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What an Irritatingly Misleading Headline, II



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I won’t make responding to every example a habit, but in a piece about soon-to-be Archbishop William Lori’s appearance on Meet the Press yesterday, UPI has as a headline

Bishop: Contraception tiff impacts liberty

First of all, I’m pretty sure that Bishop Lori is about one of the last people on the planet who would ever refer to the HHS mandate debate as a “tiff” over “contraception.”

Second, the piece itself made sure to keep its framework firmly in place to the end. While reporting some of what Lori said, it concluded with dismissal:

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., told NBC he saw the conflict as a minor disagreement being massaged into an epic election-year battle. “I think people exaggerate certain positions in order to help themselves politically,” said Cleaver, who is an ordained minister. “There is no war on religion in this country.”

What Lori did say was that the fight itself was one about freedom, not contraception:

We have the government imposing its definition on what religion and religious organizations are to be. And it’s an inward looking definition. If you’re only serving your own, hiring your own, inculcating your own doctrine, you’re exempt. But the minute you serve the common good which is what all of our organizations do, then you’re not exempt. Then you are subject to having to provide fund and or facilitate — services which are contrary to the church’s teaching. 

#more#Getting pushback from the host and panel, who claimed it was more like the headline writer insisted, he continued:

It’s not a theological debate. We are not trying to get the government to stop something or to start something. What we are talking about is the government — forcing religious organizations to do something that is against their teaching? This is a religious liberty fight. . . .

We recognize there’s a lot of opinions about abortafacients and sterilization and contraception. What we’re saying is that we’re not just houses of worship. We are places that try to live our teachings as we serve the common good. We have this freedom now. We’ve had it for generations. Our teachings have been accommodated. But now they’re not being accommodated. This represents a definite diminishment of our freedom to provide our services. . .

Fundamentally, Lori said: 

I think people have an intuition that religious faith is connected the moral values that make for just laws. And that if we cut our laws away from their moral moorings — we’re not going to have a society which we would like to think of as a civilization of justice and love.

So there really I think that what we want to say is that religion is not an irrational force, it’s not a divisive force, it in all of our diversity of our faiths contributes to a moral consensus that underlies our laws.

And the more we build that moral consensus about the dignity of human life, solidarity, the common good, the more we’re going to be able to find ways of talking across the partisan divide. And so I think that religion has a huge role to play. And we have to watch out getting instrumentalized — one way or the other. 

Lori wrapped up by saying:

Well, it seems to me that — as we approach and celebrate these high holy days that . . . we share in common — Christians and Jews share a lot in common this time of year. Among them the Exodus story and the story of a liberation not just from one place to another but from sin to grace and … restoration of human dignity.

I think that … what we need to uphold in our country is a renewed sense of the dignity of the human person. And the dignity of the human person always includes the person’s transcendent dimension, the fact that the person has an openness to God and also the values — the truths that underlie human dignity.

And various religions might approach that in various ways. But I think the true test for religious liberty is when the minority — unpopular views — find respect. And I would just also add that I represent some of those. I represent those teachings — that are a bit countercultural. Those have to be respected and accommodated as well as others.

I didn’t really get “contraception tiff” out of the bishop’s comments myself. There’s something much more fundamental here to focus on.

The video is here.



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