April 04, 2008

U.S.News & World Report on the Pope's Visit

Some of you may have read this already, but I just saw the issue on the newsstand last night. Enchanted by a great cover photo of the Holy Father, I picked up a copy of the April 7-12th issue. You can read the story by Jay Tolson online. However, the online content does not reprint the same charts in the print edition.

In the print edition, they have a box with a series of questions on Catholic Attitudes. Each question has a % of Catholics that agree or disagree. I got cranky. Not so much for the content of this box on Catholic attitudes, (though I should have been), but that there is no attribution for these questions. It does not say if these questions were asked by U.S News or someone else? Was this a phone survey, web survey? What was the pool of people? How many were polled? How many answered each question? Is there a margin of error? I HATE sloppy crap like this. It makes me cranky. I almost threw the entire issue in the trash with the article unread.

How can you even get cranky over numbers, that we are supposed to think are authoritative, when we have not even the most rudimentary knowledge of how these numbers were calculated? I start to think, and I can't help it, that when a journal does not explain how they developed a source they move from reportage to agenda.

I think I have just figured out the difference between a major news source and a blog. As a blogger, I have an agenda. My agenda is twofold: 1) I blog about myself, 2) I blog to bring what I know about Catholicism to help prevent others from being mired in the erroneous dissent about the Faith as I was for so long.

A major news source should NOT have an agenda. I know, many of them do. Just report it. Report it fairly-that's all I ask.

All in all the article: I've seen a lot worse. Not too bad.

I got cranky over another chart comparing the percentages of Catholics who go to Confession yearly and they only showed "Born before 1943" with "Born after 1981". To be fair, US News reprinted a chart from another source but I wonder if US News picked the years to show. In any case, as you'd expect, "Born after 1981" is lower in number of people going to Confession yearly.

Why am I cranky about that? Consider:

*Boomers and Generations X are not represented-the absence of Boomers alone is huge
*Did the pollster consider that you are not required to have your Confession heard until you've made your First Confession and discount those years beforehand?
*People born after 1981 are only 26 years old. Assuming they received their First Confession at 10, we are only counting 16 years, right? Who knows?
*Technically, you are only required to have your Confession heard once/year to be a Catholic in good-standing. (you probably should not be receiving Communion if that's all you are doing-but technically...)the poll does not clarify any of that.

Another chart with the "Born before 1943" versus "Born after 1981" shows numbers who astain from meat on Fridays. These numbers are close but again there is an age consideration and number of people to throw in. Elderly and infirm are not required to follow the fast and neither are the young. So: d'uh to that one!

Hopefully, you see what I'm getting at. Don't take statistics at face value. I'm just afraid these numbers are going to be thrown around as "gospel".

Oh, one "howler" in the article itself. The writer, Charlotte Hays, is quoted as praising Pope Benedict for bringing some traditional Catholic elements back to the fore. She mentions ad orientem worship as one because it "helps restore a sense of what Catholics call "real presence" to the ceremony".

That's exactly how that's worded. I have a suspicion that Ms. Hays was talking about THE REAL PRESENCE. If that's true, there is a WORLD of difference between that and the tiny way it was presented in the story. To be fair, Mr. Tolson, may not know the difference, but to me it was huge. And, the Mass is not a ceremony (that word is wrong to me). I'm pretty sure Ms. Hays would reduce the Mass to ceremony either. I think what she really said was slightly misrepresented.

Approach with a questioning mind and Catholic wisdom.


Blogger swissmiss said...

Either the author had an agenda or was assigned to do a story on the Pope's visit and did a half-arsed job of it. I don't think the author knows anything about Catholicism and was too lazy to make an effort, so cobbled together some "facts" and quotes, then called it a day.

And, just what are the folks in between 1943 and 1981 doing? If the author knew anything about Catholicism, you'd think it likely that he would've picked Vatican II for his comparison point.

Isn't the Pope's visit a story in itself and the attitudes of Catholics in America a subject for a theology dissertation? Biting off a lot in this story without doing justice to any of it. (Sorry, your crankiness is infectious!)

April 04, 2008 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monica and Catherne, two very dynamic women of the Church!

This is what people love in a blog post! It is dynamic! It is passionate! It is lively and unfeiegned! It is powerful and dramatic! Cutting edge! The emotions are so real, they jump off the page!

Tm Daly

April 04, 2008 4:55 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Ditto to what Tim wrote.

(Are you in a better mood now hon?)

April 04, 2008 5:08 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Tim, er, Ter: Oh, nice facelift! Anyway, I got home and my cats had knocked over a plant and there was dirt everywhere. I got rather cranky all over again but then I hugged them and told them I loved them. I feel better now.

I could always try and blame swissy but she's too clever to belief it's her fault anyway.

April 04, 2008 9:18 PM  
Blogger Babybear Scraps said...

I haven't seen the magazine you're talking about, but I find that often reporters doing such stories aren't Catholic and don't quite understand what they are talking about. So they just kind of gloss over things, if that makes sense.

The Pioneer Press ran this New York Times article today which sort of addresses that point. I thought it was an interesting take on the visit, saying how the media and public focus on the wrong things.

I don't have a problem with The Real Presence being lower-cased in the quote you showed, just like newspaper style is to lowercase pronouns referring to God. But that quote doesn't really tell you anything if you don't already know what it's talking about. It doesn't explain what the belief of the Real Presence means.

(in the interest of full disclosure, I feel like I need to add that I work in the Pioneer Press newsroom, which of course colors my opinion)

April 06, 2008 6:35 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Recovering Procrastinator: I saw the PP story you reference. It was originally a NY Times story. It was not bad considering it was from the Times-no friend to Catholicism generally.

I know why US News lowercased Real Presence but I felt the way the quote was worded detracted from the intent. The lowercase did not help. Lowercasing words that I consider critical to the Faith (see! LOL) has LONG been a gripe of mine. I understand why it's done but I go out of my way to undo it where possible. :-)

April 06, 2008 7:14 PM  

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