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Unpacking Pope Francis’ statement on gay marriage

BUFFALO — Watch what you say, Papa. More so, watch how you say it. Earlier this week, Pope Francis held an impromptu press conference on a plane from Rio de Janeiro to Rome, where he answered questions from journalists, for an almost unheard-of 80 minutes. During those remarks, Francis was asked about a “gay lobby” of priests at the Vatican. In response, Francis said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … They’re our brothers.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” he continued. “It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.”

Headlines across the Internet trumpeted Francis’ words as “revolutionary,” “a change in tone,” “a major policy shift,” and more, with everyone from the Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, TIME, Fox News, NPR, USA Today and more weighing in, each with his or her own spin on the statement.

Through his office of communications, Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo responded, “The Roman Catholic Church does not define or label people, in terms of their sexual orientation. The church is open to all people and recognizes their innate dignity, as children of God. The church also believes that all sexual activity, properly and exclusively, belongs within the marriage of a man and a woman. Outside of that context, sexual relations are viewed as being objectively immoral.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 6, No. 2358 reads, in part, “[homosexual persons] must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

This catechism is not new, revolutionary, a policy shift or any other departure from Catholic doctrine. Neither was Francis’s statement. The difference is in how he said it.

There’s a song on the radio now, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert, called “Same Love.” One of the lines reads, “God loves all his childrenis somehow forgotten ... But we paraphrase a book written 3,500 years ago.”

Paraphrase. That’s the real news here. Not the church’s stance on homosexuality. Not the pope’s candid reminder of that position, but the way the media is interpreting that statement, and what it says about the way we hear and disseminate news.

The same story reads vastly differently on Fox News than it does on NPR, which says something different from USA Today, which is not the same as what is reported in the New York Times. You get the idea.

As a journalist, I try my best to write objective stories, by finding sources on all sides of the issue and keeping my own opinion out of it (this space obviously excluded). Not all outlets are so diligent and bloggers certainly aren’t.

Be careful whose reports you read. Be careful what articles you believe, which sources you hold up as gospel. Be careful, or the words that reach your ears, the opinions you form based on them, may end up dangerously twisted.


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2013-08-08 | 13:18:32
Popo Francis' recent comments were flippant, if not, irresponsible. It will take a long time to clean up the misunderstanding he has unleashed. R. Schwind