Is the Press Wrong About the New Pope?

Pope Francis I has been full of surprises. But even more startling has been the news media’s incredible inaccuracy as they embrace the Pontiff as a liberal, an evangelical, a renegade and one of their own.

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The announcement of Pope Francis as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” came as small surprise to anyone watching events in the Catholic Church over the past year, writes Politico’s Candida Moss. “This pontiff is a media darling. His charismatic and photo-op friendly ministry has won the hearts and minds of both the Catholic faithful and, clearly, the global press. Time’s editors couldn’t be more correct when they declare that Pope Francis has changed the “tone and perception” of the Catholic Church.

“But do they really understand him?”

2Moving among the poor in Brazil. (Photo courtesy of Agência Brasil,)

“Interestingly, on Nov. 20, when Time initially named Francis as a contender for the award, the website noted that he was nominated for his ‘rejection of church dogma.’ It was a strange claim, given that Pope

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Francis has yet to jettison a single church teaching. It was only after some pushback from the theological 'twitterverse' that Time changed the description to read “rejection of luxury.” The revised post now notes, “An earlier version of this post suggested that Pope Francis rejected some church dogma. He does not.”

“Why is there so much bad reporting about the Vatican?” asks Lawler. “First, Pope Francis has become enormously popular, and drawn the attention of the world’s media. There’s more coverage of Vatican affairs than in the past. Since the coverage is nearly always inaccurate, more coverage means more inaccuracy.

“Second, the mass media still don’t know exactly what to make of this new Pontiff. Pope Benedict XVI was a known quantity; he had been in the public spotlight for years. He was known as a staunch defender of Catholic orthodoxy, and so – even when reporters realized that he had been badly mischaracterized as a stern martinet – no one expected him to make significant changes in Church teaching. In the case of Pope Francis, however, reporters don’t know what to expect.

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Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
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