When it comes to religion and politics, journalists now have a reputation for abusing both. Far, far too often, they push misleading stories they know are false to sell papers and to purposefully distort the truth. The Catholic Church, as an old and widespread organization, is a favorite target, and the vast majority of attacks on the Church are based on lies or fueled in response to the lies.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press and other publications ran with the shocking headline “Pope Endorses Same-Sex Civil Unions” that is derived from this supposed quote: “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.” If this was a real quote from Pope Francis, then there would probably be a lot of problems. However, it was not, and it just shows that the Catholic Church will constantly be misrepresented in the press.
How did the AP get away with this lie? Fact-checking websites like Snopes would have exposed the problem if they did basic research but instead merely reprinted the story. It is obvious that the Pope was speaking in Spanish, so any English quote should have been suspect. Everyone should have looked deeper, but no one did. In the original Spanish, the Pope says, “Lo que tenemos que hacer es una ley de convivencia civil, tienen derecho a estar cubiertos legalmente.”
Although one Archbishop has come out to say that “convivencia civil” (civil cohabitation) is the same as “unión civil” (“civil unions”), the words are very distinct and have very different policies connected to them. In many South American countries, there are laws that actively restrict basic living arrangements for many groups besides married couples, and this is not related to marriage or “unions.”
It is obvious from the Spanish that the Pope was discussing the parent/child relationship when he says, “No se puede echar de la familia a nadie, ni hacer la vida imposible por eso.” The English translation sent around reads: “Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.”
Thrown out of what? In English, it isn’t clear, but in Spanish he is referring to la familia (the family), i.e. parents throwing children out of their families or the law forcing the parents to be separated from children. How could such a statement that everyone would agree to, that children deserve legal protections, be so distorted?
The Catholic Church speaks against this corruption in the Catechism’s statements on the Eighth Commandment: “By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals.”
Yet, our media fails this one central task and everyone looks the other way. Too many in today’s society on both sides of the spectrum are willing to embrace obvious lies because it fits their agenda. Too many don’t realize that the only agenda they are actually serving is one of evil.
Jeffrey Peters, a graduate of Catholic University with a doctorate, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at email@example.com.