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Countdown to the Conclave, Day 2: Framing the Conclave

By Deal W. Hudson & Deacon Keith Fournier
February 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Our advice to all of you is to employ Cartesian doubt to 90 percent of what you hear about the Conclave, except from sources such as Father Morris and Ambassador Flynn.  You will find that most of what you are hearing is like the ball of wax that the philosopher Descartes in his Meditations held up to the fire and watched it evaporate, change shape, and turn into liquid, until nothing remained.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - It's sad but predictable that most of the mainstream TV networks have chosen "to frame" the Conclave irresponsibly.  Their respective frames reflect the media's predictable, and reprehensible, attempt to discredit the Catholic Church while simultaneously boosting their notion of what qualities the new pope should embody. 

Hmmmmm, let's guess, would those qualities be tolerance, flexibility, pluralism, progressivism, and the "third world?" The problem with talking about mainstream media coverage nowadays is its utter predictability, akin to "shooting ducks in a barrel."  But it's a barrel of their own making and our responsibility as Catholic journalists to inoculate the public against their version of framing the Conclave.

Our good friend, former Vatican ambassador and Boston mayor, Ray Flynn, published some comments yesterday that summarize the media coverage with the authority of a man who spent many years as a Catholic in the Vatican. Ambassador Flynn, a master storyteller of Boston Irish persuasion, has also published an excellent novel about a papal Conclave, The Accidental Pope.

Ray Flynn writes:

"News coverage about the upcoming Conclave has been completely off the mark and doing a disservice to the public. Catholic viewers deserve more than controversy and scandal about the upcoming Conclave.  No insight or creative commentary. The same old questions being asked to critics with the same old answers given. The media spends more time trying to create controversy by interviewing  people who ideologically disagree with Church values."

Bear in mind that Ambassador Flynn is a lifelong Democrat who served as Vatican ambassador under President Clinton, who, by the way, Flynn took to task over Clinton's veto of the partial-birth abortion bill. Flynn is the truest embodiment we know of what is called a "Pro-life Democrat."  Flynn pinpoints the disservice being done to the public by media who interview faux experts "who are not only uninformed about the Conclave, but hostile to Christian values and traditions....consequently, concerned viewers get only sensational half true stories."

We can only hope that Ambassador Flynn is tapped by CNN or MSNBC to comment on the Conclave, rather than the typical far-left or dissenting Catholics who usually pop up over their logo. As Flynn explains:

"The conclave is not a political election, a soccer match, or a popularity contest.  The media should spend its time trying to figure out the issues of concern. What's really important to the future of the more than 1.3 billion Catholics throughout the world? The College of Cardinals is already discussing the problems and challenges facing the Church in a dramatically changing culture."

Like it or not, the media's coverage of the Conclave will be impacted by the Age of Obama: A moment when the left wing media enjoy privileged access to the White House, whose personnel go back and forth to these TV studios as if they were adjunct offices of the West Wing itself.

The one exception to all this is, of course, Fox News and the commentary of our friend Rev. Jonathan Morris who is already in the Vatican providing accurate and informed reports in the days leading up to the Conclave.  Rev. Morris, who spent most of his years as a priest in Rome, will undoubtedly be the most trusted source of information until the white smoke is seen over the Sistine Chapel.

Fox News is not always on the mark, but Father Jonathan Morris makes Fox News the only reliable source of TV commentary on how to frame the Conclave. If any of the other networks have the good sense to hire Ambassador Ray Flynn then we will be happy to add that network to the list of reliable sources. 

Our advice to all of you is to employ Cartesian doubt to 90 percent of what you hear about the Conclave, except from sources such as Father Morris and Ambassador Flynn.  You will find that most of what you are hearing is like the ball of wax that the philosopher Descartes in his Meditations held up to the fire and watched it evaporate, change shape, and turn into liquid, until nothing remained.

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