Pope Francis has done a big, big thing: he has made it dramatically easier for women who have had abortions to be reconciled to the Church. But take a look at this NBC News headline: “Pope Francis: Priests Can Forgive Abortion If Women Are ‘Contrite'” — as though before this papal statement contrite women could not have received forgiveness!
The distinction between making forgiveness — more accurately, reconciliation and restoration to Communion, but even I won’t be a stickler for that — easier and making it possible is an important one and easy to grasp, but a reputable religion journalist insisted to me on Twitter this morning that such headlines are perfectly accurate and that my questioning them shows my ignorance of Catholic doctrine.
Apparently the BBC doesn’t agree with him, because the headline and article they posted earlier —
Pope Francis temporarily allows forgiveness for women who have had abortions http://t.co/vYWpxK4Tqe pic.twitter.com/fPHis5rJHM
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) September 1, 2015
— has been revised: “Pope on abortion: Francis relaxes forgiveness rules.” Which is a big improvement in accuracy, though at least one, ahem, reputable religion journalist will think it wholly unnecessary.
Why defend the indefensible? The NBC and the original BBC headlines are plainly and simply wrong, and the stories accompanying them are factually wobbly at their best and in several places incorrect. So why say otherwise? An ideological axe to grind? Misplaced professional solidarity?
Who knows? What matters is that religion reporting in the MSM continues to be astonishingly poor, and that won’t be fixed if people in the business who know better won’t be truthful about the problem.