Back to the Past
The New Pope and Journalism’s Crisis of Faith
By Norman Solomon
The papacy of Benedict XVI confronts journalists with a key question: How much critical scrutiny is appropriate when a religious leader gains enormous power?
So far, most American media outlets seem to be walking on eggshells to avoid tough coverage of the new pope. Caution is in the air, and some of it is valid. Anti-Catholic bigotry has a long and ugly history in the United States. News organizations should stay away from disparaging the Catholic faith, which certainly deserves as much respect as any other religion.
At the same time, the Vatican is a massive global power. Though it has no army, it is more powerful than many governments. And in the present day, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is the capital of political reaction garbed in religiosity. Many dividing lines between theology and ideology have virtually disappeared.
After more than two decades as a Vatican power broker, Joseph Ratzinger is now in charge as Pope Benedict XVI. He is extremely well-positioned to push a longstanding agenda that includes hostility toward AIDS prevention measures, women’s rights, gay rights and movements for social justice. No one in the hierarchy was more committed to stances like vehement opposition to condoms while millions of people contracted cases of AIDS that could have been prevented. And he has been the commander of the Vatican’s war on liberation theology.