I’ve previously written about how Pope Francis had single-handedly destroyed Catholicism, and now it’s happened AGAIN.
I’m sure you’ve heard about Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si’, in which the Holy Father commands that every Catholic, upon pain of excommunication, MUST believe that climate change/global warming is a scientific reality, caused entirely by Catholics, and that only the Democrats can save us from ourselves.
Except that he didn’t, despite what most non-Catholic news sources would have you believe.
You would think people would learn by now that when any non-Catholic media source, right-wing or left-wing, starts a story, “Pope Francis Declared…” or “Pope Francis said…” whatever follows is going to be a misrepresentation of epic proportion.
This happened with Pope Benedict as well. Remember Pope Benedict’s Nazi Past? Or when Pope Benedict said Catholics can use condoms? Or when Pope Benedict insulted Jews with an anti-Semitic Prayer? Or when Pope Benedict angered Muslims by saying Mohammed was evil and inhuman? Or when Pope Benedict attacked capitalism and all[ied] with Occupy Wall Street when he published his encyclical Caritas in Veritate? For crying out loud, the media even proclaimed far and wide that the Benedict XVI’s red shoes were Prada (apparently wearing fancy shoes in order to make up for his “lack of charisma,” according to the Associated Press). At least some organizations later had the grace to admit that it wasn’t true (but not until after his resignation).
If social media had been as prevalent during Pope St. John Paul II’s tenure as it was/is during Benedict XVI and Francis’ pontificates, he would have gotten much the same treatment. As it was, John Paul II’s release of Dominus Iesus in 2000 spawned dozens of newspaper headlines (one of which I remember seeing in my college newspaper) proclaiming that “the Pope says non-Catholics aren’t really Christians!” And many bishops and Church theologians issued documents clarifying what the Pope had actually said, contrary to media reports.
I’m not old enough to remember Paul VI’s pontificate, but those who are tell me that there were many news stories about how the Pope was poised to change Catholic teaching on contraception. Even priests had started to tell their congregants to go ahead and use it, it was just a matter of time. If social media had existed back then I’m sure there would have been Facebook memes and Twitter statuses galore about how Paul VI was going to revolutionize Church teaching by giving the papal nod to contraception. Except they were wrong.
I repeat, once again: The media does not exist to tell the truth – it exists to make money. Juicy headlines sell newspapers and garner millions of website hits, which generate revenue. “Pope Reiterates 2,000-year-old Teaching of the Church” doesn’t make money; “Pope Declares that All Atheists Go to Heaven” does. Truth has nothing to do with it, and this type of misrepresentation for personal gain is something that’s been happening as long as the papacy has existed.
Choose your sources of information carefully. Always read the source document for whatever remarks are in question, because they likely contain important context that the media completely ignores.
For example, if someone tells you that the Pope said Catholics shouldn’t breed like rabbits, read his actual comments, in which he simply reiterated the Church’s teaching about responsible parenthood. The media wanted you to think that the Pope was endorsing contraception and abortion, which he most emphatically was not (in fact he condemned both, strongly, and has done so throughout his pontificate.)
If someone tells you that the Pope said Catholics had to believe in global warming, go and look at paragraph 188 of Laudato Si’, in which the Pope specifically says,
There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.
If the White House tries to downplay the fact that Laudato Si’ condemned abortion, go look at paragraph 120, where Pope Francis said:
Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”.
If some news sources or Facebook memes (right-wing ones in particular) claim that the Pope said that people who own guns aren’t Christian, read the actual transcript of his words, and take into account their context and the content of the entire document, not just one or two lines blown out of proportion by the media. As blogger Jennifer Fitz writes,
Pope Francis doesn’t obey this law [of communication]. It’s as if he thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to take multiple sentences, multiple paragraphs, sometimes even a whole encyclical, to lay out his ideas in succession, each part contributing to the whole. He expects you to listen, perhaps ask yourself questions as you listen, but to wait until the idea is fully presented. Only when he’s done talking do you have the whole story; until then, he’s not done.
Sadly, even some publications that identify as Catholic can’t be trusted. For example, the National “Catholic” Reporter (which still calls itself Catholic despite the fact it was told not to by the bishop) opined that Pope Francis was wrong not to embrace contraception in Laudato Si’.
On the other side of the dissenting coin, the online publication The Remnant tells us that we are free to ignore the Holy Father’s teaching if it doesn’t fit our preconceived biases. I can’t figure out how they don’t see that their attitude is exactly the same as the one expressed in the National “Catholic” Reporter – let’s just ignore all the teachings we don’t like, and embrace the ones we do! It’s cafeteria Catholicism at its finest. Both of them would do well to heed the words in Lumen Gentium:
This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
And since I’m sure the folks at The Remnant dislike Vatican II as much as they dislike Pope Francis, I’ll share with them the words of Pope St. Pius X:
Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey – that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.
What to do if you hear a “Pope Francis said that…” and want to know if it’s true? First find the original source. This can be problematic given the current speed of the news cycle, where stories alleging what Pope Francis said can travel across the globe in minutes, while the official transcript of his remarks don’t appear until hours or even days later (and sometimes it takes even longer to find an English translation). But don’t assume anything is true until you can read the Pope’s remarks in context from their original source, usually at Vatican.va or sometimes at Zenit.org.
One helpful resource is the National Catholic Register (which, unlike the Reporter, actually cares about promulgating authentic Catholic teaching).
Longtime apologist and blogger Jimmy Akin is especially adept at parsing a document down to its essential points and refuting the media falsehoods (his initial article on Laudato Si’ is particularly good). The apostolate he works for, Catholic Answers, provides solid Catholic teaching and reporting.
And, of course, you can always check Catholic Stand for our take on issues (but I’m biased in that regard).
Read the original source to find out what the Pope actually said as opposed to what the media claimed he said. Then sigh in relief, secure in the knowledge that the Pope has not destroyed Catholicism, despite the media reports.