The media always want a hook when reporting religion news and preferably a hook that pertains to their worldview is what is wanted. When it comes to canonization sadly holiness and a life of heroic virtue is not a hook they care about at all. Any ole hook will do and it doesn’t even have to be true.
For example the reporting on Mary MacKillop who was canonized today shows proof of this. Over the last week the meme has been that she reported directly to the bishop the case of a Franciscan priest who was an abuser. Hey nice hook that fits the agenda. The only problem of course is that it is totally false.
Sherry Weddell does good work in her post Mary MacKillop: The Whistle That Never Blew by pointing out that the new Saint happened to be living 1,000 miles away at the time the events happened and her Bishop was away for a year and a half at the First Vatican Council. So the idea of her going to the bishop and denouncing this priest just was not possible in any way.
History is sometimes stranger than fiction! The primary whistle-blower turned out to be a wildly eccentric, mentally ill male cleric, Fr. Woods, not our new woman saint. Since Fr. Woods was regarded as “the founder” of the Josephite sisters, Fr. Horan sought to take vengeance by destroying the women’s community that he had founded.
It turns out that the carelessness and incompetence lay elsewhere. Now both Fr. Gardiner and the executive producer of the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Compass show (the source of the original story) have vehemently denied ever asserting that Mary was a whistle-blower.
Though how can we expect the media to get it right when the Vatican press office can’t.
“The merits of Mother Mary MacKillop, her commitment to children, to the poor, to indigenous peoples, to the dignity of all human persons, were much more extensive than the fact that she denounced an abuser,” Lombardi said.
The quote would have been perfect if Fr. Lombardi had left off the last part. She is a saint because she lived a life of heroic sanctity which bore fruit in her helping the poor and others.