The Pope and the Press


August 17, 1993|By CAL THOMAS

For more than three decades, the press and entertainment media have served as a type of priesthood for the cult of youth. From Woodstock to the Pepsi generation, everything young has been promoted as preferable to anything middle aged or old.

The young were interviewed, analyzed and elevated in the public mind, while those of more mature years were told to step aside in favor of the views and values of people who had not yet found a cure for acne, much less the world's problems.

So when more than 170,000 young people came from 70 nations to Denver to meet and listen to Pope John Paul II, what did the media do? Did they report stories on the new counter-culture -- that is, young people searching for the eternal values so many of their parents' generation abandoned in droves?

No, the media focused on ''controversy and conflict'' within the Catholic Church over abortion, homosexuality and the ordination of women priests. It was the latest in a lengthening list of examples of how journalists close their eyes to anything not of this world.

Once, some of this could have been ascribed to ignorance. Now it must be identified for what it is: prejudice. The final frontier of bigotry is directed against people who believe in and order their lives according to God's Word and His will. After more than two decades of religious and political activism in which Christians have been prominent, the press has no excuse for ignoring, stereotyping and mislabeling believers as ''the flock'' and ''pilgrims.''

The pope's messages ought to have prompted debate about the meaning of life and America's spiritual atrophy, but the press seems ill-equipped to cover such important topics. Reporters and editors prefer the comfort of controversy and opinion polls. Thus saith CNN-Gallup-USA Today has far more resonance for most journalists than ''thus saith the Lord.''

The pope correctly diagnosed America's problem after the victory over Soviet communism. It is moral exhaustion and an inability to distinguish right from wrong. ''All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person,'' said the pope in a not-so-veiled reference to America's 30 million abortions in the past 20 years.

Paraphrasing the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, the pope said, ''Let us pause and reason together,'' adding, ''To educate without a value system based on truth is to abandon young people to moral confusion, personal insecurity and easy manipulation. No country, not even the most powerful, can endure if it deprives its own children of this essential good.''

Now there was a statement worthy of discussion and comment -- but the press mostly ignored it.

So much of the press seems to think that the Church is, or ought to be, a democracy. That attitude recalls a line from pastor Charles Stanley of First Baptist Church in Atlanta: ''We have moved from a period in which little Samuel said, 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth,' to one in which we now say, 'Listen, Lord, for thy servant speaketh.' ''

The pope's message was for American youth to consider the moral mess of the world and then reconsider the principles of Scripture, the life of Christ and the teachings of the Church that they might not walk down the same alley and be morally mugged.

But this profound message did not make headlines. Was it because so many in the press harbor a bitterness toward spiritual things that they would never tolerate in themselves or in anyone else when it comes to other areas, such as race or gender?

Still, 170,000 young people is pretty impressive, particularly when you consider that the Christ of whom the pope spoke changed the world by starting with only 12.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

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