A reporter’s life often is defined by the biggest stories on his plate.
Several years back, I was entranced by the U.S. insurance industry. That slowly morphed into an intense interest in human trafficking and fraud in America’s work visa programs. Before long an athletic ticket stealing scandal at the University of Kansas ate huge chunks of my time.
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It’s an eclectic life, but reporters constantly learn about new things, which is why it’s a great job.
Since the arrest of a priest on child pornography charges in May 2011, I have been drawn into the troubles facing the Catholic Church. As a member of the United Methodist Church — a barefoot third cousin to the Catholics — I entered a historic and clerical culture of which I was only vaguely aware.
To at least nail down the vocabulary, I’ve immersed myself daily in Catholic culture, skimming newspapers, blogs and wire services that cover the church, listening to Catholic radio and reading church histories.
Serendipity plays its role. I’m still struck that one of the feast days observed for the patron saint of journalists — Francis de Sales — is my birthday.
Another thing to appreciate is the lively discussion that continuously erupts from an institution that critics deride as “too controlling.” A recent, and routine, story about a church-related court hearing quickly drew more than 100 online comments.
I should have seen that coming.
Is it any accident that six of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court spring from the Catholic tradition? To wear those robes, the justices had to have been adept at argument and completely at home in contentious, roiling debate.
James Martin, a Jesuit writer of sparkling prose and culture editor of America magazine, made light of this in a column last month titled “What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?”
“No matter what you write, there are Catholics ready to take immediate offense, to explode in righteous anger, to threaten to report you to the proper authorities or, most of all, to correct,” Martin wrote. “The most common responses are these five: 1.) Your soul is in mortal danger. 2.) You’re uneducated and need to be schooled. 3.) I hate the church and so I hate you. 4.) You’re an unthinking tool of the Vatican. 5.) You’re disobedient and must be reported.”
Martin seemed wearied by it all, but I’m still learning. So leave your comments, please. Or use the contact information below to call or write.
And if you have any reading suggestions, pass them along by all means. I’ve just finished a terrific one-volume history of the papacy and am shopping for something lighter.
Perhaps a crackling summary of church law?