The National Catholic Register released an article today entitled Mike Pence’s Spiritual Wanderings Should Be a Wake-Up Call to Catholics. In it, the author Sherry Weddell, voiced some opinions about the faith background of Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence. Theses “wanderings,” which Ms. Weddell writes, refers to his once Catholic roots (growing up in a devoted Irish Catholic family, serving as an altar boy, and even considering the priesthood at one point), which he eventually left for Protestant Christianity. His reasoning for leaving the Church in his youth, according to the article, was that he felt he was missing the intimacy with Jesus Christ that he craved for.
This in itself did not surprise me. There is nothing concerning about reporting on the religious background of a public person. But there is something concerning about blaming a wandering sheep, rather than holding the shepherds responsible who lead them (for where the shepherds go, the sheep will follow). Ms. Weddell’s focus for the entire article was directed at the sheep, the young Mike Pence. As she writes, “This is the sort of story that often makes serious Catholics want to tear their hair out. One reason is because some Catholics do experience intimacy with God through the form and rituals.” Yes, many Catholic do experience God through form and ritual. But many do not. Why cast Mr. Pence’s religious background in a negative light, when it is merely a case study of how Church leaders have failed the laity in recent times?
The only reason why people leave the Church is because they have not been properly catechized to understand what the Church really is. As Archibishop Fulton Sheen once said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” This article used Mike Pence to explain how stories like his causes “consternation” in many Catholics. Yes it should cause consternation. But it ought to be consternation for the right reasons.
Let us also consider for a moment the net effect of an article like this, released in the midst of a highly charged political landscape, and during election season. What is its net effect? Firstly, we must ask, why focus so much on the Trump/Pence ticket, and report less on Hillary? I wonder, where is the swarm of headlines about Hillary’s support of mass genocide of babies in the womb, her support for redefinition of marriage, or her efforts against religious liberty? Should not headlines like this overwhelm the front pages, rather than a story on the “wanderings” of the Republican VP nominee? I have to wonder whether a story like this casts a dark shadow over Pence’s faith, which may further polarize Catholics against Trump.
The net effect may in fact be implicit support for Hillary Clinton. By casting the Trump/Pence ticket in a negative light, what else are you doing than supporting the opposing candidate? Is it therefore responsible journalism to lose sight of this greater picture, of the power and influence our words can have on people?