The Catholic Thing
Sowers of Discord Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Sunday, 15 November 2009

I’m told by reliable people that there are readers of The Catholic Thing still struggling with mainstream-media addictions. If so, some of you may have been surprised to find your humble editor-in-chief named in a recent Time magazine article by Amy Sullivan as allegedly having said that the Church’s funeral for Senator Edward Kennedy was a scandal “on a par” with the priestly pedophilia scandal. I never said any such thing, of course, as any fair reader can see here, and I find the equating of the two scandals both absurd and repugnant. I’ve demanded a correction from Time and will take legal action if one is not forthcoming.

But Ms. Sullivan was never really interested in accurate reporting. She brought me into the story merely to show that even other traditional Catholics, such as Princeton’s Robert George, disagree with a position I don’t hold. Professor George and I are old friends and have communicated to clarify this issue. His remarks, he has publicly confirmed, were deliberately taken out of context, which – for once – I myself would have preferred, since the view ascribed to me was made up from whole cloth. The manufactured disagreement between the two of us, however, was not the main point. Rather, Ms. Sullivan, who has done similar stories in the past few months, used the two of us as parallel proof for “A Tale of Two Priests,” which is to say the alleged feud between Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley (compassionate because he attended the Kennedy funeral) and (that evil conservative now resident in Rome) Archbishop Raymond Burke, who takes a harder line about Catholics who present grave and longstanding public scandal.

Why does Time care what two high ranking Catholic prelates think? Here’s a plausible explanation. Like many in the media, Ms. Sullivan has noted how the American Catholic bishops as a body have lately worked quite effectively on several fronts. Abortion funding came out of the healthcare bill (though in an earlier confused article Ms. Sullivan absurdly claimed the bishops were asking for new restrictions because, she argued, they had previously seemed to think that existing forms of indirect federal funding were okay). The Church in Maine was instrumental this month in repealing a gay-marriage bill. And bishops like the highly articulate Thomas J. Tobin of Providence have begun to take nominal pro-abortion Catholics like Patrick Kennedy to the public woodshed. So the more outlets such as Time can give the impression that there are differences among bishops, the better on a whole range of issues dear to those who think the Church a baneful public influence.

In this particular case, the relationship with the truth was strained beyond the ordinary. Ms. Sullivan interviewed “an American priest” in Rome who reported that diplomatic Italian bishops “roll their eyes” at the mention of Archbishop Burke. It’s convenient that the American priest is not named. Otherwise someone might have to ask him why, if he is such a laughing stock, Burke, who is already Prefect of the Roman Signatura (the rough equivalent of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), was just also named to the Congregation for Bishops. That means he will play a major role in selecting bishops not only in the United States, but the whole world.

To be fair, Time is not alone in trying to sow discord, as Dante called it, in the Church. (For the punishments Dante thought such persons should receive, take a look at Inferno xxviii). I was stuck in a university faculty club this week where the only news channel was MSNBC. Keith Olbermann was “interviewing” C. Walton Gaddy, president of the liberal Interfaith Alliance. In response to Olbermann’s leading questions, Gaddy explained that the American Catholic bishops were acting childish by threatening to oppose the healthcare bill if they didn’t get their way on abortion coverage. A Catholic understands that a certain kind of Protestant regards every public question as merely a matter of political compromise. Some of us, though, also know Protestants who easily comprehend why Catholics simply cannot compromise on a few crucial issues because such Protestants can’t in good conscience compromise on those issues themselves.

The Washington Post last week engaged in a similar bit of media ventriloquism. It sympathetically reported on members of the D.C. City Council who lashed out at the Church – this time for threatening to suspend social services in Washington connected with the city (as usual, the Church is the largest private provider). The Council is about to approve gay “marriage” and intends to require all agencies with city contracts to practice “non-discrimination.” One council member said she couldn’t believe that the Church would abandon people over “a philosophical difference.”

It never seems to occur to such activists – let alone mooncalf reporters – that they are themselves forcing not only their “philosophical differences” but definite behaviors on others, and are breaking with the majority of people in almost every community across the country when they impose radical new arrangements.

Politico, a national newspaper, allowed a writer to try another familiar tactic this week: The bishops know that a vast majority of Americans, including Catholics, disagree with their hard-line dictates regarding reproductive-health care.’’ Really? Those of us who pay attention to such things – and that includes many in the pro-abortion camp – know from polls widely reported in the mainstream media itself that a majority of Americans now call themselves pro-life. So who is this “vast majority” who disagree with the bishops?

You can’t help but wonder who our media think they are fooling. It’s a tired ploy. But none of us should grow weary or cease to be vigilant about the media blitz that is now seeking to blunt the Catholic voice – and even create divisions among us.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West.

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Comments (18)Add Comment
MSMedia? What
written by Outback Catholic, November 16, 2009
The poor modern liberal media are going to be in constant paroxysms when, with Cardinal Pell on the congregation for Bishops too, Catholics virtually never burn incense to Caesar.

Hope you become fabulously wealthy after your defamation case Prof. Royal, you could start up a whole Catholic internet media business - no one watches TV anymore.
A Royal Pain?
written by Willie, November 16, 2009
It seems that when one wants to attack the truth, but has no substantive facts he uses familiar all inclusive phrases, for example, such as "they say, everybody knows, or recent studies have shown." I can just imagine a research paper with these kind of references!. It would soon be in the trash. Such should be a fitting final disposal for Ms. Amy's paper.As the Church speaks out, as it should, and intelligent writers call the media and elitists to task, we can expect more journalistic deceit.
written by Robert Royal, November 16, 2009
Let me alert readers early today that The Catholic Thing has a strict policy in the Comments section. Disagree with ideas or acts, do not attack persons. Let's try to practice charity even in controversy.
I encourage you to read..
written by Nick, November 16, 2009
I am sure Time magazine has it online. It is an article from years back, about one Saint Augustine of Hippo. It was near the back of the magazine. The article was quite offensive, and it helped me realize how anti-Catholic the magazine really is. In this article, Augustine is accused of those things which many anti-Catholics like to bring up: the invention of original sin, the splitting of the Catholic Church, and other such absurdities. It is really quite a sad article. And a sad magazine, too.
Practice what you preach
written by Jake, November 16, 2009
The Catholic Thing's writers always have such lovely articles! But they seem so out of touch with their own sinfulness...I'm not saying that because they sin they have no right to comment (hypocrites can be the best tellers of truth), but in doing so I think they should be more aware of their own fallenness.

When you start sounding like everything would be utopia if not for the people who make the mistakes you happen not to, you become no more or less "for God" than the liberal media you fight!
Speaking Plainly
written by Teresa, November 16, 2009
Jake, when writing publicly, it would be silly to include a lot of self-effacing rhetoric simply because one does not want to come across as self-righteous. The articles are short and meant to be INFORMATIVE and to the point. For too long, Catholics have cowed their speech and bowed down to the modern idea that if we condemn anything, we are, by virtue of the fact that we sin, condemning ourselves. We must boast in Christ and speak boldly and plainly. Christ himself was accused of hypocricy.
Mon. O'Flaherty's courage
written by Ars Artium, November 16, 2009
Catholics are being put to the test. Our situation is not as clear-cut as that of Monsignor O'Flaherty in Nazi-occupied Rome. The evil we face is inextricably intertwined with much goodness, concern for others, and generosity. As one brilliant young woman (Holy Cross and Georgetown Law graduate) commented on separating from her socially-concerned, left-leaning friends: "But what about the baby?" Ah, there is the rub.
To Mr. Royal
written by Pio, November 16, 2009
If pedophilia is a "grave scandal" and the Kennedy funeral is a "another grave scandal", the descriptive phrase "on par with" can be reasonably used to link the two, even if the circumstances of each are vastly different. (Abortion itself is indeed worse than pedophilia.) The geographic linkage of both scandals to Boston could also suggest (although I certainly don't think this was your intent) that something amiss in the Archdiocese of Boston is at the root of these two grave scandals.
Media bias
written by Joseph, November 16, 2009
There is nothing new in the contention that the "mass media" is rife with anti-Catholic sentiment, but virtually bereft of anti-semitism, in particular. One can draw whatever inference he or she wants from this fact, but it nonetheless is true on close scrutiny.
TIME mag, at one time commanded respect under the objective wings of Henry & Claire Booth Luce (the latter converted by Bishop Sheen) is now not fit to line a bird cage.
The only way to respond to TIME's claptrap is to sue the bastards.
To Mr. Royal
written by Pio, November 16, 2009
Mr. Royal,
I don't disagree with your analysis of the entire situation and my objective was not to give Ms. Sullivan the benefit of the doubt. I simply tried to read the specific passage from the viewpoint of someone new to this website and this debate. From that perspective, I think there is reasonable ambiguity about the context of "grave" in your original column. Stated another way: if I were your lawyer, I would counsel you strongly to save your money and not take legal action here.
written by Robert Royal, November 16, 2009
Pio: You are giving Ms. Sullivan the benefit of the doubt, as if this were a cool mathematical calculation. Take it from someone who's been in the trenches for 25 years. This is a case when it's necessary, as our Lord counseled us, to be wise as a serpent. There was no intention to be fair here, but to make it appear that people who think Kennedy constituted a grave public scandal are simply revolting kooks.
i\'ll bake a cake!
written by debby, November 16, 2009
hey RR! lets set up a bake-sale-fund for your lawsuit! cuz any correction will be deepsised & even the under 40 crowd will need magnifiying glasses to read it.
how bout this? STOP reading all the trash out there, stop shopping at Brookstone & GAP et al, stop supporting anti-God films, music, media, start helping the poor & troubled personally-show up & work at soup kitchens & Pro-life centers. look people in the eye & bring them the Lord. school sends home TIME KIDS-it goes in the trash UNREAD
Mass Media?
written by Carl, November 16, 2009
Let us not forget those pesky Nielsen ratings. The "mainstream" or "mass" media are neither... their market share is shrinking faster and faster. Liberal-media is a more accurate label... while they are still around. Well said Mr. Royal.
written by Achilles, November 16, 2009
Jake, If I hear you, I don’t know how you can accuse TCT writers without accusing yourself of the same thing. TCT speaks directly about ideas, and we must never be tolerant of bad ideas, but can you say they speak badly of persons? I can certainly see how you might be confused with post modern society pushing “tolerance” as the new Charity, but there is no “new” charity, and the tolerance you seem to promote is badly corrupted.
Mr. Royal, good article-wrong language for msmedia addicts.
To: Pio
written by Robert Royal, November 17, 2009
Pio, I don't know why, but you're making excuses for the religion reporter at one of the most prominent periodicals in the world. She was capable of finding an American priest in Rome willing to spread malicious gossip about Archbishop Burke. Don't you think she's resourceful enough to find out what Catholics mean by scandal?
Sowers of Discord
written by William H. Phelan, November 17, 2009
Dr. Royal: We shouldn't be surprised that Ms. Sullivan rushes in to establish that Catholics disagree on serious matters. You have heard the terms: dissidents, dual magisterium, etc. They are used by Catholics to describe other Catholics. Pro-contraception Catholics tend to be pro-abortion, since abortion is the perfect "contraceptive." Catholics are NOT united and our enemies, when it is to their advantage, love to point out the fact.
written by Charles, November 18, 2009
Nothing new under the sun. The secular media is anti-Christian and very hostile to Catholicism in general which it intentionally seeks to discredit. This is just another shameful attempt. My advice, gird your loins and follow the Magisterium of the Church in your personal life, in your community, and politically.
Sowers of Discord
written by Mrs. Rene O'Riordan, November 24, 2009
The liberals can and do say just anything that comes into their heads but as Catholics we are so careful to say what we believe to be the truth. We rarely say anything unless we can give evidence of the truth of it. That makes our job so much harder. I can only equate it as the difference of climbing a mountain and sliding down it. - Happly climbing! - Blessings - Rene

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