suggest a moral equivalence between sex abuse and unreasonable journalism, which is not a good road to start down. Secondly, every secular journalist equates Catholicism with sex abuse; in their mind anything any Catholic priest has to say is invalid because one priest at one time abused a minor. I would rather the Archbp had not given them this opening to divert the conversation. This talk is about the hubris of secular journalists. I think he goes off-message for a minute there.
When he’s on-message he’s wonderful. The Orwell example is truly brilliant: no one wants to be compared to a pig in Animal Farm, and he’s so rational in his delivery of this example. Americans prize fairness, and secular journalists aren’t being fair. Calling for them to be, basically, good sports is so simple and effective. I don’t think the Archbp sets out to do this, but he ends up shaming the secularists, like a grown-up reprimanding a child, to behave themselves. That loving firmness is one of the great gifts of the Catholic faith.
Clearly there are distortions of the Catholic faith in both the secular and “wanna-be” Catholic media, but who will be the arbiter in either case? What one person reads or views as spot-on may cause another to be offended. The fact is there is no such thing as purely objective reporting.
Full text can be found at The Witherspoon Institute. Some comments that were not really handled in the CNA synopsis of the piece include:
This little bit of history needs to be captured: that anti-religious bias has always existed in the Press. The primary difference is that, rather than being merely anti-Catholic, it is now anti-Christian.
Archbishop Chaput is from the Potawanamie branch of the Catholic Taliban.