The headlines tell the story:
- Italy: Cardinals to Ponder Response by Church to Sexual Abuse Cases (New York Times)
- Pope summons cardinals over abuse (AFP)
- Cardinals to address sex abuse (UPI)
- Pope summons cardinals to discuss sex scandal and other problems (Canadian Press)
- Prelates to discuss response to sex abuse scandal (Business Week)
- Pope to Hold Sex-Abuse Summit (Wall Street Journal)
- Pope calls meeting of cardinals on sex abuse (Washington Post)
- Pope calls cardinals to Rome for sex-abuse summit (Belfast Telegraph)
- Pope summons cardinals for meet on sex abuse (CathNews India)
- Pope summons cardinals for abuse talks (Daily Nation)
We could continue, but you get the idea. In one screaming headline after another, the world’s major media outlets have announced that Pope Benedict has called the cardinals to Rome to talk about sexual abuse.
But that’s not what happened.
Yes, the Pope summoned the cardinals to Rome. And Yes, the sex-abuse scandal is on the agenda. But it isn’t the top item on the agenda, nor the second.
There are five items on the agenda for discussion at the November 19 consistory: two major topics, three lesser ones. The sex-abuse scandal is one of the lesser ones. Yet if you read the headlines, you would think that the scandal was the only topic for discussion. (Give Canadian Press partial credit, at least, for mentioning “other problems.”) When it comes time to report on the Catholic Church, the secular media are primed and ready to report about sexual abuse, and nothing else.
You say that five Anglican bishops are entering the Church of Rome? You say that 50 people were slaughtered in a Catholic church in Baghdad? Great. Those might be stories for the back pages. For the headline, what do you have new on sexual abuse?
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