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The Francis-friendly Media

Although the largely liberal media is no more a friend of the Catholic Church than it was in 2002, it sees Francis as a fellow liberal who will champion the “right” causes.

Pope Francis waves to journalists during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 20, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

When the first sex-abuse scandal broke in 2002, the secular media carried a lot of anti-Catholic commentary. Popular columnists such as Maureen Dowd and Christopher Hitchens savaged the Church with gusto.

By contrast, media coverage of the current abuse crisis in the Church has been rather restrained. Take the treatment of the just-concluded Vatican summit on sex abuse. The reporting was not all sunshine and roses, but it could have been much harsher.

For example, there was relatively little coverage of Pope Francis’ own role in ignoring or covering up for abuse. A recent allegation that Francis knew about the abuse of students at Catholic schools for the deaf in Italy and Argentina, but apparently took no action, was not widely reported.

Had it been so minded, the media also could have exploited the case of Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta who was protected and promoted by Francis despite repeated allegations that Zanchetta had abused seminarians in Argentina. A Fox News headline proclaimed: “Argentine bishop case overshadows pope’s sex summit.” But other media outlets seemed less interested in the story than Fox. If they were truly determined to put Francis on the spot, the Zanchetta story provided the perfect occasion. Yet the coverage was either minimal or restrained.

The truth is that the media prefers not to put Francis in an awkward position. Although the largely liberal media is no more a friend of the Catholic Church than it was in 2002, it sees Francis as a fellow liberal who will champion the “right” causes, and who will nudge the Church in a more “progressive” direction.

Another opportunity to “bash” Francis came in the form of the recent and controversial book titled In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy by Frederic Martel, a gay French sociologist. But once again, the secular media decided to forego the pleasure of going after the pope. To the extent that columnists discussed the book, they tended to adopt the author’s own ideological view—namely, that the problem in the Vatican was not homosexuality per se, but rather a virulent homophobia among conservative clergy which forces gay priests into leading unhealthy double-lives. According to Martel, Pope Francis is really the hero of the story because he fights the “rigidity” behind which, in the pope’s words, “there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life.”

In his review of Martel’s book, columnist Andrew Sullivan adopts the same line of reasoning. He writes:

The only tiny consolation of the book is the knowledge that we now have a pope—with all his flaws—who knows what he’s dealing with, and has acted, quite ruthlessly at times, to demote, defrock, or reassign the most egregious cases to places where they have close to nothing to do.

Donald Cozzens followed suit in the National Catholic Reporter by observing:

What puts these prelates [rigid, orthodox homophobic prelates who are actually closet homosexuals] at considerable dis-ease, however, is the realization that Francis is on to their games—that the carnival may soon be over.

The Francis-to-the-rescue theme is also present in several media treatments of the pope’s defrocking of Cardinal McCarrick in February just before the summit. A typical account informs us that McCarrick was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001, and then goes on to leave the reader with the impression that nothing was done about McCarrick until Francis came along many years later and lowered the boom. What these accounts conveniently leave out is the fact that Benedict XVI imposed sanctions and restriction on McCarrick which were later lifted by Francis. It was Francis who put McCarrick back in circulation, making him a trusted advisor and unofficial global envoy. So the portrait of Francis as the man who will finally clean house doesn’t quite fit the facts. And it is further belied by his very recent appointment of McCarrick protégés such as Cardinals Cupich and Farrell to key positions.

How much longer the media will cover for Francis is difficult to say. If he should deviate from the liberal party line, he will come in for some rough treatment. If, for example, he speaks out too strongly against the normalization of homosexuality, or if he reverses his position on mass migration, he will probably fall out of favor with the press.

Likewise, if it turns out that there are other skeletons in Francis’ closet besides Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, Monsignor Battista Ricca, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Father Julio Cesar Grassi, and other embarrassing friends, the media may begin to look on him as more of a liability than an asset. In that case they will drop him like the proverbial hot potato, and the media’s wait for a more progressive pontiff who is also more prudent will begin.

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About William Kilpatrick 77 Articles
William Kilpatrick is the author of several books on religion and culture including Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West (Ignatius Press). His new book, What Catholics Need to Know About Islam, is available from Sophia Institute Press. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation


  1. I wish I could agree that Francis skates on thin ice. The secular media would agree that abuse of “minors” (the mantra of the synod) is bad. Every Catholic of whatever persuasion agrees. Almost everyone on planet earth agrees. But don’t count on the secular media dropping Francis because he turns his back on homosexual behavior – it’s almost heroic in the secular world. Above all, Catholics should never forget that secularists hold scorn for the Church. Catholic liberals can ignore that and convince themselves that a surrender to the sexual revolution will gain the Church respect. It won’t. It will just mean the Church has become a small eccentricity – similar to mainstream Protestant denominations – held by those not willing to face the hard truth of a godless universe. Francis and the Euros – Kasper is quite open about removing every bit of hard edge to what historically has been a very demanding faith – think they can become chaplains to globalist capitalism. They’re fools.

    • Eric very well stated and a must understanding of the reality. Otherwise we’re dreaming even if well intended as is the author.

  2. Kasper and Francis do not follow Jesus Christ. They don’t know him, and are repulsed by the apostolic faith.

    They are post-Christian frauds, slaves to sexual lust and political influence and public esteem, deceiving first themselves, and now devoted to deceiving the Church.

  3. If the progressive media, with it’s strong anti-Catholic bias, favors a Pope then that is a bad sign for the Church. It raises the question whether such a Pope is in fact a liability to the Church.

    • I agree. I think it’s because Pope Francis has covered up for homosexual predators, and brought Theodore McCarrick out of seclusion, makes the liberals more apt to protect him. As a Traditional Catholic, I’m finding it hard to be obedient to this Pope, or to support him on certain issues.

  4. During this pontificate I find myself turning to the Bible more and more. Luke 6:26 says it all about this Pontificate and its relationship with the secular media: ” “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

    • You can also look more on Magisterial texts and theologians. St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Alphonsus Ligori are very good.
      For Greater Glory of God,
      Long Life Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

  5. You left out climate change. I think some progressives would toss the homosexual lobby overboard for one degree Fahrenheit, except that it would only arise from the sea as Leviathan and consume all that is green.

  6. Secular atheists in the media protect those clericsame who can advance their agenda. Once their usefulness evaporates, they,too, will be thrown to the wolves. Just wait and see.

  7. These critics reminded me that during Jesus’ time, He was accused of befriending the sinners and told His accusers that their lack understanding to save the lost , while the religious accusers are called satan’s children. He also warns that repentant humbled prostitutes ( or homosexuals in today’s fetish) given a chance, are more welcome in the Kingdom of God. Pope Francis probably will be more welcome in heaven than most of his critics after he called all the Bishops for repentance this past weekend. Praise the Lord.

    • Jesus expected repentance from sinners, he didn’t affirm them in their sinful actions and said that those who persist in sin without repentance should be allowed into the kingdom of God anyway “out of Mercy”. A Mercy without repentance, without justice, is a false kind of Mercy and only serves to “accompany” the unrepentant sinner into the gates of Hell.

    • Eloisa – this article is about those in the press who push gay marriage and the sexual revolution, push abortion, and push radical socialism (against the natural rights of man) and who want the weakening (or destruction) of the Catholic Church – yet who favor the Pope, because they see in him a weakening force. Are these journalists going to get into heaven first for fighting against the Church Jesus founded? Doubtful. You need to begin to see that the homosexual(LGBT) lobby – which Pope Francis did speak out against – is a powerful force which wants to be all-powerful on earth. As to the homosexual person struggling sincerely with his sin (as all should struggle with sin), he or she is welcome in the Church and the Church embraces him/her as a lost lamb and wants to bring that person back to faith and the grace of God. However, the Church can do little to save the willful sinner; and neither can God.

  8. Liberal media are well aware of the importance of the Catholic Democrat vote particularly among Latinos that gives them an edge in elections. Saul Alinsky worked hard at convincing the USCCB starting with Cardinal Bernadin and institution of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. ‘Working on the Edges’ of society has become the clarion call of socialist Democrats. An in principle charitable org with the unfortunate Alinsky Marxist tact adopted by Dems to engage in class warfare vilifying the successful preaching egalitarian justice. The Pontiff, who W Kilpatrick notes identifies as many of us know with that agenda apparently has had connection with fellow influential ideologue G Soros. That legacy among our Hierarchy is a cause for their favoring Green issues over traditional morality and in favor of Dem Party agendas. And why Catholic Dems vilify Pres Trump.

  9. Deflecting homosex priests into childfree ministry does no favor to the new recipients of the “priests” “ministry”. Think about a nursing home elder about to receive the pillow from her children… she needs the support of a real man priest, not Father Twinkie. Or, an annulment tribunal assignment may keep Twinkie physically away from kids, but he’s being allowed to strip them of their mom and dad on a daily basis through the ratification of annulment.

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