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English newspaper headlines twist the Pope's words—again

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 12, 2013

The Pope’s actual words were that “the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart.”

The headline for the story in The Independent was: “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.”

How would a responsible journalist get from those words to that headline? He wouldn’t.

The venerable London Times didn’t do much better. Today’s headline reads: “Catholic priests maybe allowed to marry amid Papal changes.” The story begins: “The Vatican has opened the door to the possibility of married priests, a move that would go against an established Church tradition.” The next paragraph provides the actual facts: Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the incoming Secretary of State, told a Venezuelan newspaper that priestly celibacy is not a matter of Church doctrine.

So where are the papal changes? Where is the open door? Nowhere. An archbishop said what every informed Catholic already knows. No policy has been changed, no discipline has been relaxed.

A piece of advice for discerning readers: Never, ever rely on English newspapers for objective—or even competent—coverage of the Catholic Church.

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  • Posted by: geoffreysmith1 - Sep. 12, 2013 6:53 PM ET USA

    "A piece of advice for discerning readers: Never, ever rely on English newspapers for objective—or even competent—coverage of the Catholic Church." Even better, never, ever rely on English newspapers for objective - or even competent - coverage of any sort of news. Surely no one has forgotten the Rupert Murdoch debacle?

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Sep. 12, 2013 4:48 PM ET USA

    And I wrote to The Independent a comment saying their headline was "rubbish" and explained that Francis never said this. That said, can it be just coincidence or bad luck that Francis has now given the world's press many openings like this? That he phrases things in a manner lending itself to repeated misinterpretations and misrepresentations by the Church's enemies in the press? For the life of me, I cannot see the wisdom in his approach to date.

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