one score, one fumble: the British hierarchy play the media game

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 13, 2010

The Pope is coming, the British media focus is zooming in on Catholicism, and reporters are putting local prelates through their paces.

It’s a familiar drill, for which any intelligent bishop should be fully prepared. The reporters will ask a few softball questions about planning for the events, and give the bishop a chance to say something nice about the overall impact of the papal visit. But sooner or later the niceties will end and the reporter will ask the question that’s really on his mind. In one form or another, it will boil down to this: When with the Church change her enduring doctrines, to bring them in line with the zeitgeist of the early 21st century?

For the reporter, this is a win-win situation. If the bishop defends a controversial Church teaching, that’s worth a headline. If he fudges, and leaves the impression that the Church teaching could change, that’s headline material as well.

Thus the Guardian asked Cardinal Keith O’Brien whether the Church will eventually follow the public-opinion polls and ordain women. The cardinal answered: No. Nicely done.

The Telegraph asked Archbishop Vincent Nichols: “will the Church one day accept the reality of gay partnerships?” The archbishop responded: “I don’t know.” Not helpful.

To be fair, the question was ambiguous. There are gay partnerships; that is a reality. But Archbishop Nichols didn’t ask for clarification. Instead he stumbled through a few sentences about Church teaching regarding sexuality, and concluded: “I’m not sure many people have ever observed it in its totality, but it doesn't mean to say it has no sense." So from his initial “don’t know,” the most prominent Catholic bishop in England has now developed his argument, to the point where he says that Church teaching is not necessarily devoid of sense. Thanks a lot.

The first pre-season game ends in a 1-1 tie. 

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  • Posted by: St.John Neumann - Sep. 27, 2010 7:34 PM ET USA

    Why is it so difficult for any Catholic to say, "In all matters pertaining to faith and morals, I believe in the Teaching Magisterium of the Church, Holy Scipture, and Tradition, as summed up and explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church."? There--is that so hard? Perhaps, a Catholic might also say, "I also believe in common sense and right reason!" The English Catholics might benefit by a reading of Richard Hooker Ecclesiastical Polity.

  • Posted by: geardoid - Sep. 15, 2010 11:05 AM ET USA

    The holocaust is a reality that the Church accepts, as also is the fall of angels from their lofty places in heaven. We accept the reality of abortion and for that very reason preach strenuously against this most evil cancer in society's midst. One is mystified how a leading cleric can miss the opportunity to once again underline the reality of evil. Possibly it is a case of bishops often losing sight of two of their three pillars: teaching and sanctifying.

  • Posted by: Defender - Sep. 15, 2010 1:55 AM ET USA

    One wonders, if a questionnaire was constructed about Church doctrine, how many of the clergy would either pass or say they don't know?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 14, 2010 7:23 AM ET USA

    A small story that is the rule and not the exception. The church leadership is not up to what is in front them. The media serves as modern day lions to the faithful. There a very few who will Preach Christ crucified and Risen in the face of lions. It is disheartening but only human. Jesus had a lot patience with our humanity. One of the very few seems to be Archbishop O'Brien. Thanks Archbishop you are a light in bewilderment.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Sep. 13, 2010 6:56 PM ET USA

    Though his stumbling statement was unplanned, the term to use for the affect is, I believe, "damning with faint praise." It's a case of "remain silent, and others may think you an idiot; open your mouth and take away all doubt." Perhaps that is too harsh an assessment; nevertheless, he did the Church no good, nor his own reputation.