The news and the church

From David Hains, director of communication, Diocese of Charlotte:

Returning from lunch on Wednesday, I was surprised to find a group of reporters and photo journalists on the lawn of the Pastoral Center of the Diocese of Charlotte. Obviously something was going on.

The journalists were there at the invitation of three men, victims of sexual abuse, who were making demands of Bishop Peter Jugis. They hadn't given Bishop Jugis, or anyone else from the Diocese, a heads-up and didn't look online to see if the bishop was even in town, which he wasn't. Given the past trauma of these gentlemen, the oversights are understandable.

The reporters listened to the demands and dutifully sought to balance their stories by obtaining comments from me. One television reporter told me that the story wouldn't get much play because it lacked dramatic visuals. Thank goodness for that.

As a journalist for 20 years, I understand that the words “sex” and “ministry” are a double siren call to the news media. I was on the front lines of the coverage of the sex scandal involving the PTL ministry.

But after six years I have to ask, when will the scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in 2002 be old news? What should the Church do? Have the Pope apologize? He did. Train hundreds of thousands of church employees and volunteers in sex abuse awareness? Conduct background checks? The Church has done all those things.

Attendance at Mass in the Diocese of Charlotte is up, and so is offertory giving. Unfortunately, for anyone who wants a clear picture of the Catholic Church, the fact that thousands of Catholics continue to embrace their religion despite its past mistakes is a tough sell to the secular media.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, more than 5,000 Catholics will march along Tryon Street in a Eucharistic procession, literally following Jesus Christ, the goal of every person who professes the Christian faith. The event will be part of the fourth Eucharistic Congress of the Diocese of Charlotte. If past experience is any indicator, news coverage will be largely absent.

The lack of coverage doesn't affect the events of the Eucharistic Congress or the spiritual gain that brings participants back year after year. The media which seems to have a focus lock on other, far less meaningful matters will probably ignore the story again and thus continue to miss the point about what is really important to the audience.