Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).
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My favorite quote in the coverage of Pope Francis' dramatic final day in Mexico was in a Los Angeles Times story. It came from Claudia Diaz, a forty-four-year-old New Mexico woman who lacks legal status in the U.S. With the pope celebrating Mass across the Rio Grande in Mexico, she was among the five hundred people permitted onto a levee that was the closest point in the U.S. To get there, she walked "past Border Patrol agents and a highly fortified U.S.-Mexico border fence." She observed:
A survey by Pew Research Center has found a disturbingly sharp partisan divide in how Americans view Islam. Some 70 percent of Democrats agreed that the next president should "be careful not to criticize Islam as a whole" when discussing Islamic extremists while only 29 percent of Republicans did. Some two-thirds of the Republicans agreed instead that the next president should "speak bluntly" about Islam even if critical of it as a whole, while just 22 percent of Democrats fell into this group.
That may not surprise you, given the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Republican presidential primary, which contrasts with a stirring speech President Obama gave today at a Baltimore mosque about Muslims in America. But Pew notes that the last time it looked into this topic, back in 2002, there was little difference in the views of Republicans and Democrats.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric became part of the extreme right's brief against Obama, and the toxin spread through much of the Republican body politic. It's partisan, not ideological: conservative and moderate Democrats largely say (64 percent) that the next president shouldn't criticize Islam as a whole, according to the poll.
Nationally, 50 percent of those surveyed favor the "not to criticize Islam as a whole" approach -- while 46 percent of Catholics do. Forty percent nationally favor the president who'd "speak bluntly," while 43 percent of Catholics do.
In Baltimore, Obama thanked Muslim Americans for their contributions to America, called for more favorable portrayal of Muslims in entertainment media, and urged that other religious groups extend their concern for religious freedom to protection of Islam.
"And of course, recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country," he said. "No surprise, then, that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged."
On this, the fifth anniversary of the Tahrir Square demonstrations that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, it is worth noting that Egypt is now imprisoning more journalists than any other country except China. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists:
If we can't hope for peace at Christmas time, then when? In that vein, Yoko Ono has taken out an ad in today's New York Times "from John and Yoko" with the tabloidy upper-case headline: WAR IS OVER! and the fine print, "If You Want It." Many will dismiss it as double fantasy, but not those who have read David Carroll Cochran's thoughtful cover story in the current Commonweal: "A World Without War: Why It's No Fantasy."
The Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein notes that while U.S. Catholic bishops have been active in helping Syrian immigrants overcome barriers to their entry into the United States, they have been quiet about Donald Trump's controversial call for all Muslim immigrants to be barred from entering the country.
As the implications of the San Bernadino attack further sink in, it's been an interesting week of front pages in New York. For the first time since 1920, The New York Times has run an editorial on its front page.
Some years back, a representative of the Holy See spoke out in a United Nations General Assembly session about the importance of freedom of the press:
the right to freedom of thought and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to exchange ideas and information and the consequent freedom of the press: the observance of this right is necessary for the fulfillment of each person, for the respect of cultures and for the progress of science.
These comments in support of press freedom were in step with various church documents of the post-Vatican II era. But with the Vatican’s decision to indict two Italian journalists -- Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi – for using leaked documents in two books that evidently embarrassed and angered powerful people in the Holy See, we take a step back in time.
To 1832, for example, when Pope Gregory XVI assailed the “harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatsoever.” Or to Pope Piux IX’s Syllabus of Errors, which faulted “openly and publicly manifesting whatsoever opinions and thoughts.”
Simply put, this indictment is an attempt at censorship. It won’t work: It will multiply the sales of the books in question, for starters. It will invigorate other journalists to probe further. And it undermines the church’s effort to champion human rights, including the right to freedom of religion.
One of the many interesting things about the new movie Spotlight is that it shows how slow the Boston Globe was to chase the story that it ultimately published in 2002 about the systematic coverup of clergy sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese. The newspaper had gotten similar information five years earlier, it turned out, but editors who either felt a connection to the Catholic Church or were otherwise reluctant to offend a mostly Catholic readership had edged it aside. Under the leadership of a new editor, the paper sought and reported the truth.
A new study done by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities has found that Pope Francis is influencing the conversation about global warming in the United States – especially among Catholics. It says:
In this report we conclude that, over the past six months, Americans –especially Catholic Americans –became more engaged in and concerned about global warming. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the Pope’s teachings about global warming contributed to an increase in public engagement on the issue, and influenced the conversation about global warming in America; we refer to this as The Francis Effect.