Monday, 28 May 2012

Cath News must be reformed: Who are the real 'Temple Police'?

Over at aCatholica Forum, Brian Coyne has had a couple of goes at my campaign to reform Cath News, first to suggest that Michael Mullins stop directing readers my way (sleeping with the enemy!), and most recently to describe the campaign as part of the 'Temple Police' effort.

But it is Cath News that is doing the censoring Brian!

But here's the thing Brian.

Just in the last week, I've captured fifteen, in my view perfectly legitimate, comments rejected by Cath News here. 

And been told offline about several more that didn't make it past the censor over there.

Just in a week.

Add to that the many people who have just given up, knowing they won't be published over there.

I don't much like the term temple police.  But if there are any obvious candidates for the job title, it is Cath News' staff, not me!

Listening to your customers

Now I can understand perhaps, why comments criticizing Cath News's story selection or modus operandi get rejected for publication. 

Personally, if I were in charge of Cath News, I'd at least engage in a bit of 'customer care' in these cases.  I'd put together some more or less standard words for the commenter which said that their comment was being considered/had been considered but was accepted with because...and engage offline.  It is, after all, fairly standard business practice to listen to reader complaints and take them seriously!

Such responses done well can turn a disgruntled reader into a champion for your organization.

But here is a clue.  Smarmy, insulting or patronising responses to such complaints are not going to turn us into converts to your organization's cause, quite the contrary.

It is going to cause us to launch campaigns such as this one...

But why reject...?

I find it rather less understandable why so many other comments from ordinary believing Catholics on stories run over there seem to be being rejected though.

Wouldn't it be great if the bishops or Catholic Resources got someone in to do an audit of all those gigabytes of rejected comments that must be sitting around on Ms Hogan's computer, and take a fresh look, with a view to drawing up some sensible guidelines!

Here are some of what seem to be some of the 'no go zones' over at Cath News.  Please do add to the list - I'm thinking of using them to conduct a survey (why do you think your comment was rejected...).
Women religious

Ms Hogan has previously openly admitted that she will reject pretty much any comment that criticizes Australian women religious.  In the context of the celebrations of St Mary McKillop's canonization, for example, she stated that:

"This question of women religious... and their dress is a continuing, low-level grumble-thread through the discussion boards. Ever since one such missive appeared in reaction to the Mary MacKillop special edition we did on February 19 for the announcement of the date of the canonisation, harping on about the Sisters of St Joseph not wearing habits, I have routinely deleted them."

Indeed she once banned a priest (!) for daring to speak up on this topic:

"I banned a priest for a week recently because he constantly wrote in the most denigrating terms about religious sisters who do not wear a habit. When I refused to publish a comment in the same vein and offered him a week’s respite from the boards to consider his position, he wrote to me: “No offence was meant to the real Sister’s (sic) who have dedicated themselves to the Consecrated life, nursing, teaching, serving etc.. Them I defend to the death. But ‘Sisters’ in worldly finery of makeup, jewellery etc. is (sic) a scandal to many of us, who are expected to believe they have no overt attachment to anything except serving God and neighbour."


Why censor debate on this topic? 

Wearing a habit is a requirement of Church law for religious. 

And surely debate about whether or not the modern Josephites (and other Orders) are remaining true to their founder's charism is a legitimate topic for discussion on the part of catholics.

Even the faintest hint of criticism of the bishops in any way is also taboo

Criticism of any action of bishops (or is it just certain bishops?) also seems to be taboo over there.

Now I guess that's a case of not biting the hand that feeds you, but are our bishops really not interested in hearing other perspectives from the laity, or is this just a case of Cath News making its own presumptions?

Take a look back at posts on the handling of the sex abuse cases for example - you'll find, on the whole, a remarkable lack of comments.  And as far as I could see on a quick check (and I'd be happy to proven wrong on this) only the most muted of criticism possible of the handling of it all by our own bishops.

Ms Hogan commented a while back:

"Among the most commented was the question of sexual abuse in the Church. The heartfelt responses showed how deeply the members of the Body of Christ felt the crisis, and how painful the process has been for everyone involved. Sadly, it also provided an opportunity for some people just to get into Church-bashing mode, and pursue their own, narrow agendas."

But the issue here is, on the sex abuse scandal and other potential scandals, have things really changed enough?  Has enough action really been taken to deal not just with the symptoms but also the disease? Have our leaders really understood how betrayed the laity continue to feel? 

Asking these kinds of questions is not about pursuing 'narrow agendas'.  Rather, it is about making sure that we learn from history, tackle root causes, rather than repeat past mistakes.

Calling heresy what it is!

One of the strangest reasons for rejecting comments over there seems to me to be the aversion to the word heretic.  It goes along with the false secularist notion that 'niceness' should always be the norm.

I'm all for civility when appropriate.  But there are times for name-calling diatribes, as Our Lord shows in Matthew 23 (Woe to you, blind guides; woe to you, hypocrites.') or as St Paul illustrates when he castigated the Corinthians for immorality. 

On many subjects (some of which I've touched on above) there is plenty of room for debate within the Church.

On pretty much all areas, there is room to look for the best way of presenting a truth to the modern world.

There are some areas where different theologians will debate just what we are and aren't required to believe.  Cath News, for example, highlighted some views on Nostra Aestate recently, that suggested that its teaching on the Jews was binding on all Catholics.  Other websites quickly highlighted a counter opinion (strangely not picked up by Cath News!) by a leading Cardinal on this same subject.
Perhaps when and if the SSPX ever do reconcile, the Pope will provide some official guidance on this particular debate, and resolve it once and for all.  But in the meantime, the question of just how binding Vatican II teachings are is open to debate amongst theologians at least. 

But in some areas the Catholic Church does actually have a set of formally defined teachings which all Catholics are required to believe.

Reject them and your are in error/hold erroneous views - you are what is known popularly as a heretic.  Continue to reject them after formal correction by the proper authorities and you are automatically excommunicated.

So what's wrong with calling it for what it is?

What can and can't be discussed

On a Catholic News board, I can see a good case for allowing genuine comments that seek to understand why the Church holds the position it does.  So many Catholics are poorly catechized, so many lack any knowledge of basic apologetics, there is a gap to be filled that Cath News could and should help in filling.

But I see no case at all for allowing comments that reject those teachings outright and incite others to do likewise.  It is called protestantism, and should be rejected.

But above all, I remain extremely puzzled as to why something calling itself 'cath news' persists in rejecting those who actually want to defend the faith against such attacks!

Similarly, while many topics in the pastoral sphere are surely open to debate (the merits or otherwise of covenants with the Anglicans springs to mind!).

But there are some pastoral decisions where we just have to accept the official ruling: Rome has spoken, the case has closed, as St Augustine so eloquently put it.

So no Brian, I'm not the Temple Police.

I just want Catholic voices to be heard, and the faith to be promoted through Cath News' ministry.

I want genuine debate and discussion, within the proper limits set by the (actual) Magisterium and not the arbitrary Magisterium of Cath News (or the acatholics).

Why is that too much to ask?


R J Stove said...

No doubt those geniuses would also have banned St John Chrysostom, who is, after all, said to have announced: "The floor of hell is paved with bishops' skulls".

Felix said...

And no doubt they would've suppressed the Book of Revelation, which criticises a woman for exercising leadership in her local church community (Rev 2:20).

Kate Edwards said...

I think I'm missing your point here Felix, have you commented on the wrong post?

But in any case, I'd note that Rev 20 is surely not a general injunction against women in leadership, but against a specific person, and from thee to all those who lead others astray promoting immorality and paganism.