Reuters "Gay marriage a threat to humanity" blows it on papal speech

By Bryan Cones| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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This is just rotten journalism. Any fair reading of yesterday's papal speech to the diplomatic corps would note the huge emphasis on the economic crisis, the Arab Spring, violence against Christians in many parts of the world, and the like. Instead, Philip Pullella's Reuters report quotes from only one passage, on the issue of family: "pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman . . . This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself." (Pullella did post a more general story, omitting any reference at all to the passage on family.)

Is the pope talking about gay marriage? Maybe, and it's fair from Benedict XVI history to presume that that is at least one concern of his--and that it is, frankly, the pope's fault that everyone listens for this from him because he and so many other bishops talk about it so (too) much.

But are there not other "threats" to families that the pope and Catholic teaching in general has spoken of before? Economic disruption, forced migration, unjust labor conditions--all these have been mentioned by this pope as threats to families. The reference is indeed so oblique that Pullella has to shift gears to New York's Archbishop Dolan on gay marriage and the new ordinariate for Anglicans, neither of which is directly connected, and the latter of which is way more complicated.

Here is the pope's entire passage about "family" (with compliments to Rocco Palmo for providing the entire text): "In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, "openness to life is a sign of openness to the future". In this context of openness to life, I note with satisfaction the recent sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union forbidding patenting processes relative to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex."

A lot there, no? He asks for "policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue." Something in there as well about not patenting human genetic material, as well as opposition against sex-selective abortion, used almost exclusively to choose males over females. It's true an extensive quote like this isn't feasible for a wire service story, but how about a qualifying sentence?

Pullella undoubtedly did not write his own headline--nor did he edit his piece--but it is utterly incorrect to say that the pope identifed "gay marriage" was a threat to the future of humanity. He did not. He said certain policies that undermined the family were threats to humanity, but identifying them is left open. There is a reason for that--the pope and the his speechwriters are not idiots--and good reporting should acknowledge it.

Reuters, of course, has to sell stories, and plenty of papers picked this one up. Too bad, because it doesn't do the pope or journalism justice.