Volume > Issue > Ministers of the Ecclesiae Mediae

Ministers of the Ecclesiae Mediae


By Casey Chalk | September 2021
Casey Chalk, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is a contributor to The American Conservative and The Federalist.

“Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine,” Walter Cronkite once noted. Cronkite, that most trusted source of news for an entire generation of Americans, ended his nightly program — it ran from 1962 to 1981 — with the famous line, “And that’s the way it is.” Two generations later, how quaint that seems!

It’s not just that contemporary corporate media’s claims to objective journalism are beyond risible — the Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN are more or less extensions of the Democratic Party, while Fox News is an unambiguous mouthpiece of the Right — rather, it’s that the media, especially mainstream journalists, have such an inflated sense of self-importance that they believe themselves to be not merely conveyors of news stories but the vanguard of democratic society and the pre-eminent source of all truth. “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” the Washington Post declared its slogan to be after Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential victory. Elitist hubris at its best!

In pre-revolutionary, 18th-century France, society was divided into several broad categories, or “estates.” The First Estate comprised members of the French clergy; the Second Estate was the nobility; the Third Estate represented the majority of the people. At the end of the 18th century, Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke described the existence of a Fourth Estate, the media. In 21st-century America, the Fourth Estate seeks to subsume the First.

Exhibit A of this troubling trend is media coverage of the debate at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) over withholding the Eucharist from pro-abortion politicians. According to Catholic teaching, actions that result in abortions, such as promoting “pro-choice” legislation, are mortally sinful. The occasional reader of the Washington Post might be forgiven for supposing that my hometown rag is actually a Catholic diocesan newspaper, given how extensively it covered the story, in terms of both factual reporting and op-eds.

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