Saturday, 19 January 2008

Reporting ecumenically and accurately

On my way home from visiting a friend in hospital I bought myself a "La Croix" special on "Quel avenir pour le Christianisme?" (What future for Christianity?). As soon as I started reading it on the bus home I began to get cross because of the mistakes and suppositions - there was a map saying that the majority of Germans are Roman Catholic, that the majority of people in England Wales and Scotland are Anglicans and that 90% of Swiss are Christians. Added to which the Reformed Huguenot cross was used to designate large tracts of Lutheran Scandinavia...
Given that it's the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity I should probably have been a little more forbearing in my thoughts. La Croix is a Roman Catholic daily paper in France, generally does a good job and often has excellent reporting and think pieces. There's a really good interview with Bishop Margot Kässmann in the magazine for instance, but there are just a few bits that jar and are not quite right.
Reading through the magazine I realised again how difficult it is to write acurately, let alone interestingly about church and religious affairs. It's easy to not get the terminology concerning another church or religion quite right, or to perhaps think it doesn't matter too much and work simply from one's own terms of reference. It's easy too to let one's work from a specific point of view and for a particular audience - in this case a percentage of Roman Catholics in France - to colour both accuracy and objectivity. My recent course in Rome opened up whole new areas of my own ignorance about the structures of Roman Catholic congregations - and my ignorance of Catholicism generally.
So what future for Christianity, let alone for Christian unity, if we can't even always learn the right words to describe other churches

1 Comment:

Gustavo Bonato said...

Often I face similar issues working for the "general press". Lay journalists tend to write ANYTHING they want, using completely inaccurate terminology. As an example, the Roman Catholic Church is called a "religion", and the evangelicals are called another "religion".