Skip links

Boris Johnson’s Catholic wedding: Why didn’t the New York Times consult a Canon lawyer?

When preparing news reports about a chess match, it really helps if reporters quote one or more experts on the rules of chess.

The same thing is true when covering the FIFA World Cup. At some point, it would help to have an expert define “offsides” and some of soccer’s other more complicated rules.

When covering the U.S. Supreme Court, it helps to have a reporter on the team with a law degree and some serious experience covering debates in elite courtrooms.

This brings me that New York Times article the other day about that eyebrow-raising wedding at Westminster Cathedral between the current prime minister of England and his latest of many lady friends. The double-decker question covered many essential facts:

Why Could Boris Johnson Marry in a Catholic Church?

The British prime minister was married twice before, but the church didn’t recognize those unions because they were not Catholic.

Now, this article did some things very well, including offering a crisp, clear summary of Johnson’s complicated history as a husband and lover. Read that, if you wish.

However, I was struck by two words that were missing in this article — that would be, “Canonical” and “form” — even though discussions of this legal term was all over Catholic Twitter once the secret wedding was made public.

What, pray tell, is “Canonical form”? We will get to that in a moment.

In terms of journalism basics, the crucial point is that it really would have helped if the Times team had interviewed one or two Catholic Canon lawyers who understand this term and the history behind the church’s teachings on this subject. As things turned out, readers ended up knowing more about how this rite offended the sensibilities of Catholic LGBTQ activists than the specifics of the church laws that allowed the wedding to take place.

Read more at GetReligion

Share with Friends: