Proposing a forum on media coverage of the Catholic Church

In his latest blog post, Archbishop Dolan again tees off on the media.

He begins:


Because of all the inaccuracies in the recent coverage of the Catholic Church in the New York Times and other publications, appearing in news articles, editorials, and op-eds, I was tempted to try my best to offer corrections to the multitude of errors. However, I soon realized that this would probably be a full time job.

It is a source of consternation as to why, instead of complimenting the Vatican and a reformer like Pope Benedict XVI, for codifying procedures long advocated by critics, such outfits would instead choose to intrude on a matter of internal doctrine, namely the ordination of women.


Dolan later says that the media’s “obsessive criticism” of the pope is “simply out of bounds.”

I’ve noted in the past that Dolan has become something of a media critic since coming to NY. Defending the church and the pope from the NYT and others seems to be one of his passions.

So here’s an idea: How about someone organizes a forum on media coverage of the church?

Give Dolan and someone from the Times, plus others (John Allen? Father James Martin? A  media critic like Howard Kurtz?), a chance to make their case and rebut the other side(s).

Do it in public. In a civil forum.

The Fordham Center on Religion and Culture seems like a natural host. They did a program about anti-Catholicism a few years ago, which I still regret that I missed. (How does one define anti-Catholicism in 2010, I wonder?) But a forum on media coverage of the Catholic Church would certainly revisit the anti-Catholicism question.

What do you think, Mr. and Mrs. Steinfels?

The Crossroads Cultural Center in NYC, run by the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, has run several provocative forums in recent years and could do one on media coverage. Monsignor Albacete?

One of the many academic centers at Notre Dame could do it — but I would rather the forum be in New York.

How about the Columbia Journalism School?

Maybe Iona could step up to the plate and bring some action to Suburbia?

So who is going to do it? How about one night in late September?

Big thinkers to study…evil

If you read this blog, you know that I have been somewhat obsessed with digging up religious explanations for natural disasters — big shots of natural evil that devastate the innocent.

I even wrote a book about it.

In recent weeks, I’ve been sorting through religious perspectives on the earthquake in Haiti and now the quake in Chile.

So I was surprised to get a release today from the Templeton Foundation announcing a new, three-year study into the (listen for Orsen Wells’ voice here)…”problem of evil in modern and contemporary thought.”

headerTempleton (providing a $1.7 million grant) is teaming with the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame to bring scholars together to hash out some very old, very difficult questions.

We’re talking fellowships, conferences, seminars, publications, public events — the best academia has to offer!

As the project’s website puts it:


The widespread and devastating effects of evils are often all too clear. The questions of how and why such evils exist in a world that, according to many, is created and sustained by a loving and powerful God have been collected under the name “the problem of evil.” In its most general form, the problem of evil concerns the relation between God and the broken world around us. If God is all-powerful and all-loving, whence evil?


A project overview notes that critics of religion often cite “natural evil” like the Haitian quake as proof that “the world is, after all, blind, pitiless, and indifferent.”

Things will start cooking this fall with a conference at Notre Dame (not likely to pull too many fans away from football) on Leibniz’s classic work, Theodicy. It will shape up like this:


Leibniz’s Theodicy: Context and Content, held on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the publication of Leibniz’s Theodicy aims to explore this seminal work, the only book length treatise published by Leibniz in his lifetime. The conference will explore its contents, its fit within the Leibnizian corpus, its broader historical context, and its subsequent reception and impact. However, unlike typical conferences focused on a publication anniversary, this conference will also explore how the views expressed fit into the larger intellectual landscape of the period, standing as it does at crucial crossroads: the waning of the post-Reformation, the maturing of the Scientific Revolution, the dawning of the Enlightenment, and the maturing (or some might say implosion) of the rationalist philosophical framework introduced in the early seventeenth century. As a result, papers will focus both on Leibniz and the text of the Theodicy as well their relation to these broader themes.