The Catholic blogosphere is rallying around Archbishop Dolan’s recent attack on what he calls “anti-Catholicism” in the NYTimes, which I blogged about early in the week.
Many bloggers have been particularly buoyed by Dolan’s criticisms of columnist Maureen Dowd, who often writes about her (liberal) unhappiness with the state of her church.
On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., wrote: “All I can say, is right on, Archbishop Tim.”
Another blogger wrote that Dolan’s criticism means more because he’s a nice guy: “Harsh criticism from Dolan sounds like harsh criticism from Mother Teresa. When it occurs, you oughtta listen. If a cur accuses me of being a cur, I shrug. If the kindly older fellow at my church takes me aside and tells me I’m behaving poorly, I blush and want to crawl under a rock.
Maybe it’s time for Dowd to crawl under a rock.”
Yet another blogger focused on the Times’ unwillingness to run Dolan’s piece as an Op-ed: “New York Times readers will not see the Archbishop’s response, it was rejected for publication. His Grace should take solace, however, knowing that at least 98 percent of Times readers, when seeing his byline, would have skipped over it anyway.”
And another: “Like President Obama and other leftists, the Old Gray Lady cannot handle constructive criticism.”
Interestingly, Laurie Goodstein, the national religion correspondent for the NYT, who is mentioned by name in Dolan’s blog, wrote a lengthy response to Dolan as a comment following his blog. It is now about 20 comments down and was posted on Nov. 4 at 2:42 p.m.
Goodstein, who is a highly regarded reporter in the journalism world, sounds exasperated by Dolan’s blog: “You write as though the Catholic Church is some sort of special target, when in fact any institution that is accused of wrongdoing receives critical coverage and commentary. As you know, the Catholic Church is the largest religious institution in the world, and a quarter of Americans are adherents. The Catholic Church is a hierarchical church with a clear chain of accountability. It is only natural that it receives such scrutiny. As you acknowledged in your blog, there are recent developments in the Church that are “well-worth discussing and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning.” So when a newspaper undertakes this kind of coverage, it should not be seen as anti-Catholic.”
She also writes more personally: “Archbishop Dolan, you and I have known one another since we first met in Rome in 1998 when you were rector at the North American College. We met again years later when I was doing a story about you and several others whom I dubbed “Healer Bishops” who were trying to help the church recover from the scandal over sexual abuse by priests. I am pained that your blog selectively overlooked all the articles in the Times that you and other bishops in the church have praised over the years because you found them fair, and there are many (including some about your appointment to the Archdiocese of New York). This is why I cannot accept your characterization of the Times as “anti-Catholic.” ”
I was part of a show yesterday on The Catholic Channel on satellite radio about this debate. I offered that anti-Catholicism is a complicated charge that means very different things to different people. I know this because I have been accused of anti-Catholicism many times for simply writing about things Catholic.
I think that it is extremely tricky to make a case that anti-Catholicism runs through the “media” or even just the NYT — as some sort of philosophy that seeks to smear Catholic belief or tradition.
As I said on the Catholic Channel yesterday, we all know that the Catholic Church takes many positions that are odds with the direction in which American culture is heading. This fact produces tensions, conflicts and bad feelings.
It also raises the question: If someone takes public positions that oppose the beliefs of the Catholic Church — or reports those positions — at what point does it become anti-Catholic. I think people have very different interpretations of where this line should be drawn.
I addressed the question of anti-Catholicism in the media when I spoke at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers a couple of months back. I remember reminding seminarians that the Catholic Church, which represents 1 in 4 Americans, is a very big target. And a very big target will get hit more than smaller ones, sometimes accurately and sometimes not.
This is is a debate that is not going away. It also shows the sway that the Archbishop of NY continues to have with Catholics outside this archdiocese.
UPDATE: Today, Sunday, the Times’ public editor, Clark Hoyt, weighed in on Dolan’s blog.
He addresses Dolan’s complaints in a rather flat way that I doubt will satisfy the paper’s critics. He concludes that the paper has not been guilty of anti-Catholicism and doesn’t really give Dolan any points.
Hoyt doesn’t even see why conservative Catholics might have a problem with Maureen Dowd’s recent column that not only attacks the Vatican’s investigation of female religious orders in the U.S., but goes after the pope in the broadest, most cliched terms: “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.”
Hoyt concludes that Dowd was “well within a columnist’s bounds.” True, but anything is within a columnist’s bounds.
If you’re going to explore Dowd’s column and quote her, at least acknowledge that Catholics might be pained by this.