"Ridiculous and ignorant" Times article

Amy Wellborn has a very good post on a recent article in the Times: As JA was saying... The "JA" refers to John Allen who recently wrote about the poor quality of religious reporting in the British Press. (See John Allen on the British Press.)

At the Stations on Good Friday, the Holy Father used a biblical scheme that differs considerably from the Stations that are erected in most Churches. (These are not actually very ancient in any case but most people would want to stay with them.)

This year's meditations included a quotation from the diary of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jewish intellectual who died in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in 1943:
"each new horror or crime, we must oppose with a new fragment of truth and goodness which we have gained in ourselves. We can suffer, but we must not surrender."
Young women from Chile, South Korea, China, Angola and the Republic of Congo carried the cross at five of the Stations.

The meditation for the 9th Station recalled the suffering of women in particular:
Jesus, to his final hour, is thus surrounded by a world of mothers, daughters and sisters. Standing at his side we now can also imagine all those women who have been abused and raped, ostracized and submitted to shameful tribal practices, anxious women left to raise their children alone, Jewish and Palestinian mothers, and those from all countries at war, widows and the elderly forgotten by their children… a long line of women who bear witness before an arid and pitiless world to the gift of tenderness and compassion, even as they did for the Son of Mary on that late morning in Jerusalem. They teach us the beauty of emotions: that we should not be ashamed when our heart is moved by compassion, when tears sometimes come to our eyes, when we feel the need of a caress and comforting words.
Do we hear anything about this at all from the Times? No. The article starts off with a stupid and disrespectful title Way of Sorrows to call at new stations (snigger snigger, haw haw)

It then gives the impression that the biblical schema is a "revision" of the Stations of the Cross by Pope Benedict. As Amy points out:
The particular structure of the Stations used last night were first used in 1991 by Pope John Paul II and were used 1994, 1995, 1997, in 2002 and 2004 as well.

And I'd say that the existence of JPII's Biblical stations has not exactly been a state secret over the past 16 years, either. There are several published versions of them, you know.
In addition, anyone reading the Times article without being aware of the background would imagine that Pope Benedict had decreed that all the Stations of the Cross in the world had to now to be changed and to omit Veronica, not that he was using a set of Stations for a particular occasion in Rome.

Silly sensationalism is obviously the only way in which the Times can exercise itself to take any interest in the Good Friday Stations of the Cross, the texts of which were published in advance as a service to journalists.

Amy's conclusion is as follows:
So for the major Vatican writer of a major international paper to frame this story in this way, claiming that this is a)new and something b) Benedict did when c)he neither framed the structure of these Stations or even wrote the meditations...is amazingly irresponsible. Amazing, as such things always are, but not surprising.
Actually, I would go further. In England, ignorance of religious affairs and media-driven prejudice ensure that religious affairs reporters now have such a free and clear field that they can put in the paper any old rubbish they like, safe in the knowledge that they will probably not be contradicted.

Except on the blogs, of course ...

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