Too little balance shown in reporting on Catholic Church
FOR 20 years, I worked in communications for international relief and development agencies. During that time, I always tried to find good news to report about the developing world — no matter how terrible, disastrous or conflict-ridden things might actually be in various poor countries.
It’s not that I wanted to gloss over the bad news. It’s just that I knew stories of disaster, war and death would always find a way to get reported by the mainstream media. Goodnews stories, on the other hand, seemed easier to overlook and ignore.
I saw my role as trying to provide a bit of balance. I wanted to remind people in North America disaster and death weren’t the only things happening in places like Africa, South and Central America and Asia. I wanted them to remember a lot of good, decent, kind and hopeful things happened in those places, too. I wanted to draw their attention to people who were triumphing over great odds, promoting peace, providing solutions or helping each other thrive — often without North American help.
I wanted to show while bad things do happen in the developing world and should not be ignored — they aren’t the only story.
Thoughts about my previous employment came back to me this past week as I watched, read and heard media reports about the sex-abuse scandal facing the Roman Catholic Church.
That story is impossible to ignore. It needs to be told, even if it is hard for those who love that church to hear it. But just as stories of disaster and death aren’t the whole picture of the developing world, we need to remember the terrible sexual abuse of children, and the subsequent attempt to hide it, isn’t the only story to be found in the Roman Catholic Church, either.
What we need, in other words, is a bit of balance. And not just for the Roman Catholic Church, but for religion in general, which has also taken a bit of battering of late as a result of this experience. While the scandal has dominated the news cycle, there are other religious stories that could be told — and they aren’t all bad news. Like these few examples, which crossed my desk in the past few weeks.
In southern Sudan, Muslims are helping local Roman Catholics build a church in Darfur. The Muslims say they are doing it to express thanks to Christians around the world who have spoken out against the conflict in that country.
The Mennonite Central Committee reported a record $5.9 million was raised last year through the sale of used goods at 56 thrift shops across Canada. Over $2 million of that total came from shops here in Manitoba.
Also in Manitoba, the Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship, the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land and Aberdeen Evangelical Mennonite Church are working together to sponsor a family of 14 Palestinian Muslim refugees who were trapped in refugee camps on the border between Syria and Iraq. The three will provide about $25,000 each to help sponsor the refugees.
Faith and development groups such as World Vision, A Rocha, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Oikos Centre for the Environment at the University of Calgary and the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology at St. Michael’s College, are jointly sponsoring a conference this weekend on the spiritual dimensions of abusing the planet, with a call for people of faith to be better stewards of the Earth.
Earlier this year, Shahina Siddiqui sent out an emergency plea when her organization, the Islamic Social Services Association, suddenly lost its office space. On March 31 they, along with the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute and a food pantry that serves Muslim refugees and immigrants, found new quarters on Princess Street. “The move was exhausting, but we are settling in fine,” says Siddiqui.
At a meeting in the Netherlands last month, representatives from 40 religious groups, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, pledged to prevent the stigmatization of people living with HIV and AIDS. The groups signed a “personal commitment to action” in which they vowed to “be clear in my words and actions that stigma and discrimination toward people living with or affected by HIV is unacceptable.”
The Archdiocese of Winnipeg has developed a Code of Priestly Conduct that calls on priests to be exemplary in following the example of Christ in their ministry and to maintain the highest level of accountability and trust. The code also contains a formal complaint process that provides “transparency and accountability.”
Much more could be written, but I think you get the picture — when it comes to religion, there’s more going on than just bad news. You just have to look a little harder to find it.