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The Synod: More Egregiously False Reporting by the Media on Pope Francis

The following is a portion of the pope’s speech given yesterday at the close of the Vatican synod on the family:

[The synod] was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life. …
We have seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults.

[Pope Francis has called the movement in many countries to accept same-sex marriage as “ideological colonization that we have to be careful about that is trying to destroy the family.” In his recent speech to the UN, the pope “reminded the UN of their duty to recognize ethical limits, … ‘for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.’”]

The above quote from yesterday’s speech was omitted by the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters and Religion News Service. As has been true for this pontificate, only the good stuff gets reported.

Reuters: “Pope Francis Ends Synod By Excoriating Bishops With ‘Closed Hearts’ And ‘Heads In The Sand’ – In his final address, the pope appeared to criticize ultra-conservatives, saying Church leaders should confront difficult issues ‘fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.’ He said the synod had ‘laid bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.’”

AP: “Pope Francis takes swipe at conservative bishops as synod on families ends – Catholic bishops … endorsed Pope Francis’ call for a more merciful and less judgmental church.” The last sentence above was repeated.

NYTimes: “Amid Splits, Catholic Bishops Crack Open Door on Divorce – [and] appeared to give Pope Francis enough support to advance his vision of a more merciful church … Francis made a strong plea for inclusiveness in his final address to the assembly, known as a synod, which brought together about 270 bishops from around the world.” Again, the last sentence above was repeated.

RNS: “Tense Vatican summit ends by opening door for divorced, punting on welcome to gays – Francis himself seemed to signal his intentions as he delivered a powerful closing talk to the gathering on Saturday evening that denounced moral legalism in the church and declared that ‘the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit.’” Again, the last sentence above was repeated.

WaPo: “Vatican synod on families offers hope to divorced Catholics – Divided clerics echoed the more inclusive tone of Pope Francis. Yet the still-significant opposition in the synod to rapid changes in rules also suggested how far off Catholics may yet be from seeing Francis’s revolutionary style turned into practice … In a speech, Francis acknowledged the rifts among clerics, noting that differences of opinion were freely expressed and “at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways.”

The above reports blamed “the bishops” for opposing same-sex marriage.

Unfortunately, the pope’s “more merciful and less judgmental church,” “strong plea for inclusiveness” and “revolutionary style” only applies to divorced Catholics, remarried without obtaining an annulment from the church. (In his speech, the pope mentioned the “indissolubility” of marriage.) Although still not allowed to receive Communion,

The document passed by the synod includes language about Catholics consulting with their pastors so that they can be more fully integrated into church life. Currently, Catholics who are divorced and remarried without an annulment are viewed as being in an adulterous relationship and thus cannot receive Communion – or serve in many church roles – unless they live chastely as brother and sister.
That bar is seen as unrealistic for the vast majority of divorced and remarried Catholics who often leave the church, refrain from taking Communion or make peace with it in their own minds and receive.

If lay persons were asked what the Catholic Church can do to improve life for families, I’d be safe in saying the vast majority wouldn’t even mention the above situation while women and LGBT persons are still not considered equal and deserving of human rights.

One topic not covered by the synod:

If every woman who wanted birth control had access to it, each year, there would be:
25 million fewer abortions
7 million fewer miscarriages
640,000 fewer newborn deaths
150,000 fewer maternal deaths
600,000 fewer children becoming motherless
Those are many deaths that could be averted – each year.

The families of the church’s hundreds of thousands of sexual abuse victims were given no consideration, either.

The second prominent issue at the synod was whether some language should be changed so that the church appears more “welcoming” to gays. Currently, the Catechism states that homosexual acts are a “grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered.” … “This inclination” (i.e. homosexualty) is “objectively disordered.” The final document by the synod said gay people should be treated with respect but that same-sex marriage was not “even remotely analogous” to marriage between a man and a woman. No doctrine will be changed. Therefore, the pope and his men will continue to persecute LGBT persons under the banner of “religious freedom” but will use nicer words doing it.

In addressing the synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, “a top official in the Roman Curia, blasted the ‘idolatry of Western freedom’ as equivalent to ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ and compared both to ‘apocalyptic beasts.’ He also said that divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage in the West, and Islamic fundamentalism in Africa and elsewhere, both had a ‘demonic origin’ that the synod had to combat.’ ‘What Nazi-fascism and communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,’ Sarah said.”

Catholic blogger William D. Lindsey, Ph.D., noted: “Certainly other moderate things were said at the synod about LGBT human beings. My point is that the Catholic Church is still – and this should shock its adherents, I’m also maintaining – the kind of institution in which top leaders feel perfectly free to make this kind of remarks.”

Meanwhile, the mainstream media omitted mentioning the following news of what occurred during the three weeks the synod was in session regarding sex abuse victims, LGBT persons and women.

Oct. 4: “Think – with your head – and do not be swayed by the unfounded allegations of lefties,” Pope Francis said in footage broadcast by the Chilean TV channel Mega. “Osorno is suffering from stupidity, and for not opening its heart to what God says. And for letting itself get carried away by the garbage everybody says,” he added. The pope was speaking about the installation earlier this year of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno, Chile, “amid riot police” and “hundreds of shouting churchgoers dressed in the black of mourning who accuse him of covering up crimes of a mentor the Vatican has sanctioned for abusing young boys.”

Oct. 4: Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, named as one of the pope’s “center-left” allies, defrocked one of his priests for having an “inappropriate relationship” with an adult man.

Oct. 12: “The French government has chosen not to name a new ambassador to the Holy See, after the Vatican declined to accept the nomination of Laurent Stefanini.” “Pope Francis informed the gay diplomat personally that he could not accept his appointment to the Vatican. The pope is said to have told Msr. Stefanini that France’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013 was part of the reason he could not allow him into the Vatican’s diplomatic community. Reuters translated this concern to mean the pope fears Ambassador Stefanini could decide to marry while serving at the Vatican.”

Oct. 12: “The Vatican closed a probe into sex abuse at a Spanish school run by Opus Dei … because the allegations have not been proven and as a result, the good name and reputation of the accused must be restored.” With the usual global press coverage, Pope Francis had responded in a handwritten letter to parents who had sent a letter to the pope “with documents they said backed their son’s accusations” that he had been sexually abused. “The cross is very hard. I ask Our Lord to help you carry it,” the pope wrote. “In addition, today I am sending the documentation to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith so that the teacher can face canonical proceedings without the boy being disturbed,” he added in the letter dated December 29, 2014.

Oct. 16: An update on the current status of some of the priests named in the investigation, “South America has become a safe haven for the Catholic Church’s alleged child molesters … Catholic priests who have been accused of abusing children in the United States and Europe have avoided accountability simply by moving to a less-developed country.” None have been reported to the public or civil authorities by their superiors.

Oct. 16: Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said that should the plebiscite on same-sex marriage be successful, “within a decade bishops could be imprisoned, political dissent silenced, scripture lessons banned, and tax exemptions for religious institutions discarded.” He said this in an address to the free market think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies.

Oct. 19: American women are warned “If You Are Pregnant, Stay Away From Catholic Hospitals … Catholic hospitals are systematically denying pregnant women essential health care, even when their life is at stake. It’s unethical, illegal, and just plain wrong.”

Oct. 20: Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart “has slammed the State of Victoria’s Labour government over a scheduled reform that would allow same-sex couples access to adoption services, calling it a “fundamental attack on religious freedom” and a violation of fundamental human rights.

Oct. 21: “A Polish bishop defrocked a high-ranking Catholic priest fired by a furious Vatican earlier this month after he came out as gay on the eve of a key synod on the family.”

Oct. 22: “Attorneys representing child abuse victims of the Roman Catholic Church and the Los Angeles Unified School District reacted with outrage to an attempt by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez to reduce the protections given to minor victims of sexual predators in California. The petition by Archbishop Gomez with the California Supreme Court asking them to ‘de-publish’ a recent California Court of Appeals of decision contradicts recent promises by Pope Francis to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from sexual abuse … ‘This blatant attempt to shield the Catholic Church and other institutions from accountability in abuse cases is unconscionable,’ said child sex abuse victim’s attorney Vince Finaldi.’”

Every US reporter and journalist writing about the Catholic Church knows that Pope John Paul II aligned with the neocon plutocracy and appointed hierarchs accordingly. Yet we have been told unanimously by the mainstream media that this wasn’t true when Pope John Paul II appointed Jorge Mario Bergoglio as bishop and promoted him to cardinal. Furthermore, we were told that this resulted in a huge rift between the pope and the US episcopate.

Pope Francis proved Religious Right issues really matter to him during his trip to the US. He met with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who filed suit against Obamacare and, in private, with Kim Davis, the county employee jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses as required by law to same-sex couples. Confirming the reason for his meeting with Davis, on the flight back to Rome Pope Francis specifically stated after their meeting that “conscientious objection” by “government employees” is a “human right.” (No, the pope doesn’t meet with everyone. He has never met in private with an American Democrat other than Pres. Obama.)

Additionally, the pope praised his US bishops for their “courage” and “great sacrifice” in handling the sex abuse crisis, another sign of unity.

“The US Conference of Catholic bishops has long stressed that the horrors of child sex abuse are not exclusive to the church and that other sources in civil society and in the family share blame.” So included in a meeting with the pope were victims of sexual abuse by relatives and educators, “a subtle but unmistakable effort by the Vatican to shift the terms of the debate, to show ‘that it’s not always the church’s fault,’ as Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University who has represented hundreds of victims of clerical sexual abuse, put it.”

None in the media dared suggest there was any manipulation when the meeting with victims of sex abuse was arranged for the pope’s last day in this country so that that would be the final headline as he boarded the plane for his return to Rome.

(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))

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One Response

  1. Thanks so much, Betty, for this outstanding and much needed contribution to getting the truth out.

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