The major media has, as per usual, made a mess of its coverage of Pope Francis’ now famous or infamous interview, published in this country in the Jesuit weekly America with the title A Big Heart Open to God . A mess, at least, from the point of view of anyone who reads the interview and knows what Francis really thinks.

With Benedict, the preferred narrative was “Reactionary pope won’t change his outdated, irrelevant, oppressive Church,” with Francis it’s “Great new guy brings the Church into step with the modern world, relaxes rules.” Neither is true but that is what everyone hears from pretty much every news source.

But there is a silver lining. The press’ presentation of Francis’ words gives parish priests a chance to speak directly to their people about what Francis really said and thereby to teach them something about the Church’s thinking, which is otherwise harder to do in a homily without its sounding like a lecture. It provides what people used to call a teaching moment.

It even provides the frame and almost all the content for the homily: the lead (“You’ve probably heard from [local newspaper, popular website, or network news] that Francis said X and Y, but he didn’t”), the body (“Here’s what he really said” with lots of quotes), and the conclusion (“Here’s what Francis is teaching us”). Nothing could be easier than preaching a homily on what Francis really said. It’s a gift for busy parish priests.

I’m hoping lots of parish priests take this chance to tell their people what Francis really said and what the Church really teaches. This would also provide their people with an implicit lesson about not trusting the major media when they write on religion.

Articles by David Mills

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