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Dolan takes on the Times

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in anti-Catholicism, Archbishop Dolan, Brooklyn, Child sex abuse, Conservative Anglicans, Hasidic Jews, New York Times on Oct 30, 2009

There’s been a lot of buzz about Archbishop Dolan starting a blog.

There will be more buzz now that the Boss has posted a letter that he submitted to the NYTimes, which Dolan says the Times declined to publish.

In his letter/blog post, Dolan takes the Times to task for several examples of what he believes to be anti-Catholicism in its pages.

tjndc5-5p0fc8qf1e9x8c196h4_layoutHe starts off: “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!

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

He cites four problems:

1) A Times article about child sex abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, about which he says “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.”

2) An article about a priest who fathered a child two decades ago and has had a strained relationship with the mother and child. Dolan writes: ” 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.”

3) The Times’ lead story last week about the Vatican’s move to welcome disenchanted Anglicans. He writes: “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.”

4) A column by Maureen Dowd, in which Dowd takes aim at the Catholic Church’s treatment of women, in particular nuns. Dolans writes: “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…”

Bishops and Catholic leaders often charge the mainstream media with anti-Catholicism. Dolan, though, is unusually precise about what he doesn’t like and why. That’s why the Catholic blogosphere is getting revved up about his piece.

I’m not a media critic—and I’ve always thought that it’s a bit unfair that every word in the Times gets dissected for hidden meanings and agendas—but I have a few thoughts.

About Brooklyn’s Orthodox (we’re really talking Hasidic) community, Dolans writes “there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone.” Tiny? Dolan is new in town, so he probably doesn’t know that we’re talking about a vast, fast-growing community.

The problem of sex abuse in the Hasidic community is only beginning to be grasped and understood by the outside world, so it might be a bit early to expect the Times or anyone else to know how to address it. It will have to be addressed, of course, and there is reason to think that the DA’s office has let things slide for too long.

By comparison, clerical sex abuse in the Catholic community is something we learned about piece-by-piece over at least two decades before the scandal of 2002 erupted.

Measuring the merits of one newspaper article is always a difficult exercise. The priest-fathered-a-child story was an interesting tale, but whether it merited its prominent play is probably in the eye of the beholder.

I agree that the Anglican conversion story was overplayed by the national media, not just the Times. A strong argument can be made—and is being made—that the Vatican was simply responding to convervative Anglicans who had reached out to Rome. We already knew about the Anglican Communion’s internal divisions and the potential for break-ups.

The clear implication of much of the media coverage is that the Vatican is seeking converts in some sort of aggressive new way.

Maureen Dowd was being Maureen Dowd. Right?



6 Responses to “Dolan takes on the Times”

  1. Billy T.

    Oh boy, Gary, you are such an amateur when it comes to religion stories.
    Glad Gannett pulled you from the beat before their whole operation sinks.

  2. SteveCT


    Your final thought – “Maureen Dowd was being Maureen Dowd” – actually makes the archbishop’s point. If she were to use such innuendos about another religion (or an ethnic group), with the possible exception of evangelicals, would we dare to react with a mere shrug of the sholders?

  3. Mike

    Thankfully we have an archbishop with a backbone! The NY Times and the rest of the MSM as well as other media (i.e Larry David urinating on a picture of Jesus) has been blatantly anti-Christian and Catholic for ever. If the insulats and abuses were hurled at another religion, for example, Islam-there would be calls for jihad and reporters would need to cower in fear. We turn the other cheek, but alos have the right and obligation to speak out against bigotry. Why is it acceptable for even you to say well its only Maureen Dowd? She is a bigot and yet continues to find space in the NY Slimes (whoop Times) and yet the most influential religious leader in the city of NY, the recognized leader of Catholocism in America can’t even have a letter printed in this “news” paper. What are they afraid of? Way to go Archbishop Dolan! Gary-stop making excuses for Dowd and the Slimes

  4. Gary Stern

    SteveCT and Mike: I certainly didn’t mean to let Dowd off the hook. But anyone who reads her column knows—and likes or dislikes—her persona. Would she write in a similar way about another religion? Probably not. Whether or not she should be a columnist for the NYT is way outside my purview.

    Billy T: Your comments are particularly insightful. Thanks for fleshing out those ideas.

  5. david clohessy

    Keep in mind that the page one story about Fr. Willenborg, the Franciscan priest, also —contained an allegation that he molested a teenaged girl, —mentioned a study that shows 1 in 5 priests is involved in an on-going adult sexual relationship, and—examined (albeit briefly) the issue of what obligation, if any, church officials have to the thousands of kids whose fathers are priests.

    So contrary to Dolan’s mischaracterization, it wasn’t just a story about one errant cleric.

    David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790),,

  6. Doug Sirman

    Hmmm, on the first bullet point, the good Archbishop is producing nothing but baked wind. He’s comparing one story about one year of one community of a city with the press-treatment of the proven behavior of the majority of American bishops for the last 60 years, and he doesn’t even get that right.

    The article clearly states that there were 26 arrests this year, not the “forty cases of such abuse” that Dolan claims. According to the story, there are 40 people willing to testify, which means the orthodox community is obviously not using the same legal teams as our sweet mother, The Church.

    Additionally, he implies the Times was behaving in a persecutory manner toward the church regarding a “tiny minority of priests.” This demonstrates that, Once Again, we have a Bishop willing to only tell a tiny, and conveniently self-serving fraction of the truth about the scandal by claiming it was about child-molesting priests and not the majority of Bishops who were willing to sacrifice an indefinite number of other people’s children as long as they didn’t have to do their damned jobs. Golly. I hope I have that kind of integrity someday. The Catholic Press (genuflect people!) has been more than willing to continue disseminating this rank, stinking propaganda rather than doing their homework.

    Now, to his credit, Dolan doesn’t accuse the orthodox community of conducting an ongoing campaign of lies, willful obstruction of justice, or legally attacking victims to intimidate them, or using spiritual authority to silence them…but that would raise such uncomfortable questions about the Bishops long-standing behavior of giving only lip-service to justice while behaving like overzealous mafiosi, now wouldn’t it? Quelle Horror! We want to distance ourselves from those kinds of things as quickly as possible.

    The second bullet is iffy, and 3 and 4 are pretty much on his side. Why would Dolan choose to lead with the deception?

    I suppose he can claim he’s concerned more with being “truthy” rather than something so mundane as “accurate” or “correct” or “honest” or “virtuous.” Then you read the disclaimer, in image form, on the right: “…The Archdiocese of New York is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied in the blog.” If questioned about anything he’s said or done, it sounds like Dolan’s going to be just like most other Bishops: he won’t be able to recall.

    Sorry if you think this isn’t on topic, but I thought that in reviewing the column, attention to whether or not Dolan is actually distorting the truth should count.

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