Archbishop Dolan Disparages Reform and Dissent As "Anti-Catholicism"
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 11:15:07 AM EST
In posting on his blog site, recently installed Archbishop for the Diocese of New York, Timothy Dolan, accused The New York Times of anti-Catholicism. Apparently His Eminence equates any discussion of Church affairs as anti-Catholic bigotry.  

But if Archbishop Dolan were concerned about real examples of anti-Catholicism, he ought to address the teachings of Religious Right activist Pastor John Hagee.''

One of the most predictable tactics used by reactionaries is to paint mainstream reform movements as radical or hateful. It is one of the oldest trick in the book. Back in the days of the New Deal FDR was labeled as "a socialist' or "a Communist" and even "a fascist." The liberal president who sought only to save capitalism by reform was deliberately mislabeled as an enemy of capitalism by his detractors.

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they say the same. Today, those who now point out arbitrary inconsistency within the Catholic Church are now similarly tagged as enemies. Those who may have no hatred at all of the faith are immediately condemned as "anti-Catholic" even when their criticisms may actually be helpful.

We know the usual culprits in this game of branding dissent as treason: George Weigel, Deal Hudson and of course, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue.

Now New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has joined this trio in the indiscriminate condemnation of those who dare ask - including Catholics -- for accountability and transparency. For those not familiar with the new archbishop's outlook, Time described it perfectly:

Although the burly, ruddy-faced "guy's guy" is known to speak warmly of his love for the Milwaukee Brewers during his homespun homilies and has a penchant for whiskey and beer (typically Miller), he's a devoted, albeit genial, enforcer of Rome's conservative ideologies. On matters of doctrine, Dolan adheres to the course laid out firmly by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI -- one that includes unflinching support for policies concerning priestly celibacy, abortion, birth control, divorce and gay marriage.

The Grey Lady as Strawman
In his October 29, 2009 blog posting entitled "Foul Ball!", Archbishop Dolan described a litany of alleged slights of Catholicism by various reporters, including op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd. In her piece Dowd examined the second class Church citizenship nuns must endure. She even dare discuss (as a Catholic herself) the current Inquisition reactionaries in the Vatican are now carrying out; an Inquisition designed to quiet one of the most compassionate yet progressive parts of Catholicism.

Two of the other journalists were singled out by the Archbishop was Times religion correspondent, Laurie Goldstein and her colleague, Paul Vitello.

Dolan complained that Vitello's piece, which was about pedophilia within the orthodox Jewish community, was anti-Catholic because, "According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency"

Goldstein left a reply for the archbishop in the comment space of his blog. She did not beat around the bush and soundly refuted the accusations, beginning with a defense of Vitello:

You cite Paul Vitello's front page story about sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community as evidence that the Times is anti-Catholic. Paul and I find it a hard argument to understand. The Times has written about the sexual abuse of minors by clergy of many faiths: Jews, Southern Baptists, mainline Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Orthodox Christians, evangelicals. But the abuse story has been bigger for the Catholic Church simply because of the quantitative facts: there are more priests accused, more alleged victims, more countries involved, more settlements, more years since the problem first became public, more legal and financial consequences and simply more people affected.

Goldstein then turned to His Eminence's criticism of her recent front page story about a priest who fathered a child with a parishioner. Seemingly missing the point of her piece, the Archbishop wrote in bewilderment, "However, one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation-genocide in Sudan." The Times religion correspondent focused like a laser beam on the issue at hand:

In mentioning my piece about a priest who had an affair with an adult woman, you imply that there was no reason to run a story now that is 20 years old. You neglected to acknowledge that this piece was written now because the priest's son is dying of brain cancer, he believes the church and the priest have failed him, and because the priest was still serving in a parish where neither his parishioners nor his bishop had knowledge of his philandering until I began reporting. One of the women he was involved with was allegedly a minor, and at one point the priest suggested that a pregnancy he was responsible for be terminated by an abortion. I wrote the story because church officials have said privately to me over the years that priests who violate their vows with adult women are far more common than priests who sexually abuse minors.

The archbishop's attack on the Times is nothing more than the tired old tactic of raising up strawmen to attack. There is no anti-Catholicism to be found in the works of Dowd, Goldstein or Vitello; only the discussion of Church issues that, if left unaddressed, could lead to real harm to the Catholic faith. Pedophilia, the lack of accountability and the suppression of new ideas put forth by nuns are the real ticking time bombs that will eventually destroy Catholicism.

John Hagee's Ongoing Anti-Catholicism
But if Archbishop Dolan wants to concern himself with real anti-Catholicism, he should look no further than Bill Donohue's new friend, Pastor John Hagee.

In the Spring of 2008 GOP presidential nominee, Senator John McCain had actively sought out and received the endorsement of the highly anti-Catholic Evangelical preacher, John Hagee. The endorsement, however, almost became an albatross around the GOP nominee's neck when Bruce Wilson's expose' examined Hagee's unflinching anti-Catholic video-sermons.

Bruce's story was picked up by major news organization. This led to a condemnation by Bill Donohue's Catholic League of both Hagee and his endorsement of  McCain. However, Howlin' Bill did some quick summersaults, met with Hagee and quickly issued a second press release announcing that Pastor Hagee was indeed a friend of Catholic everywhere, proclaiming, "Pastor Hagee can now move in the religious circles he has become accustomed to, and continue his ministry without distraction." It was a most convenient armistice seemingly designed to prevent ruptures among the Religious Right  

Now as Talk to Action's Rachel Tabachnick recently pointed out, Hagee's anti-Catholic ways continue unabated:

Despite their responsibilities to their respective communities, these Catholic leaders, like many Jewish leaders, apparently chose to take John Hagee at his word, instead of accessing his readily available and marketed sermons for themselves.  If they had, they would have found narratives in stark contrast to the explanations provided by Hagee.
In addition to the venom and prophesied destruction of Rome and Romanism in Hagee's Mystery Babylon sermon, they could have looked at Hagee's movie, `Vanished in the Twinkling of an Eye."  This "left behind" style movie presented by John Hagee Ministries prominently features Hagee as the narrator who is delivering a warning to those who have been left behind with the anti-Christ after the Rapture.  The movie leaves no doubt that it is Jews and Catholics who remain behind are tricked into support for the anti-Christ, portrayed as the President of the European Union.  The movie includes an interview with a priest (wearing cassock) and a rabbi (wrapped in a tallit) who have met with the anti-Christ and explain why he is the true messiah of Israel and the world.  The priest describes those who have disappeared as the "haters of peace and unity."  The movie also features a series of scenes which have an eerie resemblance to Kristallnacht, with houses of worship burning including one labeled Berlin.  However, these are churches being burned in Hagee's reverse image of the Holocaust where Jews (and Catholics) are the perpetrators in league with the antiChrist.

Dissent is the life-blood of any vibrant entity. Whether it is religion or democracy, the ability to provide the open discussion of contentious issues serves as an escape vale, venting the build up of steam that if left to collect unabated will eventually burst in an ugly manner. Without dissent there can be no real reform, Sadly, it appears that the Archbishop of New York is turning a blind eye to the Church's real problems in order to address non-existent ones.

As the Catholic League's Bill Donohue has since done, Archbishop Dolan will also, without hesitation, compromise on instances of real anti-Catholicism in the service of his orthodox agenda. In doing so, he has thrown his lot in with those of the Catholic Right who will stifle dissent even if it eventually destroys both Catholicism and the pluralism of the greater society in which it may flourish.

It is time to offer rebuttal to hypocrites such as Archbishop Dolan -- even if it means having to sometimes defend the likes of Maureen Dowd (that is when we have a blue moon and she actually is serious about the subject at hand).

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 11:19:14 AM EST

In keeping with Archbishop Dolan's baseball metaphor penchant. Some one needs to remind him how professional teams operate. The laity are not paid players and are not subject to his managerial game plan. They are paying fans so to speak, and the stands are emptying because he and his team are losing far more than they are winning. Blaming the fans for losing is not the strategy of a winner. Maybe he's hoisted one too many Millers with Harry John.

by colkoch on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 01:08:27 PM EST

It's not the ownership the fans pay to see; it's the players.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 01:33:53 PM EST

I thought Laurie Goodstein effectively replied to Archbishop Dolan's accusations of anti-Catholicism. Apparently Dolan subscribes to the Bill Donohue school, in which all criticisms of the institutional Church are considered anti-Catholic even where the criticism is legitimate and warranted. David Gibson covered Dolan's accusations and Goodstein's reply in his Commonweal blog posting last week.

The more I see it, the more I believe the hierarchy wants to restore the "pray, pay and obey" mentality and to believe the people should be for the church, when the church should be for the people (which is how my mom says it.) The older I get, the more resistant I am becoming to this mentality, and the more I want to fight it.

by khughes1963 on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 06:34:10 PM EST

I thought Laurie Goodstein effectively replied to Archbishop Dolan's accusations of anti-Catholicism. Apparently Dolan subscribes to the Bill Donohue school, in which all criticisms of the institutional Church are considered anti-Catholic even where the criticism is legitimate and warranted. David Gibson covered Dolan's accusations and Goodstein's reply in his Commonweal blog posting last week.

The more I see it, the more I believe the hierarchy wants to restore the "pray, pay and obey" mentality and to believe the people should be for the church, when the church should be for the people (which is how my mom says it.) The older I get, the more resistant I am becoming to this mentality, and the more I want to fight it.

by khughes1963 on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 06:34:28 PM EST

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