The Pope Versus the Media

Given limited space, let us begin
by taking the case for media bias as proved. Also, the direction of the bias. No Catholic in his right mind (okay, I’m already being selective) could possibly imagine the Mainstream Media (MSM) to be sympathetic to Catholic interests — even when they are juxtaposed with the interests of radical Islam, as we’ve been reminded by media reporting of, for example, the pope’s Regensburg address, or the recent public conversion of Magdi Allam.
That the Catholic Church, and by natural extension her pope, is not the only target of "systemic bias" must be stated to avoid the charge of paranoia. Believing Christians of any denomination may expect to be ridiculed and insulted as a matter of course — in editorials, in news stories, even in the sports section — along with persons of no known religious affiliation who articulate political views that are not unambiguously leftwing. Jews often get it worse, but Muslims are a protected species, and the followers of various eastern religions are accepted through a dim haze of sentimental exoticism. On the other hand, communist tyrants and other monstrous ideologues of the Left are occasionally disowned, by the simple device of relabeling them as "rightwing."
This is in the main. The media are very large (for they include the mass entertainment industry), and room is sometimes found within a given "package," typically for one solitary exponent of conservative thinking, by preference an atheist libertarian over any kind of "religious nut." He will be presented, alternately, as an exhibit in a circus freak show, or as proof that the media are open to a broad range of public opinion. I might also concede that there are some rightwing swamps yet to be drained — in Fox News, or the Wall Street Journal, for instance.
It is naive to expect the media to present, fairly, what the pope has said or done — reserving the inevitable attack to editorial commentary. Readers and television viewers who are actually curious about the facts have anyway formed the habit of turning to Internet blogs and other Web sites to link raw news, and increasingly for the interpretation of that news. Indeed, the MSM, and daily newspapers especially, have been suffering a financial recession as the direct effect not merely of Internet competition, but of their own efforts to chase their customers away with a constant barrage of material offensive to their morals and intelligence alike.
Here is one sentence from this ingenious composition:
But he remains true to the Vatican II precept of complementing blind piety that prevailed in the church before the 1960s with the rationalism of the Enlightenment and thus with modernity.
This one sentence alone contains at least six very big lies that depend on constant repetition in the absence of the possibility of intellectual support. Here, for the record, are the six truths to which these lies correspond.
1. There was no such Vatican II precept.
2. The Church, from her beginnings, both implicitly and explicitly embraced reason as the interpreter of faith. "By faith alone" was a leading Protestant position against this, as it had been a standard heretical position from the earliest centuries. "Blind piety" could not possibly have been the Catholic doctrinal position "pre-Vatican II," nor was it the practical position, to anyone with any knowledge of the history.
3. Enlightenment rationalism was a deformation of the Church’s own deep rationalist traditions (manifested in scholasticism through the High Middle Ages, but far broader than that). Which is to say, Enlightenment rationalism was another attempt to detach reason from faith, and try "by reason alone" after the failure of "by faith alone" in the Wars of the Reformation. Moreover, the thinkers of the Enlightenment could not have derived the ideal of reason from any other civilizational source than the Western, Christian, and ultimately Catholic one in which they were raised.
4. The present pope has made exactly the same challenge to "secular humanists" that he has made to intelligent Muslims: to discuss the most crucial questions of God and man; of morality, cosmology, and spirituality; of epistemology and metaphysics — in light of the reason that all parties at least claim to embrace. It is the same project as that of St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Contra Gentiles. It is nothing new. There is no unusual feature in it.
5. To the Church, faith and reason are not clashing opposites, but perfect complements. They enlighten each other, they deepen each other, they explain each other. They point to the same God, and the same self-consistent, God-created universe. It has been among the projects of the Church to maintain such "both/and" propositions these last two millennia against a long succession of "either/ors."
6. To associate modernity, and especially the postmodernity to which Vatican II was largely responding, with "rationalism" alone is to say something essentially insane. The history of the last century has been characterized by irruptions of fanatic irrationalism, to the point where it could almost be defined by this. The project of postmodernity has by now left far more than 100 million corpses in its wake. Which is to say, vastly more than all the corpses from all religious wars in all previous history (including those wars of the Reformation, in which modernity was announced, and from which modern secular nationalism emerged). And all of this savagery occasioned by ideologies directly descending from explicitly anti-Christian Enlightenment ideals.
Let us pray for the pope as he continues to make just such points, here and elsewhere — in a charitable and diplomatic way.

David Warren is a Canadian journalist who writes mostly on international affairs. His Web site is


David Warren is a Canadian journalist who writes mostly on international affairs. His Web site is

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