Networks Mark First Year of Francis Papacy By Urging Church to Abandon Principles

NBC, ABC, and CBS marked the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis being elected leader of the Catholic Church with positive stories about the Pontiff's personal style while impatiently pleading for him to reject the moral values he swore to uphold. [Listen to the audio]

On Thursday's NBC Today, correspondent Anne Thompson summed up a discussion she had with a group of students at Loyola University by proclaiming: "Now, these young Catholics don't expect change on the divisive issues of contraception, gay marriage, or abortion. But they are thrilled that that's not all the Pope talks about." She added that they were happy avoiding such social issues and "getting back to the original message of Jesus Christ."

Sunday on ABC's This Week, correspondent David Wright lamented that the Pope "kept the hard line on contraception and abortion" and how "the Church still vehemently opposes gay marriage," but touted how Francis "famously said, 'Who Am I to Judge?'" when asked about gay priests and supposedly "signaled an openness to the idea of civil unions" in a recent interview.

In a report for Thursday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Mark Phillips slammed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as "reclusive and tired" before praising Francis for having "seemed to reject the Vatican line that homosexuality was an intrinsic disorder."

Phillips cited left-wing Vatican reporter Marco Politi announcing: "This means a new look on divorce, on second marriage, a new look on homosexuality, on homosexual unions, on contraceptives." Phillips interjected: "But a new look that hasn't yet been reflected in any change, other than atmospheric, in Church doctrine. Are people kind of dressing this pope in the clothes they want him to wear?" Politi replied: "In the Catholic Church the atmosphere is very important."

At the top of a review of Politi's 2011 book titled Joseph Ratzinger: Crisis of a Papacy, National Catholic Reporter described his politics: "Marco Politi, to be sure, has a point of view. A veteran Italian journalist and commentator, mostly for the leftist La Repubblica, Politi's sympathies clearly run to the Catholic Church's progressive wing."

Thursday's CBS This Morning ran a similar report from Phillips, followed by co-hosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King interviewing New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Rose pressed them: "If this pope wanted to change doctrine, how would he do it?" Kurtz explained: "...his responsibility is to preserve and hand on timeless teachings of the Church." Despite that answer, King followed up: "But can the Church doctrine be changed? That's a question many people are wondering." Dolan noted: "No, doctrine itself can't be, Gayle." Kurtz added: "By definition."

On March 5, NBC marked Ash Wednesday with Nightly News anchor Brian Williams declaring that remarks from Pope Francis in an Italian newspaper "are drawing criticism and may diminish his luster a bit, especially among American Catholics..." In the report that followed, Thompson asserted: "It's his unapologetic defense of how the Church is dealing with the priest sex-abuse crisis that's igniting controversy."

Later in the story, Thompson lamented: "What the Pope makes clear in this interview is while he will listen, the basic teachings of the Catholic Church are not up for review."