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Beware the Secular Press

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 19, 2007

When Pope Benedict’s message for the World Day of Peace was released on December 11th, one of the first stories on it that we saw came from London’s Daily Mail. The headline was “The Pope Condemns the Climate Change Prophets of Doom”.

The article by reporter Simon Caldwell stated that Pope Benedict XVI “has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom” and “suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.”

The only trouble with Caldwell’s report is that the Pope didn’t say these things. What he said was:

It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. (#7)

And in the next paragraph, Benedict acknowledged that “the problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short.” (#8)

Benedict cautioned that “Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man” (#7). This is surely aimed at certain kinds of environmentalists, but it is a far cry from a “surprise attack” on them for “scare-mongering”. In all of his environmental statements the Pope has upheld the dignity of man while expressing deep ecological concerns and stressing the need for responsible stewardship.

Ignorance and excitement will trump accuracy every time. This is a constant problem for secularists who report religious news in order to attract more eyeballs. Sometimes it is even a problem for Catholic writers who can be too quick to interpret everything according to their own likes, dislikes, fears and desires. Fortunately, we can generally read the Pope’s words for ourselves.

I recommend that readers occasionally compare the actual text of a papal statement with its coverage by each of their habitual news sources. This serves as a very effective reality check. The only known alternative is to be consistently misinformed.

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