Monday July 29, 2013

To the editor of THE EAGLE:

In your story about Pope Francis in the July 26 paper, I noticed, not for the first time, the habit of the Associated Press of presenting speculation about motivation as if it were fact. The writers present political motivation, in this case, "a message aimed at reversing the decline in the numbers of Catholics in most of Latin America" as if that completely explains the pope’s remarks about our behavior toward the poor.

No one knows what motivates or directs the aim of another person, what another’s intention is. Yes, it is useful to be thoughtful about such things: this is one of ways we develop empathy and how we protect ourselves. We make trouble, though, when we suspect another’s motives are to hurt or to serve a particular agenda and then believe our suspicions as if they were fact. We might be wrong, and there is always more to the story. I work as a psychotherapist, and see this all the time: "he/she was just trying to hurt me."

When a major wire service does this very thing, decides on the motive of a prominent figure and neglects to label this as theory, it contributes to the quick negative judgment that is plaguing our culture. The little bit of care required to correct this would be well-spent.