A few months ago, I was at a friend’s house for a celebration of his college graduation. [I should provide some context in saying that my friend isn’t Catholic, so when I say Pastor I am not referring to a priest or any ordained member of the catholic clergy.] He was making the rounds, thanking everyone for coming, etc., and I was looking for familiar faces to chat with. I ended up speaking briefly with his pastor, a great and humble man who knows me from my days as a protestant (and as a former attendee of his congregation). So, naturally, we began to shoot the breeze and the conversation ventured towards topics of church and faith. I can’t quite recall how but, we reached a point where Pope Francis became the focal point of discussion. I noted how the new Catholic Pontiff was making quite a few positive connections, both within the Church and ecumenically. A statement was made that deeply puzzled me and effectively killed the conversation. This pastor said, “I don’t agree with [Pope Francis’] stand on homosexuality.” At that point, I just thought to myself… “Does he mean the Christian stance?”
When I read articles from popular news sites that perpetuate speculation and half truths about the Church, I am rarely surprised. Most often, these news sites are simply competing for notoriety. What troubles me the most is when our separated brothers and sisters in Christ buy into these buzzword stories. I think it would be accurate to assume that these miscommunications, similar to the graduation party incident, are completely avoidable when dialogue is strengthened. Other than grabby headlines and the profitability factor, I’ve got to wonder why the secular media (and some Christian-Fundamentalist media) choose to take such poorly-researched, cheap shots at the Catholic Church. About half the time, the intentions of these outlets are not malicious. In fact, most of these tabloid-quality articles are made with no respect towards any particular religious organization; it’s just business and I can deal with that.
I’d like to offer a theory on the love-hate perspective that mainstream media has adopted of the Church. First, I feel that the media has an inflated impression of its own influence. Meaning, some of these corporations believe that enough of their stories may actually turn the tide in how the Vatican does business. This is, of course, completely outrageous. At best these stories pollute the minds of inactive, fallen-away, or non-Catholics. As for the majority share of adherents, the media has become a beacon of white noise with regard to the Church and her affairs. Hence, there have been massive spikes in popularity among EWTN, Catholic News Service, USCCB, and other faithfully Catholic news sources. Secondly, and stay with me on this, I believe that there is a greater force at work here. By its own definition, secularism is not a compatible view with Christian ideals and beliefs. The world will try its best to tear down the Church. Even some of our separated brothers and sisters will attempt to misrepresent Catholicism in the name of self-promotion. But guess what? They will never succeed.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
– Matthew 16:15-19