That’s not my Church they’re portraying

That’s not my Church they’re portraying

Rod Dreher sends along this reflection on how the secular press portrays the Church:

Just ran across this quote from E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, commenting on the press coverage of John Paul’s 1993 visit to America:

“I confess to having trouble recognizing the Church I’ve belonged to all my life in a lot of this coverage. The difficulty with the almost singe-minded focus on sexuality is that it leaves one clueless as to why so many people continue to belong to the Church. It may also reflect a fairly common tendency to use sexual issues ... to discredit everything the churches (not just the Catholic Church) might have to say to the world.”

That’s particularly apt today as most of the media winds up its analysis of the Pope’s selection of new cardinals. The universal refrain is that the Pope has filled the College of Cardinals with clones of himself, all as doctrinally orthodox and of the same theological as he is. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

For example, take Cardinal-designate Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews-Edinburgh, Scotland. He’s said some pretty unconventional things regarding priestly celibacy: “I have no problems with celibacy withering away. There is no great theological argument against celibacy ending, nor any theological problem with it ending.” That’s about as different on that subject as you can get from John Paul II’s views.

If anyone thinks the next conclave’s results are pre-determined, they’re in for a big surprise. Of course, you can understand why they might think so based on the way they view everything as political. In the US, if President Bush appointed all the members of the US Senate, then of course they would pass all his legislation. But the Church is not a political institution and the College of Cardinals is not a political body, not in that sense anyway. (Except insofar as every gathering of people is political.) It just doesn’t work the way most reporters think it should.

And that’s why Dionne’s quote is apt. Most reporters think in terms of issues—controversial matters in which there are diverse viewpoints on how to deal with them—because that’s how politics works. Politicians espouse their positions on issues and voters line up behind them based on that. And what is the biggest “issue” for the Church, in their eyes? Sexuality, of course. And so everything is cast in the light sexuality, which is why celibacy, abortion, and contraception are always the hot-button topics they bring up. But that’s not my Church they’re portraying.

It also should make us stop and wonder in what ways their portrayal of other institutions and people might be flawed.