On Friday's NBC Today, fill-in co-host Lester Holt hyped unfounded speculation surrounding the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI: "More than a week after his resignation became official, there are still a lot of controversial theories about why Pope Benedict XVI stepped down. NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is looking into them at the Vatican." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Previewing a report for Rock Center, Engel proclaimed: "What we still don't know, not definitively anyway, is why Pope Benedict decided to retire....[Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi] exposed some of the Vatican's most guarded secrets. A scoop seen in Italy as big as Watergate. Italians call it 'Vatileaks.'"



Former Time.com writer Keith Wagstaff has just joined a different magazine, The Week, but he’s still sounding like the old employer. He has a new piece posted on Yahoo! News titled “Was Mother Teresa actually sort of a jerk?”

Catholic-bashing is a much more acceptable journalistic pastime than snarky revisionist histories of hallowed liberals like Thurgood Marshall (honored as a saint by the Episcopalians.) Wagstaff began, "A new study claims the beloved nun might not have been as helpful to the poor as she could have been."



The Washington Post really hates the Catholic Church. See the top of Saturday’s Style section, which spotlights a group of “superprogressive” feminists and lesbians with boyish haircuts playing a board game critical of the papal election process. It's a "womyn's conclave" in oh-so-leftish Mount Rainier, Maryland, complete with a demand for "pink smoke." 

The end of the story by Monica Hesse highlights how they all look forward to the deconstruction of the Vatican and the scattering of the Catholic hierarchy to install Pope Dorothy I:



Keeping up NBC's barrage of attacks against the Catholic Church in the days leading up to Pope Benedict XVI's abdication, on Wednesday's Today, correspondent Anne Thompson made this nasty declaration: "...as one observer said, the stiletto knives came out as the battle for control of this institution begins, that some say is a holy mess....reports of infighting, back stabbing, and political jockeying that could make corporate America or Capitol Hill blush." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Thompson never bothered to identify the "observer" she mentioned nor the origin of the "reports" she cited. Wrapping up the piece, Thompson asked Italian novelist Alessandra Borghese: "Could you make up the drama that's going on inside the Vatican?...You couldn't make this stuff up?"



James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal had fun with liberal journalists calling for a female pope in his Best of the Web Today column on Tuesday. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote a piece for the Sunday paper insisting: "It is time to elect a nun as the next pontiff."

Dionne acknowledged that "this hope of mine is the longest of long shots," but Taranto added "if he were Catholic he would know that a female holy father isn't just a long shot, it's a contradiction in terms. Dionne wants a mome, not a pope."



Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world on Monday morning by announcing he would resign at the end of February. For Catholics, there was sorrow and there was gratitude for a Holy Father who taught with such distinction and worked with such care to safeguard the church’s theological traditions.

But there are those people who hate the Catholic Church, and they are ecstatic. Take documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, a man who clearly thinks he is holier than the Pope. He told The Daily Beast that Benedict is a “criminal.” This helps explain why he’s made a documentary for HBO, the home of toxic God-haters like Bill Maher.



At the top of Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie suggested ulterior motives behind Pope Benedict XIV's abdication: "Vatican intrigue. Is there more to Pope Benedict's sudden decision to step down?" In the report that followed, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel also insinuated something more: "Although there's no evidence to suggest a motive, other than old age, the Pope's unusual departure has left some wondering." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Engel then turned to a random man on the street wearing a fedora, who speculated: "It could be deeper, you know, than what we've been told at the moment." Moments later, Engel provided more anonymous rumors: "Italians say his age and the weight of scandals, especially revelations of sexual abuse by priests, may have gotten to the scholarly Pontiff."



On Monday night, CNN's Erin Burnett badgered the Catholic church to change its doctrine and accept birth control, gay marriage, and women priests. All day long on Monday, CNN asked if the church was going to change with the times but Burnett was blatant in her push for liberalization of doctrine.

"Isn't it time for the church, which is supposed to be an inclusive, generous, giving organization, to move ahead on gay rights?" she asked her guest a loaded question. When he answered no, she hit back, "Even if they [gay people] love each other, isn't the Catholic Church supposed to be about love?"



On the day Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be stepping down from the Papacy, NBC's Monday Today featured a report by correspondent Michelle Kosinski, who offered these highlights of the Pontiff's tenure: "As a Cardinal, some criticized him for being strict and conservative, calling him, 'God's Rottweiler.' Becoming Pope meant he had to take on the Church's sexual abuse scandal that reverberated throughout America and Europe, and for which he apologized." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

As Kosinski mentioned the Pope's response to the sex abuse scandal, footage appeared on screen of protesters holding signs with pictures of Benedict and the words: "Catholic Paedophile Cover Up."



Ian Buruma is not exactly a household name, but he is a hero to readers of The New York Review of Books. His fan base will obviously warm to his latest piece in the Beirut newspaper, The Daily Star ["Pope Benedict's dangerous sex appeal"].

Buruma begins by recounting the brutal rape of a young woman by six men on a New Delhi bus last month. His quick segue to Pope Benedict XVI’s speech on gay marriage, which was given a few days before Christmas, was not only awkward, it was a dead give-away: the pope was responsible for the gang rape.



The CBS-owned Showtime cable network can't get enough Catholic-bashing. Not only are they planning a "third season of sin" inside the Vatican with The Borgias, "the saga of history's most infamous crime family," complete with warnings for graphic language, violence, and nudity.

They're also taking on the "modern-day machinations within the Catholic Church" with a "provocative contemporary genre thriller" called The Vatican, directed by Ridley Scott of the Alien movies:



Opening up the Sunday paper might lead you to the national newspaper supplement Parade Magazine, which devoted its July 10 edition to "Summer Reading" picks. Smack-dab in the middle of the issue is "12 Great Summer Books: PARADE's picks of terrific new reads, in no particular order." But that's not exactly true, since the first six are fiction, and the second six are nonfiction. Somehow it's not shocking that the number-one recommended book is "Faith" by Jennifer Haigh, a novel about a Catholic priest in Boston accused of molestation during the scandal's heyday in the last decade.

Publishers Weekly advised, "Although this all-too-plausible story offers a damning commentary on the Church's flaws and its leaders' hubris, Haigh is concerned less with religious faith than with the faith [the accused priest] Arthur's family has — and loses, and in some cases regains — in one another."