Pope Francis and the ‘dirty’ media tactics of the New York Times

The New York Times. Credit: Britt Reints via Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

The New York Times. Credit: Britt Reints via Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Carson Holloway makes some astute observations in his recent Catholic Vote post.

He exposes one example of “the unfairness, dishonesty, ignorance, and irrationality at work” already in the media’s coverage of Pope Francis. Unable to claim that the new Pontiff is disinterested in the poor, certain segments of the media have attempted to smear his name through implications about his behavior during Argentina’s “Dirty War” in the 1970s.

Here’s a recent passage on the new Pope (formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio) from the New York Times:

Cardinal Bergoglio is also a conventional choice, a theological conservative of Italian ancestry who vigorously backs Vatican positions on abortion, gay marriage, the ordination of women and other major issues — leading to heated clashes with Argentina’s left-leaning president.

He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the Dirty War.

The problem: Cardinal Bergoglio was not even a bishop during the Dirty War. Rather, he was merely a Jesuit provincial, the regional head of a religious order, not a prominent diocesan authority, and not particularly in a position to “stand up” to any government officials in a meaningful way.

Here’s Holloway’s perceptive response to the Times’ piece:

Can you see the tendentiousness here?  As Archbishop of Buenos Aires Bergoglio would be the most prominent churchman in the country and thus in a position to get into “heated clashes” with the government without much difficulty.  Probably nobody outside the government (and perhaps the mass media) would have a bigger megaphone.  This could hardly be said of him as the Jesuit Provincial back in the 1970s, when most Argentines, including most people in the government, had surely never heard of him.  Drawing inferences about the “energy” of his commitments from this comparison is utterly bogus, as can be seen by anyone who stops to think–which tells you something about what the Times thinks about its own readers.  It is like saying Barack Obama is known for his heated clashes with House Republicans, but he was less energetic back when an Illinois state senator.