|Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI|
Photo: The Guardian - Cornwell Article
I always thought that journalists take great pride in reporting accurately all of the facts, without manipulating the truth to suit their agenda. Yet this does not really seem to be the case any longer.
Luke Coppen, editor of The Catholic Herald, on a daily basis posts what he refers to as “Morning Catholic must-reads”. Today Coppen’s Morning Catholic Must Reads: 26/09/13 led me to an article by John Cornwell in The Guardian.
Cornwell’s article is entitled: “Child abuse destroyed Catholicism's moral authority. Pope Francis will restore it”.
Cornwell begins his article with this: “Pope Francis has proved himself a pontiff of surprises. He has chosen to live in a modest Vatican hotel room instead of the grandeur of the apostolic palace; and he has dropped some of the papal pomp, while preaching the Roman Catholic church's need to identify with the world's poor.”[Sic]
I have little doubt that Cornwell has read the transcript of the interview that Pope Francis gave on his way home from World Youth Day 2013. In that press conference Pope Francis explained exactly why he chose not to live in the papal apartment.
I also know for a fact that Cornwell has read the recent and much talked about interview that Pope Francis gave to Antonio Spadaro S.J. I know this because Cornwell specifically refers to this interview in the second paragraph of his article.
It is perfectly clear therefore that Cornwell does know the real reason that Pope Francis chose not to live in the papal apartment. He is not ignorant of the truth.
This is what Pope Francis said about the papal apartment during the recent interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J.:
“I was always looking for a community. I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community. And you can tell this by the fact that I am here in Santa Marta... I chose to live here, in Room 201, because when I took possession of the papal apartment, inside myself I distinctly heard a ‘no.’ The papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace is not luxurious. It is old, tastefully decorated and large, but not luxurious. But in the end it is like an inverted funnel. It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.”
Despite this now being well known, some of the mainstream media, and clearly John Cornwell too, continually perpetuate the myth that Pope Francis’ decision not to live in the papal apartment was about choosing modesty ahead of luxury. They seem adamant about driving the message that the pope chose austerity when he made this decision.
The fact that Pope Francis has categorically stated that he chose St Martha’s because he did not want to be alone, does not seem at all relevant to Cornwell and some of the mainstream media.
How exactly does the pope saying: “I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others”, translate into Cornwell’s contention that the pope chose modesty instead of luxury when he decided to live at St Martha’s instead of in the papal apartment?
It seems that journalists like John Cornwell decide on a narrative. Then they selectively pick out information to suit their narrative. I can think of no other way of explaining Cornwell’s opening paragraph. It is clearly intended to convey to the reader that Pope Francis, unlike previous popes, gave up grandeur, pomp, luxury and goodness knows what else, in favour of a more austere way of living.
Cornwell is clearly reluctant to communicate the truth and say that Pope Francis chose to live at St Martha’s because he “cannot live without people”.
Cornwell, like some of the mainstream media, has clearly decided to keep it a secret that Pope Francis, unlike the popes before him, is not up to living a more secluded type of lifestyle afforded by the papal apartment. Maybe this doesn’t create a very exciting and appealing narrative.
The truth of Pope Francis' decision also clearly does not fit in with what Cornwell wants to write in his article. Never fear though, Cornwell is a journalist of a large publication - The Guardian. That, it seems, gives him licence to simply ignore the truth. Instead it seems he has licence from The Guardian to publish whatever narrative he likes, even if the facts do not wholeheartedly support the narrative.
Cornwell and The Guardian really are shameful, especially since their article is about restoring 'moral authority', which they clearly lack, given the poor start to their article.
I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the Cornwell article because, if Cornwell and The Guardian can kick off with such an inaccurate version of the truth in the first paragraph, what on earth have they have done in the rest of the article?