Coverage of Pope UK Trip by AP’s Winfield May Be Sinful

Mainstream media outlets continue to frustrate serious Catholics with reporting that is far too often erroneous, misleading, and agenda-driven. Such is the case with an article published by Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press, who is covering Pope Benedict XVI's high-profile trip to England this week.

In a flimsy attempt on Monday (9/13/10) to portray the Holy Father in a negative light, Winfield published "Pope breaks own rule to beatify Anglican convert."

1. In discussing the upcoming beatification of 19th century Anglican convert John Henry Newman, Winfield falsely claimed that Pope Benedict would be "breaking his own rule," in that "under [Benedict's] own rules popes don't beatify, only canonize."

Although the new 2005 guidelines and procedures for the rite of Beatification indicated that diocesan bishops should normally preside at Beatification rites, the Vatican clearly asserts that "every Beatification is an act of the Roman Pontiff" (italics in original). In other words, popes are the ones doing the beatifying!

The same document also says, "[The Pope] can always choose to preside in the circumstances and ways he may deem appropriate." The Pope has chosen to preside at Newman's beatification, so he did not break any "rule."

Winfield is simply wrong.

2. Then there's this misleading shot by Winfield:

Benedict has a history of causing offense while on foreign trips – notably outraging Muslims in a speech in Germany by appearing to suggest the prophet Muhammad spread a message of violence, or suggesting while traveling to Africa that condoms hindered the fight against AIDS.

Winfield implies that Pope Benedict is wrong to say that condoms foster the spread of AIDS. However, as NewsBusters reported in March 2009, the director of Harvard's AIDS Prevention Research Project, Edward C. Green, a self-described liberal, agrees with the pontiff that condoms do not halt the spread of AIDS.

In March of 2009, Dr. Green spoke with Christianity Today about this very issue:

INTERVIEWER: Is Pope Benedict being criticized unfairly for his comments about HIV and condoms?
DR. GREEN: This is hard for a liberal like me to admit, but yes, it’s unfair because in fact, the best evidence we have supports his comments — at least his major comments, the ones I have seen.
INTERVIEWER: What does the evidence show about the effectiveness of condom-use strategies in reducing HIV infection rates among large-scale populations?
DR. GREEN: It will be easiest if we confine our discussion to Africa, because that’s where the pope is, and that is what he was talking about. There’s no evidence at all that condoms have worked as a public health intervention intended to reduce HIV infections at the “level of population.” This is a bit difficult to understand. It may well make sense for an individual to use condoms every time, or as often as possible, and he may well decrease his chances of catching HIV. But we are talking about programs, large efforts that either work or fail at the level of countries, or, as we say in public health, the level of population. Major articles published in Science, The Lancet, British Medical Journal, and even Studies in Family Planning have reported this finding since 2004. I first wrote about putting emphasis on fidelity instead of condoms in Africa in 1988.

In other words, the Church's position saves lives.

There's even more to say about Winfield's unfair effort, but we'll "call the fight" now.