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Media response to Catholic synod unsettling

The Catholic Synod on the Family recently concluded, and there were no surprises or major changes. Only the media seems to be caught unaware by the final results, yet the media has been frustratingly unaware about Catholics for a very long time.

The BBC ran the headline "Synod sows confusion among Pope's faithful," and the article represents the common problem: The media expected radical changes and reform without evidence. For some reason, many reporters view Pope Francis as liberal or radical; they see him as revolutionary. Instead, he is just a humble Catholic servant.

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The synod was boring. It was not a unique gathering, nor did it cover major new ground. Instead, only annulments will be changed. For years, many Catholics have spoken up regarding annulments, and Pope Francis recently moved to streamline the process. Currently, there is little consistency between diocese regarding criteria and costs for annulment, and this can often cause frustration among those seeking to remain true to their faith.

Why would the media expect anything else to be changed? At no time has Pope Francis put forth any other proposals to reform core Catholic beliefs. A surprise push for dramatic reform could only cause confusion or disruption of the synod. If the acceptance of gay marriage or communion for the divorced were to be considered, then there should have been some earlier writings promoting the issue.

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Often, the reports boil down to the disappointment of the author followed by some description of the synod report as "reiterating Church teaching." It should come as no surprise when a group of Catholics state Catholic ideas.

Unfortunately, the bits and pieces from the synod showed that there would be no major revelations, yet the media still needs to sell an interesting story. Many quotes from the bishops were stripped of context, labeled as either "conservative" or "liberal," then placed adjacent to an opposite view. Fights and arguments were created out of nowhere, and verbal accounts without verification were promoted as truth.

Factions were created out of nowhere. Long-term associates of Pope Francis were transformed into opponents, and everything became a conspiracy. Even a standard homily on the Gospel story of Bartimaeus, chosen for the day years before, was transformed into an attack by the Pope.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a man I've met many times, was titled a "reformer" by reporters who were too lazy to read the hundreds of homilies and news releases that places him solidly in the camp of traditional marriage. The cardinal was said, without context, to be criticizing those who imply that there was a secret process at the synod that would allow for dramatic changes.

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Many general statements or worries were exaggerated. A tiny minority of people wanting some changes were given a lot of attention. Catholic unity on the vast majority of issues was ignored. How does the media sowing confusion help?

The synod ended exactly as I expected, but the media reports were unsettling. I am tired of waking up to see article after article by individuals who substitute their own views for what is actually happening within the Catholic Church.

Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at 17peters@cardinalmail.cua.edu.

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