Apologies for my absence in recent weeks. I know you’ve all been suffering severe withdrawal symptoms. But I am back to replenish you once more with regular blog posts. I’m going to return to my roots on this blog and explore an issue that has pretty much bothered me ever since I first trained as a journalist: what I perceive to be the inherent prejudice shown by the Irish media against the Catholic Church.
Media Perception of the Catholic Church
When I was studying for my Masters in Journalism in Dublin City University, I was fascinated by religion and felt much more of an affinity for religion than I do now. I completed a thesis on Opus Dei. I was able to clarify what the Immaculate Conception actually meant. I expressed belief in the idea of divine justice. as a result, I became the go-to person for religious issues.
Though nothing was said, there was a definite vibe that my classmates considered belief in the Catholic Church to be quaint at best and ripe for scorn at worst. And I have seen this vein of thought carried through in pretty much all the coverage I have read and heard since then, aside from contributions made by well-known Catholic commentators.
Examples of Recent Coverage
This issue was brought back into my consciousness recently by three items on radio stations. On Today FM, Ray D’Arcy made the sweeping, catch-all statement that the Catholic Church had “f***ed up this country.”. This remark won him a lot of praise on print media.
The other two incidents were on my local radio station. One priest was accused of warping children’s minds by reading a pastoral letter about the abortion referendum. Another presenter began a discussion about a thorny issue relating to burial rights in a reasonable, measured manner, but the discussion soon descended into a broadside against the Catholic Church as a whole.
What Right Have I to Comment?
After all, I have now become one of those wishy washy Catholics who frequents churches on special occasions and for what I call ‘sexy masses,’ Masses held in the open, or with lots of singing, which makes worship easier. But I believe you can’t ever wash away the faith you were born with. And that is why this unbalanced coverage of Church issues in the media bothers me.
There is an awful lot wrong with the Catholic Church in Ireland, and it is brilliant that the media has played such a strong role in holding the Church responsible for its actions. But I feel that because of these scandals, the media sees ordinary priests and believers as fair game, and that media coverage takes a tone that it would not take with representatives of other religions. I believe journalists simply wouldn’t get away with it.
The fact that I’m less of a believer now may weaken my argument. After all, there’s nothing more tedious than people becoming offended on behalf of people who might not necessarily be offended. My view is simply that of a human being who doesn’t like to see the genuine beliefs of others being disrespected. I don’t think they deserve to be treated as if they are simpletons. And I know a lot of good priests, who are already doing a hard, lonely job, and whose job is made that bit harder by media coverage that tars them with the same brush.
Why the Scorn?
This is not an academic article; I would have to do a good deal of research to pinpoint the reason. I can only surmise that it’s an ongoing backlash against decades of oppression. Look at us, the coverage seems to gleefully say. We can get away with writing whatever we want about the Church. Aren’t we cool, the way we can kick over the traces of the old Ireland?
What Can the Media Do?
I’m not looking to go back to the days of censorship and pro-Church coverage. I would just like to see a more balanced approach to media coverage of the Catholic Church. I want to read articles that offer neutral coverage of Church events. I would like to hear radio interviews that show respect for the other person’s opinion. I want to see media coverage that makes intelligent efforts to address the question of whether the entire Catholic Church has ‘***ed up the entire country.