[Updates at the bottom of this post.]
In what is a common occurrence that happens more than you think, the media again has done a poor job of reporting the news that emanates from the Vatican. If it came from the Vatican at all. The new one today is that the Catholic Church condemns Halloween, or some variation there of.
Various news outlets have reported that the Pope, the Catholic Church, or the Vatican have condemned, blasted, slammed, or as the Times of London said, “reserved their venom for the millions of parents who allowed their children to celebrate this “pagan” festival.”
Apparently some reporter of London’s Telegraph read on the L’Osservatore Romano newspaper based in Rome, Italy, that Halloween is anti-Christian. L’Osservatore Romano is sometimes referred as the “semi-official” or even “official” newspaper of the Vatican, ie, the Catholic Church. First of all, it has an independent editorial board that has connections with the Vatican, hence why the confusion of whether it is an official or semi-official mouthpiece of the Vatican. My personal opinion is that it is semi-official, if that.
L’Osservator Romano covers all of Pope Benedict XVI”s public activities, publishes editorials by prominent clerics and laypeople, and runs official documents from the Vatican. The fact that it publishes editorials by prominent clerics does not mean that it is official, standing policy of the Vatican. Only the Vatican via it’s official documents can do this. Hence the confusion when editorials are run that can be confusing to most non-Catholics and even Catholics themselves. Even the secular website Wikipedia entry about L’Osservatore Romano says these mistakes often happen:
A common error for journalists and theologians is to interpret the texts of L’Osservatore Romano as if they were of official value for the Magisterium. In fact, they cannot have such a value, except if a high-ranking bishop is writing a more solemn text, and not a mere theological opinion. Otherwise, L’Osservatore does not have the ability to write or approve encyclicals and papal allocutions.
For instance, a 2008 article expressed the wish that the debate on brain death be re-opened because of new developments in the medical world. An official spokesman said that the article presented a personal opinion of the author and “did not reflect a change in the Catholic Church’s position”
More importantly the article that reported the Vatican condemning Halloween in the L’Osservatore Romano quoted a liturgical expert by the name of Joan Maria Canals, who is actually Father Joan Maria Canals, CMF a liturgy official with the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. As Jack Smith of The Catholic Key Blog reports:
Now there is a fellow named Fr. Joan Maria Canals, CMF, a liturgy official with the Spanish Bishops’ Conference who has been pushing the idea that as Spain appropriates this U.S. holiday it ought to do so in a life affirming way as opposed to celebrating the occult and death. Catholic News Agency wrote about that effort and similar efforts in France and Chile. I expect L’Osservatore wrote a similar report. I’m certain the Pope didn’t comment in the article. Unfortunately, L’Osservatore does not archive their articles, so the first sensational or misrepresentative press piece about any article in L’Osservatore becomes the source – no other source being available.
So there you have it. A quote from a priest in Spain reported in an Italian newspaper read by an Englishman who then reported it as fact that the Vatican condemns Halloween.
For the complete analysis of the misreporting and how it occurred by Jack Smith of The Catholic Key Blog, click here.
For the Wikipedia entry for L’Osservatore Romano click here.
For the latest article on Halloween by The American Catholic titled, Moving Halloween to Saturday: Treat or Trick? by Elaine Krewer, click here.
Update I: Doug Stanglin of the USA Today is an excellent example of a lazy journalist. Instead of doing his own research, he regurgitates information from a London tabloid and posts it as valid journalism. He’s nothing more than a hack. For Doug Stanglin’s hack piece of journalism click here.