Towing the Line


A free Catholic press. Everyone whose name appears in print has certain feelings about the press. Everyone who was in search of the Truth.

I don’t like sweeps week stories conducted by my local news hatchet men and women on sexual abuse by church members. On my Christian denomination. I know the percentages. That American school teachers abuse children something like two to three times more than the stories on clerical abuse that have been headline stories over the last 20 years. Those stories seldom are aired. spotlight

I believe greatly in the Truth. I was schooled for the most part post Vatican II. In Roman Catholic institutions. My belief is in a collegial approach where conservatives and liberals engaged in open discussion find the Truth. With a powerful sense of identity and worth, my belief included transparency.

“Let thee without sin cast the first stone.” The emerging policy as to who can speak on Catholic campuses in Minnesota. In an atmosphere of academic freedom, without censorship. With a pope whose philosophy was spelled out long before the white clouds of smoke appeared indicating his election. He believed in pruning. By the nomenklatura. Mostly of those who looked at the Truth a bit differently than the victors. In the institution church. By the elite.

“Only individuals in good standing with the Catholic church can be invited to speak at churches or other Catholic venues or be considered for an award from the church, according to a new policy issued by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” reports the National Catholic Reporter. “The speaker’s writings and previous public presentations must also be in harmony with the teaching and discipline of the church,” the press release said.

The Washington Post reports that the 67 million American Catholics are sharply divided on religious and political issues including same-sex marriage, health care and abortion. Who exactly is Catholic? What does it mean to be a Catholic? The same question was recently addressed in England concerning what constituted being Jewish. Sarah Lyall wote in the New York Times an account of a controversy stemming from a Court of Appeal’s decision in the United Kingdom about the Jewishness of a boy trying to get into the Jews’ Free School in London. The secular court ruled the criteria for Jewishness must be “faith, however defined” — rather than family ties. Rather than blood. Who ever defined a Jew, or persecuted one on the basis of the frequency of attendance at the synagogue, was the question Roger Cohen asked this week in the New York Times.

The mass media seems to get a lot wrong. Like the Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom had about what Jews really celebrated during the High Holy Days. The Catholic theology seems pretty clear. People who advocate for abortion are not, whether baptized or not, in their hearts theologically Catholics. Shared belief was the basis of Catholicism. The problem concerning belief of when life begins is about the rights of non-Catholics in a land where Roe v. Wade is the law, in a nation where Catholics are minorities. In Congressional districts.

Recent comments by Francis Cardinal George suggested to Chicago Tribune writer Manya Brachear “that my colleagues in ‘media claiming to be a voice in the church’ should tow the line….George insisted that the bishops’ quest is not about imposing control, but clarifying Catholic media’s relationship with the church.”

Francis Cardinal George was a priest on the same college campus at the time I studied for four years. My sophomore year, I passed him twice a week as he was engaged in discussion with my sociology professor, James T. Ault PhD, as well as a Philosophy professor named Apostol. He is a man for whom I had the highest respect. And I still do. Cardinal George life is one of uncommon generosity in an often hostile uncomprehending culture. And Cardinal George is a representative of the church who actually meets the press.

Manya Brachear wrote: “Relations do not speak first of control but of love,” George said. “If there is a loosening of relationship between ourselves and those whom Christ has given us to govern in love, it is for us to reach out and re-establish connections necessary for all to remain in communion.”

Manya Brachear quoted Cardinal George: “Since everything and everyone in Catholic communion is truly inter-related, and the visible nexus of these relations is the bishop, an insistence on complete independence from the bishop renders a person or institution sectarian, less than fully Catholic.”

According to the Associated Press, Cardinal George said the issue would be taken up in Baltimore as part of a broader look by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ at what groups can legitimately call themselves Catholic. “If those relationships — which don’t mean control, they mean relationship — are now weakened, then we have to think of ways to enter discussion in order to strengthen them, and to redefine perhaps what are the criteria for a university or any other organization to consider itself Catholic,” George said in an interview ahead of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting.

Cardinal George is on shaky ground to be invoking the need for “towing the line” by the media for the institution church which has lacked so much transparency on issues of cover ups of sexual abuse, over so many years. Or on the discussion over who is worthy to receive communion by those Catholics elected to public office. “Let thee without sin cast the first stone.” How about the bishop in Newfoundland who was arrested in August with porn on his computer? Was he worthy, any more? Who was worthy?

“Let thee without sin cast the first stone.” There is this dominant Catholic social justice concern. Underlying it all is about a fight against corruption. To be “fully Catholic.” And from the news stories, those bishops should be dropping their stones on issues like withholding communion. Like five of those bishops in Ireland. To start with.

And about the never ending story about sexual abuse. About the news from Ireland this week. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin wrote to his people on Thursday: “The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a CRIME in civil law; it is and always was a crime [in] canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin wrote: “Efforts made to ‘protect the Church’ and to ‘avoid scandal’ have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.”

Journalist who are called to Truth-telling, sometimes more nobly than found in an archbishop’s robe claiming to be ‘a voice of the church,’ have wounded the teaching authority of the Church. Catholic and non-Catholic journalists rightly inflicting pain, in self-defense of the masses, revealing the Truth.

Sexual abuse of a child was a crime in Ireland. Would the cover up in Ireland be a crime? Would the cover up by people in Rome who seem to think they are above human law be a crime? About that position of Bernard Law in Rome since he left Boston. Obviously, he was rewarded by his friendship with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Cardinal Law is still there. Still a cardinal. Towing the line. The former and the current Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith who have been overseeing all issues of sexual of abuse at least for the last 7 or 8 years. The former German cardinal and the cardinal from San Francisco. I do not know who oversaw the matter prior to 2001. Perhaps the Prefect’s boss.

In Ireland. In the United States. In Canada. Anywhere where children were sexually abuse. What is truly amazing is that you had no one blow the whistle on it all. A priest? A nun? Even within the hierarchy of the institution which has always used “the silence” within the operations of the Curia like “the silence” was used within the Cosa Nostra. I have this book about all these people who put their lives in danger to rescue Jews during the times of Hitler. If they were caught, the rescuer would have been shot. There were no such stories in the American Catholic Church? About blowing the whistle on these worldwide shenanigans, did not one person ever quit the priesthood in shame? Or had they? Over the leadership of the institution church. Over bishops, archbishops, and cardinals? The ones who had behaved too much like Pharisees, as depicted in the New Testament. The ones who worried about when John Paul II would be canonized, when he presided over all of this. Yeah, the prefect’s boss.
Over what kind of culture this had become? What kind of leadership had been shown? As an archbishop were asked every five years to renew their vow to the pope who had appointed him. To continue with the teaching authority in his part of the world.

About the search for Truth and towing the line. According to Cardinal George, Catholic universities, media outlets and other affiliated organizations that insist on independence from the church hierarchy are “less than fully Catholic.” Journalists, not towing the line, as so many bishops have done over the years.

Towing the line. In law. Or with academic freedom. With a powerful sense of identity, with a True concern for social justice, journalists were supposed to ‘tow the line.’

Yeah, exactly who again can speak on Catholic campuses?


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1 comment so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    “And that’s why, at some point at each such event, I stop and remind the audience that I do not work for the pope and that my job is not to promote his agenda or to function as one of his public relations aides. My role is that of a church critic, similar to other niche journalists who cover the world of art, film or food. Art critics love art, just as the film and food (and, yes, even the church) critics love the subjects they cover. But our job—at least those of us who are independent Catholic journalists—is not merely to applaud. It is to offer a critique based on certain criteria that are used to assess the quality and character of our subject.”

    Robert Mickens in Commonweal, dated May 4, 2016


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