Is the American press anti-Catholic?

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While it’s easy to paint any institution—like the press—with the broad brush strokes and to pretend the portrait accurately depicts the entire institution, The Motley Monk thinks it pretty safe to say the general impression of the U.S. public is that the national press is basically liberal in terms of its members’ political leanings and is also generally not balanced when it comes to reporting issues concerning Roman Catholic teaching.

This lack of balance is something liberals and conservatives might actually agree upon.  Liberals because they enjoy having the press report their point of view.  And conservatives because they are angry because they feel cheated because their point of view isn’t being reported.

In light of this broad brush portrait and observation, The Motley Monk was pleasantly surprised to read the ombudsman for the Washington Post, Patrick B. Pexton, taking time in an op-ed to respond directly to the question: “What would lead so many Washington Post readers during the past six months to conclude that the newspaper is anti-Catholic?”

That’s a great question, no?

Pexton’s conclusion—following a bit of the expected institutional self-defense—revealed more than bit of refreshing candor, in The Motley Monk’s opinion.

Concerning the critics’ charge that the Washington Post is anti-Catholic, Pexton wrote:

They have a point. There are deep divisions within the church that Post  reporting should accurately reflect. But sometimes The Post’s reporting and even  editorials fall short in conveying the passion with which many Catholics hold  their views, whether they be against the contraception mandate, gay marriage,  abortion or in favor of aid to the poor. It doesn’t mean that Post reporters or  editorialists have to embrace those views, but they should accurately explain  them in a ways all readers can understand. That, after all, is also part of  getting at the truth.

The Motley Monk thinks Mr. Pexton is absolutely correct.

To be a “free press,” its members will always hold personal opinions—both pro and con—about the various matters they report.  But, if the press is to remain “free” and exercise its “watchdog” function, its members must not be beholden to any particular interest or ideology that would cause any of them to distort the facts they are reporting.

A free press reports the whole and entire truth as it’s currently understood, supporting reportage with all of the relevant facts.

As an institution, perhaps the Washington Post isn’t anti-Catholic.  However, The Motley Monk wasn’t persuaded by Paxton’s institutional self-defense which included the number of Catholics and members of the Catholic hierarchy whose op-ed columns are published in the Washington Post. The number of Catholics who contribute to a newspaper, whether they are liberal or conservative, doesn’t guarantee a newspaper is “getting at the truth.”

Likewise, what guarantees that the Washington Post is “getting at the truth” isn’t that its reporters “get Catholics,” as conservative Catholics as well as the members of the hierarchy at the Archdiocese of Washington and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opined to Mr. Pexton as he was cobbling together his op-ed.

Getting at the truth requires that every Washington Post reporter—not its op-ed contributors—report the facts.  They mustn’t allow any particular bias to interfere with reporting those facts as objectively as is possible…as is expected of any press that would dare to call itself “free.”



To read Patrick Pexton’s op-ed in the Washington Post, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:

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  1. “The number of Catholics who contribute to a newspaper, whether they are liberal or conservative, doesn’t guarantee a newspaper is “getting at the truth.”

    Some of the most bitter anti-Catholic bigots in the media are those who were “raised Catholic”. Case in point: Maureen Dowd:

  2. I am not sure that the term ‘anti-Catholic’ as used by (among others) Dr. Donohue denominates a coherent concept.

    The difficulty the Washington Post faces is that they labor under two layers of humbug. One is local to the press business (the blather about objectivity) and one is found in the matrix of gliberal and leftoid politics generally (the notion that they favor and promote social comity). Then again, when the mask comes off (as it did at Newsweek under Jon Meacham), you realize that the guild layer of humbug was protecting your digestion to some degree.

  3. “if the press is to remain “free” and exercise its “watchdog” function, its members must not be beholden to any particular interest or ideology that would cause any of them to distort the facts they are reporting.”
    A problem I see here is that prejudice actually keeps writers and others from even knowing that they are giving a distorted view. It takes a vigilant personal effort not to fall in with our friends and the perceived milieu. Most would not admit to prejudice, though few of us operate without it on some level. If we are conscious of our own bent, we think it is justified. That is why we need our Mother and Teacher, the Church.

    Are blogs part of the press?

  4. Anzlyne – Good point.

    I read the Post column, and it’s really odd. It seems to blur two questions, whether the Post is anti-Catholic and whether the Post is anti-conservative-Catholic. I’m sure the the Post ombudsman spends a lot of time answering complaints from conservatives, but those two questions really are different.

    Unless the Post is acknowledging that some of what they report as liberal Catholic is really anti-Catholic. That’d be a bold realization. But it doesn’t even apply in some of the cases that the ombudsman pointed to, such as the sex abuse scandal.

  5. The Washington Compost is a mouthpiece of the Democrat Party. It has always been so, as it began in the 1830s as a Democrat Party organ (or so I was told by a lifelong Washingtonian when I worked in DC).

    The Compost will support, promote and defend the current platform and ideology of the Democrat Party and will attack, demean and look down upon those segments of society who disagree with or actively oppose the Democrat Party.

    In addition, the Compost will give very, very little coverage to those people and institutions who it favors. I can prove this.

    Remember the House Bank scandal? The USA endured decades of self-inflicted misery due to Democrat Party iron-fisted control of the House. House members were caught writing checks for money they did not have. Most of them – a vast majority – were Democrat. the Compost spiked the story. The Moonie paper put it on the front page. Rush Limbaugh was all over it as well. The House switchboard had a meltdown.
    Two years later the House voted to pass Clinton’s tax increase and the Republican takeover ensued.

    In the early 1990s, former Redskins running back John Riggins was arrested for DUI. There was a tiny blurb in the last page of the Sports section. The previous year, in the middle of May, the Compost sports section ran a huge piece on Riggins, who was long retired at the time.

    In 1998, I read a Compost Sunday magazine story that trashed the people who voted out the entrenched Democrats in 1994.

    The Compost is a piece of garbage. Its favored ideology is a failure. Its writers and most of its readers live in a Plexiglass bubble of their own making, which acts as an echo chamber. I wish that miserable rag would go out of business and its writers would be forced to obtain real work instead of being paid to write their silly, inane and stupid opinions.

  6. Surveys have shown that those who work in the media are radically out of step with the general populace on the social issues. More so than any other industry. Whether this is an institutional bias or an active attempt to advocate for their socially liberal positions, the WDC Post, NY Times and others are simply incapable of reporting on these matters. And quite unfortunately it is only on those issues – the ones that those in the media obsesses about – that the Post or Times ever reports about the Catholic Church. In the few times the Post or Times has taken an interest in some other Church news (i.e, the English Mass translation, budgets, death penalty) they use the opportunity to give privilege to general dissent or to muddle its teachings into some superficial support of the liberal line.
    An anti-Catholic bias? Perhaps not, but a self-hating Catholic perspective? Probably. If one is plagued by their conscience, but refuses to reconcile themselves less give up their selfishness, reject the party machine patronage or take up the challenge, they will generally turn to attacking it through vice, hatred and misdirection. And quite unfortunately many liberal Catholics (and ultra-conservatives too) have taken that path. Inviting heresies, building up alternative Magisteriums, imposing a faith and communion of one (the selfish self), and lashing out at the very Goodness and Light that reveals their evils. This is the story of Catholics in the media.

  7. I think you can tell when a news source is biased when there are patterns of the news source leaving out important pieces to stories specifically so that they are not presenting the big picture.

  8. I read a lot of the commentators on Pexton’s article claiming that the mainstream press is neutral and that the Church is just whining that its dirty laundry is out in the open. The problem with this conclusion is that it’s largely based on mainstream reporting which, while accurate, isn’t always truthful in the sense that it picks which facts to tell.

  9. Newspapers cater for the interests of their target readership, though few as blatantly as the Scottish newspaper that reported the sinking of the Titanic under the headline “Selkirk man feared missing at sea”

    On a more serious note, George Cadbury of the chocolate dynasty, a Quaker and a pacifist, bought the Daily News during the Boer War to challenge “the power of the press to suppress”

  10. The media in America has already convicted itself of anti-Catholicism 25 years ago (at least) in virtually every story on the issues of human life and the Pro-Life Movement. The only reason people ask any questions about it today is the horrrendous scandals of 10 years ago. For the most part, the media coverage of these scandals, condemned by many clergy as anti-Catholic, was responsible and necessary for a Church which wouldn’t cleanse itself. That the media enjoyed every aspect of this scandal is undeniable, but their anti-Catholicism is much more on display in coverage of the Terry Schiavo case, Roe v Wade, Cardinal O-Connnor, U.N. Women’s Conference and on and on and on.

  11. I take it for granted that the press in the USA is anti-Catholic.

    But to me, that’s not something to whine about. It’s just something extra to keep in mind as we try to live decent lives and run a Church. That is, if we KNOW the media are filled with our enemies, and that those eneies are eager to publicize our every sin, well, that’s all the more reason to keep our noses clean!

    It goes without saying that liberal journalists and commentators want to believe the worst of the Church, and LOVE writing about the Paul Shanleys who molest boys and the Bernard Laws who cover up their crimes. Again, that’s all the more reason to do the right thing in the first place!

  12. I savor, cause I found exactly what I used to be looking for.

    You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man.

    Have a great day. Bye

    (Normally I delete spam, but I just had to leave this here. It’s a spam message promoting a WWE pay-per view (I deleted the link). I find this amusing as a Catholic and a wrestling fan. Clearly the WWE is desperate for people to buy No Way Out.) – PZ

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