Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Isn’t Shoddy Research One of the “Deadly Sins of Journalism?”

On March 25, 2008, I sent the following response to the Press and Journal of Middletown, PA in response to this article: http://www.pressandjournal.com/viewPointsDetail.aspx?ID=162, about the erroneous reporting that the Vatican had come up with a "new list of deadly sins."

The “Guest Columnist,” Marlene Lang (no relation to the undersigned), would have been well-served had she at least conducted the bare minimum of research prior to jumping on the national liberal media bandwagon over the erroneous report that the Vatican had announced new “deadly sins.” By failing to do so, she unfortunately missed the import of valuable Catholic social teaching.

It’s not too late Ms. Lang! Go to the actual article at: http://blog.acton.org/uploads/penitentiary_interview.pdf, and you will learn that the Church has not proposed a new list of mortal sins. The bishop being interviewed simply explained the present day social consequences of sin. The Acton Institute recently noted correctly that most reporters, “have absolutely no interest in the larger theological or philosophical issues discussed at high levels, so in a way this is all the fruit of culpable ignorance.” The Institute also validly pointed out that as a result of such substandard reporting, “the real damage is done to the Church and her flock.” “Knowledge of Catholic social doctrine has surely suffered and people who may otherwise be interested in the Church have been driven away, all in the name of an eye-catching headline.”

For starters, Ms. Lang obviously didn’t even bother to do a basic Google search on papal infallibility as she clearly has confused “infallibility” with “impeccability.” You are not alone Ms. Lang as many who do not search for the true teachings of the Church often get this one wrong. “The Catholic Church’s teaching on papal infallibility is one which is generally misunderstood by those outside the Church. In particular, Fundamentalists and other "Bible Christians" often confuse the charism of papal "infallibility" with "impeccability." They imagine Catholics believe the pope cannot sin. Others, who avoid this elementary blunder, think the pope relies on some sort of amulet or magical incantation when an infallible definition is due.” (http://www.catholic.com/library/Papal_Infallibility.asp) Papal infallibility simply means that when the Pope or the Magisterium teach on faith or morals, the Holy Spirit will not permit them to teach error. Immutability means that one cannot sin. No one who understands the teachings of the Church believe that that Pope is incapable of committing sin.

You have underestimated and failed to give proper credit to “Joe Catholic,” and I would bet you have offended him deeply in the process too. Nevertheless, so that he is aware of the actual article which Ms. Lang apparently has never taken the few minutes to even read, here is the question and the actual answer of Bishop Gianfranco Girotti:

In your opinion, what are the “new sins”?

There are various areas today in which we adopt sinful behavior, as with individual and social rights. This is especially so in the field of bioethics where we cannot deny the existence of violations of fundamental rights of human nature – this occurs by way of
experiments and genetic modifications, whose results we cannot easily predict or control. Another area, which indeed pertains to the social spectrum, is that of drug use, which weakens our minds and reduces our intelligence. As a result, many young people are left
out of Church circles. Here’s another one: social and economic inequality, in the sense that the rich always seem to get richer, and the poor, poorer. This [phenomenon] feeds off an unsustainable form of social injustice and is related to environmental issues –which currently have much relevant interest.

Hmmm, just where does the good Bishop state on behalf of the Vatican that there is a list of new deadly sins? Can you say “sensationalism?” Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it was simply a slow news day. Clearly, Bishop Girotti states that, “there are various areas today in which we adopt sinful behavior.” Who can argue with that?

The much revered Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.” Shoddy journalism about the Catholic Church only adds to the misperception.

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