The New York Times demonstrated its disconnect from Christianity, the religion of most of its readers, last week with a correction on a story about the Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris.
In a story on Thursday, the Times focused on the efforts of Father Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, to rescue various items from the fire.
“I had two priorities: to save the crown of thorns and a statue of Jesus,” he was quoted as saying.
Only, there is no statue of Jesus in the cathedral, which long since has been converted to a government-owned tourist site. And there were no relics since only Catholic altars contain them, despite the Times’ headline.
What the priest said was that he was preserving the body of Christ, which the reporter, who speaks French and often tweets in that language, took to mean a statue. In fact, for Catholics, the body of Christ refers to the Eucharist – the communion Catholics believe is the actual body and blood of Christ.
By now, the nation’s major newspapers have become famous for such mistakes. As the New York Post noted, the Times wrote a correction in 2013 that read: “An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into Heaven.”
The reporter had confused the resurrection with the ascension of Christ into heaven.
This caused a problem the following year when the Times wrote: “Nearby, the vast Church of the Holy Sepulcher marking the site where many Christians believe Jesus is buried, usually packed with pilgrims, was echoing and empty.”
Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He is not buried anywhere.
In 2005, when Pope John Paul II died, the Times noted that “Tucked under his left arm was the silver staff, called the crow’s ear, that he had carried in public.” The staff, which looks like something a shepherd might carry, is called a crozier.
It has become so common a problem that, according to the New York Post, even the leadership of The Times acknowledges the difficulties it has had.
“We don’t get religion,” Dean Baquet, New York Times executive editor, told NPR in 2016. “We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives. And I think we can do much, much better.”
There is room for improvement. In 2011, both the Times and the Associated Press attributed a Bible verse from Hebrews to William Butler Yeats. In 2014, it reported that St. Patrick had banned the slaves from Ireland; he actually, according to legend, banished snakes.
The Times is not alone. In 2016, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker took issue with a quote from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was running for president at the time.
“If we awaken and energize the body of Christ – if Christians and people of faith come out and vote our values – we will win and we will turn the country around,” Cruz had said.
Parker replied on a TV panel on CNN: “I don’t anyone who takes their religion seriously who would think that Jesus should rise from the grave and resurrect himself to serve Ted Cruz.”