Real Pope Francis vs. Media Pope Francis

Everyone is talking about the Big Interview that Pope Francis gave last week. Catholic blogs are abuzz. My news feed on The Facebook is full of a mix of inspiring quotes and frustrations with the media response.  On that last point, it’s helpful to look at what Pope Francis really said. Therefore, we present for your viewing pleasure, a graphical comparison of the Real Pope Francis vs. the Media Pope Francis.




If you only read the media “summary” (or caricature more accurately) of Pope Francis’ remarks, you’d think the Catholic Church was “obsessed” with gay marriage and abortion.  The word cloud here was generated from news reports on the first page of Google News results for the 24 hours immediately following the Big Interview. Sources include: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, The Guardian, Slate, and The Huffington Post.

Media Pope Francis

Media Pope Francis

It turns out, that’s not really the case at all. As Pope Francis was at pains to point out, the Catholic Church is and should be concerned first and above all with the relationship between God and all of humanity and, in the context of evangelization, between the Church and non-believers. Ours is a living faith of people seeking the truth and ultimate reunion with our Creator on the Last Day, not merely some set of rules. Here’s the word cloud for Pope Francis’ actual remarks.

Real Pope Francis

Real Pope Francis

If you’re not into pretty pictures, here’s the hard numbers on word frequency.

Word Frequency Comparison

Word Frequency Comparison

We do not believe in a Catholic God who only cares about what Catholics do. We believe in the one true God who is the sublime creator and ruler of the entire Universe. The teachings of the Church on morality are important and we discuss them here at CatholicVote often, but when Pope Francis gives an interview like this he is speaking to a global audience as the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. Not everone who will read Pope Francis’ interview even agrees that there is a God at all.

The media do a great disservice to their readers by misrepresenting Pope Francis–in essence creating a virtual Anti-Pope who rules over a bizarre Catholic Church from some alternate dimension. However, we should hope and pray that by running attention-grabbing headlines–no matter how deceptive–the media will unwittingly draw unbelievers and dissenters to dig a little deeper into what Pope Francis actually said where they will encounter the awesome and wonderful beauty and richness of the true Christian faith, not the media caricature of it.

  • Greg Aitchison

    LOVE the visual aids with this article. This is the kind of stuff that I can use when teaching my 7th and 8th grade students! A big ol’ article or lecture explaining this would most likely go over their heads and be forgotten, but visuals like this can paint a pretty clear picture. Thanks so much for posting this!


  • Grey

    Respectfully, I read quite a few things you post on here Josh, and a number of other things as well. Most of them have to do with abortion, same sex marriage, marriage and families generally, the role of women, etc.

    So perhaps Francis has a point?

  • Chrysologus

    Do you expect the media to comment on the entire 12,000 word interview? How exactly would they do that? No, they commented on the part of the text that they thought (correctly!) would generate the most discussion and interest among people, Catholics included.


    Joshua ~ Let me respectfully suggust that if the conservative Catholic response to the Holy Father’s remarkable interview consists solely of bashing the media and saying “Nothing to see here, move on” you’ll be missing an important event in modern Church history.

  • Sheesh

    The media paints Pope Francis as a good guy, and this is a bad thing to you. Only in Wingerland.

    • Jessica

      No one would want to be seen as someone else’s idea of good if it opposed what they really stood for. For example, if I hate opera, but love punk, and someone tells me “I will tell all my opera friends that you love opera, and they will think you are great,” I would disagree with that plan, even if it made them like me less.

    • Mike

      The problem is not that they portray him as a good guy, but WHY they are portraying him that way, and what story they are trying to put in his mouth.

  • mominvermont

    Excellent points about what the Pope says and what the media reports! The charts show that it is the media that is obsessed with Catholics, homosexuals, marriage, and abortion. And I hope you’re correct that the media attention will encourage the world to learn more about the beauty of faith in God.



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