Last week I was extremely surprised to see that LifeSiteNews (LSN) had made the decision to publish a very speculative story about the actions of Pope Francis in celebrating a Mass with Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis – an Italian priest who has previously courted controversy.
LSN decided to publish a story on this incident, with the incendiary headline “Pope kisses the hand of, concelebrates mass with pro-homosexual activist priest“, despite the fact that they knew very little about this incident other than some scant details about when, where and what had taken place.
The end result was a story that strongly implied that Pope Francis’ actions meant that he was giving a ringing endorsement and papal blessing to the controversial ideas promoted by Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis.
I am astounded that LSN chose to publish such an article – and here’s why:
They failed to ascertain fundamental facts that should have been verified before such a story was published.
They went ahead and published a highly speculative article that effectively cast the Pope in a very negative and problematic light without waiting for any clarification from the Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi, despite admitting in their article that they had sought clarification but hadn’t heard back yet, so they went ahead and published anyway without bothering to wait for said clarification.
The article is written in such a tone as to clearly pass judgment on the motives of Pope Francis, yet not only were his motives unknowable in this situation, but such an action is almost certainly contradictory to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
They did nothing to stop the tidal wave of anti-Francis comments (and some were really quite vile) that filled the comments section at the bottom of this article.
LSN regularly criticises the mainstream media for its unfair and biased treatment of life, marriage, faith and family issues, yet the way they conducted themselves here feels just as problematic, and more like tabloid gossip reporting or gotcha journalism than legitimate and ethical media coverage of an issue.
Now obviously LSN has experienced a backlash over their decision to publish this article, because not only have they added an explanatory paragraph trying to justify their actions at the top of the original article, but they have also just published a brand new article that, once again, tries to justify their actions.
The problem is that the new article is just as problematic, and still lacking in the one thing that this whole incident so desperately needs – a retraction of the original article, and an apology for publishing it in the first place.
The new LSN article suggests that, even if Francis’ actions were Franciscan in nature and aimed at bringing a wayward priest back into full communion, the Pope is somehow still to blame for the fact that Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis used the Mass with Francis as a publicity tool instead of immediately recanting any errors he may still hold to.
This is clearly illogical and totally unfair to Pope Francis.
The new article also questions the prudence of Pope Francis’ actions in this situation – but what about the lack of prudence on the part of LSN in their decision to publish an article with little substantive facts backing it, and which is potentially libellous in nature?
The new LSN article also talks about the “possibility of scandal” caused by the Pope’s actions, but they fail to acknowledge that their own actions in publishing the original article only added to the possibility of causing scandal. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that most Catholics wouldn’t have even been aware of this event, or of Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis before LSN chose to publish their article.
For any Catholic who is not strong or well formed in their Catholicism, this sort of conduct from LifeSiteNews is potentially faith destroying stuff, and at the end of the day that’s probably my biggest concern about this whole incident.