Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Why are reporters so consistently wrong about Catholicism?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 01, 2013

Why is it that…

  • If a political reporter for a major American newspaper improperly describes a senator’s statement on immigration, he’ll be judged incompetent and might lose his job.
  • If a sports reporter doesn’t know where the shortstop is placed defensively on a baseball diamond, he’ll be judged incompetent and might lose his job.
  • If a reporter for the Style section doesn’t keep careful track of all the marriages and divorces among Hollywood stars, he’ll be judged incompetent and might lose his job.
  • BUT if a reporter covering religious events completely misinterprets the Pope’s comments on homosexuality, his editors won’t reprimand him?

As I see it, there are 3 possible explanations for this phenomenon:

  1. Reporters and editors don’t know enough about religious faith to distinguish between a shift in tone and a change in dogma.
  2. Reporters and editors don’t care enough about religious faith to bother making the distinction.
  3. Reporters and editors know what they’re doing, and they’re deliberately trying to slant their stories to undermine Church teaching.

Since I generally shun conspiracy theories, I personally lean toward options #1 and #2. But if the problem is the result of ignorance and/or indifference, wouldn’t you think that journalists would eventually become embarrassed about their own stories, as their errors were pointed out to them? Maybe not. Maybe mainstream journalists are so thoroughly insulated from religious believers, they don’t even notice the criticisms.

Come to think of it, I’m going with explanation #2: journalists just can’t be bothered to learn what the Church actually teaches, before or after they report on it.

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 See full bio.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: dmva9806 - Jan. 10, 2018 11:15 AM ET USA

    Re Pope Francis' popularity with Jesuit leadership: not so surprising, considering his strong tendency to "rounding the corners" of Church teaching and canon law, to put it mildly.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 03, 2013 3:43 PM ET USA

    I have to disagree with the premise, Phil. Most reporters, even those assigned to beats such as politics, are generalists and make LOTS of mistakes, no matter what they write about. Ask any scientist or businessman or academic or even politician who gets covered how often he is misquoted or how often a reporter simply gets the story wrong. It happens all the time, and they hate it as much as churchmen do. I speak as one who made a living as a newsman all my working life.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 02, 2013 12:06 PM ET USA

    And also behind door #3 is the PRIZE.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 02, 2013 10:56 AM ET USA

    Yo, jg, you're right, and a wise, precise scientific axiom--even a blind acorn finds a squirrel once in awhile--proves it. One would expect that a careless reporter would stumble on the truth occasionally, but since that hasn't happened in, oh, 500 years or so, the prie is behind door #3.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Aug. 01, 2013 5:19 PM ET USA

    I opt for #3. No need for a conspiracy theory here, though; it is just the purblind hatred that comes packaged with the modern liberal Weltanschauung. The spiritual father of liberalism, Voltaire, knew the real enemy of his views was religion, and he repeated often the shibboleth écrasez l'infâme, aimed at Christianity especially. His spiritual progeny, conceived in modern universities, dominate the press today and share his prejudice. Twisting a pope's words to make him endorse sin is fair play