TheWashington Post runs an ad campaign promoting its newspaper with the slogan, “If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.” More and more, that slogan seems appropriate when analyzing the declining editorial and advertising standards of that once-great paper.
At a time when readership and subscriptions to the print editions of newspapers are at an all-time low, TheWashington Post on May 8 ran a full page ad on page 5 of its front section, not for a department store, but from a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. More than one million Catholics live in the Washington metropolitan area, and those who still read
TheWashington Post opened their paper that morning and were “treated” to a viciously anti-Catholic screed titled “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church.”
Interestingly, the full page paid advertisement, for which the Post must have received thousands of dollars, was not labeled as an ad. Subtitled as an “open letter to ‘liberal’ and ‘nominal’ Catholics,” the ad included numerous canards and false, malicious statements from beginning to end, and it concluded by encouraging Catholics to “Please, Exit En Mass.” A similar ad from the same group recently ran in The New York Times, who subsequently declined to run a comparable ad attacking the beliefs of Islam. But for The New York Times and The Washington Post, it’s fair game to attack the Catholic Church and its beliefs with a hateful ad filled with distortions, a cartoonish attack that in fact had a cartoon on top of the ad.
The ad’s main target of attack is the U.S. Catholic bishops’ principled defense of religious liberty. The ad frames the issue as a “war against women’s right to contraception.” Wrong. Contraception is legal in our country and is widely available at a low cost. What the nation’s Catholic bishops are objecting to is the unprecedented attempt by the Obama Administration to force religious institutions like Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies to violate the teachings of their faith and provide employees with health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures. For the first time, our government, through its HHS mandate, has declared that when we care for the sick and feed the hungry we aren’t really practicing “religion” at all. That is why the bishops are standing united to defend our first freedom and urging the nation’s Catholics to join them in this battle.
The ad calls on people to leave the Catholic Church because of the sexual abuse crisis, but it does not mention how the Church has confronted the tragedy of abuse by adopting a zero tolerance policy toward abusers and by enacting child protection policies across the country. The abuse and neglect of children is a societal problem affecting people of all religions, all backgrounds and occupations, and most often occurring within families. Still, child abuse is distortedly presented in this ad and in the media as if it occurs only in the Catholic Church. The day before, The Washington Post published an editorial attacking the Catholic Church’s “passivity” on the issue, and cited for its evidence the case of a Jesuit priest in Chicago presented with credible complaints of abuse in the 1990s. But The Washington Post in its edition the next day reported on two Montgomery County public school workers accused of recent incidents of child sexual abuse, with no accompanying editorial chastising the public school system for its “passivity” on the issue.
Also, the ad in The Washington Post criticizes the Catholic Church for its opposition to abortion, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage. In a culture of death, the Catholic Church stands for the dignity of human life in all its stages, from conception to natural death. The Catholic Church stands against efforts to redefine marriage, recognizing that marriage between one man and one woman has been the foundation of society for thousands of years.
The Post ad also blames the Catholic Church for causing the world’s poverty and misery because of its opposition to artificial birth control. With its teaching and its charitable outreach, the Catholic Church works to lift up the dignity of the world’s people. Around the world, the Catholic Church helps lift people out of poverty and suffering through its educational, health care and social service programs, which are the largest non-governmental providers of that help. Every day, those Catholic Church programs bring Christ’s love and hope to people in our community and our world, but those stories don’t often appear in the pages of The Washington Post.
The kinds of lies that this ad presents have been hurled at the Catholic Church since the first disciples went out to the ends of the earth to teach people the Good News of Jesus. Today, as we carry out the work of the New Evangelization, that work of knowing, loving and serving Christ is entrusted to us. We Catholics should pray for the people who produce such hateful ads, and for those who are misled by them. When confronted with hate, we as a family of faith must continue to live out Christ’s Gospel of Life and Love, to carry out the mission of building Christ’s kingdom in our world today.
(The Catholic Standard Newspaper.)
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