‘Bias and misinformation’ by GMANews.tv’s Wilma Vinas

by Mark Ching

ON DECEMBER 27, GMANews.tv published a story that wanted to sum up the RH Bill vs Catholic Church feud that happened in the past year. Unlike typical summing-up stories, however, the article, written by a certain Wilma Vinas, reeks of bias and misinformation.

Consider these statements:

PARAGRAPH 1: The year 2010 was stressful for the Catholic church in the Philippines. For the first time in years, public figures were challenging the authority of bishops, especially on the controversial issue of sex and birth control.

COMMENT: Remember 2009, when the RH Bill was first filed in Congress? That year, the Church faced defiance from the legislators who filed the bill. Remember 2008, when the sex abuse scandals proliferated in the media? The Church faced defiance that year, too. What “first time” is Ms. Vinas talking about here? The Church has always been and will always face defiance.

PARAGRAPH 2: But although the bishops suffered some embarrassing setbacks, it is too early to count them out in the increasingly heated battle over contraceptives and family planning.

COMMENT: The article puts this up early: embarrassing setbacks. Later on, the article can’t mention any legitimate setback.

PARAGRAPH 5: The church, however, did not find it funny. And in typical fashion, the bishops over-reacted dramatically, demanding the sacking of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and seeking a ban on all advertisements for condoms.

COMMENT: This statement typecasts the Church. Typically, it says, the Church is a dramatic over-reactor.

The Catholic Church in 2010

The Church as villain. A wicked-looking bishop in solemn vestments burns at stake a scroll of paper symbolizing the RH bill. This image accompanies Wilma Vinas's biased article on the Catholic Church's plight in 2010.

PARAGRAPH 5: As a result, a minor one-day publicity stunt turned into a heated debate that raged for months. The bishops ended up getting the short-end of the stick as they came off looking strident, narrow-minded and ignorant.

COMMENT: Ms. Vinas clearly shows her bias here. Who is she to state as fact that the bishops looked “strident, narrow-minded and ignorant?”

PARAGRAPH 12: Like they did with Arroyo, the church over-reacted with Aquino. Some priests threatened mass street protests and even suggested that the new president — the one with sky-high approval ratings and massive popular support, be excommunicated.

COMMENT: Ms. Vinas cannot stop herself from using a twisted piece of truth that the media has produced. The Church has never threatened Aquino with excommunication. Not ever, and probably never will.

PARAGRAPH 13: The various controversies churned up over sex and birth control in 2010 hurt the church’s image considerably. By serving up un-scientific arguments and picking fights at every occasion, the clergy made many people challenge their credibility.Suddenly, more and more people were questioning whether Father really knows best.

COMMENT: What “un-scientific arguments”? That the the Malthusian view of population — that which is shared by RH Bill proponents — had been denounced by modern economists? Who’s unscientific then? Ms. Vinas must also be a very fidgety person because every time the Church says its opinion, she views it as “picking fights at every occasion.”

PARAGRAPH 14: It went beyond birth control, as some legislators declared their willingness to seek legalization of divorce, to businessmen asking why bishops should be allowed to dictate policy on economics, land use and agriculture — issues they know little about.

COMMENT: Fast fact: Priests have other fields of expertise than just the priesthood. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, for instance, is a lawyer. Ms. Vinas must be surprised that some priests are experts in the fields of  “economics, land use and agriculture” too.

***

The article tries to get away with misleading information by using a lot of weasel words: “some bishops,” “more people,” “many clergymen.” These words seemingly mask the lack of research made to write the article.

Finally, a quick Google search of the author’s name also revealed no other relevant result besides the GMANews.tv article itself — a likely indication that the writer used a pen name to publish the article. This ensures that the writer gets away from the accountability of producing a poorly-written article.

[UPDATED 14/01/11 9:27 am]

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The Inquirer’s sin of omission (2/2)

[Continued from The Inquirer‘s sin of omission (1/2)]

by Dexter MC

BUT what about the ending paragraphs?

The Inquirer quotes the Pope:

‘There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants,’ the Pope says.

Notice, that the Inquirer has omitted two sentences that clearly oppose their headline (“Pope: Condom OK in AIDS fight”):

But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Then the Inquirer followed a valid quote from an Ignatius editor with this malicious editorialized sentence: “Still, the statement was something of a milestone for the Church and a significant change for the 83-year-old Benedict.” Again, the Pope is not changing anything.

Dexter MC writes for a living. He is fascinated by social media, web trends, law, literature, and politics.

The Inquirer’s sin of omission (1/2)

by Dexter MC

CHEERS go to the Philippine Daily Inquirer today for choosing a headline that trumpets their sin of omission.

Pope: Condom use OK in AIDS fight” the headline says, belying the fact that the gist of the Pope’s statements in the new book Light of the World has a completely opposite implication.

Erring statements in the article include the lead paragraph and its supporting sentences. Bear with me in tracing the Inquirer’s biased logic and untruthful framing.

The lead goes:

Using condoms may sometimes be justified to stop the spread of AIDS, Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book, in surprise comments that relax one of the Vatican’s most controversial positions.

So the Inquirer proclaims that the Pope has come to “relax” an age-old position, and that the comment is a “surprise” because it comes from the holder of “most controversial positions.”

Supporting paragraph two:

While some Roman Catholic leaders have spoken about the limited use of condoms to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS as the lesser of two evils, this is the first time the Pope has mentioned the possibility in public.

“Lesser of two evils.” “Mentioned the possibility.” So the Inquirer is saying the contraceptive issue is about two evils, and that the Pope has gone to side with one evil and not the other. [Wait — what?]

Supporting paragraph four:

Benedict made clear the comments were not intended to weaken the Church’s fundamental opposition to artificial birth control, a source of grievance to many practicing Catholics.

“Clear”? Benedict was talking about condoms and AIDS prevention, and not the artificial birth
control issue at all.

Let us read the Pope’s whole statement, taken from Light of the World‘s pages 117-119. The excerpt below is from the official English version of the book published by Ignatius:

[QUESTION] On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism.
Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated
in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the
statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional
teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is
madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

[POPE’S ANSWER] The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to
the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of
sexuality.

[QUESTION] Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not
opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

[POPE’S ANSWER] She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality. [Emphases added]

In truth, the Pope was not saying condoms are “OK in AIDS fight,” as the Inquirer claims. What Pope Benedict is really saying is that the use of these prophylactics can be the first step for some people (i.e. prostitutes) to understand that what they are doing — sex outside marriage — is wrong.

The Inquirer‘s headline and lead sentences, therefore, are erroneous, as well as malicious for twisting what the Pope said.

[The Inquirer‘s greater omission: Continue to 2/2]