Let’s Watch the Bad and Misleading Reporting Roll in.

Phil Lawler:

Be prepared.

Sometime in the next few days the Vatican is expected to release new norms for the handling of sex-abuse complaints. Dozens of news reports will undoubtedly follow, saying that the Vatican has changed policies in response to public pressure. Those reports will be wrong.

The norms are changing. The policies are not. 

According to reports that have leaked extensively this week, the Vatican will change a few norms of canon law, bringing the law into conformity with the policies already in use by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To date these policies have been authorized– first by Pope John Paul II, then by Benedict XVI– as allowable exceptions to the canonical rules. Now they will become the rules. 

So– unless the leaked reports are all wrong– the rules will change, but not practices of the CDF. 

It’s not that hard to understand, if you pay a bit of attention to the details. But recently reporters have been rushing into print without making the effort to understand Church law. 

The norms are changing. The policies are not. 

It’s not that the media will be lazy and just misunderstand. They will understand all right. But they need to pretend they are important, and that their hounding of the Vatican has caused real, effective change at the top!

It hasn’t, but that’s how they will play it.

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