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Sam Smith: Media Objectivity Embalmed With Pope

Media Objectivity Embalmed With Pope

By Editor Sam Smith

An eight page slobbering special section in the NY Times, Cokie Roberts oozing from the Vatican, endless coverage on cable TV: not since the death of Ronald Reagan has the media so blatantly displayed its hypocritical indifference to objectivity when the occasion suits it. In fact, Pope John Paul II was part of a western shift to the right that accompanied the rise of Reagan and Thatcher that would undo much of the social progress of the 1960s and 1970s and greatly increase hatred of the west in the rest of the world.

True, the Pope opposed a number of imperial wars by the United States, helped the Poles free themselves from the Soviets, and favored an economic approach far to the left of the new class of robber barons in drag as free market capitalists and proponents of globalization.

But if the Pope had dealt with blacks the way he dealt with women and gays he would be remembered as a racist. And if he had been judged by the standards of American corporatism he would have been considered a failure. During his term, the number of nuns declined byj 48%, the number of priests by 26%. Weekly church attendance went from nearly 50% of members to 27% and polling found that Catholics having a "great deal of confidence in those running organized religion" declined from 47% to 18%, about the same as for those of other religions.

The Pope repeatedly suppressed progressive forces within the church and helped to defeat those outside of it - including forward thinking politicians in this country. His stands on contraception and abortion resulted in unnecessary death to many and even great misery to others. Despite what you read in the media, he was not a good Pope for our times.

[Next, a rare exception to the hyperbole of most of the press]

WASHINGTON TIMES - Many liberal Catholics who opposed John Paul II during his papacy have continued to condemn the late pope for his staunch traditional positions against contraception, abortion and female clergy. Joy Barnes, head of the Women's Ordination Conference, a Catholic group that supports the ordination of female priests, said, "The church took significant steps backward in the struggle for women's equality" under John Paul. Linda Pieczynski, a spokeswoman for the liberal Catholic group Call to Action, blamed John Paul for having "created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust, particularly among theologians and liberal Catholics who would have liked freer discussion, particularly on issues of human sexuality."

Those views were echoed yesterday on ABC's "This Week" by former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. "There are a lot of people who feel that rules with respect to women should have changed a long time ago," the Democrat said. "And the church does have the capacity to change. It always has when it felt it necessary. But it takes a long time. There's a lot of impatience with some Catholics." The Rev. Andrew Greeley, an outspoken critic of the Catholic hierarchy, accused John Paul of "repression" of dissent within the church, which he called "one of the great blunders in Catholic history." "He tried to stabilize [the church] by resorting to the old techniques of repression," Father Greeley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But it didn't work, and it destabilized the church even more, and it polarized it." Chester Gillis, a Georgetown University theology professor, said that under John Paul, a disconnect emerged among American Catholics as they chose cultural principles over obedience to the pope.

"If they have friends who are gay and they think they're very good people, they judge that as more weighty than the pope's voice," Mr. Gillis said on NBC's "Meet the Press." One liberal Catholic group We Are Church, issued a statement on John Paul's death declaring: "The direction in which he took the church internally was very distressing for those who had hopes for real reform." Similar criticism was heard from dissident Catholics in other countries. In France, a left-wing group called We Are Also the Church accused the late pope of befriending dictatorships and colluding in economic and social oppression. In addition to "supporting, even giving his blessing to, Latin American dictatorships," the group said, John Paul "was completely out of touch with changes in values and in philosophical and scientific conceptions of life."

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