Catholic church bashing, and boosting

Today’s guest blogger is Dan Pawlus, Vice President of Communications for Interfaith Youth Core and co-host of “30 Good Minutes” … Continued

Today’s guest blogger is Dan Pawlus, Vice President of Communications for Interfaith Youth Core and co-host of “30 Good Minutes” a weekly ecumenical and interfaith program on WTTW 11 (PBS) in Chicago. He is an active member of Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago.

As someone who watches the religion media cycle for trends, it’s been a disappointing few weeks. The ongoing reporting of the Catholic Church and its latest struggles with abhorrent abuse issues have largely dominated the media stage. As a practicing Catholic, this has, once again, been painful to watch.

I’ve always been aware that the dark side of the Catholic Church and its very human problems has been an attractive target for mainstream media coverage. Catholic Church bashing has long been a sport that seems to play well to a media appetite and larger societal thirst to bring the institutional Church to its knees and shove it off its perceived pedestal. But this news cycle has also reminded me of how predictable the coverage of the Church has become.

First there was the reporting of newly surfaced cases, then the stories on the lack of leadership by the Church hierarchy, and then the media squabbles between the Church and the media itself. Every story playing to a grand narrative of conflict and distrust. Haven’t we seen this all before? Few, if any journalists, had the patience or luxury to wait for a more nuanced angle in this 24/7 news cycle we live in.

I can hardly begin to understand the deeply personal and spiritual harm the betrayal of guilty priests has brought on their victims. The detailed stories of their iniquities are plentiful in the press and the dissection of the problem seems almost endless.

Yet, in the midst of this ongoing onslaught of negative news and outraged analysis, a few journalists have dared to hold up to the light more positive views of the Catholic Church and other faith traditions.

Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times aptly cites “two Catholic Churches, the old boys’ club of the Vatican and the grass-roots network of humble priests, nuns and laity.” While acknowledging the harsh and negative realities of a few corrupt religious he also lifts up admirable examples of faithful priests and nuns doing God’s work in Sudan and El Salvador.

Lisa Miller
of Newsweek has also released a new book entitled Heaven in which she profiles examples of people who deeply value their faith lives that positively motivate their daily behavior and inform their understanding of an afterlife. Reading the personal stories she presents is a like a refreshing breeze in a media landscape that almost always veers towards often predictable coverage of the dark side of religion.

I am sure the news cycle will continue to unravel the thread of horrible personal stories about religious people who have gone astray. They’ll always be an appetite for that kind of stuff and those who have done wrong should be held accountable. But, I also relish more positive, thoughtful examples of people of faith. I hope those stories can find a way to make it through the quagmire of the media noise more often so that we can be reminded that there are many inspiring aspects of religion as well. After all, we haven’t all gone to hell in a hand basket.

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  • NaN_

    Just for fun, reread this column and substitute some imaginary large company caught doing horrible things and covering it up. Try to imagine someone coming out and remarking how terrible the acts themselves are…but look some people still see all the good in the widgets sold by XYZ Corporation. Ah, thank goodness! Redemption! What does the Catholic Church have to do to break the spell it has cast over believers anyway?

  • ashleybone

    Does Mr. Pawlus think he is the first person to try to blame the messenger for the crimes of religious authority? That’s what churches have been doing since the beginning of time, and what the Catholic Church is doing now when it conjures up a Satanic media conspiracy as the source of its troubles.Religious authorities and the institutions they represent hold themselves up as better and more holy, but they are as flawed and corrupt as any other group. It is entirely appropriate that people who portray themselves and their beliefs as superior receive extra criticism when caught committing heinous crimes.

  • YEAL9

    Why did today’s pope, prelates, preachers, imams and rabbis, so focused on society’s sexual sins, lose sight of clerical sexual sins?”Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy “I did not have sex with that girl” Clinton, John “Marilyn Monroe” Kennedy”Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger “I am so sorry for getting caught” Woods.Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pedophilia is present in all walks of life.If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of “neithers” they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder (“Kings David and Henry VIII).

  • YEAL9

    Bottom line: Mr. Patel’s “non-profit” Interfaith Youth Core is simply an investment company that exists so he can avoid paying taxes on the dividends, interest and capital gains on the stock holdings ($2.5 million) of said “non-profit”. Hiring a Catholic does not change the situation. And with Mr. Patel being a follower of the worst book ever written aka the koran simply muddies the already murky situation.

  • areyousaying

    Gay bashing has long been a sport that seems to play well to a Church with an appetite to judge and condemn others and a larger traditional thirst to bring young boys to their knees and then declare “shove it” to civil authorities.Until this Church coughs up its known pervert priests for civil prosecution, you’re just another complicit apologist along with the rest of your adolescent minded hacks who can only cry “others do it, too”

  • areyousaying

    how predictable the coverage of the Church has become?how predictable the lame excuses, scapegoating and apologies of the Donohue defenders of the Church’s criminal racketeering have become

  • clearthinking1

    “I am sure the news cycle will continue to unravel the thread of horrible personal stories about religious people who have gone astray.”GONE ASTRAY? Talk about apologists. A systematic cover up of pedophilia and rape of young people is not “gone astray”. The rapists may have “gone astray”, but the Bishops and Popes were methodical and rational in their cover up.What Eboo Patel was thinking when he read this article:

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Good grief, Eboo, what pandering, what patronizing. Have you no shame?!

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Eboo,In future, could you possibly be less obvious?

  • areyousaying

    Rome’s center-right Mayor Gianni Alemanno was in the crowd, along with other pro-Vatican Italian officials to support Ratzinger”…… institutions, faith and religion cannot be questioned,” Alemanno told Associated Press Television News. “We will not allow this.” Not questioning the “institution” of the time honored tradition of clergy helping themselves to the bodies of little boys and their superiors hiding it is how Catholics got into this mess in the first place.

  • YEAL9

    If someone is guilty of a crime, they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder (“Kings” David and Henry VIII).

  • usapdx

    The RCC administration was the ones to hide the TRUTH to protect the IMAGE from this current pope also down of the MANY SEX ABUSE CRIMES AGAIST CHILDREN BY RELIGIOUS. The RCC administration with their fancy robes and hats has lost the respect of many RCs also except for the likes of the CLOSED MINDED RC members as you saw in Saint Peter’s square Sunday. CHRIST taught love, not control for HIS church. When the pope had the woman attacked in what is todays southern France, the RC church has change greatly not for the likes of love but control. I feel sorry for the many good religious preiest,nuns, brothers in the RCC that received a tarnish unjustly from the results of the RCC administration hideing the TRUTH on these SEXUAL ABUSE CASES OF CHILDREN.Do you think CHRIST is happy the way this current RCC administration? Why do you think the RCC wanted the VATICAN to be a nation ( state )? It is time for a NEW POPE with clean hands and then VATICAN III to turn the RCC around. If not, watch the young people vote with their feet.