I recently broke a vow. Some time ago I promised myself I would never again read The New York Times. After a long period of thoughtful consideration, I had determined that doing so was bad for my health. I suspected that it was probably also bad for my soul.
So I cancelled the subscription I’d had for decades and took out one with a newspaper that seemed less likely to send me into fits of apoplexy. All has gone pretty well in this regard. There are, however, problems, as now and then someone leaves a copy of the Times where I can find it. Recently I discovered the Times sitting so close that it almost begged me to read it. What harm could there be in a quick glance, I thought. Well, I immediately discovered that there could be great harm, for my eyes fell on Maureen Dowd’s column and my blood pressure began to climb — in fact, to soar!
For those who are lucky enough not to know, Maureen Dowd is a writer with a very intense, obsessive, and vitriolic hatred of the Catholic Church, which she is only too happy to express in very overheated and frequently irrational terms at the drop of any and every hat.
The column I chanced upon has become infamous; it dealt with her reaction to the Vatican’s evaluation of the LCWR. As soon as I began reading it, I knew it was vintage Dowd. The article included such hysterical lines as: “the nuns must be yanked into line by the crepuscular, medieval men who run the Catholic Church.”
Not satisfied with sending people running to their dictionaries to look up the word “crepuscular,” Miss Dowd went for the jugular with the following: “How can the church hierarchy be more offended by the nuns’ impassioned advocacy for the poor than by priests’ sordid pedophilia?” What sense this hate-filled sentence (or any part of Miss Dowd’s screed) may contain is lost on me. What does one thing have to do with the other? What about all the extensive and difficult work the Church has done to protect children from those very few members of the clergy who have harmed them? What about the praise the Vatican gave the LCWR for their work with the disadvantaged in the very document Miss Dowd is writing about? None of this is mentioned, and Miss Dowd knows it is safe to ignore such inconvenient facts because few people who read her writing also read Vatican documents. In other words, it’s safe to say anything because hardly anybody will take the trouble to check.
This article made me very aware that we are at a point in our national life where fairness toward the Church is almost out of the question. Although Miss Dowd may be extreme in her deep hatred, similar ideas are being expressed by more reasonable-sounding writers and thus may carry more weight in the minds of readers.
Our culture has become so anti-Catholic that the media is only too happy to disseminate screeds like Miss Dowd’s, screeds written by people who have no concern with truth and are happy to disregard facts in their eagerness to injure. It is fine these days to tell outright lies about the Church; in fact, it is fine to shout them from the rooftops! Doing so makes you a hero. The bishops’ concern regarding the HHS mandate demanding that Catholic institutions pay for things that are seriously immoral is reported by the media as a “war on women.” An incident in which a priest refused the Holy Eucharist to a woman who, from all the evidence available, was living in serious sin and completely unrepentant is characterized as “cruel and inhuman.” A suggestion that marriage can exist only between a man and a woman is deemed “rabid homophobia.”
We must understand that our actions will often be wilfully misrepresented. We must understand that explaining the facts will have little effect, for the truth is no longer a concern. We must understand that religious liberty will soon be reserved only for those who agree with the media and those in power.
I urge all priests and especially those who are far younger than I am to steel themselves and to turn in a very real way to Christ, the source of all our strength. You will need a real and vibrant spiritual life to deal with what you will have to face.
And I have renewed my vow never to read the Times, but I’ll pray for Maureen Dowd, who’s a bit crepuscular herself these days. I’ll also pray for those who, like her, have lost all sense of fairness and decency, those who prefer irrational hatred to truth. TP