Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mark Shea Deserves Praise

In a post which could have been penned by our good friend, Diane, Mark Shea writes:

Rod, Rod, Rod:

Last week you ran the grossly inaccurate and inflammatory headline "Ratzinger: Bishop, take your time with that pedophile" and encouraged your readers to make plenty of false assumptions about a case against Ratzinger that, once again, turned out to be utterly insubstantial. You also encouraged your readers to assume that Ratzinger's language about the "good of the universal Church" was code for "don't let anybody know about the pervert" when it was, in fact, boilerplate, mid-1980s form letter bureaucratese for "Hey! We aren't handing out laicizations like Pez dispensers here. These priests who are all bailing on their vows need to slow down and think about the people of God they made promises to." In short, the guy was following basic procedures over which he had little control, not trying to cover anything up and not endangering any kids. Despite your reader Roland de Chanson's quite clear case for the sloppiness of this lazy act of defamation ("contumelious", what a cool word), I've seen no retraction from you on this, just more vaunting of how we all need to be grateful to the media for this grotesque feeding frenzy on Benedict.

Now you hold up Peggy "Keep walking. Some things should be a mystery" Noonan as our paradigm of moral courage in media in yet *another* entry in the ongoing Benedict Media Slamfest?

Seriously, Rod. You have battened on every rumor, every craptastic piece of reportage in the Get Benedict campaign for the past month. Ocassionally, you've been forced to dial back when it became overwhelmingly evident that, for instance, the Times reportage on the Murphy case was crap. But mostly, you've promoted the Benedict bashing far beyond the merits of the evidence and lectured us on our debt to the press while that press has been engaged in gross violations of decency and honesty. And now this encomium to Peggy Noonan, Voice of Transparency and Reform?

Please. When you were Catholic, there was call for you to crusade against corruption in the Catholic Church (though I would hardly say that "following a slow and dumb bureaucratic procedure in laicizing a priest who had been removed from ministry" is "corruption"). But you bailed on the Church and found a new spiritual home in the OCA. It's not my job to judge you for that and I wish the best to you and your family there. However, when you make that choice, it is rubbish to then invoke your duties as a crusading journalist dedicated to the public welfare to make Benedict-bashing mountains out of evidential molehills like the Kiesle case while studiously ignoring the log in your very own communion's eye. If you feel you need to write highly inflammatory headlines based on hair trigger assumptions of bad faith against good men, you might look closer to home at the story of how one of your bishops once received into the OCA a monastery crawling with pederasty (the "abbot" and his right-hand guy apparently imported young Ukrainian novices for all their on-site molestation needs). When this happened, it was under police investigation because one of the young Ukrainian kids, after years of sexual abuse, had stabbed a young nun 97 times.

There's actually a book about the whole depressing mess: Murder at Holy Cross. Is the book biased? You bet. Sort of like Castrillon Hoyos, under the gun from Benedict's Vatican for his stupid behavior, claiming that he had John Paul's full approval. But since there seems to be no problem instantly crediting Hoyos as a proof of JPII's perfidy, I don't see why you shouldn't turn to this book as proof for putting the darkest construction on the heirarchs in your communion too.

Of course, the ecclesial authorities in this matter might be as innocent as Benedict was in the Kiesle case. My money is on the truth that they are. But don't consider that. Your Abp Dmitri lives in the same geographical area. He apparently had nothing to do with it and even opposed it, and we don't really know that the people who did have something to do with receiving the monastery had evil intent, but don't bother with those distinctions. Just write a headline like "Local OCA hierarchy to pervert murder monks: Welcome aboard!" It will be as just and fair to Dmitri as that headline was about Ratzinger.

So: fine. Cardinal Law, I agree, needs to be doing something besides padding around some Church in Rome, doing nothing. Personally, I think we laity should have put him behind bars. You are unhappy that he has not been punished to your satisfaction. Duly noted.

But you aren't Catholic anymore. What's it to you? And before you say something with the phrase, "My sacred duty as a journalist" in it, lemme ask you again, what service to journalistic truth was done by publishing a headline like "Ratzinger: Bishop, take your time with that pedophile" on a hair trigger and inflaming people to mob hatred against a guy who is, as I do not doubt your own bishop is, a good man struggling to purify the filth in the Church? If your sacred duty impels you to send the torch and pitchfork wavers off to crucify Benedict as a guardian of pedophiles on evidence with all the strength and stability of wet toilet paper, why does it not likewise oblige you to crucify your own bishop and local hierarchy on equally dubious grounds?

Alternatively, you could take my suggestion: at the very least, retract and apologize for that headline and for the "Benedict thought pedophiles should be hushed up for the good of the universal Church" analysis that went with it. Cut him the same slack you cut Dmitri and your own bishops, Rod. That's only fair.

I've been hoping for this post for some time, and I firmly believed that it would have to be written if Rod kept up the Catholic bashing. While I disagree with Mark on some issues–especially with regards to how much attention certain topics deserve–I think he really tries, as an apologist, to get to the truth of a matter without counting the cost. I know that Rod and Mark are friends, but Mark laid out pretty clearly and bluntly what was wrong with Rod's arguments for leaving the church way back when and reiterated these points as necessary. And for Mark to be true to his "So That No Thought of Mine...Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!" motto he simply had to write something mentioning Dreher's unretracted defamation of the Pope, his mountains from molehills propensities, his hypocrisy vis-à-vis the OCA scandals and his overall delusions as some type of crusader when he isn't even Catholic.

I hereby echo Mark's call for an apology "for that headline and for the 'Benedict thought pedophiles should be hushed up for the good of the universal Church' analysis that went with it."

Update: Well it seems I've been accused of really, really hating someone―which is a mortal sin AFAIK―in a national publication no less. If y'all are wandering over here from there, first of all a hearty welcome to all y'all. Secondly, check out this post and you can decide for yourself whether or not we hate each other or if it's plain that we just really, really, really disagree about things.


  1. I nearly keeled over in shock when I read Mark's piece. I am still reeling.

    Maybe Rod will heed the advice of a friend like Mark. I doubt it, though. Rod's inner demons seem to be driving him. I am seriously feeling sorry for the guy. Lord, have mercy.

  2. Posted this at Mark's blog:

    I was thinking about this last night. Templeton is an interfaith foundation. Moreover, it (presumably) depends on grants and donations. Therefore, it cannot afford to alienate potential donors. And there must be plenty of monied Catholics out there who would qualify as potential donors. How will they react to relentless public Catholic-bashing by a Templeton employee? I know how I would react -- I'd zip my purse and keep it zipped.

    For Rod's sake -- both for his soul's sake and for the sake of his career -- he really needs to let up on the Catholic bashing.

  3. Yeah, re: demons. Years ago I figured Rod's Catholic-bashing was all part of a reflex to justify his leaving the Catholic Church. Remember our bash list? Some of his stuff was infuriating, but a lot of it was laughable, e.g. outrage at the church's use of styrofoam cups and mail-order ashes for Ash Wednesday.

    But now it appears that it goes deeper and involves letting the NYT, Noonan and everybody in his industry completely off the hook for willfully believing lies and coming up with deceptive and inaccurate headlines merely to harm the church. I was hoping that Rod would see the latest flare up as an occasion to call out the liars and step into the light, but no; he has follwed his industry and descended instead.

  4. First, cheers for the Mark Shea piece. Good for him.

    Second, maybe "demons" is the most accurate conclusion, especially considering Crunchy's reference to his "sacred duty as a journalist".

    Why do Dreher and Noonan insist on joining the dogpile on this topic, anyway? Do they think that Benedict is wondering what they are going to say, or that he is waiting for their advice on what to do? And it is not like there is any vacuum of "journalism" on this topic already. If one were to give them the benefit of the doubt, one would have to wonder what they hoped to accomplish with these pieces.

    We can see at least part Peggy Noonan's motivation right from her own piece. She sets out to "save the Church" and then spends over half her space regurgitating a piece she wrote in 2002 (leaving no space to explain why her "solution" would be of any help). Seems she's feathering the bed for something she'll be writing years hence, regardless of what happens between now and then (given that the facts didn't matter to her this time, either).

    We can only guess at Dreher's motivation, as we have.

    The sad part is that both are serving as Useful Idiots to those seeking destruction of the Church. Especially useful, given their Catholic (Noonan) and recently-Catholic (Dreher) status. We'd all be better off if they weren't playing that role.

  5. Oh boy. More kind "advice" for the Church from the dinosaur media. (And much along the lines of what Lady Peggy Noonan had offered.)

    To paraphrase, it's the usual suggestion that the Church should just stop being so . . . so Catholic, and everything will be just fine.