Fiducia Supplicans News Flashback: 5-Star Case of the Medium being the Message


Here is a fact from life on the religion beat. Several times a year, a religion-beat reporter is going to be approached by an editor who wants him or her to make a photo-assignment for a religious holiday or a story with some kind of religion hook.

They don’t want Southern Baptists in gray suits (or even megachurch tropical shirts). They don’t want Pentecostal believers in church clothes with their hands in the air. (Well, if there were snake-handlers in urban zip codes near elite newsrooms, they’d be big hits with newsroom photo-desks.)

Reporters know what editors want — pictures of Catholic rites. Catholics photograph well. That’s why there are 100 movies about Catholics for every one movie about run-of-the-mill Protestants. (Episcopalians will do, every now and then, especially since they always are several decades ahead of Rome on the historic “reforms,” such as female bishops, etc.)

This brings me, belatedly (I’ve had other things on my mind), to Fiducia Supplicans and what makes that complex and, I would argue, intentionally confusing document so newsworthy and historic.

This was a papal chess move that, in the fine print, stressed that its creators did NOT want to produce photo ops that looked like same-sex marriages. But the big news is that it did precisely that in the media that matter the most — newspapers and television networks in New York City and other deep-blue media environments.

It’s all about the staged visuals. If you look at Fiducia Supplicans from a photo-op perspective, the key New York Times story was perfect. The headline: “Making History on a Tuesday Morning, With the Church’s Blessing.

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