Sunday, November 08, 2009


Archbishop Dolan’s Critique of NYT's Selective Outrage

"But if I be asked what sign we may look for to show that the advance of the Faith is at hand I would answer by a word the modern world has forgotten: Persecution. When that shall once more be at work it will be morning"

- Hilaire Belloc Survivals and New Arrivals- (borrowed from Fr. C. John McClosky's e-mail)

Archbishop Timothy Dolan objectively makes a case that simply is not permitted to be made, i.e. that the Catholic Church is invariably singled out for outrage while equal office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases ‘internally.’”

Dolan had called for fair-play - on a level playing field - by the New York Times, and that was unconscionable. What is at stake here is the mettle of Archbishop Dolan who is now being measured by the Magisterium of the secularist media. I offer that if he continues to speak truth to power, the next move – which has already been announced – will be to dreg up and vilify him with his historic performance in St. Louis and Milwaukee. Clark Hoyt prepares us – and the archbishop – for what’s coming. Note: “(The New York Times) continues to look into the subject:”

Dolan himself has been under that microscope. The Times interviewed him months ago about his handling of sexual abuse cases in his previous posts in St. Louis and Milwaukee, and it continues to look into the subject. It is a natural inquiry given that advocates for abuse victims, while giving Dolan credit for transparency in Milwaukee, say he did not go far enough in resolving pedophilia cases there.”

In case you’ve missed the interplay, I offer the evidence for your own perusal:

1) The Archbishop’s article that the Times would not use as an op-ed.

2) That is followed by the article by Maureen Dowd that is criticized in the Archbishop’s blog.

3) That, again, is followed by today’s (November 8, 2009) “The Archbishop’s Blog.”


By Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York

October is the month we relish the highpoint of our national pastime, especially when one of our own
New York teams is in the World Series!

America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-Catholicism.

It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime. Scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. referred to it as “the deepest bias in the history of the American people,” while John Higham described it as “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history.” “The anti-Semitism of the left,” is how Paul Viereck reads it, and Professor Philip Jenkins sub-titles his book on the topic “the last acceptable prejudice.”

If you want recent evidence of this unfairness against the Catholic Church, look no further than a few of these following examples of occurrences over the last couple weeks:

  • On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.” Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.”

Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse. To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation’s public schools (the study can be found here). In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students. Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.

  • On October 16, Laurie Goodstein of the Times offered a front page, above-the-fold story on the sad episode of a Franciscan priest who had fathered a child. Even taking into account that the relationship with the mother was consensual and between two adults, and that the Franciscans have attempted to deal justly with the errant priest’s responsibilities to his son, this action is still sinful, scandalous, and indefensible. However, one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation–genocide in Sudan. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.
  • Five days later, October 21, the Times gave its major headline to the decision by the Vatican to welcome Anglicans who had requested union with Rome. Fair enough. Unfair, though, was the article’s observation that the Holy See lured and bid for the Anglicans. Of course, the reality is simply that for years thousands of Anglicans have been asking Rome to be accepted into the Catholic Church with a special sensitivity for their own tradition. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, observed, “We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.” Not enough for the Times; for them, this was another case of the conniving Vatican luring and bidding unsuspecting, good people, greedily capitalizing on the current internal tensions in Anglicanism.
  • Finally, the most combustible example of all came Sunday with an intemperate and scurrilous piece by Maureen Dowd on the opinion pages of the Times. In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, condoms, obsession with sex, pedophile priests, and oppression of women, all the while slashing Pope Benedict XVI for his shoes, his forced conscription -- along with every other German teenage boy -- into the German army, his outreach to former Catholics, and his recent welcome to Anglicans.

True enough, the matter that triggered her spasm -- the current visitation of women religious by Vatican representatives -- is well-worth discussing, and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning. But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.

I do not mean to suggest that anti-catholicism is confined to the pages New York Times. Unfortunately, abundant examples can be found in many different venues. I will not even begin to try and list the many cases of anti-catholicism in the so-called entertainment media, as they are so prevalent they sometimes seem almost routine and obligatory. Elsewhere, last week, Representative Patrick Kennedy made some incredibly inaccurate and uncalled-for remarks concerning the Catholic bishops, as mentioned in this blog on Monday. Also, the New York State Legislature has levied a special payroll tax to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fund its deficit. This legislation calls for the public schools to be reimbursed the cost of the tax; Catholic schools, and other private schools, will not receive the reimbursement, costing each of the schools thousands – in some cases tens of thousands – of dollars, money that the parents and schools can hardly afford. (Nor can the archdiocese, which already underwrites the schools by $30 million annually.) Is it not an issue of basic fairness for ALL school-children and their parents to be treated equally?

The Catholic Church is not above criticism. We Catholics do a fair amount of it ourselves. We welcome and expect it. All we ask is that such critique be fair, rational, and accurate, what we would expect for anybody. The suspicion and bias against the Church is a national pastime that should be “rained out” for good.

I guess my own background in American history should caution me not to hold my breath.

Then again, yesterday was the Feast of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.

2) The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd

“The Nun’s Story”

Maureen Dowd’s Article of October 24, 2009 - NYT – op ed.

Once, in the first grade, I was late for class. I started crying in the schoolyard, terrified to go in and face the formidable Sister Hiltruda.

Father Montgomery, who looked like a handsome young priest out of a 1930s movie, found me cowering and took my hand, leading me into the classroom.

Sister Hiltruda looked ready to pop, but she couldn’t say a word to me, then or ever. There was no more unassailable patriarchy than the Catholic Church.

Nuns were second-class citizens then and — 40 years after feminism utterly changed America — they still are. The matter of women as priests is closed, a forbidden topic.

In 2004, the cardinal who would become Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating “feminine values” like “listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.”

Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the über-conservative pope, who was christened “God’s Rottweiler” for his enforcement of orthodoxy. Once a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, Benedict pardoned a schismatic bishop who claimed that there was no Nazi gas chamber. He also argued on a trip to Africa that distributing condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.

The Vatican is now conducting two inquisitions into the “quality of life” of American nuns, a dwindling group with an average age of about 70, hoping to herd them back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence.

Nuns who took Vatican II as a mandate for reimagining their mission “started to look uppity to an awful lot of bishops and priests and, of course, the Vatican,” said Kenneth Briggs, the author of “Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns.”

The church enabled rampant pedophilia, but nuns who live in apartments and do social work with ailing gays? Sacrilegious! The pope can wear Serengeti sunglasses and expensive red loafers, but shorter hems for nuns? Disgraceful!

“It’s a tragedy because nuns are the jewels of the system,” said Bob Bennett, the Washington lawyer who led the church’s lay inquiry into the pedophilia scandal. “I was of the view that if they had been listened to more, some of this stuff wouldn’t have happened.”

As the Vatican is trying to wall off the “brides of Christ,” Cask of Amontillado style, it is welcoming extreme-right Anglicans into the Catholic Church — the ones who are disgruntled about female priests and openly gay bishops. Il Papa is even willing to bend Rome’s most doggedly held dogma, against married priests — as long as they’re clutching the Anglicans’ Book of Common Prayer.

“Most of the Anglicans who want to move over to the Catholic Church under this deal are people who have scorned women as priests and have scorned gay people,” Briggs said. “The Vatican doesn’t care that these people are motivated by disdain.”

The nuns are pushing back a bit, but it’s hard, since the church has decreed that women can’t be adversarial to men. A nun writing in Commonweal as “Sister X” protests, “American women religious are being bullied.”

She recalls that Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, who heads one of the investigations, moved a meeting at the University of Notre Dame off campus to protest a performance of “The Vagina Monologues.” “It is the rare bishop,” Sister X writes, “who has any real understanding of the lives women actually lead.”

The church can be flexible, except with women. Laurie Goodstein, the Times’s religion writer, reported this month on an Illinois woman who had a son with a Franciscan priest. The church agreed to child support but was stingy with money for college and for doctors, once the son got terminal cancer. The priest had never been disciplined and was a pastor in Wisconsin — until he hit the front page. Even then, “Father” Willenborg was suspended only because the woman said that he had pressed her to have an abortion and that he had also had a sexual relationship with a teenager. (Maybe the church shouldn’t be so obdurate on condoms.)

When then-Cardinal Ratzinger was “The Enforcer” in Rome, he investigated and disciplined two American nuns. One, Jeannine Gramick, then of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, founded a ministry to reconcile gays with the church, which regards homosexual desires as “disordered.” The other, Mary Agnes Mansour of the Sisters of Mercy, headed the Michigan Department of Social Services, which, among other things, paid for abortions for poor women.

Marcy Kaptur, a Democratic congresswoman from Toledo and one of Bishop Blair’s flock, got a resolution passed commending nuns for their humble service and sacrifice. “The Vatican’s in another country,” she said. “Maybe people do things differently there. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will intervene.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

3) The Public Editor – New York Times

The Archbishop’s Blog


Published: November 7, 2009, p. 8

LATE last month, Paul Vitello, who covers religion for The Times, wrote a lighthearted feature about a new blogger: Archbishop Timothy Dolan, installed this year to lead the 2.5 million Catholics of the Archdiocese of New York. Little did Vitello know that before the day was out, Dolan would turn his blog on the reporter and his paper, citing news articles and a column by Maureen Dowd as examples of anti-Catholicism.

Skip to next paragraph “It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime,” the archbishop wrote. He said that if you wanted examples of the church being treated unfairly, The Times had supplied four in a couple of weeks. They included Dowd’s “intemperate and scurrilous” column about the treatment of nuns by the church hierarchy and a front-page article about a priest who had fathered a son in a long-term relationship with a parishioner.

Dolan originally submitted his blog post to The Times as an Op-Ed article, and I heard from readers wanting to know why it wasn’t published. David Shipley, the Op-Ed editor, said that his page “has never been the forum for direct responses to articles.” He suggested that the archbishop submit a letter to the editor, but Dolan declined. He told me he knew that a letter to the editor would have to be condensed and he feared that key points would be lost.

The result was the sharp blog attack on The Times from a man who was greeted in the paper six months earlier as warm, flexible and not given to confrontation. Dolan’s criticism touched a nerve with other Catholics with whom I spoke, who feel their faith is under assault in the secular world, and it raised interesting questions about what is fair to report and criticize about the leadership of a religion that is in a unique position of influence: It is both a spiritual home to a quarter of the American population, and a major institution than runs school systems, provides social services and seeks to shape public policy.

Never far from such discussions is the media’s coverage of the church’s pedophilia scandal. One of the examples Dolan cited on his blog was a front-page article in The Times about child sexual abuse in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. He said it lacked the “outrage” that he said marked coverage of pedophilia in the Catholic Church.

“Why aren’t other people under the same microscope we are?” Dolan asked me. He said child sexual abuse is a broad social problem, yet media coverage seems to focus most on Catholics.

Dolan himself has been under that microscope. The Times interviewed him months ago about his handling of sexual abuse cases in his previous posts in St. Louis and Milwaukee, and it continues to look into the subject. It is a natural inquiry given that advocates for abuse victims, while giving Dolan credit for transparency in Milwaukee, say he did not go far enough in resolving pedophilia cases there.

Times reporters defended the paper’s coverage. Laurie Goodstein, the national religion correspondent, said The Times had reported about sex abuse by clergy of many faiths but that the Catholics’ story was far bigger because there were more priests accused, more people making allegations, more legal wrangling and settlements, and a longer history. And Vitello said of his article about abuse in the Jewish community that his job was to provide information and let readers decide whether to be outraged.

Dolan seemed particularly offended by Dowd’s column, in which she wrote that the Vatican was hoping to herd nuns “back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence.” She said the “über-conservative” Pope Benedict XVI, while a cardinal, had urged women to be submissive partners. She brought up issues like the pope’s conscription into the Hitler Youth, and his statement that condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.

Dolan wrote that Dowd dug “deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible.” The subject she raised was legitimate, he said, but her language was more like the prejudice in Know-Nothing papers of the 1850s.

“Far from being anti-Catholic, my column was an expression of one Catholic’s anger and anguish about the moral crisis in her church,” Dowd told me. “It’s not right to call legitimate — and widely shared — complaints about the church hierarchy anti-Catholic, any more than it’s right to call opposition to the policies of a White House anti-American.”

Dolan said he was not trying to stifle dissent. “We welcome criticism of the Catholic Church,” he said. “We need it. What I’m talking about is the ‘how’ of it. Is it measured? Is it temperate?” He said Dowd was serving up “raw red meat.”

Dowd said the issues she raised went to what she sees as the pope’s extreme conservatism and his judgment. “Should I blandly express outrage at the church continuing to treat women as second-class citizens?” she asked. Bland is not what Dowd does. I thought she was well within a columnist’s bounds.

Goodstein, who wrote the article about the priest with a son, said she was vexed by the criticism from Dolan, whom she once described in The Times as a “healer bishop.” Dolan said the affair described in her story was a quarter-century old, and he wondered why it was more newsworthy than subjects like the war in Afghanistan, health care and genocide in Sudan — subjects that The Times, in fact, covers extensively. In a letter to Dolan, Goodstein said he had neglected to mention in his blog that the priest’s son, now 22, was dying from brain cancer and believed the church had failed him, while his father remained a priest.

There is an inherent tension between journalism, which is supposed to be skeptical of authority, and a church that places great emphasis on it. James Martin, a priest and an editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said that, as someone with a foot in each camp, he believes reporters at The Times work hard to get stories right, though he sometimes questions the prominence and frequency of articles about the church’s sex scandal.

Dowd’s column? It was “over the top in mocking the pope,” he said. “Then again, she did that to Bill Clinton.” Martin said he didn’t think most Catholics appreciated reporters’ efforts to be accurate and fair. “On the other hand, I don’t think editors realize how tired Catholics are of seeing the Church portrayed through the lens of sex abuse,” he said.

I think it is hard to pick a handful of examples, as Dolan did, and make a case that The Times has been “anti-Catholic.” Along with unblinking coverage of church controversies, the paper covered his selection as archbishop extensively and for the most part warmly. Goodstein is receiving an award this weekend from the American Academy of Religion for a touching front-page series on priests from abroad serving U.S. parishes.

Could the newspaper sometimes choose a better word in a story or pay more attention to transgressions in other parts of society? Yes. Has it been guilty of anti-Catholicism? I don’t buy it.

Me: I do!

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