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Thomas Peters Is Nicer Than Me

Concerning the Papal Visit Team's Glossary that I feel was poorly conceived, misguided and embarrassing, Thomas Peters of American Papist disagrees and puts it in a better light:

I read the glossary differently: I think the UK Visit Team is trying their best to educate media about what the proper terminology is to describe these things. For instance, reporters will often (mistakenly) describe the Eucharist as “Bread and Wine”, while the UK Visit Team is telling the media that it should actually be described as “Blessed Sacrament [or] Holy Communion.”

In other words, the right column is listing words and phrases that reporters might be tempted to use, but the left column is telling them what words and phrases they should use if they want to be accurate. Certainly, reporters often make basic mistakes when trying to describe what they are seeing at a Catholic Mass or event, and its understandable that the UK papal visit team is trying to avoid these mistakes if possible.

Granted, they could have done a better job at it. But I still think the Daily Mail hasn’t proven by any means that the UK papal visit team is suggesting that reporters use imprecise/misleading/silly terminology in their reporting.

I am currently attempting to obtain a copy of the full document so I can read this glossary in its proper context.

I am concerned because bloggers in the UK (and now, the US) are busy criticizing the UK Visit Team about this “embarrassment”, when they should actually be going after the Daily Mail for taking the glossary out of context… I hope.

The ironic thing here is that the Daily Mail may have unwittingly proven the papal visit team’s point that when it comes to reporting Catholic topics, the press is in dire need of some remedial education in basic reading and comprehension.
When I saw this glossary I immediately remembered the night when some people working on the papal visit left a number of important documents in a pub. I couldn't help but think that now we at least have a good idea what they were working on in the pub that night.

Like I said Thomas Peters is a lot nicer than me. As far as Peters' comments, I agree that the folks working on the papal visit weren't encouraging the press to use the definitions on the right like "gig" instead of "Mass" or "Performer" instead of "liturgists."

But I believe even using those terms as a comparison point puts the Mass in a weird and silly light that I'm not comfortable with. I'm all for getting the press to say "Blessed Sacrament" instead of "Bread and Wine."

But comparing the Pope to a "Headline Act?" Really?

And were any of the press really going to use the term "gig" for "Mass?" Come on.

And I think even the media understands what a "congregation" is.

While I believe their heart may have been in the right place, what the folks working for the papal visit produced is, I believe, silly. And on top of silly I see it as condescending to the press.

As a guy who was a newspaper reporter for many years, I can guarantee that this glossary almost guarantees worse coverage for the Pope. (And it's pretty difficult for the Pope to get much worse coverage.)

Look, if I believed that the Pope didn't get favorable press clippings simply because of a nomenclature problem then this glossary would be the perfect antidote. However, I don't believe that the press just doesn't understand the terms of Catholicism. Many in the media are opposed to the Pope, don't like organized religion at all, and color their coverage accordingly.

It's not a misunderstanding we're fighting here. It's willful ignorance.

Maybe Thomas Peters is right and this glossary will do great good across Europe and the press will have their nomenclature down pat and church/press relations will be better off for it. Call me pessimistic but I just don't see it.

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4 comments:

Rick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
credocatholic said...

I thought the list looked tacky and almost irreverantly "jokey". That's just my first impression of it. I still don't know how to feel about it, but, like you, I'm a little more skeptical.

mundabor said...

I think Peters, being an intelligent chap, tries to lend intelligence to what is sheer patronising stupidity.

In England, where I live, everyone I've read up to now has understood this unbelievable leaflet in exactly the opposite (and we think, the right) way. We just know our people.

The way the columns are presented leaves no doubt about the mentality with which they were written.

If a journalist really needs an explanation as to what a Mass is, "a gig" can never, ever, ever be anything fitting to do so.

Conversely no journalist, not even Christopher Hitchens, would ever define the Mass "a gig", or not know what the Eucharist is. At such an event you have people with a minimum of knowledge, not retarded big-brother people.

The truth is ***a desperate need to feel "hip" and "connected"*** and perhaps ***sheer ignorance about what a Mass and the Eucharist is***. Don't be surprised, here in England it is not so absurd.

M

Pennycake said...

I read this and thought of the glossary.
"Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Catholic Mass for an audience of 45,000 at the ballpark."
http://blog.gettyimages.com/2008/05/01/peering-through-the-pageantry-pope-benedict-xvi-in-america/

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