Catholicism in the Irish Republic and tendentious journalism – John Waters demolishes systemic bias in RTE

The Irish Times – Friday, October 14, 2011
Venomous culture in the media targets Catholicism
JOHN WATERS

Those attempting to expose this agenda are being censored and accused
of defending the indefensible

I HAD an odd feeling last Friday morning, listening to an RTÉ apology
broadcast on Morning Ireland. We don’t think of published apologies as
journalism, but this went to the heart of matters the Irish media
refuses point-blank to ventilate. Something was being “reported” that
generally remains unacknowledged.

The apology stated that, on May 23rd last, RTÉ broadcast a Prime Time
programme “A Mission to Prey”, which accused Fr Kevin Reynolds, parish
priest at Ahascragh, Galway, of raping a minor while a missionary in
Kenya and fathering a child as a result.

Before the broadcast, Fr Reynolds had made repeated but fruitless
efforts to alert the Prime Time journalists to the falsity of the
allegations, even offering to undergo a paternity test. RTÉ’s apology
acknowledged that the programme should not have been broadcast and
said it “fully and unreservedly” accepted that Fr Reynolds was
“entirely innocent”, that the allegations were “baseless, without any
foundation whatever and untrue”.

The apology could hardly be more explicit in its admission of error,
but, had he not been able definitively to demonstrate his innocence
with a paternity test, the programme would have cast Fr Reynolds
forever among the growing legions of discredited Catholic clerics.

The allegations seemed of a piece with the broader picture, sketched
out over several years in Irish media, of predatory priests abusing
their power and positions. The “victims” had spoken out, and victims,
as we know, are always to be believed. The priest denied it, but he
would, wouldn’t he?

This goes beyond slackness. There was no apology for the title of the
programme: “A Mission to Prey”. Here, the allegations against Fr
Reynolds acquired an added dimension of toxicity, imputing to him and
implicitly to other Catholic missionaries an abominable premeditation.

Behind the priestly vocation and outward altruism of church
initiatives in foreign countries, that title insinuated, is a
grotesque design to abuse and exploit. The title echoes a malevolent
mentality now rampant in the Irish media, which, where the church is
concerned, no longer considers it enough to state facts – the case
must be augmented with sneers and vicious innuendos.

Carefully nurtured public prejudice ensures that, when condemning a
church figure, it’s impossible to go too far.

It goes deeper than one bad story. There is now a venomous culture in
the Irish media directed at faith in general and Catholicism in
particular. For some years, anyone suggesting that coverage of
clerical sex abuse scandals was concealing a deeper antipathy towards
Catholicism has been silenced by journalists insisting they were only
doing their jobs.

These shushings were invariably followed by tautological lists of the
wrongs of the church, as though past findings prove all present and
future charges. Anyone seeking to refer to the background radiation,
to adduce evidence of media bias and hostility toward the church that
went beyond the call of journalistic duty or the remit of the public
interest, was dismissed as an “apologist” or worse.

The language and assumptions pertaining to virtually all media
treatment of such matters are generally so tendentious as to preclude
any possibility of fairness or truth. Contrary to the standard
protestations, this is not just a matter of an adversarial ethic that
for the moment happens for good reasons to be on the church’s case.

Under cover of the legitimate requirement to expose wrongdoing by
church figures resides a vicious demeanour of hostility and
dismissiveness towards Catholicism, which it is impossible to
challenge without being accused of defending the indefensible.

There is a deeper issue. Tuning in to what purport to be discussions
about Catholicism on radio or television has become a surreal
experience accompanied by this odd sense that, sometime in the recent
past, it has been communally agreed that religious belief is all
merely dangerous hokum, recently superseded by advancing “knowledge”
and “understandings”.

Thus, although most of the population still lays formal claim to a
Catholic identity, anti-Catholic positions and an irreligious sense of
how the great questions confronting mankind are to be addressed appear
to have been adopted by journalists without consultation or
discussion. Catholicism and its perspectives are unworthy of
consideration.

Before our eyes, under cover of the clerical abuse issue, Irish
society is being remade and by osmosis a new reality is being
fashioned, undemocratically, aggressively and with a total
indifference to facts or truth. Contempt for Catholicism, and the
demonisation and censorship of those who draw attention to this
syndrome, have enabled a process of creeping de-absolutisation, now
gradually supplanting the core content of our culture.