Strictly speaking, a lie is a false statement with the intent to deceive. Without the ability to read minds, it’s difficult to discern when someone who has made a false statement is intentionally lying or has merely been incorrectly informed. The intent of a journalist should be to inform — but today the deed of journalists is more often to deceive (whether intentional or otherwise). To cite but one example, Jonathan Wynne-Jones (pictured above) holds the job of Religious Affairs Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, the widely read British broadsheet which claims to be a ‘quality’ newspaper.
Read Mr Wynne-Jones’s article alleging that the Pope “has ended the Church’s absolute ban on the use of condoms”. Wynne-Jones spreads this lie from the very first sentence and continues along the same lines throughout the piece. His selective quotation is interesting, as is the fact that the fuller quotations he cites in no way back up the false contentions Wynne-Jones makes in the article.
Let’s have a look at the article. [Wynne-Jones’s words in normal text, my comments in red boldface].
After decades of fierce opposition to the use of all contraception, the Pontiff has ended the Church’s absolute ban on the use of condoms. [FALSE: see here.]
He said it was acceptable to use a prophylactic when the sole intention was to “reduce the risk of infection” from Aids. [FALSE: The Pope did use the phrase “reduce the risk of infection”, but if you read his words in context, he did not use them to say the use of a condom towards this end is acceptable.]
While he restated the Catholic Church’s staunch objections to contraception because it believes that it interferes with the creation of life, he argued that using a condom to preserve life and avoid death could be a responsible act – even outside marriage. [FALSE: the Pope said that using a condom could be “a first step” towards taking responsibility, not that the act was a responsible act itself.]
Asked whether “the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms,” he replied: “It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution. In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.” [Only having first poisoned the reader’s mind with false statements does Wynne-Jones allow us to see the Pope’s words in context. A close reading of the Pope’s words, however, reveals that they do not support Wynne-Jones’s contentions. An otherwise ignorant reader might give Wynne-Jones the benefit of the doubt, thinking that the Pope made the alleged comments elsewhere in an unquoted portion.]
He stressed that abstinence was the best policy in fighting the disease but in some circumstances it was better for a condom to be used if it protected human life. [FALSE; the Pope simply did not say this. If he did, show us where.]
“There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be … a first bit of responsibility, to redevelop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes. [Again, this quotation from the Pope fails to support Wynne-Jones’s contention. The ellipsis marks the telling omission of the Pope’s words “this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization”; id est: this is not a morally acceptable act but could hypothetically be a step in the direction of an individual becoming more morally sound.]
Later on in his article, Jonathan Wynne-Jones continues to peddle false statements.
Most significant, however, are his comments on condoms, which represent the first official relaxation in the Church’s attitude on the issue after rising calls for the Vatican to adopt a more practical approach to stopping the spread of HIV. [FALSE: “Official”?!?!? Even supposing the Pope had made the comments Wynne-Jones falsely claims he did, the Pope’s comments to journalists are not by any means or wild stretch of the imagination “official”. Following Wynne-Jones’s false logic, if the Pope mentions to an interviewer that he prefers tea to coffee, this has become an official Catholic pronouncement. In the reality, however, only bulls, motu proprios, rescripts, encyclicals, and suchlike can be considered official church statements.]
The Pope’s ruling is aimed specifically at stopping people infecting their partners, particularly in Africa where the disease is most prevalent. [FALSE: the Pope’s comments were not a “ruling”, they were a philosophical and moral speculation.]
Wynne-Jones has found himself in hot water before. In November 2006, Great Britain’s Evangelical Alliance issued a statement condemning his “poor journalism”, saying some of his allegations were “blatantly false”. Dr. R. David Muir, public policy director of the Evangelical Alliance said that an article by Wynne-Jones in the Sunday Telegraph was “the sort of piece that lecturers would give to their first year ‘A’ Level students to identify the sensational, the specious, and the not-too-subtle exercise in dissimulation.”
More recently, the Catholic blogger & school lay-chaplain Giles Pinnock highlighted the use of weasel-words by Jonathan Wynne-Jones. Mr Pinnock, a former Anglican clergyman recently received into the Catholic Church, described a May 2010 piece by Wynne-Jones as “what must be one of the most mischievous bits of religious reporting of late — and it’s not like it’s a small field.”
For most of my time spent in Britain, including my four years at university in Scotland and my numerous trips back and forth since graduation, the Telegraph has been a daily part of my existence.
But now Catholics and good, well-intentioned people of other churches, denominations, and faiths who subscribe to or regularly purchase the Telegraph must ask themselves: so long as Jonathan Wynne-Jones is Religious Affairs Correspondent, is my purchase of a copy of this newspaper an active participation in or encouragement of the spreading of lies about the Church?
I certainly won’t buy the Telegraph ever again unless Wynne-Jones is either sacked or forced to apologise and tell the truth. I hope others will follow the same course.