Open Season on Catholics

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There are a handful of Americans for whom the protections of political correctness or common decency still don't apply: fat people, smokers, and Catholics.

In 21st Century America, it's perfectly acceptable to relentlessly mock all three groups without fear of being labeled a bigot. This cultural double standard was on its fullest, most egregious display during the media's coverage of the Papal Conclave.

Let's first make something perfectly clear: I'm not Catholic. I have major theological and ideological disagreements with the Catholic Church, and I always have been and always will be a Protestant. Yet, watching the mainstream media trash an institution beloved by some 1.2 billion people has brought my blood to a boiling point.

Our national media got things under way by criticizing what they perceived to be the new Pontiff's failure of standing up to Argentine dictators in the 1970s, which included mentioning an unsubstantiated claim that he was complicit in the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests. Apparently, invoking unproven allegations from nearly 40 years ago passes as responsible journalism. However, the Fourth Estate's collective failure to confront the Obama Administration over its unsupervised use of drones -- even against American citizens such Anwar al-Awlaki -- makes their criticism that the new pope insufficiently challenged authority ring rather hollow.

Slate piled on with a front page article tactfully titled, "A Catholic Nightmare," in which the author (a self-identified Catholic) warns that we should be prepared for more "scandal and negligence."

When the media wasn't smearing the newly elected pope, they were offering unsolicited advice in the form of the inevitable question, "When will the Catholic Church finally reform?" Of course, by "reform," what they really mean is embrace gay marriage and abortion, two issues which the Church has been lobbied on heavily by secular progressives -- people who couldn't care less about the future of Catholicism or Christianity in general.

Case-in-point: KING5 News, the Seattle NBC affiliate, began one of their stories with this whopper: "Many Catholics in the U.S. and Europe hoped the Cardinals would pick a pope who would champion same-sex marriage and other social issues."

Unless the definition of the word "many" has changed, that's an outright lie.

On March 6, Pew released the results of a poll in which it asked Catholics to identify the most important problem in the Church today. The result? The sex abuse scandal came in first at with 34 percent; second was, "I don't know." Gay marriage and abortion both came in near the bottom, receiving 2 percent each.

In other words, gay marriage and abortion aren't issues that Catholics actually care about; instead, they are issues that secular progressives in the media tell them they should care about.

Indeed, the media's exclusive obsession with the Catholic Church is curious. Secular progressives aren't clamoring for Islam to embrace gay marriage and abortion. And while the media relentlessly calls for Catholic Church "reform," it remains mostly silent about Islam, a religion which, in its worst manifestation, oppresses and abuses women, discriminates against non-Muslims, and opposes the basic freedoms that Westerners take for granted. Where are all the calls to modernize the Islamic faith?

And why is it that nearly every story about the Catholic Church is immediately followed up with an obligatory remark about the tragic sexual abuse scandals, while anyone who expresses concern over Islamist terrorism is labeled an "Islamaphobe"? The media reminds us that Islam is a peaceful religion, but for some reason, Catholics aren't given the same benefit of the doubt. You wouldn't know it from watching news reports, but priests aren't all pedophiles.

What discussion on religion would be complete without hearing from the New York Times? In a recent piece, they quoted a 28-year-old plastics production facility supervisor, who must be a theologian in his spare time. (Otherwise, why would they bother quoting him?) He opined, "I'm not saying change everything the church stands for, but you need to evolve with the times if you want to remain a viable religion."

That opinion fits well in our amoral, post-modernist society, but it misses the entire point of religion. As Gerhard Lohfink described in his book Jesus and Community, the entire Christian Church is meant to be a contrast-society. In other words, it lives by a set of unchanging beliefs and morals, regardless of the whims of popular culture. Indeed, what is the point of claiming morals if they are subject to the court of public opinion? Morals are supposed to be timeless and nonnegotiable.

Ultimately, that's why most journalists don't understand the Catholic Church. Unlike the media, it actually has standards.

Dr. Alex B. Berezow is editor of RealClearScience and co-author of Science Left Behind. Follow him on Twitter @AlexBerezow.

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