Media Spin Catholic Bishops' Vote as Spurning a 'Welcome to Gays'

CBS, USA Today, and the Associated Press all sang from the same slanted sheet of music on Saturday, as they covered the end of the Catholic bishops' Extraordinary Synod on the Family. On CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod played up a supposed "deep split over the direction Pope Francis wants to take the Church," after the Church's leaders rejected controversial language about homosexuals and divorced Catholics in an earlier draft report. As he introduced correspondent Allen Pizzey's report, Axelrod also underlined that the bishops "considered language in [the] document...that would welcome gays," and that "conservative bishops vowed to fight this, saying it undermined the traditional family."

Many media outlets hyped the "seismic shift" in that midterm report – language lifted directly from the spin of the left-wing LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign. Pizzey asserted during the segment that the draft document contained "an unprecedented acceptance of gays," but that the "final version was watered-down to 'people who homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy.'"

USA Today's Eric J. Lyman took a similar path as CBS in his article, "Catholic bishops reject welcome to gays in sign of split." Lyman's left-leaning bias came out in his first sentence: "Catholic bishops rejected a landmark change Saturday in the rigid stance on gays and divorcees, revealing enormous gaps within the church at the end of a two-week meeting." The writer continued that "the synod's final statement failed to include remarkably conciliatory language revealed a week ago that would have welcomed the 'gifts and qualities' of gay Catholics."

Lyman later added that "the failure to reach a consensus on broader-reaching language is a failure for the more tolerant tone Pope Francis has struck since taking the role of pontiff more than a year ago." However, the USA Today journalist did include an ideological label that Pizzey omitted during his report: "The dramatic shift in tone comes after a week of hot debate over the more-accepting language among conservative and liberal groups alike."

The AP's Nicole Winfield repeatedly described the dissenters from orthodox Catholic teaching as "progressive" in her write-up, "Bishops scrap welcome to gays in sign of split," which was co-authored by correspondent Daniela Petroff. Winfield, who also used the "seismic shift" term in her earlier biased coverage of the synod, echoed Pizzey and Lyman in her reporting:

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families....

...[T]he bishops failed to reach consensus on a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals. The new section had stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week.

Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families face. It said "people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity," but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The revised paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass....

It could be that the 118-62 vote on the gay paragraph was a protest vote of sorts by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording and wanted to keep the issue alive. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with "precious" support.

New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, said it was "very disappointing" that the final report had backtracked from the welcoming words contained in the draft....A coalition of small pro-life groups, Voice of the Family, said the outcome of the meeting had only contributed to "deepening the confusion that has already damaged families since the sexual revolution of the 1960s."

The gay section of the draft report had been written by a Francis appointee, Monsignor Bruno Forte, a theologian known for pushing the pastoral envelope on ministering to people in "irregular" unions. The draft was supposed to have been a synopsis of the bishops' interventions, but many conservatives complained that it reflected a minority and overly progressive view....

Conservatives had harshly criticized the draft and proposed extensive revisions to restate church doctrine, which holds that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered," but that gays themselves are to be respected, and that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In all, 460 amendments were submitted....

The AP journalist later pointed out that "Francis approached a group of journalists waiting outside the synod hall to thank them for their work covering the meeting." She soon added a sentence that included a denial of liberal bias in the media's coverage of the synod: "Conservative bishops had harshly criticized journalists for reporting on the dramatic shift in tone in the draft document, even though the media reports merely reflected the document's content."

It's as if Winfield would have the reader believe that her use of Human Rights Campaign's "seismic shift" term (not to leave out ABC, CBS, and NBC using the phrase) is a mere coincidence. She apparently doesn't want people to notice the press's longstanding "wishful thinking for hope-'n'-change in Catholic teaching," as Dawn Eden of the GetReligion blog put it on Saturday.

It should also be pointed out that despite the media's implicit insistence that the Catholic Church doesn't currently welcome homosexuals, there are actually legitimate Catholic ministries for individuals who have same-sex attractions and want to be faithful to the Church's teachings on sexuality.

Culture/Society Bias by Omission Labeling Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Religion Christianity Sexuality Homosexuality Same-sex marriage Catholic Church Wire Services/Media Companies Associated Press CBS CBS Evening News USA Today Nicole Winfield Allen Pizzey Jim Axelrod Pope Francis
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