Is the “paper of record” troubling consciences?

Well what do you know? The “paper of record” has done it again. If you wanted some detailed news about what the leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland is offering to its followers this weekend by way of information and encouragement to take a stand consistent with the belief and moral teachings of the institution they have freely chosen to follow, which paper would you go to? Not the paper of record.

Below are the three reports from Saturday morning’s Irish broadsheets. The Irish independent gives us nearly 400 words in its comprehensive summary of what the Irish bishops have issued to the parishes throughout the county. The Irish Examiner gives us over 200 and a good report. The Irish Times, however, gives us just over 150 words from its renowned even-handed religious affairs correspondent and buries the story at the bottom right hand corner of page six, probably one of the most “invisible” news slots in any newspaper.

Wonderful – and this after last week’s numbers debacle where the Times reported – apparently under “tweeting” pressure from the pro-abortion people –  that “several” thousand protesters thronged the ranks of a pro-choice street demonstration in Dublin last weekend when in fact a serious count using the video images from the demo showed that the number did not even reach one thousand.

Combine this observation with everything else we have been reading in the Irish Times in the past few months pertaining to the abortion issue and it is very hard not to conclude that here we have a paper which has deliberately set it face in the direction of the Mecca of introducing abortion legislation into Ireland.

What choice has a conscientious person who considers that such legislation, if put on the statute books of this country, would lead to the wholesale taking of the innocent lives of babies awaiting delivery from their mothers’ wombs? One choice, I think – if they are paying subscribers to that paper.  Cancel their subscription because it looks very much like a financial subscription to a cause supporting that wholesale slaughter.

Irish independent

Church launches new anti-abortion campaign

By Luke Byrne, Saturday October 06 2012

The Catholic Church will tomorrow begin a public campaign to oppose access to abortion in Ireland under any circumstances.

A pastoral message is to be read out at Mass opposing abortion and earlier this week all 1,360 parishes north and south of the Border were sent material on the church’s opposition to abortion, including homily notes, prayers, and posters.

The move is being seen as the opening salvo in the church’s campaign to lobby against access to abortion here.

It follows a promise by Cardinal Sean Brady in August that priests would be provided with the resources to campaign on the issue.

The homily notes have suggested that tomorrow’s first Bible reading come from the creation account of life from Genesis. “This provides an ideal context in which to speak of the beauty and sanctity of human life as part of the gift of God’s creation,” it said.

A prayer card has also been provided for parishioners. Along with a prayer, the card will say: “As science makes clear it is at fertilisation that a new, unique and genetically complete human being comes into existence.”

Responding to the planned campaign, Senator Ivana Bacik said she believed that the church’s moral power had been “significantly weakened” by the sexual abuse scandals.

“I think it’s disheartening that the church still thinks it can dictate to women regarding sexual health matters,” she said.

“I think the church should get its own house in order,” she added.

The church has also called for a month of prayer dedicated to the theme of ‘Choose Life’ to begin tomorrow, which it has called ‘Day for Life Sunday’.

The literature has told priests that it is not necessary for the Government to legislate for legal abortion in Ireland following the 2010 European Court of Human Rights case against the State.

Instead, it said that the Government “could choose to protect the life of the unborn baby in the womb” by changing the Constitution to set aside the Supreme Court ruling in the ‘X-case’.

As part of the campaign, the bishops’ conference has also commissioned a website at

Ms Bacik said that the issues of the ‘X-case’ have twice been put to referendum and both times Ireland supported safe abortion in the case where a mother’s life was at risk.

Irish Examiner

Church to launch pro-life campaign with messages to Mass-goers

By Juno McEnroe, Political Reporter, Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Catholic Church will launch its pro-life campaign this weekend with anti- abortion messages for Mass- goers, posters in churches, and testimonies from women who have experienced crisis pregnancy.

The campaign details, letters, and materials have been sent to 1,360 parishes ahead of the release of the Government’s expert group report on abortion.

Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady, recently said the Church would run a campaign against legalising abortion in Ireland.

Cardinal Brady said the State was not obliged to legislate for abortion as a result of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the so-called ABC case, which the expert group is addressing.

The “choose life” campaign will run for the next four weeks. Notes sent to priests on homilies read: “Any mother or father who has gazed in wonder at an ultrasound scan of their baby, or heard his or her heart beating for the first time, will know how rapid and beautiful is the development of their baby in the womb.”

Priests are also being advised to tell Mass-goers the Government should introduce laws or a constitutional amendment that would set aside the Supreme Court ruling in the X case, which allowed for abortion in some circumstances.

The Irish Times

Bishops launch anti-abortion month


Ireland’s Catholic bishops have called on “all who believe in the equal dignity and beauty of every human life” to “join us in calling on our public representatives to respect the humanity and life of children in the womb and to reject abortion.”

The bishops made their appeal in a special pastoral message which will be read and distributed in all Catholic parishes on the island this weekend. It coincides with “Day for Life Sunday” tomorrow, which also marks the start of a month of prayer around the theme “Choose Life!”, announced last month.

Relevant “Choose Life!” material was sent to all 1,360 Catholic parishes in Ireland this week to promote the month of prayer campaign. A special website chooselife2012.iehas been launched with a complementary Choose Life! presence on social media (Choose Life 2012 on Facebook, and @Chooselife2012 on Twitter and on YouTube).

The bishops said their message was for people of all backgrounds and traditions across the island.

Repeat after me: “No medical evidence was offered”

This, in The Irish Times, September 24, helps put the record straight in “the paper of record”:

Sir, – Claire Brophy (September 19th) has got her facts wrong regarding the A, B, C v Ireland case.
C did not have cancer when she became pregnant and she most certainly did not have to travel to England for an abortion “so that her cancer could be treated”. C had completed chemotherapy for “a rare form of cancer” when she came pregnant and had sought information from her GP, “as well as several medical consultants” on what treatment options would be available her should her cancer happen to relapse during pregnancy. No medical evidence on the supposed life-threatening nature of a condition she might develop was offered to the court and no information regarding which medical specialties she had allegedly consulted was offered.

There exist specialists within medicine for a reason: it is a subject too extensive for every doctor to know everything. If a patient’s healthcare needs are beyond your capabilities you refer to your specialised colleague for expert input, such as in the case of cancer complicating pregnancy. Did this happen in the case of C? We simply don’t know. Perhaps the IFPA could enlighten us before people criticise Irish healthcare.

What we do know is that we have already heard from specialists who are far more qualified in the area of gynaecological oncology than I or Claire Brophy. Speaking at the International Symposium on Maternal Health in Dublin, Dr Frédéric Amant, who for his groundbreaking research into the safe delivery of chemotherapy during pregnancy was described by Lancet Oncology as “leading the agenda on cancer in pregnancy” concluded that, “in the case of cancer complicating pregnancy, termination of pregnancy does not improve maternal prognosis”. This mirrors the comments of our own home-grown expert in oncology, Dr John Crown, who tweeted earlier this year, “I don’t think I ever had a case where abortion was necessary to save mom”. The experts have spoken.

Finally, there’s no room in this debate for the unsubstantiated claims made by Ms Brophy and by Patricia Lohr (September 13th) that women are travelling to England for “life-saving abortions”. I would invite them to reveal the British department of health statistics, which are available under FOI, any case whereby an Irish woman accessed a “life-saving abortion” in England on account of being refused life-saving treatment in Ireland. – Is mise,

O’Connell Avenue, Dublin 7.

Why do they not listen? The amount of misinformation being circulated by those campaigning for abortion and the dishonesty underlying it is truly appalling.

An open letter to Mr. Kevin O’Sullivan, the Editor of the Irish Times

While there is an element of what you, Mr. O’Sullivan, might call ideology – but what I would simply call professional instinct and religious fidelity – in this, ultimately it is a matter of trust in the integrity of your newspaper.

I am a journalist and at the start of my career worked for a newspaper which stood alongside The Irish Times as one of Ireland’s three national dailies. I know how honest mistakes, errors of judgement and differing personal perspectives can all render news presentation less accurate and dependable than editors would wish.

However, the story on the front page of yesterday’s Irish Times shattered all my confidence and trust in your paper’s sincerity and commitment to even-handedness. The entire thrust of the story and my dissatisfaction with it as straightforward presentation and reporting seemed to me to come from something inherently dishonest.

I would be reassured if you were to tell me that there was here an honest mistake or a simple error of judgement at play. If not I have to say that I doubt if I can continue to subscribe to the Irish Times, something that I have been doing consistently for 50 years. A paper which could bring itself to stand over such a gratuitous and tendentious news report is no longer a reliable source of news.

The news report was in fact nothing less than a pretext to make a not-so-veiled attack on the Catholic Church and its teaching. I had to read it several times before I could believe that it was actually saying what I seemed to understand. I still cannot work out what connection it was making between Catholic moral teaching on contraception and sterilisation and the dubious medical procedure which was ostensibly the subject of the report.

In the end all I could see was that an individual doctor seemed largely responsible for the continued use of this procedure in a particular hospital when other hospitals had ceased to follow this procedure. That he did this was attributed to the “church”. Carl O’Brien’s introductory paragraph on the front page – or was that your subeditor’s work, as undoubtedly your headline was – told us that the Government’s draft report “says one of the reasons it was used was to obey laws influenced by the Catholic Church that banned contraception and sterilisation.” However, in his report on page 5 Carl writes that the “report suggests this”. There is a difference.

This is a bad and regrettable scene, Mr. O’Sullivan. It simply adds to my growing suspicion – a suspicion I have so far tried to resist out of respect for the integrity of my profession and my colleagues – that the Irish Times really does have an anti-Catholic agenda.

I asked a few friends this morning if they had read the article and what they thought in meant. One described it as an utterly ridiculous story with a ridiculous angle. Another no longer reads the Irish Times because of the constant slant it gives its stories on the Catholic Church. A third only reads the Irish Independent now. That is something I would rather not have to do – but I fear that for Irish news coverage I may now have no alternative.

Sincerely, Michael Kirke.

Distorted Images of the Real World

In the film, The Matrix, we explore the threat to our humanity by forces seeking to create a perfect world. It is a world in which men and women have been distorted beyond recognition into characters in a computer programme devoid of any real human qualities. With a little adjustment it is not as far-fetched as it might seem. In our own media-driven world we are already distorting the truth in an alarming way. Ireland’s national broadcaster has just incurred damages rumoured to be in the region of €2,000,000 for ruining the life of an innocent man, a Catholic missionary priest whom it portrayed as a rapist through the medium of its investigative flagship, Primetime Investigates. It all serves to remind us that we have a dangerous capacity to create something which at first serves our best interests and then allows it to become a distorting and all-consuming monster.

The television programme was presented last May and for most viewers it was simply driving another nail in the coffin of the battered reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Gross and unjust allegations were presented to the viewing public as journalistically verified fact and allowed to feed into and feed on a prejudice which has already been created by the constant focus of the media on the crimes and misdemeanours of a minority of Catholic priests

A few weeks ago the Iona Institute, an Irish think-tank focussing on religion and family in the Irish context, found that the majority view among Irish people now is that Catholic priests and religious are responsible for one in five instances of child abuse in the country. The reality is that one in 30 of such cases are perpetrated by this group. Now that is what we call distortion.

But the really alarming thing is that we seem to be quite prepared to live with this distorting mirror and fail to recognise the lethal nature of this cancerous growth within our society. There may be people who consider that the Roman Catholic Church is an institution that we would be better off without – but getting rid of it on the basis of a gross distortion of public opinion is probably not something even the liberal intelligentsia would advocate. Houston, we have a problem – and it is not just a problem of distorting the public image of the Catholic Church. It is a problem which distorts most of the things it touches and it is a problem endemic in the culture of news, news-gatherers and news organisations.

The now defunct Irish Press newspaper had as it motto, placed right under the masthead of the paper, The Truth in the News. I was very proud of that motto when I had the pleasure and privilege of training with and working as a journalist for that paper. Newspapers have a tendency to give themselves some rather meaningful if sometimes pretentious titles – The Guardian, The Daily Mirror, The Examiner, The Inquirer; Ireland even had The Impartial Reporter. At one time those certainly represented the good intentions of proprietors and journalists who tried to live by their implicit mottos of guarding the truth, reflecting the truth, examining and inquiring and impartially reporting without fear or favour. But to live and work by those principles of operation involved more than just reporting isolated facts. They were seen as expressing a commitment to present society with an honest and balanced view of itself. To do that the facts which were presented had to in some way be balanced within the context of a bigger picture. It is in this that we are now failing abysmally.

Essentially it is a “story” problem. News is gathered in the form of stories and without some story there is really little news. But the story is not an end in itself. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is the objective. When this is lost sight of then the story itself can become dangerous and distorting.

All this was brought home to me very recently on a very personal level when I had to spend eight days in the care of a big – very big – Dublin hospital to undergo surgery. A week before I was admitted I heard reported on television that the hospital was having big problems. Managerial decisions had to be imposed on it from outside by the Health Service Executive which runs the Irish health service. This, a little like the broadcasting debacle above, simply fed into a sense of the overall state of dysfunction which daily and nightly news reports of health service disasters has created among Irish people. We shrug our shoulders and ask ourselves why can’t these people get their act together and organise a decent system of health care for us?

Eight days in Dublin’s Adelaide/Meath Hospital in Tallaght gave me an entirely different perspective on Ireland’s much-maligned health service. News bulletins on Irish radio and television are seldom if ever without some damning report of another mal-function in one or other of the country’s hospitals – missing files, mis-diagnosed illness, and patients on trolleys for days on end – all giving an impression of near total systemic failure of the institutions entrusted with the care of the nation’s sick and sickly. The end result is an abiding impression of a health service from hell.

The truth is very different. In fact the hospital is a miracle of effective administration, of superbly professional nursing and medical care, of warmth, kindness and dedication. Except that it is not really a miracle. It is a perfectly natural phenomenon where good people go about their work showing a wonderful range of human qualities and virtues, day after day, week after week and month after month. What appalled me – to a point of anger – was the fact that out in the wider world there exists this parallel public impression of a health service in disarray. Saying this is not to deny that problems exist and are sometimes not dealt with as they should be. They do. But the distorting effect on public opinion which the emphasis these problems get in news reports is not just something regrettable, it is a travesty. In pursuing “the story” in the way they do news organisations are not mirroring reality at all, they are not guarding anyone’s interest, and they are fooling themselves if they think they are being impartial in what they do.

The solution to this injustice is not, of course, to ignore the problems. They must remain in focus. The solution is to widen the angle to bring in the bigger picture. Journalists must resist the inclination to spice up their stories by giving the impression that something terrible has happened, is happening or is about to happen. That clearly is part of the journalist’s instinct. But they cannot pursue it at the expense of the wider truth, the lives and integrity of ordinary people who dedicate themselves to something as beautiful and noble as this particular field of human endeavour is. It is not enough for the journalist to say that providing the bigger picture is not my job. Everyone is responsible for the truth.

The problem is a much wider one than just the health service and its institutions, or the churches and their institutions. For example, the constant reporting of crime and criminality without any attempt to give the public a feel for the overall context of the general level of well-being in our societies is another distortion and one with all sorts of consequences – creating fear, anxiety, depression and distrust – which can undermine the values by which we try to live.

The integrity of the world’s media organisations has taken a severe battering in recent times. News International’s phone-hacking scandal now being investigated by the Levenson enquiry in the UK, the Irish state broadcaster’s destruction of an innocent man’s life and reputation, are but two instances of a sorry saga. There will be more until such time as the culture surrounding the news industry begins to identify the deeper values which must underpin its service to humanity.