From his Whispers in the Loggia blog:
Having known a newsroom since my youngest days, I know all too well that few stories get a scribe's heart beating quicker than turning up the Klieg lights on a high-flier whose deeds don't match.up with their words. (This is something which, painfully, the church has experienced in unprecedented ways in recent years.) Even though one would be challenged to find a hotter spotlight than the papacy, it'd be an error to say that John Paul was Teflon, because there was little that could be thrown at him -- he got the marks he did for simply living the message, his message: He said "be not afraid," and he wasn't. He preached peace, and he lived it. He didn't just teach mercy -- he gave it, even under the most humanly challenging of circumstances.
At its best and fairest -- which it is more than it usually gets credit for -- the press doesn't demonize or hunt down at will; it simply holds public actors responsible for the standards they set for themselves. This shouldn't be a concept foreign to the life of the church. We even have our own term for it: "faithful witness." The editorial boards might voice gripes about some aspects of church teaching on the occasional slow news day, but in the face of Papa Wojtyla's testimony of faith and the end of its earthly chronicle, even on those same opinion pages no doctrinal qualms could dilute an overarching sense of respect, appreciation and admiration, whether from people of this faith, those of other faiths, and even those of no faith.
Moral of the story: the credibility of an exemplary witness is not limited to this flock alone. Talk of policies, documents, spats and speculation will come and go, but in the modern Areopagus the story of this church -- both in history and in the daily papers -- is written with the ink of its sons and daughters, whose fidelity becomes (even in these oft-underrated times) a contagious light and leaven in the world for people of good will, or whose glaring inconsistencies become the perilous obstacle to faith.
Read the whole thing. I agree with Rocco that the mainstream news coverage of Pope John Paul II around the time of his death was deserved, and wonderful. However, I see it as miraculous. I remember how often previously he was painted as a right-wing reactionary, a scold, a man bent on imposing his authoritarian views on the Church. So---while it is true that in death he finally got the positive coverage he deserved, in his life he was often portrayed in a negative, moralistic light. Same with the new pope, who is surprising many that he doesn't live up to his nasty reputation as a legalistic, harsh dictator.
Even righteous living inside and out does not spare Christians from being lied about and portrayed unfairly, and John Paul II was no exception, unfortunately.
I do see signs of improvement, at least here in Canada and lots of that has to do with the willingness of faithful Catholics like Fr. Tom Rosica
, who organized World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. He built bridged with members of the mainstream media and has consequently become one of the people in their digital equivalent of the Rolodex. Thus he was one of the on air commentators during the CBC's wonderful coverage of the Pope's funeral. It used to be that the one of the few contacts in the Rolodex was an ex-nuns with an anti-Catholic agenda. (And, interestingly, the first post on the CBC's web upon the pope's death was an interview with said ex-nun about how awful he had been.)
Labels: Fr. Tom Rosica, news media, Pope John Paul II, Rocco Palmo