Something important happened at the US bishops' combined meeting last week, which we are just hearing about today: "the USCCB expressed their solidarity for Bishop John M. D’Arcy ... in particular for his care and concern for the University of Notre Dame, which resides in his diocese."
It's an important move because there had previously been a calculated attempt by some liberal Catholics to discredit the dozens and dozens of bishops who spoke out about the Notre Dame scandal
, claiming in effect that these vocal bishops represented a "minority" position, out of step with the "majority" of US bishops.
"The bishops of the United States express our appreciation and support for our brother bishop, the Most Reverend John D'Arcy. We affirm his pastoral concern for Notre Dame University, his solicitude for its Catholic identity, and his loving care for all those the Lord has given him to sanctify, to teach and to shepherd."
Now, how do you think Catholic News Service - the USCCB's own news agency
, reported this story?
First, with out-dated numbers: "More than 50 bishops voiced their disapproval of Notre Dame's invitation to Obama and decision to give him an honorary degree."
In fact, my list
(when I stopped counting) had 75+ bishops named. These are not obscure or new numbers, and I wasn't the only one to compile such a list. This is lazy reporting by the CNS author, Nancy Frazier O'Brien. And it's convenient that the number she decides upon is, oh, about 40% of the actual number (by my conservative standards - I only counted active US bishops, for instance).
Second, with dissenting, minority views: "But two bishops interviewed at the San Antonio meeting by the National Catholic Reporter said they see a need for dialogue with U.S. Catholic university presidents about this issue and left open the possibility of revisions to "Catholics in Political Life."
Isn't it fascinating how, when a "minority" of bishops take a position against Notre Dame's invitation, they are dismissed as a minority, but when the majority of US bishops (or at least, the public voice of the bishops in committee) take a position for Bishop D'Arcy, it is then the minority position that is given space and even the last word (seriously - two bishops?! And in the National Catholic Reporter? This is our her go-to source for information!).
Really, it's impossible to win with rules of engagement like this, especially when Catholic News Service seems to have more of an affinity with the National Catholic Reporter than the US Bishops executive committee.
Third, just to really drive this point home, O'Brien says: "The statement made no direct reference ... to a recent call by the board of directors of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) for the bishops to revisit their 2004 statement, "Catholics in Political Life."
But back to the point: O'Brien has full awareness of this challenge made by the ACCU, and feels free to make negative points about what statements don't say or respond to, and yet ... she does not bring up the context I mention above, namely, that liberal Catholics have been attempting to marginalize the vocal opposition of dozens of bishops to the Notre Dame invitation. Therefore, in the full picture, the bishops are responding against this attempt to marginalize Bishop D'Arcy by releasing a statement in support of him. Why support Bishop D'Arcy, in other words, unless he was in fact being attacked by some?
So who is left expressing a dissenting viewpoint at this point in the game? Well, two bishops, picked-up by the National Catholic Reporter ... and given selective play by O'Brien in the Catholic News Service.
In an effort to be fair myself, CNS does plenty of good reporting - but it's frustrating to see how often it really drops the ball on some of the most important current stories, especially ones that involve Catholic interaction with the culture-at-large. I'm not asking that we all think the same on these issues, I'm asking that more than one way of thinking be fairly presented to the readers of CNS.