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'The View' Repeats Media Myths About Catholic Church

A discussion on The View on Wednesday about sin quickly devolved as the hosts reiterated common media myths about the Catholic Church and its teachings. Elisabeth Hasselbeck read a bogus list of seven “new” sins that the Vatican supposedly came up with, while Joy Behar misrepresented the Catholic Church's teachings on papal infallibility. When Barbara Walters later asked what the “biggest sin” was, in their opinion, Behar and Whoopi Goldberg agreed that it was “intolerance.”


Goldberg began the discussion by bringing up how a “new study by the Vatican says that men and women sin differently. They said men are more likely to commit sins of lust and gluttony and sloth, and for women, it's pride, envy, and anger.” She then prompted her co-hosts for their take on this. Barbara Walters joked, “Yeah. I mean, with men, it's much more the sexual and the lust, and the women are angry that it's much more the sexual and the lust....They cheat more.” It's funny that the ABC veteran put it that way, since she admitted to having an affair with former Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke.


Moments later, as the discussion progressed. Goldberg stated that she thought the most common sin among bankers was envy. Sherri Shepherd replied, “It's funny when you say with the bankers. You look at all these politicians. They don't get in trouble for pride and envy. Everybody is getting in trouble for cheating.” Walters responded, “I don't think the Vatican was thinking of the bankers.”


Elisabeth Hasselbeck replied to Walters by interjecting what she had read in an article about this new study about sin: “No, they did, actually, because this past -- last year, the Vatican added seven new sins....They updated the seven. But they -- yes, genetic modification, human experimentation, pollution, social injustice -- financial gluttony was one of them. So they knew. The Vatican knew.”


One of the possible sources for The View's discussion of this “new study by the Vatican” is a story from the Daily Telegraph in the UK on Wednesday. Correspondent Alastair Jamieson reported that “[t]he results of survey, which was based on an analysis of confessional data carried out by 95-year-old Jesuit priest and scholar Roberto Busa, have been echoed by the Vatican.” So it was an elderly Catholic priest who originally came up with this insight, not the Vatican.


The Daily Telegraph was also one of the major media outlets who helped perpetuate the myth that the Vatican came up with a list of “new sins” last year, based on an interview of a Catholic bishop who works for a high-level Catholic Church tribunal. During the interview, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti discussed “new forms of social sin,” and gave examples such genetic manipulation and drug trafficking. The newspaper, in its misinterpretation of the bishop's comments, went so far to say that the bishop's examples “replaces the list originally drawn up by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century, which included envy, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath and pride.”


Goldberg reacted in disbelief to the supposed list Hasselbeck had read: “Explain to me how you suddenly can write new sins. You can't -- you're not allowed to do that.” Lapsed Catholic Joy Behar had an explanation for her co-host: “But Whoopi, the Pope is supposed to be infallible, so he can say whatever he wants and people believe it. That's how it goes.”


Behar's take on papal infallibility is a common misconception of the concept. According to Catholic doctrine, the Pope is infallible only “when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians... [as] he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church,” as promulgated by the First Vatican Council. The exercise of this authority has only taken place on very rare occasions, and does not to apply to every single thing the Pope says, as Behar would lead one to think.


The discussion concluded with a discussion on what the hosts though the greatest sin in the world was. Walters asked, “What do you think is the biggest sin?” Behar answered, “Lust among priests -- that's a big one,” in an apparent slam on the Catholic Church. Hasselbeck echoed Behar when she named pedophilia. Goldberg gave a more generically liberal answer: “Intolerance....because Jesus was not intolerant of anybody.” Goldberg must have forgotten the several places in the Bible where Jesus chastised the Pharisees, referring to them as a “brood of vipers” and “hypocrites.” On one occasion, he even rebuked Peter, his own disciple, calling him “Satan.”


The transcript of the relevant part of the discussion, which began 12 minutes into the 11 am Eastern hour of Wednesday's The View:


WHOOPI GOLDBERG: A new study by the Vatican says that men and women sin differently. They said men are more likely to commit sins of lust and gluttony and sloth, and for women, it's pride, envy, and anger. Do you buy this?


SHERRI SHEPHERD: Interesting.

BARBARA WALTERS: I think -- yeah. I mean, with men, it's much more the sexual and the lust, and the women are angry that it's much more the sexual and the lust.


(AUDIENCE LAUGHS)


ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Does that mean that men are more, you know, victims of --


WALTERS: They cheat more.


HASSELBECK: Or taking action on their --


WALTERS: They cheat. They cheat.


HASSELBECK: So they actually do the thing and women just, like, think about it until it, like, just kills us?

GOLDBERG: It seems to me -- I see all those bankers, and I think, you know, that envy and --


JOY BEHAR: Envy and avarice.


SHEPHERD: It's funny when you say with the bankers. You look at all these politicians. They don't get in trouble for pride and envy. Everybody is getting in trouble for cheating, or, you know --


WALTERS: I don't think the Vatican was thinking of the bankers.


HASSELBECK: No, they did, actually, because this past -- last year, the Vatican added seven new sins. You know how they have all that --


GOLDBERG: What!?


HASSELBECK: Yeah. They did.


GOLDBERG: Whoa! (makes 'time-out' gesture with her hands)


HASSELBECK: I had no idea. They updated the seven. But they -- yes, genetic modification, human experimentation, pollution, social injustice -- financial gluttony was one of them. So they knew. The Vatican knew.


GOLDBERG: (shakes head) Ok. So how -- I'm sorry. I realize that the Vatican is

the last word in all things that are God --


HASSELBECK: For Christian people.


GOLDBERG: Yeah, for some folks. But explain to me how you suddenly can

write new sins. You can't -- you're not allowed to do that.


HASSELBECK: They did.


SHEPHERD: (unintelligible) Selling drugs, so any people who do that --


(CROSSTALK)


BEHAR: But Whoopi, the Pope is supposed to be infallible, so he can say

whatever he wants and people believe it. That's how it goes.


GOLDBERG: Well, but then -- but that doesn't make any sense.


WALTERS: What do you think is the biggest sin?


BEHAR: Lust among priests -- that's a big one.


HASSELBECK: Pedophilia. They put that (unintelligible) --


WALTERS: What do you think is the biggest sin?


GOLDBERG: The biggest sin? That any -- the church can do, or that is out there? Intolerance.


WALTERS: Intolerance -- you think that intolerance is the biggest sin?


GOLDBERG: Yeah, I do, because Jesus was not intolerant of anybody --


HASSELBECK: He was not.


GOLDBERG: He was not -- if you believe the Bible. Jesus was, you know -- He was like, look, we don't agree, but that's cool. Let's see what we do agree on. And to me, any religion that says it's us and forget about them, that's a sin.


BEHAR: That is a sin.


GOLDBERG: That's a sin to me, and I believe that.


(AUDIENCE APPLAUDS)


SHEPHERD: That's so funny. I think --


WALTERS: But that's not on the list.


GOLDBERG: No, it's not on the list.


Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.