Misquoting the Pope

They say a rumor can travel around the world while truth is still pulling its boots on.

  • In 2006, media reports suggested that Pope Benedict, in referencing the statement of a 14th century Byzantine emperor, had insulted Mohammad in a speech on faith and reason. Muslim protests and violence followed.
  • In 2010, news reports said that Pope Benedict had loosened the Church’s teachings against contraception in an interview.
  • Last May, the media indicated that Pope Francis had preached in a homily that atheists would go to heaven by merely doing good.
  • This week, reports made it seem that Pope Francis was diverging with the Church’s teaching on the wrongness of homosexual acts because of one reply in an interview with reporters on his flight returning from World Youth Day in Brazil.

In each of these cases, the initial headlines and news reports took the popes’ words out of their larger contexts and trumpeted them with a significance which they never had. Many reporters know little about religion and misunderstand the Catholic news stories they cover. Some reporters are hostile toward Catholicism and tend to report on the Church as if it were changing to accord with their views. The lesson here is that initial media coverage about a Pope saying something controversial can be relied upon to be unreliable. Do not be unsettled when you hear such “news reports.” Just wait a few days for the neglected facts and the unremarkable full story to catch up.

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