Sat Mar 31, 10:39 AM ET
A top aide to Pope Benedict has blasted the media for highlighting the Vatican's views on sex while maintaining a "deafening silence" about charity work done by thousands of Catholic organizations around the world.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as secretary of state is effectively the Vatican's prime minister, also accused the media of deliberately misinterpreting the Pope's speeches, especially his Regensburg address last September which angered Muslims.
"We face an extremely grave problem. The church's messages are subject to a type of manipulation and falsification by some western media," Bertone said in an interview with Le Figaro Magazine published in Paris on Saturday.
"I see a fixation by some journalists on moral topics, such as abortion and homosexual unions, which are certainly important issues but absolutely do not constitute the thinking and work of the church," he said.
"Why this deafening silence?" he asked. "We have to say the press does not write much about the social and charity work of thousands of Catholic organizations around the world."
Bertone said journalists had twisted the Pope's Regensburg address -- in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor linking Muslims and violence -- into a speech on Islam rather than the discussion on the role God played in society.
"Pope Benedict's thoughts were neatly blacked out," he said. "Commentators who take phrases out of context in a misleading extrapolation are exercising their trade dishonestly."
He said the German-born Pontiff had made clear in Regensburg that he wanted "a healthy confrontation" with Islam and that several Muslim thinkers had welcomed his invitation to dialogue.
Bertone has been one of the church's harshest critics of Dan Brown's popular novel The Da Vinci Code. In the interview he also took aim at "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," a new film claiming that archaeologists have found the tomb of Jesus and his family and indications that Mary Magdelene, one of his followers in the gospels, was his wife.
According to the Bible, Jesus never married and rose bodily from the dead after his crucifixion.
"This is a strategy against the church and the divine figure of Christ," he said. "These campaigns try to sap the faith of Christian people and the trust the faithful have in the church."
The apocryphal gospels used as sources for popular books and films were not new discoveries but well-known books written a century or two after the original gospels, he said.
"Authors who try to sow confusion between these two different sources profit from religious ignorance," he said.
From Reuters News Services