Diluting the News, or Why You Should Be Careful When Reading The Associated Press
This weekend the Pope's Easter vigil message made headlines as he gave his Easter Vigil homily on creation (which Bruce Chapman expounds upon here). What's worth noting in the news coverage is how different agencies reported and framed the Pope's comments.
Zenit, the official news agency of the Catholic Church, gives a direct and thorough account of Benedict's remarks:
"The world is a product of the Word," Benedict XVI stated, "of the Logos, as St. John expresses it. [...] 'Logos' means 'reason,' 'sense,' 'word.' It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense."
"The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason," he continued. "Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom."
As a result, the Holy Father explained that the creation account of Scripture and St. John's Gospel affirm "that in the beginning is reason," and that mankind was not the product of random evolution "in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos."
"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason."
Contrast this with the AP's coverage, which includes a nice little disclaimer:
Benedict emphasized the Biblical account of creation in his Easter Vigil homily Saturday, saying it was wrong to think at some point "in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it."
"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason."
Church teaching holds that Roman Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds: A Christian can, for example, accept the theory of evolution to help explain developments, but is taught to believe that God, not random chance, is the origin of the world. The Vatican, however, warns against creationism, or the overly literal interpretation of the Bibilical account of creation.
The way the Associate Press frames it, a reader might think the Church teaches only that God is the origin of the world but that the "theory of evolution" explains everything else. According to CSC Senior Fellow Jay Richards, "Whether that's an outright contradiction of the Church's teaching, or just an equivocation, hinges, as it always does, on the meaning of the phrase 'theory of evolution,' which has no stable meaning in any of the relevant Catholic texts. What you tend to get instead is an unilluminating distinction between 'evolution' and 'evolutionism.'"
Given all this, Pope Benedict's forthright insistence that God is involved in creation is refreshing, but of course, it upsets those who are invested in the idea of theistic Darwinism. The AP has been working with the narrative that God and Darwinian evolution are completely simpatico, so any charge to the contrary must be smoothed over. Such a vested interest should lead responsible readers to search for more direct avenues to receive their news from.