So will this be that moment when the media finally turns on Pope Francis?
In a rather fortuitous bit of timing following my post yesterday, the Pope may now find himself in a bit of a pickle, when it comes to his relationship with the media. Today the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report not only condemning the sex abuse scandal, but going even further, insisting that the Catholic Church change its teachings on issues like contraception and abortion. The Vatican has issued an initial, somewhat terse response, acknowledging the findings of the Committee but also its “regret to see in some points of the Concluding Observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.”
Putting aside the issue of the sex abuse scandal itself, one does have to ask oneself what children have to do with issues such as contraception and abortion. Well, other than the fact that both prevent children from existing, of course. The fact that these issues were thrown in to a final report on what was supposed to be an examination of how the Church handled the abuse crisis seems rather strange – until, that is, one looks a little more closely at who created it.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child is composed of 18 “experts” from around the world. One of them, Ms. Amal Aldoseri, a Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee, is the foundress of Y-PEER Education in her home country of Bahrain. Y-PEER is an organization which seeks to “increase access to information, knowledge, and services on sexual and reproductive health,” i.e., teach adolescents how to put on a condom, take The Pill, or get an abortion. Another Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee, Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne of Sri Lanka, began her career as the medical officer/project director of a “family planning” clinic in her home country, i.e., “teach adults how to put on a condom, take The Pill, or get an abortion. Therefore it should surprise no one that demands that Catholics become gnostics – or at best, Anglicans – when it comes to issues of sexual reproduction would issue from a body headed by such individuals.
What interests me most at this point is anticipating how Pope Francis himself is going to react to this report, for react he must, whether he wants to or not. The story was the lede on virtually every news outlet today; in fact it was the first story I heard on NPR this morning, a network whose reporting bias works better than any alarm clock at getting me out of bed in a fit of yelling and indignation. The media will be paying very close attention to what the Pope has to say about the findings and recommendations issued by the Committee, and they will hound him until he does so.
When that statement comes, the Pope will find out who his real friends are. He may once again surprise us by finding a way to deftly avoid the diplomatic and public relations trap that has been laid for him. However it is hard to see how he will be able to step around a direct challenge to the fundamental teachings of Christ, the Apostles, and their successors, handed down through the Catholic Church in an unbroken chain for the past 2,000 years.
Hopefully his response, when it comes, will be a clear and unequivocal statement, even if it means that the press honeymoon will come to an end, as a result.