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POPE/ A relevant presence in Madrid, a relevant absence in the New York Times

Lorenzo Albacete comments on what is missing from the New York Times’ Sunday Review and what that means about American Catholics and for American culture.

Pope Benedict arriving in Madrid (photo ANSA) and Times Square, New York Pope Benedict arriving in Madrid (photo ANSA) and Times Square, New York

A short time ago, the Sunday edition of The New York Times introduced a new section to replace their weekly review of news. The new section is called Sunday Review and is an expanded version of the replaced one. In any case, reading this review gives us a good idea of what the editors of the Times (among the most respectable exponents of the dominant secular mentality) consider the important topics of the week.

Many times I have found that the most revealing information is not what is in the review, but what is missing from their view of what is important.

Consider last Sunday's edition (August 21). The issue's main article (covering the entire first page) is on a new "sentimental reverence" that Americans have developed towards the military, which the author considers a sign of our current unease as a nation. Because of this, we prefer to see our soldiers as heroes, thus avoiding a judgment about our responsibility for our military policy. Other articles included in the issue deal with subjects such as the apparent selflessness of political candidates, the importance of the penny, and the role of the KGB in the fall of the USSR. The ethical dilemmas posed by the ability to find out the gender of an unborn child much earlier than before, teaching children economics, the strange friendship between Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, the danger for apes with the human population explosion, Jewish identity, the hopeless pragmatism of President Obama, animals could be smarter than humans, brief answers by nine non-journalists, non-pundits about what they would do if elected president, etc. etc.

Truthfully, many of these articles were interesting and topical, but what struck me the most was what was not there. There was not a word on Pope Benedict's meeting in Madrid with 1.5 million young people from all over the world. The event had no importance to the editors and readers of The New York Times. It simply was not seen as having any potentially significant impact on the future of the world, and certainly not on the future of the United States.

Now, I don't think the reason for this is badly hidden anti-Catholicism of the Times and the secularist media. It is not surprising that they could not recognize the importance of this event. What is surprising to me is that so many Catholics fail to see it too. They seem to have accepted the view that the Pope and the papacy could not still have an influence on what happens in the secular world.

Some Catholics follow these events in the Catholic media, but they seem to share the secularist view that if they have any lasting impact, it is only at the inspirational or individualist moral level. That they could signal or even provoke a cultural change in many areas of human activity beyond sexual behavior -in the areas, for example, of economic policies, world hunger, labor justice, health care, etc. - is simply not seen.

Once again, we see the tragic effects of the split between faith and knowledge of reality, and thus between knowing and judgment.

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