The Message the Media Missed: Interviews with Pilgrims to Denver

The following interviews were conducted on a bus returning from World Youth Day in Denver. Although exhilarated by their experience, the participants were unanimously disgusted with the media’s emphasis on dissent and controversy at the expense of the Pope’s message and the true story of the genuine love which the Pope and the youth of the world shared in Denver. They welcomed the chance to speak their minds in defense of their Church and their Pope.

Terrie Scott, 29, of California:

I came to see the Pope at World Youth Day to get strength. I wanted to be with people who were on fire with their Catholicism. I’ve been praying and praying for this, and for the conversion of the Church. And God brought me here because there’d be no other way that I would have been able to make it.

What did you see that convinced you that the Church needed prayer for conversion?

I’ve been in music ministry, and I see it in the people that we’re trying to reach; I see it in the prayer groups that we have — they don’t exactly know how to pray, they’re kind of afraid to. I see it when I mention “pro- life” and they say, “What? What do you mean, What do you mean?” And then they confront me because they’re pro-choice.

This is in parishes?

Yes, then there’s a big movement called “Catholics for Choice.” They’re out in my area. You can’t be Catholic for choice — you just can’t. It’s ridiculous. My sister lives in Redondo Beach; she’s at the point where she wants to go to a non-denominational church because of the frustration she faces.

What do you think of the way the media deals with Catholics?

It’s discouraged a lot of people. On Channel 7 in Los Angeles we had a whole week of segments during the news on priests who were abusing children — a whole week of it. That embedded in everyone’s head that the news media is not on our side.

What did you think of the press coverage of the Pope’s visit?

Because I came here to be renewed and strengthened, I made it a point not to listen to the news. I just wanted to hear God’s Word and be strengthened. I didn’t want to listen to them, so I can’t really answer that fairly. I’ll hear them enough when I go home.

What do you think about dissent in the Catholic Church?

That’s a really big problem. Where I come from, there are a lot of people who disagree with the Pope. I’m afraid the Church is going to split. I think it would have to. It just seems like there’s two totally different kinds of people here.

As a woman yourself, what is your opinion of inclusive language, female priesthood, abortion, and birth control questions?

I believe that we’re supposed to follow what the Pope says. Women’s ordination is wrong, abortion is wrong. All these things are not from God, and if they’re not from God they’re from someone else. Satan does try to enter the Church to split us up, of course. Or to destroy us.

As a woman do you think you are at all oppressed by the Church?

No, not at all. At first when I started learning the Bible, I was saying things like, “What?” But when you really study it, you start seeing it is true, that it is right. It’s only the world and ego that makes you say, “What?”

In other words, it is a problem of belief? Not believing in the Tradition and the Word of God?

Yes, it’s vanity. You’re making yourself your own God because you’re saying “I want this, I want to be up there, I want to do this!” But that’s not what it’s about; it’s about worship of God. It’s a very deep and intense experience to keep our faith alive. I’ve been in non-denominational churches. I’ve been involved in so many things, and I’ve really been called back to the Catholic Church in a big way, and this papal visit clinches the whole thing.

How did you experience that being called back to the Church?

I first experienced it by going to the Southern California Charismatic Renewal Conference when I had been away from the Church for so long. It was so beautiful. Our religion is just so intense, more intense than anything else. It’s true that when much is given to you much is required. It’s very true.

Leo Patalinghug, 23, pre-theolgate seminarian from the Archdiocese of Baltimore:

Personally, I feel rather disgusted sometimes with the way the media handles issues of religious faith. I think Pope John Paul said it best when he said the problems that we have as a church may not necessarily be the fault of the Church. It could be the corruption of our American society, specifically, pedophilia and things like that. I do believe that part of the criticism the Church faces comes simply because we shine a light on the darkness of this present world. For 2,000 years we have been producing saints who have done things that no other religion, or no other group can say that they’ve done for the betterment of this world. A shining example is Mother Teresa. We are criticized, but at the same time we aren’t acknowledged for the wonderful things this Catholic Church has done. And we’ve been doing it for 2,000 years, ever since Christ commissioned the Church to his Apostles. I think there are two things we should always remember: There is a God, and it ain’t you.

Judene Indovina, 22, a senior at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, with a major in education and a minor in theology:

The other night while at World Youth Day, I was watching one of the major television station’s commentaries on the whole event. I was getting very angry because they started talking about married priests. They had a picture of all these bishops coming in. There were many holy men within that picture, and there were many beautiful things that were being shown, but the announcer’s comment was, “Oh, look at all these men coming in!” and how the “Church has had this masculine system for so long, and some Catholics are against this.” I was very angry because this happens all the time. Something will happen in my religion and it will be newsworthy, the press will pick up on it, but they will not report the story — in this case, that the Pope was in Denver meeting with the youth to help them. What other world leader does that? What other world leader reaches out to the young people in this unique fashion? This is an amazing story which they could have developed in a lot of ways, but instead they decided — and it happened over and over again with all the major news sources — they decided not to report the story, they would report their own bias, which was that they think the Catholic Church should have women priests. Now I was very offended because this is my religion. In a burst of emotion, I blurted out, “Why don’t they just stay out of our religion?”

What other religion does the press meddle with in the way it meddles in the Catholic faith? They pick on the things that are doctrines in our faith. They have no right to do that. It’s our faith, and they cannot just say, “Well, the Catholic faith is wrong in this” because, number one, they are not theologians — do they really know the theological reasons why we have male priests? They’re not historians, either. They’re journalists. They should report the story. If they were theologians, or historians, then maybe it might be reasonable for them to discuss this, but they’re not. They’re just choosing something that they have a problem with, and that they haven’t studied. It’s highly unprofessional.

As a woman what do you think about the so-called women’s issues in the Church — inclusive language, birth control, abortion — all these things that the media claims are supposed to be women’s issues? Do you ever feel that your side of the story as a woman is covered?

Well [laughs], no, it’s never covered! Number one, with abortion. It makes me very mad, because in any other issue which involves medicine — war, for example — the media are so anxious to show all the gore, the “whole story.” As a woman, I see over and over again that they do not show the true woman’s side of the story. They only show the dissenter’s view, which is: “Oh, it’s a woman’s choice! The Catholic Church should stay out of a woman’s body, because it’s her body and that’s going beyond the realm of faith and morals….” But there’s another side to the story — the true side — and that’s what an abortion is. How often do you hear the press actually explain to the general public what an abortion is, what it does? You never see a picture of an aborted fetus in their magazines, yet they’re so anxious to show all kinds of abused children and war victims. So right there they’re not showing the whole picture. The Church has adequate reasons for why it says, “No, you mustn’t do this.”

The press is missing the most fundamental point — what is it? And if you know what an abortion does, what it does to the child, and also to the woman, it’s very logical: an abortion is the killing of a child. It’s horrible. Science knows what it’s doing and medical people know exactly what they’re doing, and it’s the big lie to say it’s just a piece of tissue because it isn’t. The anatomy of a child at ten weeks is amazing —the fingertips, the heartbeat, the brain is in place, the eyes, it’s a child! To say that it only becomes a child after birth is ludicrous because we’ve seen many children who were prematurely born at four months and survive. They’re fully human, and even if we didn’t know for sure, we can’t take that risk. We can’t say, “Um, well maybe it isn’t, so I’m going to kill it.”

How about inclusive language?

[Groans] No, I don’t agree with inclusive language. I get very mad when I hear inclusive language. I treasure my Catholic culture. The Church is most honorable for the truth that it teaches in faith and morals. And just from the point of culture, it is wrong to take, for instance, the Old Testament and say, “We have to change all the parts that say ‘sons of God’ or ‘sons of Adam’ and change that into ‘sons and daughters.'” Well, just from a cultural perspective it’s wrong to do that because that was a culture where the males played the primary role in the Church. To do that is like trying to rewrite a history book, which the Bible also is. Changes like that are very upsetting because they rob us of our historical background.

The changes also deny the complementary role of men and women. Again, the press does not understand the theology behind traditional language, and so they misrepresent the Catholic Church. It’s bad journalism. These are pressing issues the media don’t know anything about. Instead of creating healing and unity — which they have a great responsibility to do — they’re causing divisions in the Church. It is out of their jurisdiction.

How about morality? The attitude you find in the media that young people are simply not going to accept the Pope’s teaching on morality. You’re studying to be an educator. There is an attitude that young people simply cannot be chaste, that we have to give out condoms, and that sort of thing. What do you think?

That’s a very big issue, but I’ll try to answer it as succinctly as I can. I can see that the press is trying to demonstrate that young people do not agree with the Pope: “they love him, he’s a nice guy, but, oh well, they’re more mature than he is.” Well, the Church has been around for a long time, and we’ve had some of the greatest minds that have ever hit this earth, such as Augustine, who is recognized by all faiths as a great thinker. Our theology is very rich and very solid.

Where did these morals come from? Well, they didn’t come from the Church; the Church is only the preserver of what God has given us, and if people have a problem with the Church’s morals, then they have a problem with God Himself, because He gave it to us. Morality is something that makes us healthy, and when we follow God’s laws it makes us fully human, so we can live a more normal life and a happy life. Immorality destroys us.

I have found in my own dealings with youth that there is a hunger there, there is a longing to know the truth, and when they’re fed compromises it frustrates them. I think the young people love John Paul II not so much be-cause he’s cuddly and he’s Polish, but because he feeds them the truth. He gives them the truth and it speaks loud and clear and sounds in their hearts; it’s finally what somebody should have been telling them all along. This is what I’ve witnessed on the World Youth Day. The young people rejoice because the Pope told them the truth straightforwardly, he didn’t mince words. He spoke the truth. In fact, I saw many young people rejoicing whenever the Pope was so firm and strong with Clinton, because they don’t buy what Clinton is selling. The Pope, who is a world leader as well, is not intimidated at all by this president. When I heard the Pope discoursing with Clinton, the young people around me were cheering the Pope — and they were cheering because of his words, because of the truth he was speaking. This notion that the Pope is real cuddly and approachable, well, why is that? Because he’s speaking the truth and the young people know it. Young people can live moral lives and want to live moral lives, and the Catholic Church is the Church that presents the complete understanding of morality, the most complete that can be found on this earth. As a young person myself, I thank God for a Pope who makes things so clear in this day of so much confusion.

Brother Terry Messer, 37, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Bronx, New York:

The trip to Denver was a great experience. The people in Denver were friendly, and very accommodating, those who put us up, and even the people on the city buses going to and fro on their normal routine were very receptive and had a chance to hear from the pilgrims why they were there. But one thing I did find very upsetting. As everything was well planned for the various languages, every particular language had its translator, from English to French, Italian, German, Portuguese. But the English version which didn’t need to be translated, could have been just a straight shot with a decent commentary.

On the Saturday night of the vigil with the Pope, the AM radio station which was supposed to carry it chose to broadcast a baseball game up until 9:30 in the evening, which was more than halfway through the Pope’s program. They could have planned this far enough in advance if they were the official English broadcast for the people of Denver who had no television — there are still people who have no television — or travelling in their car — they were gypped. When the station finally did broadcast it, the people were really ripped off by the commentator, who had no love for the Church and was very anti-Catholic. He said some things that were untrue, he distorted the Pope’s message, he turned the Pope’s message upside down and said, “Well, there is no objective morality.” Just what this Pope came to preach against! It just shows you how much of a need there was for the Pope to be here, if this man could take it on his own to say these things. He called the Pope an ant, “he’s not a real hero, he’s just an ant,” and many other things. I’m sure there will be people complaining about this particular AM radio station, but it was upsetting that all these other people were in great joy and enthusiasm — millions and millions and millions of people were just elated to have the Pope in Denver — and here’s this one little commentator standing on a soapbox doing this. It’s unfortunate for the people of Denver who had to put up with it.

By

John Mallon is the director of public relations for Human Life International and a contributing editor for Inside the Vatican magazine. Visit his Web site at http://johnmallon.net.

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