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Media watch: secret church business

Every Aussie newspaper front page looks the same today, with a graphic of censored text as Australia’s main media players join in protesting government censorship, police raids on a journalist and lack of protection for whistleblowers.

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An example of secret church business occurred this month when the Catholic Synod (gathering) of Bishops of the Amazon Region on the family was effectively closed to media. Controversial suggestions for married priests and female deacons were revealed in the transparent preparation for the synod, but once the official gathering started, “that practice of transparency effectively ceased,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Once the official gathering started, “that practice of transparency effectively ceased,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“There have been no livestreams of the bishops’ discussions, no official release of their texts, and, as yet, no publishing of the work of the synod’s small working groups,” it reported. However, the paper (which has a track record of adventurous journalism) was able to report that ten out of 12 working groups within the synod had discussed married priests.

Churches vary widely in their openness to media. The widely reported Sydney Anglican Synod is open to the press even when it is in committee. By contrast, the key meeting of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, which decided to adopt two marriage rites – including one open to same-sex couples – was closed to all media, even church media.

But keeping things quiet is getting more difficult.

The Australian Christian Lobby told Eternity that its Sydney “Not Ashamed” event held over the weekend was to have no media. We complied, but the drawcard of Israel Folau (who revealed to conference delegates that he prayed before his tweet) clearly proved irresistible to News.com.au and other media outlets – although the citation of “according to many reports” in their articles probably means some of the coverage was simply off social media. News.com.au have credited some of their pictures to themselves, so they were there. And the Nine/Fairfax report appears to be first hand.

Jealous? Not really. But it is hard sometimes to know you are not wanted.

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