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Overreacting to what the Pope doesn't say: a case study

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 15, 2014

Today Pope Francis did not denounce baseball's designated-hitter rule. 

This is unfortunate, in my opinion, because the DH rule is a violation of natural law. But Pope Francis-- like Pope Benedict XVI, and in fact like every other Pontiff in history-- has never said a word on the topic.

Still, in light of last week's media-generated brouhaha about whether dogs go to heaven, I'm wondering what we could expect if some careless reporter (from a London tabloid, probably) claimed that the Pope had dropped a hint about the DH rule. 

On one extreme, I suppose, radicals would applaud, saying that since the Pope had not explicity denounced the rule, he was clearly supporting it, and scolding those reactionaries who think the rule should be abolished.

On the other extreme, the Pope's bitter critics would wail that he had caused even more confusion. They would point out that there was never this sort of uncertainty about the Church's position on the DH rule when Pope Benedict was in charge. 

A week or two later, three things would happen:

1- Responsible media outlets that had carried stories about the Pope's alleged statement would very quietly issue corrections.

2- Less responsible media outlets would continue picking up the original, inaccurate story, because it would still strike the fancy of sloppy editors.

3- People who want to feel alienated from the Pope would feel even more alienated, because you can never trust him to be clear in the statements that he doesn't make. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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