Thursday, September 30, 2010

Has CCD failed us?

The latest religious news this week is that, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, non-religious Americans know more about religion in general than self-identified Christians. Even when corrections were made for disparities in intelligence and education levels, the statistics still bear out. (You can test your own knowledge, or just check out the questions, here. I got all the answers correct, but only because I had read about some of the questions in various news reports. I would probably have gotten 2 wrong if I hadn't.)

Last Sunday, CNN aired a special segment called "What the Pope Knew," an investigative special on the extent to which Pope Benedict knew about sexually abusive priests when he was a cardinal. It reveals that then Cardinal Ratzinger had specific knowledge of at least one pedophile priest and wrote a letter explaining that the Church could not defrock him without his consent. In other words, it was largely ignored.

John W. Kennedy, who writes the "Catholics, Media & Culture" column for Beliefnet, addressed the CNN program, writing that it was a solid piece of journalism and unfortunately revealed grave errors on the part of the Church. He also writes of how we can move forward from such revelations:
Balance requires a willingness to admit and truly come to grips with what happened (so healing can begin and necessary reforms can be made) as well a realization that the Church stands for something that is good and solid and beyond the failings of even its leaders -- and that is the love and forgiveness offered to the world through Jesus Christ.

While I agree with Kennedy's above statement, I think that we're missing some crucial elements that can make this kind of healing happen, and those gaps are revealed by the Pew survey.

Catholics - myself included - don't know enough about our own religion. The problem with the Pope's actions in regard to predatory criminal men serving in the priesthood is firstly one of his own morality and conscience and secondly one of Church doctrine, which he was, at the time, following.

If the general Catholic population struggles to identify which Biblical figure was asked by God to sacrifice his son (and it's multiple choice) or even to name the holy book of Islam (because a basic understanding of other world religions is imperative to understanding our own), clearly we're not up on complicated Church doctrine. And if the flock doesn't know what's governing the decisions of its leaders, how can we ever have a dialogue about meaningful change?

It's easy for bloggers (ahem) and lay people to say, injustice should not happen in our Church. And it shouldn't. Moral courage should have trumped Church dogma in every single case of child abuse that the Church came across. But it would be easier to eradicate this problem if there weren't doctrinal obstacles in place, and while the average Catholic can't technically initiate these changes, we can write letters and mount campaigns and talk to our priests and bishops and cardinals about changes that might be made.

Next week I'll be writing about a piece of Catholic history or doctrine that I didn't know about before and that I think is important for every Catholic to know. I invite readers to leave suggestions in the comments. Let's get smarter together, shall we?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Let Go of Natalee Holloway - For Real

The media loves anniversaries. It doesn't matter how many years (or even months) have passed - everything can be made to sound significant if you slap a number on it and look back at it solemnly. The October issue of Glamour magazine boasts on its cover of an "exclusive" interview with two of Natalee Holloway's best friends, speaking five years after her disappearance from a tragically ill-advised (100 teenagers, 4 adult chaperones) senior class trip to Aruba. The headline is "What We've Never Told Anyone About Natalee."

The article, in the words of the two friends, spends the first half on details about Natalee as a teenager - her nickname, her demeanor around boys, her college plans. All things that matter to young women who lost a friend in a very public and jarring way, for sure, but as I was reading it, I kept thinking, Why should I care about this? Natalee Holloway was a normal girl who disappeared and most likely died on the very same night. Her parents rightfully care about this, as do her friends, the adults who were supposed to be watching out for her, and the local communities in both Aruba and in Natalee's hometown. But national news? Five years later?

The news value of articles like these is shaky at best. The most charitable light one can possibly shine on the motivations of the Glamour editors who greenlighted this piece shows the desire to prevent other young girls from disappearing, but exactly how that is achieved, we are only left to guess. (Don't send a giant group of newly graduated high schoolers to a vacation spot where they can legally drink, maybe? Just a suggestion.) The more realistic motivations come from a tabloid sensibility and the continued exploitation of a pretty young blond girl who met a terrible fate.

I can think of several other articles one could write if an editor pressed for material touching on the anniversary of Holloway's disappearance: an examination of how school-sanctioned and -organized graduation trips and celebrations have changed (or not); an interview with her mother about how the Natalee Holloway Resource Center helps families of other missing girls; profiling another girl who has gone missing in the years since. Instead, Glamour chose to dredge up, yet again, the circumstances of Holloway's last night and the profound grief of those who loved her.

The girls who reveal "never before heard" details about Natalee don't even realize that they're being used to sell magazines. One could argue that every interview subject is used to sell magazines, but that is negated by news value in most cases. Here, it's not. The article could be summed up in a sentence: "Natalee was a super great friend, we don't know what happened the night she disappeared, and our survivor guilt and grief still affects us." At the risk of sounding unkind, my response to this is, "Well, duh." That's what happens when people die. It sucks. But it's not news.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Making it to Maplewood

Last night, I had the inimitable joy of saying, "I'm reporting for The New York Times." That phrase was followed by "The Local blog," of course, but still. It felt good. Here is my second contribution to The Local:

I also had quite an adventure getting home from Maplewood after attending a very long township council meeting. I missed the 10:27 p.m. train back to Penn Station by only a few minutes, and then was forced to wait in the 33 degree weather for the 11:38 p.m. train. I was so cold that I ventured into an ATM vestibule at a bank and hid out there for 20 minutes or so, worrying that I would get arrested for loitering or whatnot and make the local Maplewood news, instead of writing it. Thank God for iPhone apps, which passed the frigid time.

When I boarded the gloriously heated train at 11:38, the NJ Transit worker taking tickets told me to transfer at Hoboken and take the PATH, instead of transferring at Newark and waiting for the connection, so I did that, then took 2 PATH trains (all the while followed by a charming young poetry enthusiast / pre-med student who didn't know where he was going and tried his 18-year-old best to flirt with me by asking questions like, "Do you read books?") to the World Trade Center, then gave up and hailed a cab, getting home to Brooklyn at 1:46 a.m.

I must love journalism.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Story on The New York Times blog

Check out my story on The New York Times blog "The Local." Click here or copy and paste:

Three years of barbershop singing in high school has definitely paid off.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound

Last weekend, my boyfriend's brother's band, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, was in Brooklyn at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. They hail from Chicago and brought the Electric Soul Revue to NYC (read the Times' review of the event here). Here is a small taste of the amazing set. The pictures aren't that great but the band sounds awesome.

To see it bigger, click on this link:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vegetarian Ethics on the Bathroom Wall

Only in Park Slope. The brick wall in the bathroom at The Tea Lounge on Union Street features the following graffiti debate:

(arrows pointing to above statement) a bit dramatic
So animals aren't slaughtered for food?
Murder tastes good
Dairy is still rape
Yo mama is merder
You can't murder an animal, you can kill it but not murder it, idiot.
Humans are animals
Your mom is an animal
rabbits = people

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Can I really blog from my cell phone via text? Oh, technology!