Media coverage of the Catholic Church can drive can drive faithful Catholics batty. Conclave coverage from the media kicks up the typical stupidity up a notch to 11 (using the Spinal Tap measurement scale.)
Yet really why should their coverage annoy us so? The media, for the most part, is highly secular and filled with people with little connection to any faith. Should we really expect them to have other than an highly secular understanding of the Church? For them the Church is just another human institution and so suggesting what direction the Church should go in and what doctrines should be up for grabs is totally consistent from their viewpoint. Of course their advice is to make the Church more like them and what they believe.
That the Catholic Church was founded by Christ has no impact since the secular messiah is government. As far as they think about Jesus it is certainly not as the Messiah and the Son of God, at most a kind of nice social worker who got divinized by his later followers. This type of understanding of Jesus and his Church of course leads to exactly the type of ignorant coverage we get.
You might wonder at the arrogance of them saying what is best for the Catholic Church, but from their viewpoint it is not really arrogance. For example I might make suggestions for the Democratic Party even though I am no longer one of their members or one who believes in their prudential applications of politics. It would not make me arrogant to do so since this is a human institution and thus one anybody could make suggestions for. The fact that my suggestions would be strikingly different than the current leadership of the Democratic Party would not necessarily make them wrong. The media and others just see the Church in this light.
Still much of what they say is also intellectually dishonest even within this viewpoint. For them to go on and on about women’s ordination is rather silly since they don’t believe in the priesthood in the first place. The Church is just a kind of social club for them and so within that framework it makes sense for them to demand equality for just another job position. Theological arguments can be disregarded because there are no theological arguments.
We also should not be surprised for a similar attitude among even those of the Christian faith. The rending of Christendom has worked towards moving Christian beliefs to a smaller and smaller subset. If what was believed in the past can be dropped and the opposite embraced, then why is that also not true for the Catholic Church? They see the consistency of Catholic beliefs not as the protection of the Holy Spirit, but as a historical oddity and pure pigheadedness to not roll with the times. Protestantism has always had these tensions in it to both reject what came before and to at the same time a desire to return to the practice of an imagined early church. Christianity becomes a constantly moving target always redefining itself. The scandal of the fracturing of the Church into thousands of different bodies makes it harder to discern the truth and to believe there is one true Church. The dictatorship of relativsim is not only embraced by the secularists.
So really we should expect such unhelpful advice from these areas. Father forgive them for them do not know what they are talking about. That we get this same type of “advice” from within the Church is annoying and also to be expected. The nature of the Church is lost on the critics and those inside the Church whose vision of the Church can not be differentiated from the secularists.
The fact is during the coming weeks everybody with some agenda is going to have some advice for the Church. This is true even for faithful Catholics. We all have our hobby horses of what we want to have addressed. Some of these ideas might actually intersect with the mission of the Church to go out into the whole world and spread the good news.
In related news Elizabeth Lev writing for Zenit has some great suggestions for reporting that will be ignored.
1) Thou shalt leave your personal prejudices at the door. I have often seen Al Qaeda treated with more respect than Pope Benedict and the Roman Catholic Church. While you may disagree with the Church’s teaching on any number of things, there is no excuse to let your personal agenda define your coverage. In reporting on other world events, it is unthinkable to insert one’s personal ideas, so why is it acceptable when reporting on the Church? If all you can focus on is birth control, gay marriage and abortion and how the papacy should change its teaching, you should probably just go home. Whether you agree or disagree isn’t really the question. Your job is to understand and to report, to give background and help viewers and readers to get a sense of the bigger picture. Pope Benedict XVI has led the 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church for 8 years, drawn crowds of millions in gatherings worldwide and brought a message of hope and love to the farthest reaches of the earth. The Pope’s CV is impressive to say the least, and he deserves respect.