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The Papal Conclave, Day 2: What's Wrong With Fox's Shepard Smith?

By Deal W. Hudson & Deacon Keith Fournier
March 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If Fox News wants to keep its Catholic viewership, which we believe is substantial, it's time for those in charge to make a change. A required month-long retreat and absence from Fox News for Shepard Smith would be a good beginning -- to discourage him and others from sneering at the Church beloved by millions.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Fox News had better address very quickly the behavior of news anchor Shepard "Shep" Smith  between 3 and 4 p.m. on the first afternoon of the Papal Conclave, Tuesday, March 12, 2013. 

Megyn Kelly had just announced the results of the first ballot as a live feed was being shown of the black smoke coming from the roof of the Sistine Chapel -- the new pope had not been elected on the first ballot. Then she handed the commentary over to Shepard Smith, Fox News anchor and host of the Fox Report, who turned to interview Father Jonathan Morris, a longtime Fox news commentator on Catholic and religious issues.  

Smith used the occasion of the first day of the Conclave to start battering Father Morris -- who can certainly take care of himself, by the way, with a barrage of questions about women priests, making his answer to the question very clear: the Church should ordain women! 

As the transcript shows, this was not just a casual question, asked in good humor. This question was framed by Shep Smith as a blatant injustice that the Catholic Church was required to remedy, period!  

"Father, one of the questions people who are within the Church and those who watch the Church  have is, "How can this church relate to a group of people in a large part of the world where social ideas are changing? Where this idea that women don't get to be part of things is just -- not understandable."

Father Morris patiently but thoughtfully tried to answer the question, but Smith kept interrupting and insisting that the Church had to ordain women priests. He asked sophomoric questions like, "How can the Church move forward and attract people?" and, "But the Church doesn't evolve with society?"

Then, of course, Smith had to throw in the "sex abuse crisis" and "coverup," making the easily refuted assertion: "If there were more women involved in serious positions of leadership, I don't think it would have happened in the same way." 

But, that was not the end of Smith's sarcasm and disrepect for the Catholic Church. As he signed off just before 4 p.m., Smith noted the dome of  St. Peter's Basilica, in the background, was not bathed in light. Smith then told his audience, "One of our employees lived here 23 years, the dome is right outside -- he sees it out his window -- it's always lit up at night."

Smith then completed his sign-off by saying, "Hopefully by Fox Report we'll have resolution to the mystery of the night the lights went out on pope land."

Yes, Fox News anchor Shep Smith referred to the Vatican as "pope land," on the first day of a solemn Papal Conclave with the black smoke billowing from the roof of the Sistine Chapel. 

We are sure we were not alone at cringing at Shepard Smith's atrocious behavior, his dripping sarcasm, and tone of disapproval. One would think, at the very least, a man like Shepard Smith, born and bred in the deep South in Mississippi, would have better manners!

More importantly, this was all said on Fox News, the supposed friend of the social and religious conservatives, the defender of traditional values, and the religious traditions that shaped those values! 

If Fox News wants to keep its Catholic viewership, which we believe is substantial, it's time for those in charge to make a change. A required month-long retreat and absence from Fox News for Shepard Smith would be a good beginning -- to discourage him and others from sneering at the Church beloved by millions.
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Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D, is president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Deacon Keith Fournier is a Catholic Deacon, PhD Student in Moral Theology, constitutional lawyer and the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online.  

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