Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catholic Church still Catholic; media discomfited

Ah, what fun it has been to read secular press accounts of the election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Let's take a look at a few; all emphases are added by me, unless otherwise noted:
America's Catholic bishops pulled a shocker Tuesday in picking their new president, disregarding tradition and precedent by rejecting the current vice president and instead choosing a man seen as more outspoken and conservative. [...]

Kicanas faced a barrage of last-minute criticism in recent days over how he dealt with a priest who was accused of molesting more than a dozen boys and is now in jail. Victims' advocates spoke out against Kicanas, but the more significant opposition came from conservatives, who considered him too moderate in tone.
Notice that last, particularly. Kicanas wasn't rejected because of lingering concerns over his handling of a priest accused of molesting; he was really rejected because conservatives, who don't care about the Scandal ordinarily, thought he was a moderate instead of a hard-line snarling vicious Rottweiler-wanna be. Right. Anybody want to buy a bridge?

Here's another:
BALTIMORE — In a surprise move, the bishops that lead the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, elected Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York to be their president on Tuesday, rejecting the conference’s more liberal vice president. It was the first time in history that the bishops had not voted to elevate the vice president to the president’s post, affirming a conservative turn among the bishops.

The vote, which was close, cements Archbishop Dolan’s prominent profile in the leadership in the American church. He is already the prelate of the nation’s most visible diocese, is comfortable in the news media spotlight and was selected by the Vatican to help conduct an investigation of the church in Ireland, which has been devastated by a sexual abuse scandal.

The bishops passed over their vice president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, who represents the more liberal “social justice” tradition of the American church and is known for advocating dialogue between Catholic liberals and traditionalists. Archbishop Dolan is a moderate conservative who is willing to put his affable and outgoing demeanor in service of a more assertively confrontational approach to the church’s critics.
In other words, the Grey Lady tells us that those mean old assertively confrontational conservatives wouldn't choose a man noted for his ability to dialogue with both liberals and traditionalists, instead preferring a man who is good at the art of smiling and smiling whilst being a villan. Umm...sure. And newspapers are about to come back with a strong new business model, too.

And there's this:

Traditionalist Catholics led an upset victory in the choice of a new head of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. For the first time, a presumptive successor to the presidency was passed over in the voting. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops elected Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan over the current vice president Gerald Kicanas.

Kicanas was a protege of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, who was known for his "common ground" approach and emphasis on a broad spectrum of Catholic social teaching. Dolan is closer to the traditionalist approach, defined not only by opposing abortion but also by publicly slamming Catholic politicians for pro-abortion rights votes. Veteran Church-watcher David Gibson, blogging at Disputations, called it "a shocker."

I'll grant that this move by the USCCB was certainly a surprise--and a good one. It's not that Kicanas is really, as some of his supporters have alleged, in favor of either abortion or gay marriage; but his failure to respond adequately to President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame and the troubling cloud left by his handling of the case of accused molester Fr. Daniel McCormack, who was approved by Kicanas for ordination despite some significant warning signs during his seminary days, would not have inspired great confidence in a body that has, frankly, yet to inspire great confidence in many American Catholics.

Still, it's funny to see the media spin on this--as if Kicanas is only as Catholic as, say, Joe Biden, and therefore the Right Sort of Catholic in their eyes. The palpable media discomfiture at the election to USCCB president of a man known more for a quiet sort of orthodoxy speaks volumes about the media's true desire for the Catholic Church in America: they'd like it to become a sort of pro-abortion, pro-gay "marriage" social club that pays frequent lip service to the right sort of environmental or social justice causes while not actually asking anyone to make real sacrifices or adopt real change--exactly like the Democratic Party, in fact.


L. said...

The NYTimes story to which you linked differs from the one you quoted -- perhaps they were linking to a wire story until their reporter could do their own?

Somehow, I don't think any sober human out there, of any stripe, is really expecting the Church to become a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage social club.

Susan said...

Good! I love Archbishop Dolan! He is an excellent teacher, and he loves the Faith deeply.

Charlotte said...

"Traditionalist" Catholics led the upset? Whoever wrote that knows not what they speak of. Becasue I'll bet money that most TRADS, while nodding their heads that Dolan is better than most, still count him as too liberal and not traditional enough.

Anonymous said...

I'm not really sure how the parts you bolded show a hostile media.

"pulled a shocker...disregarding tradition and precedent." and "pulled an upset victory" - Wasn't this a shock and an upset, insofar as the vice president has always ascended to the presidency? While I don't know the entire history of the voting, isn't this vote usually somewhat of a pro forma affair? So, I assume that this was a shock to many who follow these things, and that the bishops did disregard precedent.

"seen as more outspoken and conservative" - From what I've read on Catholic sites, Dolan is seen as more outspoken and conservative. This isn't a bad thing, it just is.

"rejecting the conference's more liberal vice president" and "represents the more liberal "social justice" tradition..." - Isn't this true as well? I don't know much about Kicanas (I really, really hope he pronounces his name Kickin A**); however, there is a reason the Commonweal crowd was supporting him, while the Conservative crowd was slamming him. It wasn’t all about sex abuse.

“Dolan is closer to the traditionalist approach, defined not only by opposing abortion but also by publicly slamming Catholic politicians for pro-abortion rights votes.” – Dolan is not a traditionalist, but I doubt that hard-core trads are really on the media’s radar. If you told a reporter that there was a large Catholic internet debate about women wearing skirts and pants, I doubt many would have any clue what you were talking about. But Dolan is more known for calling out pro-abortion pols than Kicanas. As you note, a large conservative problem with Kicanas was that he wasn’t vocal enough, such as with Notre Dame. There was a liberal/conservative split on this one.

I have no doubt the media would have loved to have seen Kicanas take the presidency, as it would feed into their meme of “Catholicism needs to become more modern and get with the times.” I’m sure those and the sex abuse angle articles were already half written. However, I don’t really see how those specific quotes show bias and media. There was quite a large debate leading up to the vote between libs and conservatives. Acknowledging this doesn’t show bias; not acknowledging it would have. Sometimes it’s good to leave the bunker.

romishgraffiti said...

Rather than give a pile of "there's no one here but us moderate chickens" analysis and ending on a childish dig, I'll just point to this analysis: Cardinal O'Connor's Revenge: The "Seamless Garment" unravels

Siarlys Jenkins said...

It remains a mystery to me that non-Catholic institutions, pressure groups, media, albeit constituting the majority of the people of the United States, feel entitled to comment on the selection of Roman Catholic church officials. Archbishop Dolan was NOT running for, nor was he elected as, the President of the United States, nor to a seat in the senate or congress, nor was he appointed to the National Labor Relations Board or the Federal Reserve Board or...

Election, appointment or selection of individuals to fill a church office is strictly a matter of faith and doctrine, internal to that church, any church. That is part of what the First Amendment is all about.

I am quite sharp in criticizing Catholic leadership presuming to dictate to elected public officials, even if the elected official is Catholic, but, by the same token, it is none of my business, and none of the New York Times's business, whom the NCCB chooses as its president, or why.

Anonymous said...

romish - You are correct that dig was uncalled for. I apologize.

However, the article you linked to just reinforces the lib/con theme that is present in the linked articles. It just replaces the moderate(K)/conservative(D) dichotomy with liberal (K)/moderate(D). Just as the linked articles say, it refers to the vote as an upset (which was bolded to show media bias). Your article just frames it in a "left wing bad / seamless garment bad" argument.

Your article still uses the same themes as the linked articles. The entire point was that I didn't see the media bias in those articles. I still don't.

Perhaps a better question is, what is incorrect in those articles? What should be changed?

c matt said...

I am quite sharp in criticizing Catholic leadership presuming to dictate to elected public officials

I haven't seen them "dictating" to public officials, Catholic or not. I have seen them state how Catholic doctrine applies to political issues with moral implications (which is very common) and they are perfectly within their right and duty to so articulate. It is also 100% proper for a Catholic Bishop to opine when a Catholic politician's actions, including how that politician votes or legislates, endangers the politician's mortal soul and whether said politician is fit to receive communion. The politician is free to ignore anything the Bishop says. The politician is not free to escape the consequences of his actions.

Catholic politicians do not get some sort of "public servant" pass to act contrary to Catholic doctrine.

c matt said...

they'd like it to become a sort of pro-abortion, pro-gay "marriage" social club that pays frequent lip service to the right sort of environmental or social justice causes while not actually asking anyone to make real sacrifices or adopt real change

They want us to be Anglicans?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Some Anglicans are moving your way c matt, just as some Catholics espouse exactly the characteristics you refer to as Anglican.

As to public officials, we've hashed that one to death. A legislator is elected to represent their district, not to represent their church or the UCCB. If they are honest, and tell me "as a Catholic, I will have to vote this way on X issue," then I can weigh that, along with all the other things they have to say. It is not the bishops call how they vote after we elect them. They are not there to "advance the agenda of their church" which is just about the exact words Bishop Burke used.