Sorry, But Media Coverage of Pope Francis is Papal Bull

The “Pope Francis supports evolution” story is just the latest example of the press getting the Catholic Church completely wrong.

Elizabeth Dias

It is official: the media has gone bananas in its coverage of Pope Francis.

The OMG-Pope-Francis-Supports-Evolution story of the past two days is just the latest example. Almost every news outlet, major and minor, has plastered Pope Francis’ name across the interwebs and proclaimed he has finally planted the Catholic Church in the evolution camp of the creation-evolution debate. The only problem? Almost every outlet has got the story wrong, proving once again that the mainstream media has nearly no understanding of the Church. And that madness shows no signs of stopping.

Pope Francis leaves at the end of his general audience at St Peter's square on Oct. 29, 2014 at the Vatican.
Pope Francis leaves at the end of his general audience at St Peter’s square on Oct. 29, 2014 at the Vatican.

Pope Francis’ real role in this evolution hubbub was small. He spoke, as Popes do, to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Monday, which had gathered to discuss Evolving Topics of Nature, and he affirmed what Catholic teaching has been for decades. “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” he said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

Anyone who knows anything about Catholic history knows that a statement like this is nothing new. Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical Humani Generis in 1950 affirming that there was no conflict between evolution and Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that, stressing that evolution was more than a hypothesis, in 1996. Pope Benedict XVI hosted a conference on the nuances of creation and evolution in 2006. There’s an official book on the event for anyone who wants to know more. Pope Francis’ comments Monday even came as he was unveiling a new statue of Pope Benedict XVI, honoring him for his leadership.

None of that seems to matter to the media; the internet exploded all the same. Site after site after site ramped up the Pope’s words and took them out of context. Headlines like these added drama: NPR: “Pope Says God Not ‘A Magician, With A Magic Wand.’” Salon: “Pope Francis schools creationists.” U.S. News and World Report: “Pope Francis Backs the Big Bang Theory, Evolution” (with a subhed: “Also, the pontiff says he’s not a communist”). Huffington Post. Sydney Morning Herald. Telegraph. USA Today. New York Post. The list goes on and on. Only Slate did its homework.

Wednesday morning the stories continued with new, analytical twists. The New Republic came out with a story titled, “The Pope Has More Faith Than the GOP in Science.” The Washington Post posted a piece, “Pope Francis may believe in evolution, but 42 percent of Americans do not.” It doesn’t seem to matter that Pope Benedict XVI called the debate between evolution an creation an “absurdity” in 2007. MSNBC opened its piece saying, “Pope Francis made a significant rhetorical break with Catholic tradition Monday by declaring that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real.” NBCNews called the Pope’s statement, “a theological break from his predecessor Benedict XVI, a strong exponent of creationism.”

This embarrassing narrative repeats itself over and over in Francis coverage. It happened last week when the Pope, again, voiced the Church’s long-standing opposition to the death penalty (having also done so in June, and after John Paul discussed the topic at length in an entire encyclical on being consistently pro-life in 1995). It happened at the Synod of the Bishops on the family, when the bishops talked about welcoming gays and the media whipped that up into an inaccurate story about an enormous policy shift toward gay marriage.

That’s dangerous, especially because this furor seems to occur most often when hot-button Western political issues can be tied to the Pope’s statements—evolution, death penalty, gay marriage. Wednesday morning, Pope Francis asked for prayers for 43 Mexican students who were burned alive by drug traffickers. It is unlikely that that will get the same pickup.

Moral of this story: Don’t believe most of what you read about the Vatican. Papal coverage has gone wild.

© TIME (30/10/2014)

26 pensieri riguardo “Sorry, But Media Coverage of Pope Francis is Papal Bull

  1. Thank you for correcting the media, evolution and creation are two “distinctive” part of our existence. But evolution is far from reality, Science said it is the reality but i dont believe on it because I BELIEVE that GOD created us and The proof is US, WE the human being, not an animal…put the monkey inside the cage until it died its still a monkey it can never be a Human! Thats a FACTS!!!…

    Piace a 1 persona

  2. “evolution, death penalty, gay marriage” – these are not Western, but American political issues. In other Western countries these are not on the agenda for most of the time. Death penalty is abolished in Europe except in Belarus and Kazakhstan, evolution is broadly accepted across Europe and the gay marriage debate in Europe exists, but nowhere near the level of intensity in USA.

    Piace a 3 people

  3. Let us not start with what the Pope says or what his effeminate spokesman says.
    Key our understanding with what the Bible reveals :
    1. A day is a 24 hour period. Meditate on that!
    2. Peter stated that a day was ( unto God) a thousand years and a thousand years a day. Having trouble keying that? Remember it is not unto *you* but unto God. *your* day is still 24 hours- hours ruled by the sun and moon.
    3. It takes 9 months to make a child, not 10 billion years.

    Piace a 1 persona

  4. I agree but you must remember the media is not about truth, it is about an entertaining story.
    The pope was saying evolution and the big bang are guided by the hand of God.
    You must also remember a church that embraces modern ideas has a chance to increase. This was an expedient move by the Pope.
    Churches havd two choices today change with the times or slowly die.

    Mi piace

      1. The Catholic Church is very successful and embracing modern thought is a way forward. These days there are many ways of interpreting the Bible. I am all for the churches moving with the times. The Catholic church needs to abandon its anti- contraception stance.

        Mi piace

    1. The truth of God does not change because the world does. You cannot compromise the Word of God. If you are a Christian you tell the truth regardless who accepts it or not. Few there be that find it. We are to come out of the world, not join the world to make sure we don’t lose our weekly donations. If no one in the world was left that wanted to hear the truth of the gospel, you don’t change the word of God tickle the ears of people who care not for the truth just so they feel more comfortable living sinful lives. Sorry, but God doesn’t compromise the truth for false christians. It’s about telling the gospel to people truthfully. Not telling them what they want to hear. Jesus was so right!

      Piace a 1 persona

  5. In reading this article, I looked for your evidence that what the Pope said cannot be interpreted as Support of Evolution. ( Yes, I know the media is overblowing the statement, as they do with any statement). He is stating that Evolution and Creation can exist together simultaneously, that they are compatible with each other, something, it seems, most creationists do not accept.
    So what is it that rattles Creationists so much about Evolution? While it seems they are against Evolution all together, is it really only the fact that scientists propose that Humans evolved from another ancient species? Perhaps this can be reconciled by choosing to see humans as God’s creation, but today’s creatures as evolved forms of what you god placed on the Earth. Somehow, you must take the fossil records into account.
    In light of some other comment here, I would like to point out that one small concept is correct: A monkey will not evolve into a human. It’s a monkey. Evolutionary science shows that we (monkeys, apes, humans) are related to the same ancient ancestor, as evidenced by matching phenotypes (appearances) and DNA. The changes came about because of geography and environment.
    Consider this: without Evolutionary science, many medicines and products you use daily would not exist. This is not a science only for school text books, but is actively used to promote our economy in the billions of dollars. Evolutionary science is used daily by pharmaceutical and bioengineering companies to produce useful items.

    Mi piace

  6. it’s pretty amusing that you censor people who say anything about the pedophiles your are protecting. How silly you old catholics are. I hope for Pope Francis he isn’t like the old crew. He could help save your dumb church if you’d let him… but nope… you’re going to stay bigots. Have fun in heaven.

    Mi piace

  7. Well done! Glad to see someone besides Salon, as you say, do some homework before writing. The laziness out there is incredible sometimes — or maybe some people just don’t want to spoil a good “story.” Kudos!

    Mi piace

  8. I think part of the media’s cause for surprise, as revealed in some of the headlines you mention, is that in the US the Catholic Church has allowed itself to be seen as another part of the Republican party and evangelical crowd when it comes to social issues. As a Catholic I know that our beliefs conflict with that group in many ways (like the death penalty and evolution). But when was the last time you heard an American bishop issue a press release or make noise about those issues? We’ve ignored them as a Church or failed to promote much (at least in the US) besides things that also fit the GOP/evangelical agenda. So it makes sense the media thinks we’re the same as those groups.

    Now Francis is successfully raising more issues and the media is excited to report something that defies their preconceived notions (and those of many). Obviously it’s annoying when they get clear facts wrong and say everything is changing, when in fact it is their perception which is changing. But I think we’re being challenged by our Pope and the media to do a better job sharing more of our faith and (finally) shedding our misguided image as just another reactionary conservative political organization in the US. This is ultimately a good thing.

    Mi piace

  9. Now and again I’ll read a blog and some feedback labeled “religion”, please keep attempting to explain what a religious leader means. Then – if anyone could explain what good came out of, –the meaning of– “Witch Hunting” or damaging a youngster beyond repair through any form of “Sexual Molestation” Please – exactly – what is the meaning of this behavior of “Some” of our religious leaders “Who” is in charge of bringing them all to justice?

    Mi piace

  10. I think that it is great that you are working to correct the mistakes of the media. Pope Francis has repeatedly been the subject of media propaganda, and I have to wonder if this is in attempt to clean up the image of Catholicism throughout the world. As an atheist, even I have come to find a new-found respect for the happenings in the Vatican under His direction. He has publicly validated the beliefs of other ideal systems, saying simply that those people are not necessarily Hell-bound because their beliefs differ. I can appreciate that kind of respect from a man with such a powerful influence. He has also made several moves to find humility within the church a bit, urging others to be less indulgent and more giving and tolerant. As a humanist, I find this to be incredibly encouraging.

    This all aside, it is important for people to understand that he was not necessarily supporting the theory of evolution, but rather, making room for it within the Catholic belief system. The media may have gotten it wrong, but I do not feel that his statements are necessarily a negative thing.

    Great blog post!

    Mi piace


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