Fourth Point

David Gibson’s WaPo piece takes aim at five myths he sees in the current Catholic scandal. Addressing number four, the supposed media bias, he capably eviscerates the notion that print and video media have a campaign of any type of non-holy oil lubricating the story against the Church:

While the Vatican and the pope’s champions argue — often in conspiratorial tones — that the media is biased against the church, the truth is quite the opposite.

The church and the pope do receive major media attention, and with reason. The pope is a world leader as well as the temporal head of one of the world’s most storied religious traditions. There are more than 1.1 billion Catholics on the planet, and the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in the United States, with more than 65 million baptized members. In the media, holidays such as Christmas and Easter tend to be dominated by Catholic images.

The pope also makes news with his pronouncements on a range of topics, and his travels are media events. Pope John Paul II’s death and funeral in April 2005 produced wall-to-wall coverage for weeks, generating some of the most favorable press the church has ever had.

The annual survey of religion in the news conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that in 2008 — the year Benedict traveled to Washington and New York — coverage of the pope and of the Catholic Church accounted for more than half of all news stories about religion, and the majority were positive or explanatory. You don’t hear the church complaining about this kind of attention.

It’s a good case. The best one I’ve seen for Archbishop Dolan and others to get off their high horses and seek a little perspective. A case may be made that individual writers get facts wrong. My premise here has long been that not only religion, but science, sport, and economics also get blundered.

Another case could also be made that once the media sniffs a scandal, they go all out to pursue. It’s a competitive environment for viewers and readers, hence advertising dollars. The media knows that religious people look for stories, usually favorable like this one, about the pope and bishops.

And even if corporate bias were true, two things. First, it is very hard to prove the intent in a collection of human hearts, let alone one. And second, will harping on it convince people more than a contrary public image?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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