"Is it true? Or is that just something you saw in the Times?"

John L. Allen Jnr has struck a blow at what he calls “the original sin” in journalism: “willful indifference to the facts.” The guilty party in this case? The British press, and in particular, The Times, which, by his account, has shown itself to be worse than either The New York Times or The Age when it comes to reporting on religious matters.

(Actually, he didn’t mention The Age–and to be honest, the fact that Barney Zwartz is theologically educated and literate makes a huge difference in that sphere. It’s their editorial stance that gets me.)

What gave rise to his unusual outburst against his British colleagues is this piece by Ruth Gledhill, but in fact he catalogues a whole series of journalistic furphies published by the British press with regard to the Vatican. His strong opinion is that this sort of stuff, in today’s climate, “is not merely irrating, but dangerous”.

Gledhill’s piece, is, he opines, not only a deliberate sensationalising, but also a deliberate misreading of the leaked IARCCUM text to make it say the complete opposite of what it says.

Here’s the first line of paragraph seven, which appears on page five of the report: This present context, which adds to existing differences between our two communions, is not the appropriate time to enter the new formal stage of relationship envisaged by the bishops at Mississauga.” That’s a reference to a meeting in Canada in 2000 when representatives of the two groups had discussed the possibility of greater structural unity. In other words, “Growing Together in Unity and Mission” unambiguously says that now is not the time for reunion under the pope. There is simply no other way to read the document — unless, that is, you’re inclined to distort it.

Interestingly, Gledhill herself leaves a comment on Allen’s column, defending her piece:

Thank you John for your thoughtful article. I can only urge people to read the entire document for themselves. It can now be purchased from SPCK. One of the most pertinent paragraphs on which I based my story was this:
114. We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion.
Given the theology of reception, ie women priests, Catholic reception, I find that par pretty unambiguous and nothing like that was in any of the Arcic documents, although Gift of Authority came close.

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