When it comes to the coverage of the papal resignation and election of a new Vicar of Christ, as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
The media never miss an opportunity to tell Catholics how God and his Church need to conform to the world’s way of viewing things, as opposed to the other way around.
I could write the newspaper headlines and the TV news scripts in my sleep.
Over the last few weeks, I bet you too can count on one hand how many times you viewed, heard or read a story pertaining to the historic papal events that didn’t include some attempt to point out how backward the Church is because of its long-standing opposition to abortion, contraception, the ordination of women and same-sex marriage. And now to top it all off, we have the media in the United States regurgitating unsubstantiated reports regarding alleged coverups and scandals in the highest circles of the Vatican. The situation in the Italian press was so bad that the Vatican Secretariat of State issued a stern statement, emphasizing the potential fall-out from making something out of virtually nothing.
“It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave that there is a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions,” the statement said.
Several Catholic journalists analyzed some of the ridiculous news reports coming out of Italy after the pope announced his resignation. They could not find even one source that had firsthand knowledge of the claims being made by some Italian publications. That didn’t stop the press here from grabbing those stories off the news wires with gusto and trying to give them credibility. As the old saying goes, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
Given the current sorry state of the press, one might think orthodox Catholic authors, theologians and commentators should run for their lives if they see a news truck pull into their driveway or get a phone call from the local paper. Au contraire. Right now the entire world is watching developments in Rome very closely.
Despite all the talk about our faith being irrelevant, our Church is the story of the moment. We should do our best to get out there in print and on the airwaves, to proclaim the truth with love. Why should we allow all the disgruntled and badly misinformed types out there get the lion’s share of the media coverage?
Given the 24/7 news block that has to be filled by talk radio and cable news operations, not to mention the blogosphere and social media outlets, producers and editors are looking for a variety of talking heads and quotes. Granted they may not have our best interests in mind, but we know the lay of the media land and the Church needs to engage the culture, not run from it, and we also need to hold the press’ feet to the fire. They need to be reminded they are still charged with serving the public interest.
Besides, don’t you love turning on the television and seeing George Weigel on NBC politely but firmly reiterating Church teaching? What a void there would be if he and other articulate Catholic representatives and spokespersons including many of our wonderful American cardinals, were not there to challenge, set the record straight and explain the beauty of Church teaching to a world so in need of Christ. So I say, “Lights, camera, action” and, “Let’s go Church.” Let’s turn what appears to be a major obstacle into a major opportunity for the New Evangelization.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.