Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 2, 2006
News media treats pope's speech as political gaffe
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The news media in the West has tended to treat Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech as a political gaffe, but that comes from a misunderstanding of the office and the man, says a Canadian Conservative politician.
"The media generally see everything through a political prism and often they talk about the policies of the Catholic Church and they use political, ideology terminology," the prime minister's parliamentary secretary Jason Kenney, a practising Catholic, said in an interview.
"It's hard for the media to understand the nature of the office and the nature of the man," Kenney said.
"He's a profoundly spiritual and deeply intellectual man, who I think approaches issues assuming a basic intellectual honesty."
Kenney described the pope as speaking "from a different plane of reality" from the news media.
He said the speech was about the relationship of faith and reason and said he doubted whether most people who reacted to the speech had actually read it in context.
Instead of focusing on whether the speech in its entirety was true or not, the news media has focused on the reaction to quotes out of context and whether the pope should have anticipated it. In other words, was his speech a gaffe.
On Sept. 16, for example, The New York Times editorialized that the pope should apologize.
"A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue," the newspaper said.
"The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly.
Demand for an apology
"He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal."
Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren, a Catholic, goes much further and blames the news media, especially the BBC, for taking the pope's remarks out of context and fanning worldwide Muslim reaction.
"By turning the story back-to-front, so that what's promised in the lead - a crude attack on Islam - is quietly withdrawn much later in the text, the BBC journalists were having a little mischief," Warren wrote in a Sept. 16 column.
"The kind of mischief that is likely to end with Catholic priests and faithful butchered around the Muslim world."
"From the start, the BBC's reports said the pope would 'face criticism from Muslim leaders' - in the present tense," he wrote.
"This is a form of dishonesty that has become common in journalism today."
Warren predicted the news media would focus on Muslim rage and whether the pope had apologized yet, as if the battle were a "cockfight."