In Notre Dame’s case, there was plenty of coverage. It was that coverage, however, that was rife with what proved once again the inability of many journalists to understand basic facts about faith.
One of the most glaring mistakes to come out of the Notre Dame fire news coverage was a New York Times blunder regarding the mystery of a small statue of Jesus. It featured prominently in the Times story on Father Jean-Marc Fournier, the Paris Fire Department chaplain who risked his life to save many of Notre Dame prized relics.
It should be noted that Notre Dame doesn’t have a Jesus statue — at least not one small enough to be taken out by an elderly priest. The “statue” appeared in no other news accounts and the Times story was the only one not to mention efforts to preserve the Blessed Sacraments from a side altar.
The New York Post’s Sohrab Ahmari, a practicing Catholic, first flagged on Twitter, the social platform now known as X, that Fournier had actually saved “the Body of the Christ” — a phrase that Times editors interpreted as a small statue of Jesus. Honest. That was printed.
Now there is a correction on that story indicating “an earlier version of this article misidentified one of two objects recovered from Notre-Dame by the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier. It was the Blessed Sacrament, not a statue of Jesus.”
The Blessed Sacrament (also known as the Eucharist or Holy Communion) is bread and wine from Jesus’ Last Super turned into what Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ.
It was a notable error and another example of the very secular nature of elite media East Coast newsrooms and most of the people who work in them. If there had ever been any doubt about this thesis before, this mistake was proof that journalists today (and over the course of GetReligion’s 20 years) just don’t — all together now — “get” religion.
After all, noting blind spots of this kind was part of the mission of GetReligion. I am very proud of the work I did in my five years here. As mentioned, I have covered a large array of topics and issues. Nonetheless, I still consider my highlighting the destruction of churches — when many others would not — to be my most important GetReligion work.
Even all these years later, this destruction persists. Despite little to no mainstream news coverage, U.S. Catholic bishops on January 16 issued a report that, among other things, pointed out the threat of church vandalism by both left- and right-wing extremists.
The 48-page report, issued annually by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, highlighted the threats to Catholic teachings in regard to migrants, what it called the “suppression of religious speech up-holding marriage and sexual difference” and defending religious freedom.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, who leads the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty that compiled the report, said in a statement that Catholics play “a vital role to play in defending religious freedom and promoting the common good.” He added the following:
“Alongside the great work that many other Catholic and religious liberty organizations are doing, I pray that this report helps raise awareness of the threats to our first freedom here in America, and that it helps Catholics and all people of goodwill contribute to the common good of these United States.”
The report received no mainstream news coverage. Words like “religious freedom” must have scared them away.