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I’ve been saying it for a few years now. Terry Mattingly and Mollie Hemingway at GetReligion.org have been saying it for even longer. Hell, at least three times a week you can go to your favorite aggregator and pick up some Catholic blog where the writer is saying it yet again. Now, finally, Elizabeth Dias at TIME has said what we’ve all been saying over and over again for years: “the mainstream media has nearly no understanding of the Church.”
The proximate cause of Dias’ ire is the wild ballyhoo with which the media has greeted Pope Francis’ declaration Monday at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, “When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment. ... The Big Bang, which today stands at the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator but demands it. 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,” Dias huffs. “Pope Pius XII wrote [the] 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.”
The media went gaga over the Pope’s statement precisely because they don’t know anything about Church history. In fact, where religion is concerned, most journalists seemingly prefer to consult their own private well of pseudo-knowledge than to find reliable and authoritative sources.
Some wondered if Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wanted to change that when he and some acolytes seemed to endorse the theory of intelligent design, the idea that the world is too complex to have evolved according to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection [???]. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, a close associate of Benedict, penned a widely noticed 2005 op-ed in The New York Times that said, “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process ... is not.” [Right. That’s always been a caveat. So what did Papa Bene want to change?]
NBCNews repeated the “Benedict the Reactionary” trope: “The Pope’s remarks ... appeared to be a theological break from his predecessor Benedict XVI, a strong exponent of creationism.” The appearance is all in the reporter’s head — Benedict is no more a creationist than is Bill Maher. It leaves you wondering if anyone in the infotainment business knows what creationism and intelligent design mean.
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.
Folks, the Church accepting evolution is old news. There was no “rhetorical break with Catholic tradition”, no “theological break from ... Benedict XVI”. Nothing happened Monday; it was a non-event. Go home, MSM, you’re drunk.