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We’ve Been Here Before: Media Bias and Pope Francis

Opinion by John LaBarbara

In this fall’s run-up to the World Meeting of Families and Synod of Bishops on the Family, it’s important to consider media bias. This summer we’ve been treated to headlines such as: “Unbridled capitalism is the ‘dung of the devil’, says Pope Francis,” and “Pope calls for new economic order, criticizes capitalism.” These stories claimed to report on the Pope’s recent speech in Bolivia, which you can download at the Vatican Radio website. When you do, you’ll learn something surprising about this 4,500 word talk. Given the headlines, how many times would you think Pope Francis used the word capitalism in his address? Twenty? Ten? Five? Once? How about zero – not one, single, time.

Which evokes a strong sense of déjà vu.  Immediately after the publication of Francis’s Joy of the Gospel, the headlines read “Pope Slams Capitalism as ‘new tyranny,’” “Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control,” and “Pope Francis’s Challenge to Global Capitalism.” Again, each of these articles claimed to report on what the Pope wrote in his exhortation, which you can also download from the Vatican’s website. When you do, you’ll find that in this 51,000+ word document Pope Francis used the word capitalism exactly zero times. Wouldn’t you think that if the Pope’s goal was to attack, slam, and challenge capitalism as the new tyranny he might at least mention it once?

There is a pattern here. Like all of his predecessors, Francis has warned about the various spiritual dangers facing society. In doing so he does criticize, slam, attack and call something a tyranny – but it’s not capitalism.  He has quoted St. Basil several times regarding the “dung of the devil.” But that dung is not capitalism – it is idolizing money. Or, as recent Popes have often referred to it, consumerism – the pursuit of material wealth and comfort above all else. In fact, many would argue that what Pope Francis described as a dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose is a more accurate description of socialism and communism than of free market capitalism.

St. John Paul II extoled the virtues of a “Democratic Free Market Economy” based on the “rule of law” and “the common good.” He called this form of capitalism “an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property … as well as free human creativity in the economic sector” and he commended it asthe economic model that ought to be proposed,” in his encyclical letter Centesimus annus, 42-43.

How could the media get it so wrong? Because, intentional or not, the mainstream media is extremely biased.  Christ taught that our heart goes where our money is (Lk 12:34) and in 2008, campaign donations made by journalist favored the left by an unbelievably wide margin of 100-1. More recently, the left-leaning Huffington post acknowledged that “contributions made by large media conglomerates and their employees went overwhelming to Democratic entities.”  The truth is that it’s not the Pope(s) or the Catholic Church that equates greed, idolatry, and materialism with democratic, free market economies, it is the left. And that bias permeates their reporting on what Francis says – they interpret his remarks through the lens of their own anti-free market prejudices.

What, if anything, does that bias have to do with the upcoming World Meeting of Families and Synod of Families? Consider this – if the media gets it so consistently wrong when it comes to something as familiar to them as economics, what is the likelihood that they will get it right on something as foreign to them as religion? What are the chances they will fully grasp, let alone accurately report on, the delicate and nuanced teachings of the Church regarding the sensitive issues of marriage and the family? We cannot take the mainstream media’s reporting “at face value,” and thus we have a responsibility to look past the headlines and to learn what the Church really teaches.

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Today we are fortunate to have reliable, alternative news sources such as the Catholic News Agency (CNA), Denver Catholic, EWTN, and The National Catholic Register to help. More importantly, we can go directly to the Church’s official documents ourselves. The Pope’s speeches are on the Vatican Radio website (http://en.radiovaticana.va/), and the Church’s official teaching documents are available for free at the Vatican’s website (http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html). It has never been easier than it is today to know the truth of what Church teaches, and it is that truth that will set us free (John 8:23).

Read more on these and other critical topics in John’s new book Reasons for Hope – Essential Truths Every Catholic Should Know. Available at www.Reasons-for-Hope.com and coming soon to Amazon.com.

Follow him on twitter @JohnLaBarbara


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