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Anglican Unscripted Episode 95: March 21, 2014 March 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

00:00 The Pope a year in review
10:00 Global South adopts Diocese of South Carolina
18:10 ABC Canterbury year in review with Peter Ould
29:11 Why would anybody bring charges against Saint Schori?
38:14 R.I.P Terry Fullam
45:57 Closing and Bloopers

Francis the homophile: Get Religion, January 3, 2014 January 6, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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With but a few exceptions, the “Francis is nicer than Benedict” meme continues to entrance the Anglophone press.

It appears that many who were once hostile to the Catholic Church have been encouraged to see in the new pontiff a reflection of their own social and political desires. Some of these assertions about what the pope believes and what he will do as head of the Catholic Church have bordered on the fantastic.

In choosing the pope as its “person of the year”, Time magazine’s editor Nancy Gibb wrote Francis had:

done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.

The new pope was a kinder, gentler man, Time believed, who had rejected “church dogma.” He was teaching a softer, more inclusive Catholicism, noting his:

focus on compassion, along with a general aura of merriment not always associated with princes of the church, has made Francis something of a rock star.

This is rather mild compared to some liberal paeans to the pontiff. The Guardian‘s Jonathan Freedland quipped “Francis could replace Obama as the pin-up on every liberal and leftist wall.”

When the gay-lifestyle magazine, The Advocate, named Francis its “person of the year”, it explained its choice by stating:

Pope Francis’s stark change in rhetoric from his two predecessors — both who were at one time or another among The Advocate‘s annual Phobie Awards — makes what he’s done in 2013 all the more daring. First there’s Pope John Paul II, who gay rights activists protested during a highly publicized visit to the United States in 1987 because of what had become known as the “Rat Letter” — an unprecedented damning of homosexuality as “intrinsically evil.” It was written by one of his cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. Since 1978, one of those two men had commanded the influence of the Vatican — until this year. …

The Advocate saw in Francis the potential for change in church teaching.

Francis’s view on how the Catholic Church should approach LGBT people was best explained in his own words during an in-depth interview with America magazine in September. He recalled, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

While these stories have focused on Francis in the context of feature or “people” stories, the meme has also made its way into straight news reporting. A story in Saturday’s  Independent illustrates the Francis effect on reporters. “Pope Francis tripled crowds at Vatican during 2013″  should have been a straightforward story. It begins with:

Pope Francis attracted over 6.6 million viewers to his audiences, Masses and other events in Vatican City in 2013. Since being elected for the position in March, the first Jesuit Pope attracted almost triple the number of visitors that gathered to watch former Pope Benedict XVI speak at Vatican City in the whole of 2012.

The story shifts as it then notes Francis had been named by Time and The Advocate as their “person of the year” with a quote used as a segue to what it sees as the pope’s contradictory statements on homosexuality.

However, his track-record as a champion for gay rights in the Catholic Church was marred after he apparently expressed “shock” at gay adoption in December 2013. The Bishop of Malta alleged that Pope Francis gave him his blessing to “speak out” against the Maltese Civil Unions Bill that aims to legalise gay adoption, in his Christmas Sermon.

The first half of the story prompts me to ask, so what? What does the rise in visitors to St Peter’s Square mean? Is this a gauge for something, if so what? What happened to the number of visitors to St Peter’s when Benedict became pope? Why is this news, and not a “fun fact”?

Should we assume, as The Independent does, that the changing tone on homosexuality has prompted a rise in the number of visitors to the Vatican? The Independent may think this to be the case, but from where does the evidence or authority for this assertion arise?

The second half of the story is bizarre. The Independent assumes Francis is a “champion for gay rights”. What does that mean? Is he pushing for a change in doctrine or discipline? When did this happen?  Or has The Independent confused style with substance?

The two parts to this piece, short as it is, do not hang together as a news story. There is no context, no balance, no sourcing to this piece. Though presented as a news story, it is an editorial making the argument that the church should get with the times and ditch its old fashioned teachings on human sexuality — “See how the people flock to Francis because he is a champion of gay rights!”

Should any news story make the assumptions The Independent makes about Pope Francis? Not if they want to practice quality journalism. It has confused fantasy with reality.

First printed in Get Religion.

Pope Francis: “ecumenism of blood” the new face of inter-Christian relations: The Church of England Newspaper, December 20, 2013 January 5, 2014

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The old ways of managing ecumenical relations among Christian churches is passing away, Pope Francis told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, with bureaucratic initiatives making way for a “ecumenism of blood”.

Speaking to Andrea Tornielli in an interview published on 14 Dec 2013, the pope was asked whether he saw Christian unity as a priority.

Francis responded: “Yes, for me ecumenism is a priority. Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians.

The pope said that while Christians are “united in blood”, Christians have “have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for.”

Francis illustrated his convictions on the changing face of ecumenical relations with an anecdote of a “parish priest in Hamburg who was dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis for teaching children the catechism.  After him, in the list of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had gone to the bishop and said to him: ‘I will continue to deal with the cause, but both of their causes, not just the Catholic priest’s’.”

“This is what ecumenism of blood is,” the pope said.

“It still exists today; you just need to read the newspapers. Those who kill Christians don’t ask for your identity card to see which Church you were baptised in. We need to take these facts into consideration

Anglican Unscripted Episode 77: July 31, 2013 July 31, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Anglican.TV, Archbishop of Canterbury, Property Litigation, Roman Catholic Church, South Carolina.
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Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.


RECIFE 15:59

Anglican ordinariate to evangelise lapsed Catholics: The Church of England Newspaper, July 21, 2013 p 7. July 19, 2013

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Msgr Keith Newton, ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham and Pope Francis

The Anglican ordinariates have been given permission by Pope Francis to evangelize lapsed Catholics. On 31 May 2013 the pope amended Article 5 of the ordinariates governing Norms, widening its base for evangelization from ex-Anglicans to include those Catholics who had fallen away from the church before being confirmed.

The new Article 5 §2 of the ordinariate’s Norms states:

A person who has been baptised in the Catholic Church but who has not completed the Sacraments of Initiation, and subsequently returns to the faith and practice of the Church as a result of the evangelising mission of the Ordinariate, may be admitted to membership in the Ordinariate and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or the Sacrament of the Eucharist or both.

In a statement released on its website, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham explained: “This confirms the place of the Personal Ordinariates within the mission of the wider Catholic Church, not simply as a jurisdiction for those from the Anglican tradition, but as a contributor to the urgent work of the New Evangelisation.”

Roman Catholics “may not become members of a Personal Ordinariate ‘for purely subjective motives or personal preference’”, the statement said as “enrolment into a Personal Ordinariate remains linked to an objective criterion of incomplete initiation”, when baptism, eucharist, or confirmation are lacking.

The “new evangelization” is the Roman Catholic Church’s campaign to bring the Gospel to formerly Christian nations in Europe and the Americas and includes outreach to people who were baptized as Catholics but who never completed the process of Christian initiation.

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson – the former Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande and ordinary of the Chair of Saint Peter, in North America welcomed the clarification from Rome. “Particularly in North America, with large percentages of ‘unchurched’ peoples, it is inevitable that we will encounter those who have no formal ecclesial relationships but who are seekers of truth,” he said.

Reuters engages in papal Kremlinology: Get Religion June 26, 2013 June 27, 2013

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Pope Francis did not attend a musical gala last Saturday evening at the Vatican due to the press of work. This event prompted fierce speculation in the Italian press and a bout of papal Kremlinology from Reuters.

It may well be the pope’s absence from a concert given by the RAI symphony orchestra on 22 June 2013 was a deliberate snub — but the heavy breathing and speculation that stands in for factual reporting here does not engender confidence that that is necessarily so.

The article entitled “Pope ‘snub’ of concert stuns cardinals, sends signal” opens with a statement that is, simply stated, an assertion.

A last-minute no-show by Pope Francis at a concert where he was to have been the guest of honor has sent another clear signal that he is going to do things his way and does not like the Vatican high life.

Pope Francis did not attend the concert. That is clear enough — but was it a last-minute no-show? And to whom is it clear that this is a pointed message about the Vatican high life? And how do we know this? Where are the attribution clauses used by journalists?

Having made strong claims in the lede, Reuters should now deliver. The article continues:

The gala classical concert on Saturday was scheduled before his election in March. But the white papal armchair set up in the presumption that he would be there remained empty.

Was this a scheduling conflict? Was Pope Benedict XVI — a music lover — expected, or was it assumed Francis would take his place? Was this on the pope’s published agenda?

This detail leads to more questions. The assertions made in the lede are not in doubt, but Reuters better not wait too long before defending them.

Minutes before the concert was due to start, an archbishop told the crowd of cardinals and Italian dignitaries that an “urgent commitment that cannot be postponed” would prevent Francis from attending. The prelates, assured that health was not the reason for the no-show, looked disoriented, realizing that the message he wanted to send was that, with the Church in crisis, he — and perhaps they — had too much pastoral work to do to attend social events.

Which archbishop spoke? Papal secretary or a concert organizer? An observer might say the gathered prelates “looked disoriented”, but only a novelist (or a mind reader) could state that they shared a common thought. The story is starting to go under — but there is still time to save it.

An unnamed source is then produced to give support to the lede, and his comments will make or break the story — but all he says is:

“In Argentina, they probably knew not to arrange social events like concerts for him because he probably wouldn’t go,” said the source, who spoke anonymously because he is not authorized to discuss the issue.

The picture of the empty chair was used in many Italian papers, with Monday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper calling his decision “a show of force” to illustrate the simple style he wants Church officials to embrace.

And that’s it.

The remainder of the story is padded with background details to support the argument — but there is nothing here to allow this to be called a news story.

If Reuters took ownership of the editorial voice rather than push it off onto Corriere della Sera or an unnamed functionary this story would be an acceptable news analysis piece. Instead we have a story that feels like it was written in the back of a taxi on the way to the airport as deadline time fast approaches.

In the end, this story is an interesting example of what can be called Vatican Kremlinology. It seeks to divine meaning from symbolic acts. Who stands next to whom? What does a particular form of vestment signify? What does an empty white chair mean? Is it a sign of a purge? Semiotics may be great fun to graduate students, but reporters should stick to the presentation of facts.

Signs, symbolism and their meanings can play a role in explaining facts, but they should not be a substitute for facts in newspaper reporting.

First printed in Get Religion.

Archbishop of Canterbury to meet with Pope Francis in Rome: The Church of England Newspaper, June 16, 2013 p 6. June 20, 2013

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will hold his first meeting with Pope Francis on 14 June 2013 at the Vatican.

The Archbishop’s official diary states he “will be travelling to Rome, accompanied by Mrs Welby, for a personal and fraternal visit to Pope Francis on 14 June. … A more extended visit, for Archbishop Justin to engage with various other Vatican officials, will happen later in the year.”

On 4 June 2013 Msgr. Mark Langham told Vatican Radio this would be “important” but “informal, brief courtesy visit” to Pope Francis. The meeting has been scheduled so that the heads of the two churches can “get to know each other better and more deeply,” he said.

A press release from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said the Friday meeting will be an “opportunity for the Archbishop and Pope Francis to review the present state of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion.”

The statement said: “In particular, the interest shown by Archbishop Welby in global justice and the ethical regulation of financial markets so that they do not oppress men and women, is echoed in the constant teaching of the Holy Father. Ever since his experience as an executive in an oil company, Archbishop Welby has placed great emphasis on reconciliation, and has continued to press for the resolution of conflicts within the Church and society. This also evokes Pope Francis’ own call to build bridges between people of every nation, so that they may be seen not as rivals and threats, but as brothers and sisters.”

The statement added that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, “will accompany the Archbishop of Canterbury on this visit” and that his presence is “a sign of their close relations”.

In addition to meeting the pope Archbishop Welby is scheduled to visit the Excavations beneath St Peter’s Basilica to pray at the tomb of St Peter, visit the tomb of John Paul II and lunch with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at Saint Martha’s, the lodging house for Vatican visitors where Francis lives.

Put not your trust in Huffington Post headlines: Get Religion, June 18, 2013 June 18, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Archbishop of Canterbury, ARCIC, Church of England, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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I know a maiden fair to see,
Take care!
She can both false and friendly be,
Beware! Beware!
Trust her not,
She is fooling thee!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s advice about women — especially blondes …

And she has hair of a golden hue,
Take care!
And what she says, it is not true,
Beware! Beware!
Trust her not,
She is fooling thee!

… is also good advice in reading headlines. As your GetReligionistas have stressed many times, seldom does a reporter get to write his own title. Yet when a sub-editor makes a mess of a headline the blame is laid at the reporter’s feet when the claim made in the title is not substantiated in the text. There have been times when stories I have written appear under a title that implies the opposite of what I reported.

Sometime back I was commissioned to write an article on a lecture given by the literary critic and philosopher René Girard at Oxford. I gave the story my all and … when I opened the paper after it came off the truck from the printer I found my article nicely displayed on page 5 with a beautiful photo of Girard scoring a goal in a World Cup match.

Too bad René Girard the philosopher and René Girard the soccer player are two different people. Perhaps my readers thought I was being droll, commenting on the élan vital of Girard’s latest book on mimesis by reference to the 1982 France v Poland match. Or they thought I was an idiot.

These meditations on my less than glorious moments in journalism are prompted by a Reuters article on the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s visit to Rome to meet with Pope Francis. The Huffington Post headlined the story: “Pope And Archbishop Of Canterbury Meet, Note Differences On Women Ordination, Gay Rights”.

While I was not in Rome for the press conference at the Venerable English College where Archbishop Welby and Vincent Nichols the Archbishop of Westminster spoke at the end of their day at the Vatican, this headline indicated I missed a major event. Until now Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby held near identical views on gay rights, same-sex marriage, and civil liberties of persons with same-sex attractions. Oh to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting! What had they said to each other?

I dove into the Reuters story looking for details. But there was nothing there. I could quibble here and there with some of the language and editorial asides made by the author:

It was the boldest step by the Vatican to welcome back Anglicans since King Henry VIII broke with Rome and set himself up at the head of the new Church of England in 1534.

An Anglican would say Henry made himself Supreme Governor not head — the head of the church is Christ (there is a difference) and there was nothing “new” in a Church of England in 1534 — “new” implying a discontinuity between the pre and post 1534 church. A frightful papistical canard. Or:

In January this year, the Church of England lifted a ban on gay male clergy who live with their partners from becoming bishops on condition they pledge to stay celibate, deepening a rift in the Anglican community over homosexuality.

A celibate person is an unmarried person. A chaste person is someone who refrains from illicit sexual behavior. I assume Reuters meant to say chaste, meaning conforming to the church’s teaching that “in view of the teaching of scripture, [the Anglican Communion] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”. The working assumption is that clergy in civil partnerships are celibate, because they are unmarried, and chaste as they are to abstain from sexual relations outside of (traditional) marriage.

And it is the Anglican Communion, not community. Community implies an ashram in the woods somewhere, or a collection of sensibly dressed nuns in their cloister. (True there are such Anglican communities — religious with pearls and twin sets) but this is not what Reuters is likely to have in mind — but perhaps this is the “women” link to the headline?


The Church, struggling to remain relevant in modern Britain despite falling numbers of believers, published a plan in May to approve the ordination of women bishops by 2015, after the reform narrowly failed to pass last November.

It was the bishops — not the church — who published the plan. It still must be approved by the General Synod, which if the plan goes forward as currently written will likely be turned aside once more.

Anything about gays in the Reuters story? Nothing at all.

I looked about the web and found The Chicago Tribune had run the same item, but with a different title: “Pope Francis and new Anglican leader meet, note differences.” Rather a where’s Waldo headline — written for a bored seven year old. One is in purple, one in white. One has his wife with him (in the background) one has cardinals, etc.

I looked on the Reuters web page to see if the Huffington Post had shortened the article for space reasons, but found they had lengthened the title instead. The suggested title read: Pope Francis and new Anglican leader meet, note differences.” The gays and women bits came from the Huffington Post’s scribes — not Reuters.

Checking further I found I had not missed a major ecumenical story by staying home as La Stampa and the Guardian reported these comments by Archbishop Welby at the press briefing. La Stampa wrote:

Questioned whether he and Pope Francis had discussed the question of marriage and the debate over gay marriage, Archbishop Welby said “we are absolutely at one on the issues” by which he meant on the question of marriage (understood in the traditional Christian sense as between a man and a woman). He revealed that the Pope told him that he had read the speech he given recently to the House of Lords in which he opposed the British Government’s bill to introduce marriage between persons of the same sex.

Archbishop Welby added that he and Pope Francis are “equally at one in the condemnation of homophobic behavior” and “our sense that the essential dignity of the human being is where you start, and that is one of the absolute root foundations of all behavior, and the moment you start treating people as a category rather than as human beings with this essential dignity you have begun to lose the plot”.

What is the moral of the story?

Read the article, not just the headline. Though I will admit the Huffington Post editor who wrote this headline succeeded in his job, which is getting me to read the article. That is a different task than the reporter’s job of fairly presenting the news. Beware! You’ve been warned.

First printed in Get Religion.

Are gay blinkers distorting the New York Times reporting on the Vatican?: Get Religion, June 16, 2013 June 17, 2013

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The New York Times is shocked, shocked to hear Pope Francis say there is a gay lobby at the Vatican.

The suggestion that a gay mafia exists within the Curia has been a major news item in Italy and has generated stories round the world. The reactions have been diverse — and have reinforced the stereotypes of the major news outlets.

The New York Times‘ report is thorough, earnest and a bit dry, but misses the real story. Some of the Italian newspapers are having fits of joy in reporting on shadowy cabals of gay monsignori  cavorting in the Vatican — I am waiting for Freemasons to enter the story any day now. However the Italian press, along with the religion press, appreciate this story is not about homosexuality but doctrine, discipline, and divided loyalties within the Vatican.

For those not in the know — the story so far:

In a 6 June 2013 meeting with members of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Pope Francis was purported to have said in a discussion of reforming the church’s administration: “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true. … The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do.”

Why “purported”? Because the remarks were recorded in a summary of the meeting posted on a Chilean Web site, Reflection and Liberation, and later translated into English by the blog Rorate Caeli. The Milan newspaper Il Giornale reported that after Rorate Caeli released the transcript, Vatican reporters John Thavis and Marco Tosatti reported the news as did AFP and the Madrid newspaper El Mundo — and the world followed.

The Times begins its report by stating the suggestion there is a gay lobby is not shocking. What is shocking is that the pope would admit it.

For years, perhaps even centuries, it has been an open secret in Rome: That some prelates in the Vatican hierarchy are gay. But the whispers were amplified this week when Pope Francis himself, in a private audience, appears to have acknowledged what he called a “gay lobby” operating inside the Vatican, vying for power and influence.

The Times news account lays out the story in detail, offering context and diverse opinion as to the importance of the remarks. Yet for all its thoroughness the Times misses the bigger picture of clergy cliques and divided loyalties.

But never fear — on the op-ed pages of the Times compounds its misinterpretation of the facts as Frank Bruni savages the church for not being gay enough.

What was clearer was his acknowledgment — rare for a pope, and thus remarkable — of the church’s worst-kept secret: a priesthood populous with gay men, even at the zenith. And that underscored anew the mystery and madness of the church’s attitude about homosexuality. If homosexuality is no bar to serving as one of God’s emissaries and interpreters, if it’s no obstacle to being promoted to the upper rungs of the church’s hierarchy, how can it be so wrong? It doesn’t add up. There’s an error in the holy arithmetic.

It also offers this snippet of information:

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit and an editor at large at the Catholic magazine America, told me that he’s seen thoughtful though not scientifically rigorous estimates that anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of Catholic priests are gay. His own best guess is 30 percent. That’s thousands and thousands of gay priests, some of whom must indeed be in the “deep-seated” end of the tendency pool. Martin believes that the vast majority of gay priests aren’t sexually active. But some are, and Rome is certainly one of the many theaters where the conflict between the church’s ethereal ideals and the real world play out.


RNS blames Catholics for Anglican ecumenical ills: Get Religion, June 14, 2013 June 14, 2013

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Opinion presented as fact dominates several stories in the run up to today’s meeting of Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Some of the stories are crafted as news analysis pieces. This BBC story begins with fact and then transitions into the analysis, using the phrase “our correspondent said” to demarcate the line between the two. The reader may choose to accept the reporter’s interpretation, or not.

Some stories like this report from the Religion News Service as printed by the Washington Post combine fact and opinion but do not disclose to the reader what they are reading is not news.

This is a problem of the contents of the package not matching the label. In this case the problem is compounded by false information and faulty analysis.

The lede in the RNS story reports this will be the first meeting between the new pope and the new archbishop before turning to a statement from the Vatican official overseeing that churches relations with Anglicans.

Welby’s visit to Rome will be “short but very significant,” said the Rev. Mark Langham, the Vatican’s point man on dialogue with Anglicans. While its primary purpose is to allow the two leaders to get to know each other, he noted that they share the same concerns about poverty and the global economic crisis.

I’m not familiar with all different stylebooks out there: Associated Press, Times of London, New York Times, etc., but I’m quite sure all would agree that on first reference a full title is provided. Mark Langham holds the rank or office of Monsignor. This difficulty with labeling extends to a description of the second person quoted in the story.

On the issue of an “economy for the people,” they have “many ideas in common,” said Archbishop David Moxon, the Anglican representative in Rome.

Archbishop Moxon, the former primate of the Anglican Church in Aoteroa, New Zealand and Polynesia, is not the Anglican representative in Rome. There is no such office. Archbishop Moxonn is the director of the Anglican Center in Rome and may have a quasi official/unofficial commission from the Archbishop of Canterbury to facilitate communication between the two churches, but he has no authority to speak on behalf of the Anglican Communion or does he hold a commission akin to a papal nuncio or ambassador.

The article then moves into opinion and gets into trouble. The question of labeling is merely a quibble and is excusable given the shorthand reporters must use to convey as much information into as small a space as they can. But the account of the troubles between Anglicans and Catholics offered by RNS places the blame on the Catholics.

With new leadership on both sides, the relationship between Anglicans and Catholics could be primed for a reset after several years of tension following Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial initiative to woo back disgruntled Anglicans. For years, the Catholic Church has been critical of the Anglicans’ decision to ordain women priests in the Church of England, and is unhappy over steps to allow women bishops. Relations between the two churches were strained in 2009 when the Vatican announced a special structure, called an “ordinariate,” to allow conservative Anglicans to convert to Catholicism while retaining bits of their Anglican tradition. When he was still in Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s Anglican counterpart recalled him saying that he thought the special structure for Anglicans was “unnecessary,” and that the Catholic Church “needs us as Anglicans.”

But both Moxon and Langham stress that the tensions are now past, pointing out that an official dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics that had been suspended in 2007 over the ordination of an openly gay bishop by U.S. Episcopalians had been recently restarted.

In principle, I would prefer the Anglican or Episcopalian side to be presented in the best light. But the argument that the Catholic response to Anglican innovations in doctrine and discipline is the problem, not the changes themselves, is extraordinary. And the facts presented in support of this contention are incorrect.

Since the project began in 1969 there have been three sessions of the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC): 1970-1981, 1983-2005, 2009 to present.  In the early days of ARCIC there was hope that a series of agreed statements would emerge which would uncover a common faith, on the basis of which corporate reunion might be possible. Statements on Ministry, Sacraments and other topics were produced but they were never officially accepted by the Vatican as being an adequate representation of Catholic belief.

Nor were other statements accepted by Anglicans. The second ARCIC commission studied the doctrine of salvation, communion, and the churches’ teaching authority and produced a paper on the role of Mary. I attended the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham in 2005  and recall the vociferous objections to the paper from evangelicals, who rejected the report out of hand.

The Anglican decision to ordain women further divided the churches, while the Anglican civil war over homosexuality has ended hopes for corporate reunion. A review of my notes and reporting from the 2008 Lambeth Conference — the every 10 year gathering of Anglican bishops —  recorded Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect for the Congregation of the Evangelisation of Peoples, speculating the Anglican Communion was suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and was in danger of forgetting its apostolic roots as it followed the spirit of the age in determining doctrine and discipline.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster said there was little point in pursuing theological dialogue when Anglicans failed to live up to their side of the agreements.  “If we are to make progress through dialogue we must be able to reach a solemn and binding agreement with our dialogue partners. And we want to see a deepening not a lessening of communion in their own ecclesial life.”

Anglicans must decide who they are and what they believe before any meaningful dialogue can take place, he argued as “these discussions are about the degree of unity in faith necessary for Christians to be in communion, not least so that they may be able to offer the Gospel confidently to the world. Our future dialogue will not be easy until such fundamental matters are resolved, with greater clarity,” I reported him as saying.

And Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity chastised the Anglican Communion for its disorder and lack of theological seriousness. He urged Anglicans to embark on a new “Oxford Movement” to revitalize the church, but he also warned that moves by the Church of England to introduce women bishops and its laxity over gay clergy had effectively ended the quest for Roman recognition of the validity of Anglican orders.

Contrary to the assertions made in the RNS piece, Pope Benedict’s formation of an Anglican Ordinariate did nothing to harm Anglican-Catholic relations, apart from embarrassing the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. And this embarrassment was due to his not having been in the know, not because a group of Anglicans were convinced of the truth claims of the Catholic Church. This embarrassment was not enough to derail the third round of ARCIC talks that began under their watch in 2009.

Anglican clergy who have entered the Catholic Church and have sought to be re-ordained as Catholic priests may have been horrified by Anglican events of recent years, but they became Catholics because they believed the truth claims of the Catholic Church. Gay bishops and blessings, women clergy and inclusive language liturgies may well have sharpened the mind, but the Catholic Church is not a girl picked up on the rebound from a bad break up.

I do not know what talks were suspended in 2007 as reported in the RNS piece — perhaps a local dialogue? — but there were no ARCIC talks to be suspended in 2007.

When RNS advances an argument that the Catholic recalcitrance to accept changes made by some Anglicans to the faith and order of their church is the cause of friction between Canterbury and Rome, that is called an editorial.

First printed at Get Religion.

Archbishop of Canterbury to make a flying visit to Rome: Anglican Ink, June 6, 2013 June 6, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will hold his first meeting with Pope Francis on 14 June 2013 at the Vatican. The Archbishop’s official diary states he “will be travelling to Rome, accompanied by Mrs Welby, for a personal and fraternal visit to Pope Francis on 14 June. … A more extended visit, for Archbishop Justin to engage with various other Vatican officials, will happen later in the year.”

On Tuesday Msgr. Mark Langham told Vatican Radio this would be “important” but “informal, brief courtesy visit” to Pope Francis.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Sexing up Pope Francis: Get Religion, March 26, 2013 March 27, 2013

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My corner of Florida has been over run by college students on Spring break. While Daytona Beach, Miami and Fort Lauderdale have lost market share over the past 40-years to Texas, Mexico and points South, there are still enough kids in town this week to make the merchants smile and locals complain about “those kids” and their sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Sounds like a story pitch for a 60′s beach film — Frankie and Annette, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue — maybe Ann-Margret and Elvis? The stories wrote themselves back then.  Sex continues to sell. Where would the tabloids or MTV be with out the Page 3 girls, the Kardashians and the denizens of the Jersey Shore?  And where would the New York Times be without homosexuality? While it is harder and harder to sell religion news stories to the trade — a “naughty vicar” story will always find a buyer.

But sex isn’t what it once was. Its omnipresence has robbed it of its marketing value, mystique (and romance). “Sexed-up” no longer refers solely to hormone drenched teens or blue movies, but in journalism it refers to improving a story to make it more palatable (more salable) to editors who in turn want to attract more readers with stronger stories.

The phrase settled into the media psyche during the second Gulf War. It is commonly believed that a 29 May 2003 report by BBC defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan broadcast on Radio 4′s Today program originated the phrase. Gilligan reported that a senior British official told him a dossier prepared by the Blair government to support the war against Saddam Hussein had been “sexed up”. Specifically the government’s “September Dossier” had made the exaggerated claim that weapons of mass destruction could be deployed by the Iraqis within 45 minutes of Saddam Hussein’s order.

Improving the story by making it sexier than the facts allow did not begin in 2003. It is long been the bane of good journalism. Its prevalence was the theme of my chat last week with Todd Wilken, the host of Issues, Etc.  In our conversation broadcast on 21 March 2013, Todd and I discussed my article “Is CNN pushing the “Dirty War” story?” posted at GetReligion and discussed the phenomena of shoddy reporting on Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s alleged collusion with the Argentine military junta’s crimes during the “dirty war”.  Todd asked whether I was saying that it was wrong to voice criticisms of the Pope or to ask questions about his past?

I responded that this was not the issue. The Pope and the Catholic Church should be questioned. However in this instance I argued that CNN was “pushing” the story. It had abandoned objectivity, balance, and a desire to seek out the truth for the transitory pleasures of a sexy story about potential papal perfidy.

I contrasted CNN’s work with the three main Parisian dailies: Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Liberation.  The French papers all reported the accusations of misconduct as well as the denials by the Vatican. However, they framed the stories to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. The allegations were unproven the French papers reported, but they also provided sufficient facts and context to allow readers to make up their own minds.

This is not as exciting an approach to CNN’s guilty until proven innocent but it is better journalism.

First printed in GetReligion.

Overseas Anglican applause for Francis: The Church of England Newspaper, March 24, 2013, p 6. March 26, 2013

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Anglican leaders around the world and joined with Archbishop Justin Welby in applauding the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the next Pope and 226th Bishop of Rome.

The Bishop of Argentina and former primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, gave Francis high marks as a champion of the poor and critic of government corruption.

In a note released after the election of Cardinal Bergoglio who has taken the name Francis on 13 March 2013 Bishop Venables wrote: “Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary.”

“I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him,” Bishop Venables said.

Other Anglican leaders have also praised the election of Pope Francis. Archbishop Peter Jensen, in a statement released just after the election, said “The papacy continues to have huge global significance in testing times for humanity.  We join those who pray that Pope Francis will use the office to further the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of all humanity.”

The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church welcomed “the election of Pope Francis. He is known for his simplicity of life and his compassionate humility. The church in South America expresses vigorous life and a deep commitment to justice for the poor. God has called him to this ministry at a time when its demands seem overwhelming. We pray that God will equip him with the grace which he needs to fulfil the task. We also pray that his many gifts and his experience will enable him to lead the church forward in mission and service.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said, “We welcome and assure Pope Francis I of our prayers and our best wishes for his future ministry. We hope he will bring an ecumenical perspective to the role, a desire to work with Christians of all traditions and a goodwill to people of other faiths.”

Dr. Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland wrote: “In company with millions of men and women throughout the world of different Christian traditions to his own, I assure the new Pope of our prayers as he begins his new ministry. An Argentinian of European parentage, he brings together in his own person the cultures, hopes and spiritual needs of the first world and of the developing world, so much to be valued amidst the complexities and apprehensions of our globalised earth. He has been a champion of the needs of the poor and dispossessed, and, in the simplicity of his own lifestyle, he has sought to reflect the life of the much–loved saint whose name he now carries in the future, Saint Francis.”

“As the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Armagh I extend also to Cardinal Seán Brady, to Jesuit friends throughout the island and to all the Roman Catholic people of Ireland, our best wishes, with the hopes and prayers of many fellow–Christians, as Pope Francis now embarks on the ministry to which he has been called,” Dr Clarke said.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz of Canada noted: The new Pope comes from humble beginnings and he is known to have lived modestly throughout his entire ministry.  In taking the name of Francis after Francis of Assisi he has already given us some indication of the holiness, simplicity, and courage of gospel conviction he will bring to this new ministry.”

“As the new Pope endeavours to call people back to the Faith, to rebuild the Church and to strengthen the integrity of its witness to the Gospel in very diverse global contexts, we join our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers in upholding him our prayers,” he said adding “for Latin Americans this is a particularly proud moment — a moment of great rejoicing!  For from the church there the new Pope carries a passion for evangelism, a stance of solidarity with the poor and a posture of perseverance in the pursuit of peace and justice for all people.”

The presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori was less effusive. The Episcopal Church will pray for the new Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis I, and for the possibility of constructive dialogue and cooperation between our Churches.”

Anglican Ordinariate secure, leaders say: The Church of England Newspaper, March 24, 2013 March 24, 2013

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Leaders of the Anglican Ordinariate urged patience and restraint in light of statements by the Bishop of Argentina that Pope Francis did not favor the creation of a home for Anglicans in the Catholic Church.

In a note released after the election of Pope Francis on 13 March 2013, the Bishop of Argentina and former primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, said Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was, in his experience, “consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man” who had been a friend to Anglicans in Argentina.

Bishop Venables said Cardinal Bergoglio “called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans.”

He later clarified his statement noting the cardinal’s comments were more an affirmation of Anglicanism than criticism of the Ordinariate.

The report from Bishop Venables sparked controversy in the British press and speculation Francis might adopt the different tone than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. A spokesman for the English Ordinariate denied any change was in the offing telling the Telegraph the comments were Bishop Venables’ not the Pope’s.

Following the resignation of Pope Benedict last month, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Chair of St. Peter, said: “We members of the Ordinariate are in a particular way the spiritual children of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.  Throughout his years as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and especially as Pope, the reconciliation of Anglicans to the Catholic Church has been one of his principal tasks.”

He noted that “when Pope Benedict issued the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in November 2009, he laid a permanent foundation for the Ordinariate, to be the means to reconcile Anglican groups to the Catholic Church and that this Anglican patrimony might be shared with the Catholic Church.  While the Ordinariate has been a special intention of Pope Benedict, it is now firmly established in the Catholic Church and will continue to serve as an instrument for Christian unity.”

Msgr. Steenson said the transition between Popes “should not greatly impact the work of the Ordinariate.  We should probably expect that the ordinations of our candidates could be delayed slightly, as the Pope must approve these petitions.”

Following the publication of Bishop Venables’ remarks Msgr. Steenson said he had received a number of inquiries from those “who are concerned about what our new Pope’s attitude may be toward the Ordinariates, occasioned by an anecdotal report from an Anglican bishop in Argentina.”

He reaffirmed the “real permanence and stability” of the Ordinariate within the Catholic Church, and added “but it is even more important to remember what it means to be Catholic, to have the full assurance that faith brings. Christ the Good Shepherd entrusted the governance of the Church to St. Peter and his successors. To be in communion with Peter brings a confidence we never knew as Anglicans. Pope Francis understands the pilgrim character of our communities and will be a wise and caring pastor to us,” Msgr. Steenson said.

Interview: Issues, Etc.: March 21, 2013 March 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Issues Etc, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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Here is a link to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 21 March 2013

3. Media Coverage of Pope Francis, the Dirty War and the Clergy Abuse Scandal – George Conger, 3/21/13

Francis coverage unfair to atheists?: Get Religion, March 23, 2013. March 23, 2013

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And now for something completely different in the coverage of the election of Pope Francis — complaints from Viennese newspaper Der Standard that some coverage was unfair to atheists.

In an editorial discussing the press coverage of the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the 226th Bishop of Rome the left liberal daily took the state TV broadcaster ORF to task for its one-sided and uncritical reporting.

Im ORF wurden in den verschiedensten Nachrichten-Formaten die Bilder gezeigt, wie sich der Papst bei Argentiniens Staatspräsidentin Cristina Kirchner für ein Präsent mit einem Wangenküsschen bedankt, was angesichts des gespannten Verhältnisses zwischen den beiden zwar eine Nachricht wert ist. Die Nachrichtenzeit wurde aber lieber für das tapsige Auspacken von Kirchners Mitbringsel verwendet, anstatt auf die Hintergründe der Anspannungen zwischen den beiden hinzuweisen, die unter anderem in der Gegnerschaft Bergoglios für Rechte von Lesben und Schwulen liegen. Mag sein, dass ein Verhütungsverbot, die Dämonisierung von gleichgeschlechtlicher Liebe oder die Kontrolle über den Körper von Frauen für Päpste, Kardinäle, Bischöfe und auch für viele gläubige KatholikInnen normal sind. Für sehr viele BürgerInnen ist es das aber nicht. Das Ereignis Papst-Wahl verleitete viele Medien dazu, zu vergessen, dass nicht nur religiöse Gefühle verletzt werden können, sondern auch atheistische.

[Austrian state TV broadcaster] ORF showed the pope thanking the Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner for a gift with a kiss on the cheek, which considering the tense relations between the two was certainly newsworthy. But instead of going into the background of the tensions between the two, which arise among other things from Bergoglio’s opposition to rights for gays and lesbians, the report followed the clumsy unwrapping of Kirchner’s present. It may be that a ban on contraception, the demonization of homosexual love and exercising control over women’s bodies are normal things for cardinals, bishops and many faithful Catholics. But for many citizens they aren’t. The papal election’s status as a major event has led many media to forget that not just religious feelings can be hurt, but atheistic ones too.

I’ve taken to task on the pages of GetReligion some American newspapers and broadcasters for their hypercritical reporting on Pope Francis. The argument put forward by Der Standard, however, can be distinguished from my criticisms of CNN, et al.

Raising the issue of Pope Francis’ conduct during the “dirty war”, when he served a superior of the Argentine Society of Jesus province, is a proper journalistic endeavor. I contrasted the French reporting on this issue which laid out the facts and noted the denials and strength of evidence to CNN’s coverage which framed the issue against Francis. CNN took as gospel the accusations but was skeptical of the defense.

That is a different argument from automatically rejecting out of hand any harsh words about the new Pope. Der Standard has a point. The exchange between both Francis and Pres. Kirchner, hitherto fierce political rivals in Argentina’s culture wars, should have been put in context. I am not persuaded by the editorial’s argument that this was a disservice to atheists. But I agree this fell short as journalism.

First printed in GetReligion.

Is CNN pushing the “Dirty War” story?: Get Religion, March 18, 2013 March 18, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion.
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Suggestions that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was morally complicit in the crimes of the Argentine junta during the 1970s “dirty war” have made the rounds of the press following his election last week as pope. However, the American and French newspapers have diverged in their coverage of the story with the French reporting the accusations but giving them little credence.

GetReligion reader Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz argues some American outlets have been pushing the story.

CNN decides to keep up the appearance that there’s something wrong with Pope Francis after the Vatican has very forcefully denied any wrongdoing on his part during the Argentine Dirty War.

Given the denials put out by the Vatican and the lack of evidence to substantiate the charge’s Mr. Szyszkiewicz notes:

This is simply keeping the story alive after it should be killed. Kinda like Pius XII.

In support of his argument the sites this piece in CNN entitled “Vatican denies claim that Pope Francis failed to protect Argentina priests”. The article begins:

Vatican City (CNN) — The Vatican pushed back Friday against claims that Pope Francis failed to protect two fellow Jesuit priests who were kidnapped during Argentina’s military dictatorship. The accusations have resurfaced since the Argentine cardinal’s unexpected election to the papacy two days ago.

As pope the A book by investigative reporter Horacio Verbitsky accuses Francis, who was then Jorge Mario Bergoglio and was head of the country’s Jesuit order, of deliberately failing to protect the two priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, when they were seized by the navy. They were found alive five months later. But the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, dismissed the claims — which date back to Argentina’s so-called Dirty War from 1976 to 1983 — as false and defamatory.

The CNN story then moves to quotes from Fr Lombardi and other church spokesman rejecting the accusations made by Horacio Verbitsky. (As an aside, context as to who was making the accusations might be helpful. Verbitsky is a supporter of Pres. Cristina Fernandez Kirchner and late husband Pres. Nestor Kirchner. Pope Francis as cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires has been a vociferous critic of the Kirchners that has led the fight against gay marriage, abortion, and governmental corruption and incompetence.)

Mr. Szyszkiewicz cites this transition in the CNN story as evidence of editorial bias trumping news reporting.

Nonetheless, the incident led to rumors and allegations that Francis was complicit in the dictatorship’s appalling atrocity — that he didn’t do enough to expose it and perhaps was even partly responsible for the priests’ prolonged detention, said Jim Nicholson, a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

Although the allegations against Francis have never been proved, they continue to haunt him, so much so that the human rights group Center for Legal and Social Studies in Argentina opposes Francis’ selection as pope. During the years of military dictatorship, up to 30,000 students, labor leaders, intellectuals and leftists disappeared or were held in secret jails and torture centers.

The claims against the new pope have cast a shadow over what has otherwise been widely viewed as a positive start for the new pontiff, who has embraced humility and simplicity. As pope, he will have other tough questions to deal with. He takes the helm of a Roman Catholic Church that has been rocked in recent years by sex abuse by priests, and claims of corruption and infighting among the church hierarchy.

CNN’s editorial insertion, that this casts a shadow on his papacy, is unsubstantiated. How does CNN know these allegations haunt Francis? Appearances are not against Francis but CNN. They have let their imaginations and desire for a great story drive their reporting – not a sober analysis of the facts.

The CNN piece is written in the sort of tone found in opinion journals. The New Republic, for example, published a story online entitled “When Pope Francis Testified About the Dirty War” that made the same allegations as CNN but in greater detail. It works from the transcript taken from court testimony where Francis testified as a witness and concluded Francis was not being truthful as to what he knew. It argued he did not do enough to fight the regime and acted inappropriately as superior of the Argentine province of Society of Jesus when two of its members were arrested.

The New Republic story, however, suffers from bad timing as one of the Jesuits arrested in the 70s released a statement exonerating Francis. It also is a could of, should of, kind of, may be story — long on suggestion but short of credible facts to substantiate the allegations.

I would contrast CNN’s articles with those found in the three main Parisian dailies: Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Liberation. The French papers all reported the accusations made by Mr. Verbitsky as well as the denials by the Vatican but framed the stories so as to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. The French papers provided the context as well as the facts allowing readers to decide whom they want to believe. CNN believes Mr. Verbitsky and wants you to also. That may be appropriate for an opinion magazine like the New Republic. But is there enough information out there from CNN to do this? I don’t think so

Addendum: For further background on this issue I recommend this item in the Wall Street Journal.

First printed in Get Religion

Msgr. Steenson has no worries about Pope Francis: Anglican Ink, March 15, 2013 March 16, 2013

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Msgr Jeffrey Steenson, the ordinary of the Chair of St. Peter,  has urged members the of the American branch of the Anglican Ordinariate not to fret over recent news reports the new pope was not convinced of the necessity of creating a home for Anglicans in the Catholic Church.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Francis and the “Hand of God”: Get Religion, March 15, 2013 March 15, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
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Europe’s tabloid press has added its bit to the wall-to-wall press coverage of Pope Francis. Crowding out the semi-nude girls, horse racing results, horoscopes and celebrity tattle the details of the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires to the chair of St. Peter have received page 1 treatment across the continent.

Two newspapers have been especially clever. The Mirror in London and Germany’s Bild used the same photo of Francis on the balcony at St. Peter’s and the same caption “The new hand of God” (Die neue Hand Gottes).

For American audience this title is fairly benign. But for soccer crazy Europeans and Argentinians the phrase is a clever play on one of the most famous incidents in World Cup play.

Before a crowd of 120,000 in Mexico City on 22 June 1986 (and only four years after the Falklands War) Argentina played England in the quarter finals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Beating England 2-1, Argentine captain Diego Maradona scored two of the most famous goals in soccer history.  Fifty-one minutes into the match Maradona used his hand to knock the ball into the goal out of the sight of the referee.

His second, after fifty-four minutes, saw him dribble past five England players to score. In 2002 this was voted Goal of the Century by FIFA.com voters. The first became known as the “hand of God goal” after Maradona told reporters the ball had been helped with

“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

To help the dimmer members amongst its readers (and foreigners like me) The Mirror inserted a photo next to the new pope’s hand showing the “Hand of God goal”. It is possible to read a little too much into this. While The Mirror and Bild are generally  unsympathetic to the Catholic Church, I believe this is just an example of a copy editor’s cleverness. Nothing more. This is the view of the LA Times also.

What say you GetReligion readers, is this fun or is there something more?

First printed in GetReligion.