The factual reporting from Pope Francis’ visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day tells us that more between two million and three million people are estimated to have gathered for his final Mass.
The tonal reporting from Pope Francis’ visit to Rio de Janeiro for World You Day tells us that the Roman Catholic Church is in such deep crisis and decline, on all accounts, that its very survival seems at stake.
There is a basic journalistic question in the gap between fact and tone, and it is this: how can a global institution with the energy, will and organizational acumen to hold an event that attracts more than two million people be, at the same time, set to collapse?
The question is not one for Catholics or the Roman Catholic Church. It is a journalistic question for journalists. It is not a question about mere journalistic bias. It is a question of how journalists can continue to fail to fulfill the most fundamental aspect of their craft: asking basic questions.
The basic question that journalists who report on anything to do with the Roman Catholic should properly be asking is this: why am I compelled to programmatically trumpet the demise of a Church that can move the hearts of millions enough to have them move around the globe to attend such massive celebrations of their faith?
No journalist should be a mere cheerleader for the Church or anything else. No journalist should turn a blind eye to concerns within the Church or anywhere else. But obsessive boilerplate paragraphs about the looming doom awaiting the Church are, as they would be in any other area of human life, less journalism than Tourette-like tics: words that those who profession is words are unable to control, much less examine critically.
Catholic, non-Catholic, couldn’t-care-less-about-Catholicism, it must be a serious concern for us all when primary sources of information about the world allow such tics to trump the truth.