Thursday, April 01, 2010

Another note to media: Learn what "Vatican" means

In my past article, I explained what infallibility means when Catholics speak of it. This time I want to address the use of the word "Vatican". The media will use the word Vatican to describe a number of things, but only one can be really used.

Sometimes the media will interview a priest or bishop working at the Vatican or in a particular congregation and the headline will read "The Vatican says...". This is incorrect. This individual does not represent the entire Vatican. When people hear "Vatican" they hear "the Catholic Church". So if this one priest expresses his personal opinion, people are led to believe it's a pronouncement by the entire church.

"Vatican" should really only be used to describe a decision made by the universal church through the Pope. If someone working in the White House made a comment on immigration saying "We need to tighten legislation on immigration", it would be poor journalism to report "United States to get Tough on Immigration". Often the people interviewed are not heads of congregation, and many times may represent an opinion that is not sanctioned.

An example is when a cardinal made comments about Harry Potter books. Media broadly reported that the Vatican had made an official pronouncement on the book. It hadn't. People were misled.

The media needs to be aware of this.

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