The broadcast news shows have hyped climate change in Pope Francis’s new encyclical – but did they hint at his arguments on abortion and gender identity? Short answer: No.
The Vatican released the pope’s media-hyped encyclical, Laudato Si’, on June 18. Out of the three broadcast networks, only NBC and ABC commented on the “climate change” publication from the “popular pope.” They also emphasized the church’s “moral call to action” on climate, skipping other moral calls to action networks ordinarily disdain – from prolife to traditional views on gender.
Neither story mentioned the encyclical’s repeated recognition of the human embryo as a human being – or Pope Francis deeming “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity” as “necessary.”
On June 17, Savannah Guthrie introduced Pope Francis’ “call to action to reverse climate change” on NBC’s Nightly News. She then turned the spotlight to Anne Thompson, NBC’s Chief Environmental Affairs correspondent, who commented on a leaked draft of the encyclical.
“Does this suggest that there are people in that bureaucracy who are trying to upend Pope Francis's efforts?” she asked a Vatican analyst in defense of the pope.
Thompson briefly revealed the contents of the draft.
“The draft covers many of the themes Francis has spoken about, from his first Mass to visiting the typhoon-scarred Philippines,” she relayed. “It embraces scientific studies that show man is mainly responsible for climate change and calls for urgent action.”
But in her summary, Thompson did not mention the encyclical’s teaching on a few of the media’s favorite topics. The document acknowledged the human embryo as a human being three times:
“Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”
“When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”
“There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development.”
In relation to that, Pope Francis even called out “reproductive health.”
“At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health’… To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.”
Commenting on another heated topic in the media, Pope Francis confronted gender ideology or “the relationship between human life and moral law”:
“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation…Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different…It is not a healthy attitude which would seek ‘to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it’.”
Instead, Thompson turned her report into a political spat with the “popular pope.”
“Though church officials insist this is a moral call to action,” she continued, “the encyclical and this popular pope are now contentious issues in the Republican race for the White House.”
She pointed to Catholic candidates, before playing a sound bite from Jeb Bush.
“They don't go to Mass for economic policy or for things in politics,” he said in the clip. “I've got enough people helping me along the way with that.”
She concluded, “This pope is not afraid of controversy and more than willing to use his bully pulpit to save what he believes God made.”
ABC and CBS did not comment during their evening news shows on June 17.
During the morning news shows on June 18, only ABC’s Good Morning America covered the encyclical via Paula Faris. Refraining from topics the media and pope disagree on, Faris commented on the “formal church statement” declaring “global warming is due to human activity and the rich exploiting the poor.”