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September 21, 2023

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Coverage of Catholic conclave was disgraceful

Habemus Papam — We have a pope. White smoke rose from the chimney in the Vatican and the world celebrates the selection of Francis I as the 266th pope.

As a telecommunications student with a background in news, this is a great time to reflect on the secular media’s coverage of the resignation of His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus from the Papal Office and the Miss-America-esque coverage of the conclave that started Tuesday and concluded Wednesday.

Perhaps my fascination is magnified by a fierce devotion to my Catholic faith, but mainstream media’s reporting is enough to draw anyone’s attention.

The gossipy nature of the reporting encourages a malicious attitude toward Catholicism. I’m almost afraid of reports about the Vatican for fear of yelling, “you’re doing it wrong!” There is a lack of knowledge and an evident unwillingness to learn.

One of my favorite statements is the Church is “at a turning point” or “is struggling to hold on.” The resignation was seen as a crisis. They ask what made Benedict XVI unfit to be the pope. Did scandal push him to resign? Will there be a struggle between Pope Francis I and the Pope Emeritus?

Scandal seems to be the media’s favorite discussion when it comes to the Church. After all, no pope has resigned from office in the past 600 years. Clearly, this throws up a red flag.

Keep in mind, he’s 85 years old. The average world-wide lifespan is around 70, and 600 years ago it was about 45. Give the old man a break. Nowhere in the job description does it require lifetime service. Pope Benedict showed incredible humility in his actions. The rest of us could learn from him.

The media also suggests this resignation is an opportunity for the Church to catch up with current secular trends, like artificial contraception, homosexual marriage and women in the priesthood.

Sorry folks, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Call the Church “ancient,” but these dogmas will never change because it’s the responsibility of the Church to uphold the teachings of God; the Church cannot change teachings outside its authority to change.

Aside from wild speculations and obvious spin, some media outlets simply neglect to report accurately.

An international newswire inaccurately reported the number of members in the College of Cardinals, despite the Vatican releasing a report days earlier with the number of members. An Ohio newspaper even referred to the College of Cardinals as the electoral body, but the cardinal-electors (the members eligible to vote) do that.

Most media outlets treated the conclave like a televised pageant or reality show.

Which Cardinal has the best chance of winning? Is he too old? What’s his track record? Could the drawn-out process be a sign of a lack of unity among Cardinals? Did Cardinal Dolan of New York even stand a chance?

The conclave is guided by the Holy Spirit; it’s not a popularity contest, and not an elaborate spectacle or source of entertainment. Sequestered from the world, the cardinal-electors prayed and followed long-standing traditions to discern the next shepherd of God’s people. I think they did a pretty good job.

Unfortunately, I see no quick end to the marginalization of Catholicism in mainstream media, but I have some recommendations for students who seek the truth, and not just truths about the Catholic Church. College is a time to learn critical thinking. Do your research, fact-check and be certain your sources are credible.

If you want to know what 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide believe, turn to Catholic sources.

EWTN is the Catholic cable station, WNOC 89.7FM is our local Catholic radio station and is a great website.

Father Michael Dandurand, pastor of St. Thomas More, is an incredibly valuable resource, too.

Whether you agree with the Catholic faith or not, this incorrect reporting is disrespectful of the Church started by Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago. Let’s show some props and give Catholics (and the Holy Spirit) credit for keeping this tradition strong.

I’m looking forward to the continued growth and strength of the Catholic Church under the guidance of our Holy Father.

Respond to Debbie at

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