Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
[UPDATE: Here's an interesting analysis of the media's treatment of Pope Francis' remark regarding persons with same-sex attraction: "Who am I to judge?"
The mainstream media has devoted much time to advancing a specific narrative of Pope Francis. He thinks Catholic leaders are "obsessed" with hot button issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. He believes that capitalism has failed to help the poor. The pope did indeed say such things, but he is not the only pope to do so, and he has said much more besides, which allows us to place his remarks in context.
Nevertheless, the media drumbeat continues.
Last week, when I began to research a brewing controversy in Seattle, provoked by the departure of a Catholic school vice principal who is married to his same-sex partner, local media hinted that Pope Francis would not approve of Catholic schools enforcing employment contracts that require faculty and adminsitrators to uphold church teaching. And some anguished Catholics were quoted saying that Pope Francis should be alerted, so he could prevent the school from implementing "unfair" policies.
On Jan. 14, Bill O'Reilly looked at a fresh example of the media's now predictable coverage of the pope. O'Reilly noted that while the pope's critique of capitalism had garnered headlines across the U.S., his condemnation of abortion in his Jan. 13 "State of the World" address before Vatican diplomats generated "zero" stories.
However, the Reuters and The Los Angeles Times' reports both framed the pope's remarks on abortion as an effort to placate "conservatives" in the Church. The Times reported
The comment on abortion was one of the few instances that Francis has addressed the issue in his 10-month-old papacy. Last September, he told an interviewer that the Roman Catholic Church needed to stop hammering on social controversies such as abortion and same-sex marriage and focus more on spreading God’s love to all.
Alarm among Catholic conservatives that he was watering down the church’s message on those issues led the pope to quickly reaffirm his opposition to abortion
The truth is that media black outs and spin give American readers the impression that the pope isn't much interested in defending Catholic teaching on the inviolable dignity of human life from conception to natural death. But Francis has consistently defended this teaching, most strikingly In Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, released last November. In that document, the pope made it clear that he could not and would not change moral absolute that have anchored Christian morality since the early church. But that point drew little attention. Instead, his blueprint for evangelization in the 21st Century has been effectively reframed as a retreat from hard truths that are no longer in vogue.