By Emma Reilly
Important questions regarding press access were raised following President Joe Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in Rome on Oct. 29. Only a day before President Biden’s visit, the Vatican announced that previously planned video coverage of the event would no longer be released.
According to the Associated Press, the Vatican Press Office did not explain why this change was made.
Live coverage of President Biden’s arrival was cut off when the presidential motorcade arrived at the palace. According to AP, coverage would typically continue until the start of President Biden’s private meeting with the Pope.
In the following days, both the White House and several Vatican-accredited journalists criticized the Holy See for its restrictive press policies.
The lack of access to the event means that journalists are unable to fully report on it. The Vatican’s decision to release edited footage of the event after the fact to approved reporters, further complicates this issue. The media will be forced to report on the meeting after recordings of it are reviewed by the church.
While the Vatican’s privacy policies are complex, it cannot be denied that restricting reporters’ access to the meeting and footage of the meeting restricts their ability to gather accurate, unbiased information.
On the other hand, some media outlets questioned the Biden administration for its limitation of press coverage throughout President Biden’s time in office. The cancellation of coverage for his meeting with the Pope is seen by some as a continuation of this trend, rather than as a decision made entirely by the church.
According to the New York Post, attendance at President Biden’s press conferences is unnecessarily limited to the point of restricting the press’s ability to access information readily.
“It’s unclear if the White House, already under fire for limiting press access to Biden, requested that the broadcast be curtailed,” the New York Post’s Steve Nelson said.
The timing of this controversy is significant because other debates regarding the president and the church are becoming increasingly contentious. According to Newsweek, some conservative Catholic church officials believe that President Biden is not a “proper” Catholic because he adheres to a pro-choice abortion platform.
President Biden is the second Catholic U.S. president, and his Oct. 29 meeting with the Pope was his first since taking office.
All this adds up to make President Biden’s visit to the Vatican an important event for both the administration and church officials.
No matter your stance on abortion or religion, it is hard to deny the significance of these arguments. The press should have access to important world events such as the Pope and President Biden’s meeting, especially when they may weigh on current—and highly controversial — political debate.
Having restricted — perhaps even filtered — access to information prevented the media from accurately reporting on the meeting. Additionally, it limited the media’s ability to potentially put to rest some of the ambivalence Americans are feeling towards the Church and the U.S. government.
According to AP, President Biden said that the Pope told him he is a “good Catholic.” Seeing this happen on television could have gone a long way towards mending some of the rifts that are forming between conservatives, Catholics, pro-choice Americans.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: On Oct. 29, Pope Francis met with U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time since his election. Media access was limited.