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ABC: Pope "Controversial," "Too Conservative" for U.S. Catholics --4/4/2005


1. ABC: Pope "Controversial," "Too Conservative" for U.S. Catholics
ABC seemed ahead of the other networks in looking at Pope John Paul II's legacy through the prism of American liberals who see him as too conservative by U.S. political standards. Before he even passed away, ABC's Peter Jennings insisted that the Pope "was, of course, controversial here. Some American Catholics have chaffed at his insistence that they follow the Church's traditional social doctrines." Dean Reynolds cited "abortion, birth control, women priests" as issues which have "all driven a wedge between the Vatican and America." Less than two hours after ABC News reported the Pope's death on Saturday afternoon, anchor Bob Woodruff told Archbishop Wilton Gregory that "many believe" the "Pope has been too conservative socially for many Catholics in the United States." Woodruff soon pressed Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame about the Pope's stands on "women in the priesthood, birth control and so on." O'Brien scolded the media, recalling how "every time the Pope made a visit to the United States...the media would pull out the usual suspects, you know, abortion, birth control, ordination of women, clerical celibacy."

2. Lauer: "Contradiction" Between "Conservative" Pope and His Pitch
On Friday morning, NBC's Matt Lauer saw a "contradiction" between the Pope's use of modern communications technology and his "extremely conservative" views. When Lauer didn't get the answer he wanted, he posed his question a second time.

3. Alec Baldwin: GOP Leaders "Maniacs" from "Christian Loony Bin"
"The leadership class of the Republican Party," actor Alec Baldwin charged on Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, "is a conservative Christian loony bin." That claim earned Baldwin loud applause from the Los Angeles audience. Baldwin then acceded as to how "most Republicans who are registered Republicans are decent, honest good people who you have a difference of opinion with," but, he alleged, "the leadership of the Republican Party are a bunch of sociopathic maniacs who have their lips super-glued to the ass of the conservative right."


ABC: Pope "Controversial," "Too Conservative"
for U.S. Catholics

ABC's Peter Jennings ABC seemed ahead of the other networks in looking at Pope John Paul II's legacy through the prism of American liberals who see him as too conservative by U.S. political standards. Before he even passed away, ABC's Peter Jennings insisted that the Pope "was, of course, controversial here. Some American Catholics have chaffed at his insistence that they follow the Church's traditional social doctrines." Dean Reynolds cited "abortion, birth control, women priests" as issues which have "all driven a wedge between the Vatican and America." Less than two hours after ABC News reported the Pope's death on Saturday afternoon, anchor Bob Woodruff told Archbishop Wilton Gregory that "many believe" the "Pope has been too conservative socially for many Catholics in the United States." Woodruff soon pressed Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame about the Pope's stands on "women in the priesthood, birth control and so on." O'Brien scolded the media, recalling how "every time the Pope made a visit to the United States...the media would pull out the usual suspects, you know, abortion, birth control, ordination of women, clerical celibacy."

ABC's concerns were raised by the other networks, but not so soon or eagerly it seemed from my viewing of the massive coverage over the weekend.

Jennings set up an April 1 World News Tonight story: "He's an electrifying figure for Americans, whether you were Catholic or not. People know that. He made seven trips to this country as the Pope. He actually went to Alaska twice. He was, of course, controversial here. Some American Catholics have chaffed at his insistence that they follow the Church's traditional social doctrines. But every time the Gallup organization asked Americans who are those people they admire most, John Paul always made the top ten list. And that admiration and affection was very clear today in many corners of America. Here's ABC's Dean Reynolds."

Reynolds aired a series of positive comments from American Catholics before cautioning, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "John Paul's likeness adorns the walls of St. Hyacinth's Basilica in this heavily Polish Chicago neighborhood, where they talk of the Pope's 1979 visit to the city as if it were yesterday. And yet, the sea of vacant pews even on this day and in this Polish church points up a problem for Catholics in this country."
Father Richard McBrien, University of Notre Dame Theology Department: "There are a lot of achievements of the pontificate of John Paul II. But there are a lot of problems that are left for his successor."
Over an on-screen list titled, "Issues for American Catholics," which cited "Abortion, Birth Control, Women Priests, Sexual Abuse Scandal," Reynolds asserted: "Abortion, birth control, women priests, the list of contested issues is long, not to mention the priest sex abuse scandal. And it's all driven a wedge between the Vatican and America, regardless of the Pope's standing in the world."
McBrien: "For the vast majority of Catholics and for the vast majority of other people, the Pope was just an icon, a celebrity, a figure that they could applaud and then they could go home and do what they wanted."

The broadcast networks broke in on Saturday, April 2, just before 3pm EST to announce the Pope's death and while CBS stayed on the air for barely 30 minutes and NBC News for nearly 90 minutes, ABC News kept going for two hours with Bob Woodruff anchoring. After about a minute into ABC's coverage, however, viewers never again saw Woodruff as ABC stuck to live video from the Vatican and tape of of the Pope.

In its last half hour, a bit past 4:30pm EST, Woodruff talked by phone to Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta. Woodruff proposed that there is a "sense that there has been a great deal of loss of Catholics, Catholics leaving the church in the U.S. and there are, many believe, Archbishop Gregory, that perhaps this particular Pope has been too conservative socially for many Catholics in the United States. Is that your sense? Is that the sense that many American Catholics have in leadership?"
Gregory responded: "First of all, Bob, I would say that socially, the Pope was extraordinarily progressive, that he's very much involved with the shaping a social, a moral social vision that would be much more progressive than perhaps many Catholics were familiar with. Doctrinally, he was very traditional. So perhaps the area of disagreement would not be with a social teaching but with his doctrinal tradition."
Woodruff followed up: "In terms of questions of birth control, in terms of questions of women in the priesthood, those types of issues is what I think many Catholics have taken issue with with John Paul II."
Gregory: "Well, the holy father, I believe, from the moment that he assumed the chair of Peter, felt that he had to teach, that he had to build on the tradition of the church. And I think for some people they were looking for a break from the tradition. That's just not the nature of Catholicism. The nature of the church is that we build on the apostolic foundations and move forward. And I think that will have to be the posture of whoever assumes the chair of Peter after him."

Ten minutes later ABC brought aboard, via satellite, Father Richard McBrien of the Notre Dame Theology Department, though viewers only saw him in a small inst in the upper left of the screen over historic video of the Pope.

Woodruff introduced him: "I want to bring in Father Richard McBrien...to talk about the Pope's legacy, I guess you could say, in the United States, what he has left behind in terms of how he has affected the Catholic church and membership in the Catholic church in the United States. Father?"
O'Brien: "Well, it may come as a surprise to say that he didn't affect it very much at all. He visited us several times and made a very, very positive impact. He drew many crowds, many people were uplifted by it, by these visits. But in actual fact, when you look at the bottom line, there was no visible or observable result one way or the other. But that's not to dismiss the importance of those pastoral visits, it's simply to be a bit more realistic about some of the attributes, some of the virtues that are attributed to this pope. He was a great pope, no doubt about it, but we have to be careful about inflating some of the accomplishments and, therefore, in the process, undermining the credibility of the claims that are really legitimate and lasting."
ABC Woodruff pressed his favorite theme: "But it's not so much -- I'm not talking about the pastoral visits, the visits of the Pope, the charismatic appearances in front of American crowds, but really more doctrinally, the Pope's positions on things, as we mentioned before, women in the priesthood, birth control and so on. That affect on American Catholics is, really, I think, the more important question."
O'Brien took a shot at the media's agenda so well reflected by Woodruff: "As you know, every time the Pope made a visit to the United States, they identify -- the media, and I'm not dismissing the media's role or importance, but the media would pull out the usual suspects, you know: abortion, birth control, ordination of women, clerical celibacy. Those were the issues that were discussed prior to, during and after his visit..."

Indeed, the MRC has documented that media obsession on all of the Pope's trips to the U.S. since the late 1980s. We've already dug the material out of the MRC's archive, and at an appropriate time in the coming days we'll distribute evidence of the media's hostility to the Pope's views.

Lauer: "Contradiction" Between "Conservative"
Pope and His Pitch

NBC's Matt Lauer & Archbishop Michael Miller On Friday morning, NBC's Matt Lauer saw a "contradiction" between the Pope's use of modern communications technology and his "extremely conservative" views. When Lauer didn't get the answer he wanted, he posed his question a second time.

The MRC's Rich Noyes noticed how during the 8am half hour of the April 1 Today, with the Vatican in the background, Lauer asked Archbishop Michael Miller, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education:
"That ability, people talk about him being a very modern pope in some ways, in that he took advantage of the Internet, he understood the power of the media, and yet in most of his views, you'd have to say are extremely conservative. Do you see a contradiction there?"
Miller disagreed: "I don't see a contradiction. I see that this Pope is in many ways, thoroughly modern. He takes advantage of the best things of the modern world has to answer, to offer. He's conservative in the sense that his job is to be the rock and to hold on to the great Christian tradition that comes to us from the apostles. If that's very conservative, so be it."
Lauer pressed again: "But do you think though, when you look at Catholics around the world who may view the Pope's messages on the Internet, we're talking about young Catholics here, and then read the content of those messages, do you think they see a contradiction?"
Miller: "I don't think they do because they show up in the hundreds of thousands and the millions. I think they know they're being called to something that is perhaps greater than where they are at at the present moment and that the Pope offers a sense of real values. A sense of conviction. A sense of purpose and of faith that many of us are not there yet, but that he stands to call us forward."

Alec Baldwin: GOP Leaders "Maniacs" from
"Christian Loony Bin"

Actor/Producer Alec Baldwin "The leadership class of the Republican Party," actor Alec Baldwin charged on Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, "is a conservative Christian loony bin." That claim earned Baldwin loud applause from the Los Angeles audience. Baldwin then acceded as to how "most Republicans who are registered Republicans are decent, honest good people who you have a difference of opinion with," but, he alleged, "the leadership of the Republican Party are a bunch of sociopathic maniacs who have their lips super-glued to the ass of the conservative right."

Baldwin's comments came in the midst of a discussion with fellow panelists actress Whoopi Goldberg and far-left professor Cornel West, about the Terri Schiavo case and the intervention of Congress led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Host Bill Maher reminded the panel, on the April 1 show, of how Richard Nixon had cited the existence of a "silent majority" made up of people who did not agree with anti-Vietnam war protesters. Maher suggested the majority are now opposed to the conservative positions espoused by Republican Party leaders.

Pointing to the Schiavo case, Maher asserted: "The majority of the people thought, 'yeah, this woman should be let go, it should be a private affair,' the majority of people thought the assault weapons ban should, you know, there's a lot of issues, the majority of people weren't for impeaching Bill Clinton for his blow job. Okay, so how come the majority can't take back the country?"
Baldwin pounced: "Because the majority of people, Democrat or Republican, live in a moderate mid-section of this country. And the Republican Party, the once-great Republican Party in this country has been hijacked by, the leadership class of the Republican Party is a conservative Christian loony bin who's taken over the party. [loud audience applause] I just want to say it's very important, it's very important, it's very important for the purposes of that discussion to always distinguish Republican rank-and-file from Republican leadership. Most Republicans who are registered Republicans are decent, honest good people who you have a difference of opinion with. The leadership of the Republican Party are a bunch of sociopathic maniacs who have their lips super-glued to the ass of the conservative right."

Sort of like Democrats have their lips super-glued to the ass of the liberal left -- especially the posterior of the Hollywood Left?

Baldwin's last line also generated applause from the audience at CBS's Television City, where Maher's show is produced live Fridays at 8pm PT and shown live at 11pm ET on HBO East.

For a picture of Baldwin and a list of his movie roles, check the Internet Movie Database's page on him: www.imdb.com

HBO's page for Real Time with Bill Maher: www.hbo.com

-- Brent Baker