David Hains: Catholics and the media: Let's inform people, not confuse them
For the second time in less than a week, I recently found myself on the telephone with a representative of one of the state's largest newspapers, trying to correct an error about the proposed constitutional amendment to protect marriage.
In both cases the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News and Observer reported that Bishop Peter Jugis opposed the constitutional amendment on marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Bishop Jugis has spoken out in favor of traditional marriage during Mass, in the pages of this newspaper, through Catholic Voice North Carolina and via YouTube. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who is more familiar with the issue and with the importance of preserving traditional marriage.
Fortunately, the mistakes were in online versions of stories that had not yet been published in the print edition, so the errors were quickly corrected.
How did the newspapers get it so wrong?
The constitutional amendment to protect marriage would elevate what is already state law by putting it into the state's constitution. The proposed amendment defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman.
For several months now, every large newspaper in North Carolina has chosen to identify the marriage amendment as "the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage," or some variation of that.
But that's not what the amendment says.
The newspapers' description is not only inaccurate, it also subtly hints that traditional marriage is some kind of a discriminatory ban – completely ignoring the fact that marriage is an institution that predates the state of North Carolina, the Catholic Church and even western civilization itself.
Catholics – indeed all Christians – should see this word twisting as an insult to our faith, because God created marriage when He made men and women complementary for the creation of children. Christ sanctified marriage in His first public miracle at the wedding feast at Cana.
When I propose to reporters that they occasionally use alternate language such as "the constitutional amendment that promotes traditional marriage," I have been met by unanswered emails and unreturned phone calls.
I've asked reporters why they don't refer to the marriage amendment simply as "the marriage amendment," why they feel compelled to describe it as "an amendment to ban same-sex marriage." I've been told repeatedly that the two descriptions are the same.
Apparently not, since the reporters who are writing about "the same-sex amendment" are getting themselves confused about the stance of one of the chief supporters of traditional marriage, our bishop.
And if the reporters and editors are getting confused, imagine how their readers are faring.
When reporters, editors and readers are confused, the news organizations are not living up to their self-appointed obligation to inform the public.
Let's avoid confusion and simply call it "the marriage amendment." Catholic teaching is clear that we should cast our ballots FOR marriage.
David Hains is the Diocese of Charlotte Director of Communication.
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