I've been meaning to link to this Los Angeles Times article from earlier this month as an example of how things can go terribly wrong when a secular reporter with no apparent expertise on Catholicism is assigned to cover one of those schismatic sects claiming to be Catholic.
The story gets it wrong starting with the headline: "Faithful, Yet Not Traditional Catholics."
Come again? The Ecumenical Catholic Communion "ordains female, married and openly gay priests, recognizes divorce, accepts birth control and premarital sex, blesses same-sex unions and, most important, rejects the authority of the pope" -- and yet the writer contends its members are still, somehow, faithful Catholics?
Since reporters try to shoe-horn any conflict into the liberal-conservative political paradigm, the article is rife with talk of "progressive Catholics" and "conservative Catholics" -- when "heterodox" and "orthodox" are more accurate and useful terms. Just as annoying is the he said-she said dichotomy that is the norm in political reporting -- as if the Pope and Bishop Peter Hickman of the ECC are peers.
And when talking about schismatics like the ECC, the media should flinch at using the word schismatic. After all, that's what ECC churches are.
Perhaps reporters like Haldane simply think the Catholic Church is like Protestantism, and there are simply different kinds of Catholics just as there are different sorts of Protestants.
But when Haldance writes the following about the pastor of St. Matthew Church, didn't some kind of mental alarm warn him that perhaps Bishop Peter Hickman is more than just a Catholic priest following a different drummer:
"Marriage promotes growth," says Hickman, 50, who has fathered five children, been married three times and divorced twice. "People who've never been married have a hard time knowing themselves."
If that is true, I'd say Hickman is ready for a promotion.
Sadly, this is the kind of superficial religious reporting is we've come to expect from major daily newspapers.