Washington Post Quotes Liberal Catholic Saying U.S. Bishops Hold Minority View on Abortion

Catholic bishops in the United States are out of touch on abortion and contraception, according to a source selected by The Washington Post.


In a story about the plans of Catholic bishops to fight the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which President-elect Barack Obama promised to sign in a campaign speech to Planned Parenthood, reporter Jacqueline Salmon didn't bother to speak with the bishops themselves.  Salmon contented herself with citing public statements by the bishops, while she actively sought out the views of Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, a liberal who dismissed the Church's official teaching as a “minority view.”

Salmon's story, “Bishops Call Obama-Supported Abortion Rights Bill a Threat to Catholic Church,” reported on a statement approved by the nation's bishops at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, MD. According to Salmon, the statement “assails the proposed Freedom of Choice Act.” The statement warns that the legislation, due to be formally issued November 12, “would reduce religious freedom, make tax money available for abortions and alienate millions of Americans who oppose abortion.”

Salmon failed to label her pro-choice source as a “liberal”:

Although the church's leadership remains committed to outlawing abortion, the feelings are less adamant among many lay Catholics.

An August poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that almost one-half of U.S. Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or nearly all cases.

Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said many of the bishops are "in a tailspin" after unsuccessfully urging Catholic voters to make abortion a priority.

"These people represent a minority view of Catholics in the United States and in the world," he said. "These are people who don't even believe contraception can be used."

Salmon failed to note that “these people” are the authorities responsible for establishing official Catholic Church doctrine on issues like abortion and contraception.  Catholic teaching is very clear on the sanctity of life.  It is pro-choice Catholics like O'Brien, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President-elect Joe Biden who are out of step with the teachings of the faith they purport to follow.   

Salmon's use of O'Brien and the Pew poll, while providing “balance” to the story, plays to the “cafeteria Catholic” storyline the secular media prefer to report.  The media often paint Church teaching as a “minority view” because half of U.S. Catholics don't follow it.  Imagine trying to pull off that type of reasoning when reporting on education:  half the students in the class don't agree with what the teacher says, so what the teacher says must not matter. That'll get you an “F” for sure.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.