Fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Decree on Means of Social Communication at the end of the second session of the Second Vatican Council.2 In this document, the Council outlined the responsibilities of the media in the rapidly-changing post WWII global society. Here, Smith and Malik present the results of an empirical study of the media’s approach to the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis I. They show that the media reinforces stereotypes of the U.S. Catholic Church as a white institution by choosing to over-represent Catholic membership as well as leadership as overwhelmingly white, and by underrepresenting Black and Hispanic membership and leadership. In their fascinating interpretation of this study’s significance, they find that White Catholics may blame institutional factors for our society’s racial inequalities, but these same White Catholics are blind to the fact that the Catholic Church, as an institution, actually plays a role in perpetuating racial inequalities.


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