Maine gets good press; Pope … not so much

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If you want to read a feel good story, try this one. Its one that makes me feel proud to be a part of this great country:

Tired and bleary-eyed, Marines of the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif., were finally back on U.S. soil after seven months on the front lines in Iraq.But they were still many miles and hours from their families and the homecoming they longed for. Their officers told them they would be on the ground for 60 to 90 minutes while their chartered plane was refueled.

So they disembarked and began walking through the airport terminal corridor to a small waiting room.

That’s when they heard the applause.

Lining the hall and clapping were dozens of Bangor residents who have set a daunting task for themselves: They want every Marine, soldier, sailor and airman returning through the tiny international airport here to get a hero’s welcome.

Even if the planes arrive in the middle of the night or a blizzard, they are there.

To the people of Bangor, Maine … thank you.

Page 2

Please pardon my backlash, but the hyperventilating over the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger officially commenced this week. The New York Times couldn’t even get past the fourth paragraph of their first story on his election without saying:

As the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he has been the church’s doctrinal watchdog since 1981.He has been described as a conservative, intellectual clone of the late pontiff, and, as the dean of the College of Cardinals, he was widely respected for his uncompromising – if ultraconservative – principles and his ability to be critical.

Well, that’s an interesting way of putting things. The new pope was “been the church’s doctrinal watchdog”. You know, the narrow-minded inquisitor, always sniffing out heresy. He was “a conservative, intellectual clone of the late pontiff”, not a man with his own deeply felt convictions, just a shallow copy of his boss. And, of course, he wasn’t just a defender of traditional orthodoxy, he was “ultraconservative”, which is usually a code word for “whacko”, and is hardly ever thought of as a good thing. At least not in Manhattan.

One notes that the Times was gracious enough to point out that he was a highly respected whack job, though. That was nice of them.

Notice how the Washington Post puts it:

As a cardinal, Ratzinger, a close associate of John Paul and dean of the College of Cardinals, was known for his strict support of church doctrine…Since 1981, Ratzinger was head of the Vatican’s influential Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he played a leading role disciplining dissidents and resisting liberal proposals for change.

Huh. Evidently it is possible to convey exactly the same information without editorializing, or slinging around terms that are laden with negative implications. Who knew?

Apparently, this is what journalists call “reporting.” God bless ’em.

Here’s his info with a little less spin:

Born in Marktl am Inn, in Bavaria, Germany, Ratzinger entered a preparatory seminary in 1939. In 1943, at the age of 16 he was, along with the rest of his class, drafted into the Flak or anti-aircraft corps. He went into basic training for the Wehrmacht infantry in November of 1944. In 1945 he was interned in a POW camp as a German soldier. By June he was released, and he and his brother Georg reentered seminary. On June 29, 1951, he and his brother were ordained by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich. His dissertation (1953) was on Saint Augustine, his Habilitationsschrift (second dissertation) on Saint Bonaventure.

Ratzinger was a professor at the University of Bonn from 1959 until 1963, when he moved to the University of Muenster. In 1966, he took a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng. In 1969 he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg.

At the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965), Ratzinger served as a peritus or chief theological expert, to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, Germany.

In 1972, he founded the theological journal Communio with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and others. Communio, now published in German, English, and Spanish editions, has become one of the most important journals of Catholic thought. In March 1977 Ratzinger was named archbishop of Munich and Freising and in the consistory that June was named a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI.

In 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II, made a Cardinal Bishop of the see of Velletri-Segni in 1993, and was elected Dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002, becoming titular bishop of Ostia. He resigned the Munich archdiocese in early 1982, became cardinal-bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998, and was elected Dean in 2002.

One Response to “Maine gets good press; Pope … not so much”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I prefer the Post version, too, but a couple of points in defense of the Times.

    1) In their description of Ratzinger as a conservative intellectual clone of John Paul II, they were not expressing their own opinion, but reporting the views of others. “He has been described as a conservative…” Now, I think that’s kind of a cop-out — a cheap way of editorializing without technically editorializing — but I don’t hear complaints from the right when Fox News engages in “Some People Say” journalism in nearly every report.

    2) You quoted the Times story saying Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then said, “The new pope was ‘been the church’s doctrinal watchdog’. You know, the narrow-minded inquisitor, always sniffing out heresy.”

    Actually, that’s precisely correct and a fair characterization. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith originated in the Inquisition, and its job is, in fact, to closely (“narrowly”) check all statements and teachings for heresy.

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