Dolan takes on the Times

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: “..one 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?

Is the Vatican/Anglican story that big a deal?

I would imagine that a lot of people are confused today by the Big News that the Vatican is taking steps to make it easier for conservative Anglicans to become Catholics while retaining Anglican traditions.

The fact that the NYTimes made it the Lead Story today will by itself tell many people that this is a major step for Rome.

I’m not so sure, although the whole thing is certainly quite interesting.

As you know, many traditional Anglicans — including Episcopalians in the U.S. — are unhappy with the liberal drift in parts of the Anglican Communion (meaning Europe and the U.S). They do not want to see gay bishops or female bishops. Some still do not want to see female priests. They don’t like the idea of some Anglican priests blessing same-sex couples.

Just last year, conservative Episcopalians in the U.S. left the church to form their own Anglican community, the Anglican Church in North America.

Now, some Anglicans have petitioned the Vatican to let them become Roman Catholics, while holding on to their Anglican liturgy.

But not that many.

Vatican AnglicansThe Times itself reports today that Cardinal William Levada (that’s him), the American boss of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “said that 20 to 30 bishops and hundreds of other people had petitioned the Vatican on the matter in recent years.”

We’re talking HUNDREDS of people out of 80 million Anglicans. Maybe a couple of thousand will think about making the change.

Most Anglicans live in parts of the world where their church communities are already quite traditional. So they’re good, more or less.

And disaffected Americans already have their own community that allows them to remain Anglicans.

So what’s the big deal?

Father Thomas Reese, the Jesuit scholar, writes that the most significant aspects of the whole story may be that the Catholic Church will recognize the Anglican liturgy — possibly opening the doors to other liturgical adventures — and that an uptick in married Anglican priests who become Catholic will raise new questions about the need for the celibate priesthood.

He writes:

*****

Despite all the Vatican attempts to downplay the acceptance of married Anglican priests, many people will ask why not married priests for other Catholics? Cardinal Levada said that not only married Anglican priests will be ordained but also married Anglican seminarians who join the Catholic Church. The Vatican has made clear that married Catholic priests will not be welcomed back to the priesthood, but could a married Catholic man join the Anglicans, enter an Anglican seminary and then return to the Catholic Church? If so, this could become a rich source of priests for the Catholic Church.

*****

This is interesting stuff. But I haven’t heard or read anything to make me think that we’re going to be see any major changes here in the Catholic or Anglican worlds.

Britain Vatican AnglicansMaybe that’s why two Anglican archbishops, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (that’s him), endorsed the whole thing, saying that it’s all good for conservative Anglicans who want out.

If they expected to lose significant numbers of Anglicans, I doubt they would have that reaction.

The funny thing to me is that I’ve long joked that the Episcopal Church in the U.S. could triple in size by actively seeking out lapsed Catholics. Come up with a fancy name for a “Try us, you’ll like us” program. Promote several easy steps toward becoming an Episcopalian. Explain how familiar the Episcopal liturgy would be for ex-Catholics.

Sort of like what the Vatican is doing, but in reverse.

But the Episcopal Church will never do it. It would be un-P.C.