Catholic Archbishop: Maureen Dowd Sounds Like a 'Know-Nothing Newspaper of the 1850s'

Catholic News Agency reports The New York Times refused to publish an op-ed submitted by the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, that complained that Times news reports and opinion columns were anti-Catholic. Archbishop Dolan wrote the "most combustible example" was "an intemperate and scurrilous piece" on the opinion pages of the Times by Maureen Dowd.

"In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, condoms, obsession with sex, pedophile priests, and oppression of women, all the while slashing Pope Benedict XVI for his shoes, his forced conscription -- along with every other German teenage boy -- into the German army, his outreach to former Catholics, and his recent welcome to Anglicans."

Describing the current visitation of women religious by Vatican representatives as "the matter that triggered the spasm" of Dowd, Archbishop Dolan says that it "is well-worth discussing, and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning." "But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today."

"I do not mean to suggest that anti-Catholicism is confined to the pages New York Times," writes Archbishop Dolan, who also admits that "the Catholic Church is not above criticism."

"We Catholics do a fair amount of it ourselves. We welcome and expect it. All we ask is that such critique be fair, rational, and accurate, what we would expect for anybody. The suspicion and bias against the Church is a national pastime that should be ‘rained out’ for good."

NB's Dave Pierre also ripped the Dowd column to pieces earlier this week. What is Dowd's problem? Has all that stewing in the juices of the secular and libertine liberalism of the media elite really converted her to the point that she's compared to Know-Nothings?

The Archbishop titled his article "Foul Ball!" He also decried other examples:  

  • On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. 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. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.” Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.”
  • Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse. To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation’s public schools (the study can be found here). In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students. Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.  
  • On October 16, Laurie Goodstein of the Times offered a front page, above-the-fold story on the sad episode of a Franciscan priest who had fathered a child. Even taking into account that the relationship with the mother was consensual and between two adults, and that the Franciscans have attempted to deal justly with the errant priest’s responsibilities to his son, this action is still sinful, scandalous, and indefensible. 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. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.

These all seem like fair complaints. (The Times covered the subject of Archbishop Dolan's blog this week, but did not mention his Times-critique blog post.) If the Times is going to refuse to publish them, at the very least, they should be evaluated by the Public Editor.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis