You may have heard of the controversy regarding New York Times "religion" reporter Laurie Goodstein with regards to her coverage of the Catholic Church. It got so bad that Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York had to step in and call out the biased reporting.
Now it's the turn of Associated Press reporter Nicole Winfield. I generally try to ignore these things, because it can be taken for granted that the secular press is not going to give favorable coverage to the Catholic Church. But there does come a time to speak out.
The latest headline by Winfield is: "Pope urges respect for embryos". Seriously? Does she think she's writing for the Onion? How does "vigil for all nascent human life" become "respect for embryos"?
I think the best way to illustrate this is to list some recent headlines by this AP writer.
- Pope defends family as Spanish gays hold 'kiss-in'
- Pope blasts Spain's "aggressive" anti-church ways
- Pope says condoms may reduce infection
- Vatican shifts on condom use
- Vatican explains shift in stance on condoms
This has not gone unnoticed by Pope Benedict XVI. Within the new book "Light of theWorld" – which the media has tried to turn into a new Church controversy – there is a very relevant exchange between the Pope and the interviewer Peter Seewald.
Peter Seewald: In a world that has become relativistic, a new paganism has gained more and more dominion over people’s thoughts and actions. It has long since become clear not only that there is a blank space, a vacuum, alongside the Church, but also that something Dictatorship of Relativism like an anti-church has been established. The Pope in Rome, one German newspaper wrote, should be condemned for the sole reason that by his positions he has “transgressed against the religion” that today “is valid in this country”, namely, the “civil religion”. Has a new Kulturkampf started here, as Marcello Pera has analyzed it? The former president of the Italian Senate speaks about a “large-scale battle of secularism against Christianity”.
Pope Benedict: A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone. These are then announced in terms of so-called “negative tolerance”. For instance, when people say that for the sake of negative tolerance [i.e. “not offending anyone”] there must be no crucifix in public buildings. With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance, for it means, after all, that religion, that the Christian faith is no longer allowed to express itself visibly.
When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity and that, instead, an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom—for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation.
In reality, however, this development increasingly leads to an intolerant claim of a new religion, which pretends to be generally valid because it is reasonable, indeed, because it is reason itself, which knows all and, therefore, defines the frame of reference that is now supposed to apply to everyone.
In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason— so-called Western reason—claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the “new religion” as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.
The aggressiveness with which this new religion appears was described by the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel as a “crusade of the atheists”. It is a crusade that mocks Christianity as the “God delusion” and classifies religion as a curse that is also to blame for all wars. You yourself have already spoken about a “subtle or even not so subtle aggression against the Church”. Even without a totalitarian regime, you say that there is pressure today to think the way everybody thinks, that attacks against the Church show “how this conformity can really be a genuine dictatorship”. Harsh words.
But the reality is in fact such that certain forms of behavior and thinking are being presented as the only reasonable ones and, therefore, as the only appropriately human ones. Christianity finds itself exposed now to an intolerant pressure that at first ridicules it—as belonging to a perverse, false way of thinking—and then tries to deprive it of breathing space in the name of an ostensible rationality.