Last week the Vatican invited Anglicans who are, as The New York Times put it, “uncomfortable with female priests and openly gay bishops” to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church. If a secular institution, Wal-Mart or Microsoft, for example, made a similar offer — Tired of leadership positions being open to women and gay employees? Join us! — it would be slammed for appealing to bigotry. Some criticism was directed at the church, but it was faint. Are we right to speak softly when discussing a subject as sensitive as religion? [...]Mr. Cohen betrays his own deep ignorance about Catholicism in thinking that the Rev. George Rutler's quote indicates at all a criticism of Catholicism, let alone in his persistent characterization of Catholic opposition to a female priesthood or the sin of homosexual activity as "bigotry." But deep ignorance by New York Times writers about the teachings of Catholicism is de rigueur; even once-Catholic Maureen Dowd was stunning in her recent NYT-levels of uninformed unintelligence about Catholic matters.
And so it is disheartening that the editorial pages of our most important newspapers did not castigate the Vatican’s invitation to misogyny and homophobia. Some blogs did so. Daily Kos headlined its coverage, “Vatican Welcomes Bigoted Anglicans.” But the discussion provided by, say, network news barely rose above the demure. That’s not courtesy; it’s cowardice. Perhaps the networks fear being charged with anti-Catholic bias. This is not an unreasonable concern. When I reproved that real estate agent, my surname was no shield against accusations of anti-Semitism. But surely it is possible to disagree respectfully. To criticize a particular practice of Orthodox Jews need not be anti-Semitism. To denounce this Vatican policy need not be anti-Catholic bigotry. Criticism is not contempt.One group has produced a lively discussion of this pronouncement — the religious press. (You can find a roundup of opinions at Headline Bistro under the banner “Because Catholics Need to Know.”) Some of the sharpest writing comes from those critical of their own church — the Rev. George Rutler, for example, a convert from Anglicanism who wrote: “It is a dramatic slap-down of liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism.” Incidentally, Father Rutler does not think the secular media are too timid but too thickheaded: “The press, uninformed and always tabloid in matters of religion, will zoom in on the permission for married priests.”
The truth is that anyone who brushes aside centuries-old Church teachings about the nature of the ordained priesthood or the importance of sexual purity as "bigotry" is himself a bigot. Only an irrational, prejudiced perspective could possibly dismiss things of that level of importance out of hand, as if it were impossible for a religion to have a sincere and meaningful tradition, in the first instance, or a well-developed moral theology, in the second. But to seek to understand either means laying aside such knee-jerk anti-Catholicism and actually exploring the traditions and the teaching, not viewing them through the lens of contemporary political liberalism/radical feminism and then throwing them aside in highly-cultivated and progressive-snob disgust.
As for the charge that the media is too soft on Catholicism out of some sort of cowardice--oh, please. It costs nothing to bash the Church, and every journalist or other media employee learns this early on in his career. It's hard to find a group more consistently misrepresented in the press than Christians of any sort, and the Catholic Church is perhaps the biggest target for that sophomoric wrath--the wrath that comes, deep down, from knowing that here is one institution immune to their pressures and lectures and scoldings. Compared to the Church, the modern media (including the "modern" newspaper) arose yesterday, and the end of the newspaper age may already be in sight. The Church will still be around when only the collectors of historical curiosity knows what it means, this odd phrase, "The New York Times," and what it once signified. The mass of humanity will forget all about it, long before the Church faces a different sort of end times.
So journalists like Cohen want to whine about how unfair the mean old Church is, while they can still collect a paycheck for such dull displays of enlightened whimpering. But they want their whining to be classed as Serious Criticism, because they have the Right Sort of opinions, just like they want to be able to try and convict the Church of misogyny and homophobia in the court of public opinion, because the Church has the Wrong Sort. Remind me again what part of this juvenile dribbling counts as anything serious?