Action Alert!

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

By Diogenes (articles - email) | 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. 

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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