A regrettable error, an over-the-top response

A regrettable error, an over-the-top response

The week after Christmas, Catholic World News* ran an article about an editorial in L’Osservatore that we originally translated as saying the Vatican was criticizing Israel for refusing to send aid to Sri Lanka after the tsunami, when in reality it was the exact opposite; Sri Lanka had refused an offer of Israeli aid. Immediately after we realized our mistake, we published a retraction and apology along with the corrected story.

However, a number of other news outlets had already run with our original, wrong story (rather than checking L’Osservatore Romano themselves) and thus the error was compounded. The reaction has been interesting. Some people who used our article without attribution (and are in the habit of doing so) got egg on their faces and criticized us for it. Other people, who already have an axe to grind against CWN, cited it as an example of unprofessionalism and a reason why we should be ignored as a journalistic enterprise. (See, because they never make mistakes.)

Then there are the kooks, like Elizabeth Behrman, “chairwoman” of the physics department at Wichita State University, who wrote an op-ed published in today’s Wichita Eagle in which she accuses CWN of intentionally fomenting hatred for Israel because of an anti-Semitic ideology.

So why had CWN reported the story backward? It could be that CWN had assigned someone to translate this story whose Italian was good enough to get most of the words but bad enough to have missed the entire point of the story. Alas, far more probable is that the responsible person at CWN felt that reporting the facts would obscure a larger “truth”: that Jews in general, and Israelis in particular, are essentially wicked people.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli