The New York Times and Crucifixions

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Richard John Neuhaus, the editor of First Things magazine who passed away earlier this year, had a special way of finding humor in news reporting about religion.  I was reading one such commentary recently that caused me to laugh out loud – and for several minutes.  Not wanting to keep this humor to myself, please read below a short commentary of Neuhaus’ on the religion reporting of the New York Times in 1993:

St. Philip’s Catholic Church in San Francisco is apparently one of those places where “the action’s at.” Jane Gross of the New York Times reports on a recent family festival held there, and the point of the report is that, my goodness, there were all kinds of families present—“stepfamilies and foster families, multigenerational families and gay families . . . and other configurations that have yet to be named by social scientists or counted by statisticians.” Ms. Gross continues: “Even in this old-fashioned, godly haven, with crucifixions on the walls and children in neat uniforms, the families have changed indelibly but the values have not.” Crucifixions on the walls? It seems the action gets a little rough at St. Philip’s. The pastor, Father Michael Healy, draws the lesson to be learned: “There’s such a thing as family values, but who’s to say who’s living up to them?” Certainly not the pastor of St. Philip’s. (Crucifixions on the wall reminds us of a Detroit paper that reported some years ago on a Lutheran convention. “The procession was led by a young man carrying a 140-year-old crucifix.” But then, why should we expect journalists to know any more about religion than about other matters of consequence?)

“It seems the action gets a little rough at St. Philip’s.”  I love that line.