Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Truth and Reality and Fantasy Are All Mixed Up In "Faithful" Catholic Journalism

Mural from St. John's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh. Pope Benedict would have passed by it on his recent trip to Britain

The editor of the independent Irish Catholic newspaper speaks some truth to power. Article taken from Clerical Whispers.

I won’t be gagged over more rights for women in Church

A Latin Mass priest tried yesterday to ban the paper I edit, The Irish Catholic, from his church for having the temerity to report in this week's issue that new research shows Catholic women do not feel appreciated by the Irish Church. 

Hardly a startling revelation. 

But from the priest's point of view it was dangerous.


The majority of people in the pews these days are women, and he didn't want to stir them up. 

And rightly, too, from his point of view because there is huge anger out there. 

Several dioceses have held listening sessions and one of the major issues coming back to Church authorities is that a rubicon has been crossed and there's no going back.

And it is as simple as this; the vast majority of ordinary decent people believe that if women had been involved in the decision-making processes in the Irish Church, at least some of them would have cried halt to the cover-up of abuse and the mis-management that saw paedophiles moved on from parish to parish to wreck havoc on unsuspecting families and their children.

The logic is, and it is unassailable, a woman, especially a woman who has her own family, could never countenance such behaviour, could never sacrifice the innocence of children to protect an institution.

A mother knows what a seven-year-old child is like, the innocence, the vulnerability, just as Archbishop Martin, when he came to Dublin, went to visit a class of seven-year-olds just to see for himself the youthful innocence and put context into the reports of abuse he was reading.

A friend of mine who has worked with sex offenders who themselves had been abused when young, once asked a few of them if their own abuse was awful.

Yes, they replied, it was horrendous. 

Then, he said, why the hell did you inflict that horror on others? 

They normally didn't reply, or threatened to report him for asking such searching questions.

Denial is alive and well. (Once one has switched from victim to predator it is not easy to deal with the victim part of one's own life.)

So when Fr Gerard Deighan, who is the administrator of Dublin's Harrington Street parish and was installed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as Chaplain to the Dublin Latin Mass community, rang the paper's accounts department to say that he was banning the paper for its "inappropriate headline and editorial", one has to wonder what does he think a Catholic paper is for?

If we in the Church can't handle the truth, the same truth that we propose to the wider world as the way to live a full human life, then how the hell can the Church stay open for business? (The Church is not in the business of truth based in objective fact, but truth based in a long standing fantasy about itself.) 


Apparently from a late evening call from him which I received, on the foot of several journalists ringing his phone he decided to reverse his earlier decision, he still believes that a Catholic newspaper is a theological version of Pravda, which gives the party line and does nothing to upset the status quo.

The small problem with that thinking is that Catholics follow a creed that puts truth above all else, even loyalty to the Pope.

Ironically, Pravda means truth and a common Russian saying at the time the paper was in circulation in the Soviet Union was that "In the Truth there is no news". (This is 'true' on so many levels.)
Christians believe in Good News, which is not touchy feely news, but information that cuts away all the bull that marketers and advertising people, bankers and so on throw at us in our daily lives, it is simply real.

If the Catholic media, which in my paper's case is independent of the Church, cannot be free to publish the truth, then has this journey through cover-up and mis-management been for nothing?

Priests and bishops are fond of saying that the truth will set us free, it's a nice saying for many as long as it doesn't impinge on their set ways and ideologies. (And that's the truth.)

It's time for those who still don't get it, that the rubicon has been crossed and there's no going back to the clerical club mentality, it's time for them to 'get real'. (At this point that will only happen in our fantasies.)
I can see where a Latin Mass priest would not want to get his 'women' all stirred up.  Who would do all that Latin Mass laundry?  Best to keep telling women that their anger is a symptom of too much pride and too little humility. Best not to credence any truth at all to the fact many Catholic women do not feel appreciated by the Church--Irish or Roman.
That's not the only clerical fantasy in this editorial.  The other fantasy, that Catholic newspapers and media should be nothing more than outlets to restate the Catechism, is as big an issue as the women issue.  It's how the Church intends to keep the women's anger issue a non issue--that would be the fantasy about who should control the content of Catholic news media.
There is a difference between restating Catholic dogma, and reporting on Catholic news and Catholic news makers.  Very often the second kind of reporting is not flattering at all to the teachers of the first kind.  We know when the second kind is upsetting the teachers of the first kind because they always call this second kind "anti Catholic bias".  Too much reality I guess, is not good for man made fantasies in Catholic truth. 
Unbiased reporting for bishops like Chaput (CNA) means reporting only on the kind of truth which is not subject to any kind of journalistic evaluation.  This is the kind of truth which is very reductionist in that it's really about whose personal opinion matters.  In the Catholic system it's the male hierarchy who claim to have the only truth filled personal opinions about how to act out the Catholic faith.  They even claim to represent Jesus Christ, speak for God the Father, and are the only ones the Holy Spirit is allowed to talk to.  That's a pretty good trifecta. 
This catechism regurgitation function for Catholic media is designed to insure the teaching authority has the sole right to claim their fantasy is reality and to bind the rest of us to accepting their fantasy for God's reality.  I can certainly see why it is not good for the Vatican male fantasy to have women gettin' all agitated about their assigned place in the scheme of things. 
I can also see why Benedict invented a new chapter in the Catholic fantasy for all those disaffected Anglican clergy who don't care for the fact Anglicanism dared to get real about women's place in the Anglican Church. But that's the trouble with fantasy, it isn't real.  Truth and fact will eventually force any fantasy, no matter how well entrenched, to better conform to reality.  When it comes to the reality of women's equality, the Roman Catholic male domino will indeed fall and the Church will move into the twenty first century.  It maybe at that point that Benedict's two pet projects, misogynist Anglicans and retro Latinists will find themselves lumped together sharing their fantasies--and doing their own laundry.


  1. Yes, I agree with you the Church must and shall eventually enter the twenty first century regarding women. But I fear it will hardly matter as the rest of us will be in the twenty second or twenty third century and Roman Catholicism will exist mostly as a minority church in developing countries.

  2. I love the last line Colleen. They'll be cooking their own meals and doing the grocery shopping as well.

    LOL!! Oh, this is too much:

    word verification is hadmom

  3. Bluebird I don't know that Catholicism will have much of footprint in developing countries by the middle of this century.

    butterfly, that word verification is pretty funny.

  4. Why do these people always refer to Africa as the source of new more "traditional" or "orthodox" Catholics? I know two priests from different parts of Africa who teach in different African seminaries. They aren't the orthodox, traditional, "Latin Mass" kind of priests.

    First of all I believe that they, as many people of European descent do, make the error of seeing Africa as monolithic. It is not. The continent is enormous and varied in every respect, including "Her" people. Yes, Mother Africa.

    No, the women of Africa are not feminists in the way that one might talk about feminism at a cocktail party in NYC, LA or TO. It would be an enormous mistake to deny the respect African traditional religion has for women.


    I am reminded that the new English translation of the Mass is almost upon us. When it was implemented in South Africa last year many problems arose. One of the problems is the issue of inclusion. The traditionalists prefer the use of "us men", mankind, brothers, etc. as representing all of humanity. They argue everyone understands that this language isn't meant to be sexist. But they fail to understand that unless you use the terms, (which I am advised on good authority are true to the original meaning of the Latin) which are understood to be inclusive like "for us", humanity, brothers and sisters, etc., then the intention is to exclude. In other words women become invisible and unmentioned again. Was that the intention of Jesus? To whom did the risen Christ appear first?

    More discussion of problems with the new English translation here:


    Anyway the verification word makes me think of NYC. I can almost hear someone reacting to the African stereotype maybe in Bed-Stuy, Spike Lee style: putzbro

    as in "you're a putz bro..."