The PJ Tatler

Pope Bites Dog! Maybe...

Remember that story about Pope Francis promising some distressed moppet whose dog had just died that good bowsers go to Heaven too? Bogus. The American Interest has the details, while the increasingly untrustworthy New York Times has the correction. First, the details:

A recent controversy over whether Pope Francis said that dogs go to heaven shows how deeply the media has bought into its own narrative about the pontiff’s brand of feel-good religion. Last week many media outlets reported that Francis told a boy whose dog had died that, “one day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” He was said to have supported this statement by a reference to a passage in Bible written by St. Paul. Reaction was swift: spiritual but not religious types got the warm fuzzies, while Catholic traditionalists sighed heavily under the burden of having such a Pope.

But the whole story was completely false. Pope Francis not only never said it; he never talked to a boy with a dead dog at all… The media has fallen in love with their own creation—the softhearted, easygoing, liberal pope they’ve long been waiting for—and are willing uncritically to run a story, any story, that puts him on display.

Oh, noes! It gets worse. The Religion News Service debunks here:

Yes, a version of that quotation was uttered by a pope, but it was said decades ago by Paul VI, who died in 1978. There is no evidence that Francis repeated the words during his public audience on Nov. 26, as has been widely reported, nor was there a boy mourning his dead dog.  “There is a fundamental rule in journalism. That is double-checking, and in this case it was not done,” the Vatican’s deputy spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, told Reuters on Saturday.

But hey — the story was too good to check! Which is why a red-faced Times had to backtrack on its entire front-page story — which began with this by now-obligatory lede, “Pope Francis has given hope to gays, unmarried couples and advocates of the Big Bang theory. Now, he has endeared himself to dog lovers, animal rights activists and vegans” — with this instant classic of a correction:

Correction: December 12, 2014. An earlier version of this article misstated the circumstances of Pope Francis’ remarks. He made them in a general audience at the Vatican, not in consoling a distraught boy whose dog had died. The article also misstated what Francis is known to have said. According to Vatican Radio, Francis said: “The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us,” which was interpreted to mean he believes animals go to heaven. Francis is not known to have said: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.’’ (Those remarks were once made by Pope Paul VI to a distraught child, and were cited in a Corriere della Sera article that concluded Francis believes animals go to heaven.) An earlier version also referred incompletely to the largest animal protection group in the United States. It is the Humane Society of the United States, not just the Humane Society.

That correction is almost as embarrassing as this one (scroll all the way down. Sheesh.