Pope criticises Christians leading a double life

What happened?

In a homily at morning Mass last week Pope Francis criticised Catholics who lead a double life. “There are those who say ‘I’m very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association or another; but my life is not Christian. I don’t pay a fair amount to my employees, I exploit people, I’m involved in dirty business dealings, I launder money.’ ” Such people scandalise others, he said. “How many times have we heard … ‘but to be a Catholic like that, better to be an atheist’.”

What the media said

Reuters, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph had almost identical headlines to the Guardian’s: “Pope Francis: better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic.” The Huffington Post said Francis “even suggested that atheists might be better than members of the faithful who don’t practise the tenets of their faith”. All of them quoted the Pope accurately further down in their stories, but couldn’t resist going for the attention-grabbing but arguably inaccurate headline.

Associated Press cited Francis, when just two months into his papacy, saying that Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good. Its report, published by several newspapers, said: “Since his election in 2013, Francis has often told Catholics, both priests and lay people, to practise what their religion preaches.”

What the Catholic media said

Even some of the Catholic press went for the misleading headline. Crux had “Pope says better an atheist than a Catholic living a double life”.

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