Between half-truths and outright false reports

Between half-truths and outright false reports

Dr. Andreas Puttmann © private

The freelance journalist and author Dr. Andreas Puttmann is a member of the Society of Catholic Publicists (GKP).

In the debate about Catholic hospitals and their treatment of rape victims, the Church is once again being swept into a misanthropic corner. Wrongly, finds the political scientist and publicist Dr. Andreas Puttmann. A commentary.

The rejection of an allegedly raped woman by two Catholic hospitals in Cologne is scandalous and shameful. Those responsible have apologized, and Cardinal Meisner, in his statement of January 22nd, has said that the Church has no need to repeat or paraphrase this. January the essential and necessary to it as also in principle to the church handling with rape victims, in appropriate way said. This need not be repeated or paraphrased here, but can – which is rarely true of official statements – be properly incorporated into the commentary:

Apology and correction from Joachim Cardinal Meisner.

On a completely different page are – in the truest sense of the word – the reactions in the media "leaf forest", in broadcasters and social networks. Even if one finds an initial indignation understandable, does not want to put every word spoken out of it on the gold scale and rejects a reflexive Catholic wagon mentality switching to unconditional defense (because it blurs origin and proportions of the injustice and stylizes the church to the actual victim), one can on the other hand quite frighten about the extent of the resentment, which unloads itself here once again over the Catholic church. Downright hateful, but above all stupid and uneducated are the interpretive patterns of many online commentaries and media brief experts on the topic of "Church and sex". On the occasion of the scandal, a Cologne tabloid devoted an entire page to "educating" its readers about what is permitted and forbidden by the Catholic Church, spreading half-truths and outright falsehoods such as the assertion that, from the Catholic point of view, sexual intercourse only serves to found a family, and that homosexuals are not permitted to take "communion.

In the "Kolner Stadtanzeiger," Joachim Frank unleashed a polemical all-out attack on "self-proclaimed 'pro-lifers,'" the "celibate caste of priests" and the "abysses of the Catholic-clerical complex," against "callousness, remoteness from life and unworldliness" and a "treacherous" talk of "curative treatment" to which a Catholic hospital must limit itself. The fact that the church cannot simply give its moral blessing to the "criminological indication", because it also grants dignity and rights to an innocent human being conceived in this way, simply means for him to "ignore the plight of the woman" and to "fade out" the consequences for the life of mother, child and family – a pure insinuation, because one can very well see and deeply feel the dramatic dilemma, but still come to a different moral consideration than the one which seems to be self-evident to the commentator. In this he can appear more "hardened" than the church he accuses is. Equally absurd is the insinuation that the church wants to "rehearse its power" in sexual morality and "show off". (Commentary by Joachim Frank) A little more respect for the seriousness of a conflicting ethical conviction should be expected from a theologian.

Insinuations and resentment cultivation by "rage journalists", but above all the equally unprofessional uninformedness, have become a tradition in public dealings with the Catholic Church. During the Williamson scandal, a top journalist blathered in an ARD special about a "Cardinal Lefebvre"; during the Pope's visit, ARD's Berlin bureau chief Deppendorf spoke of an "ecumenical encounter" between Benedict XVI. and the alleged Protestant pastor Wolfgang Thierse (actually Zdk member), after the death of John Paul the II. a WDR reporter talked shop in front of Cologne Cathedral about the "capital office" taking place there. Petra Gerster presented the German Catholic bishops entering a cathedral to ZDF viewers as a "joyless society of men" and reported on "Heute" news that the "arch-conservative hardliner" Bishop Muller had been appointed to Rome to head the successor organization to the Inquisition, responsible, among other things, for the equally "arch-conservative Pius Brothers" (who, however, reject Muller – but in arch-conservative darkness all cats are gray). In the abuse scandal, the "Frankfurter Rundschau" demanded that the Pope finally take a stand on the Odenwald School, while a talk show editor let the cat out of the bag at a politician's birthday party: "This finally gives us the opportunity to really finish off the Catholic Church.". A few months later, according to Allensbach, 47 percent of German citizens were convinced that child abuse was "widespread" among Catholic priests. This is how incitement of the people works.

So journalism schools, editors-in-chief and critical media consumers would do well to make it clear to (prospective) editors that you have to be as knowledgeable about church ies before writing and speaking as you are about pension insurance ies or offside rules, and that there is no exception to the imperative of journalistic fairness when it comes to the church. The latter, in turn, should ask itself whether the ethical instruction and guidance of its employees in the medical professions is perhaps in need of improvement after all, so that a professional ethical failure like the one that has now occurred in its two Cologne hospitals remains the absolute exception.

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