Papal Controversy and Media Misquotes

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John-Mark Philo

LGBT Rep, Oriel

‘Jews are a menace to nature’;
‘Black people are as great a threat as rainforest destruction’

No British newspaper would publish these headlines – they would be immediately condemned as anti-Semitic and racist. Why did they think it was all right to feature similar claims about gay people? In the Daily Mail we read “Homosexuality is as great a threat as rainforest destruction” and in The Telegraph “Pope says humanity needs ‘saving’ from homosexuality” (23rd December). BBC radio ran the story without critical voices. It was a masterly piece of media agenda setting in the context of the debate over gay marriage. The article was released during a media dry spell and the news angle was one designed to grab attention.

Now the story gets interesting, because this isn’t what the Pope actually said. In his end of year address to the Curia, he doesn’t even mention the word homosexuality. He says that the Church must ‘protect Man against the destruction of himself’ and that marriage is ‘a sacrament of creation’ exclusively ‘between man and wife’. These rather vague formulations are then drawn to the attention of the media and spun slightly so that the anti-gay message now becomes crystal clear. The story goes out through a news agency and the mass media pick it up.

So who is responsible for this process? Most likely a Vatican official with the tacit approval of the Pope. If Il Papa had objected to the way his words were used, then he could have issued a denial. He didn’t.

In fact, rather shifty statements have been emerging from the Vatican for some time attacking sexualities of which the Church does not officially approve. A number of newspapers reported that in October last year an ‘unnamed’ Vatican official had described homosexuality as ‘a deviation, an irregularity, a wound’.

So the Pope, in a sense, has it both ways. He makes a slightly obscure, unengaging speech on marriage and the rainforests including lengthy passages on pneumatology and the ‘hovering creator’. When challenged, his defenders can say it’s the newspapers that have made a drama of it and really it was a commentary on gender theory.

The media shouldn’t fall for these cheap tricks, but should be ready to challenge the claims of old Vatican homophobes and their spin doctors.

 

Patrick Milner

Newman Society President

How embarrassing. Yet another scandalous and unnecessary statement that has exposed the shortcomings and incompetencies of a worldwide organisation. I am of course referring to the BBC’s coverage of the Holy Father’s Address to the Roman Curia. It may seem unfair to single out one individual media body, but the BBC really must take the first prize in the fictional non-news category. The BBC website claimed that “Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction”. This sentence is nothing more than outright lie; he never even mentioned homosexuality.

Now, I’m all for using one’s own initiative in order to save time and unnecessary work, but as the world’s largest broadcaster that employs 28,500 people in the UK alone, the only conclusions that we can draw from this is that either no one from the BBC read the actual address, or that someone has deliberately distorted the truth for a sensationalist article. I’ll say it again: how embarrassing.

Now to what the Holy Father actually said. The Pope’s annual address to the Roman Curia is a reflection on the major Papal events of the last year. In it, he mentions his travels to the USA and France, the Synod of Bishops and World Youth Day which was held in Sydney. He then discussed World Youth Day and the environment in relation to the Holy Spirit. It was in this context that he talked about how God’s plan for creation encompasses both stewardship of the planet and the expression of human sexual relations within marriage. He called for an ecology of Man.

Yes, I’ll say it, the Pope believes in sanctity of Marriage between Man and Woman. He firmly believes that God created Man and Woman for love, and has called them to an intimate communion of love in Marriage. It’s quite simple and he is unafraid to say it. The Church does not recognise civil partnerships as having the status of marriage and it does not agree that the best environment in which to bring up a child is with same sex parents. Shock horror, the Pope is Catholic. What next? Jesus was a Jew?

In future, perhaps the BBC should get their facts right and then try and write something which is vaguely interesting; neither of which have they managed to do on this occasion.

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