13 December 2010

RFT Responds to My Unsolicited Advice

The Daily RFT blog has responded to my post of last week, where I took issue with the headline and tone of its article on the Judge Mooney recusal issue. The underlying story is that Judge Mooney, who had previously cited the Church's "chronic abuse of gays and lesbians" in correspondence to then-Archbishop Burke, was asked by Archdiocesan attorneys to recuse himself from considering an appeal of some issues in the St. Stan's lawsuit. He did so.

The RFT's story painted this as hypocrisy by the Church, because it didn't see fit to ask Judge Mooney to recuse himself in two other cases. The headline with which I took issue gave the impression that the Archdiocese was "demanding" Mooney's recusal because he was gay.

My rejoinder was essentially that his comments, and not his self-identified orientation, was the reason for the request. And then I suggested a more accurate headline.

Today's RFT blog takes on my post:

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Catholic Blogger Tutors RFT on Headline Writing, Moral Law

by Chad Garrison
December 13, 2010

The blog St. Louis Catholic has responded to a story Daily RFT posted last week concerning the archdiocese's lawsuit against St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish.

As we revealed, attorneys for the St. Louis archdiocese sought and received the recusal of a gay judge who was to hear an appeal involving its lawsuit against St. Stan's. To us, such a move was newsworthy, considering A) It's never been reported, and B) Missouri law prohibits bias in regards to sexual orientation in the courtroom.

Here, though, is how St. Louis Catholic, saw it:

The Riverfront Times (on its blog) has now put its nose into matters touching the natural moral law. Historically, its experience in this area consisted largely of running ads for strip clubs and publishing dicey "massage" ads in its classified section. Now, it has decided to branch out and preach to the Catholic Church.

About what? The truth that homosexual acts are gravely contrary to the moral law. Why? To try to bolster Mr. Bozek's legal case.

The blogger also takes issue with the headline of our story: Attorneys for Archdiocese Demanded Recusal of Gay Judge, Records Show.

Because the archdiocese requested its recusal of Judge Lawrence Mooney based on a letter he sent Archbishop Raymond Burke in which he wrote that he would be unable to attend a special mass because of the church's "chronic abuse of gays and lesbians," the blogger argued that our headline should have read:

Judge Who Had Written to the Archbishop that the Teaching of the Catholic Church on Homosexuality Constituted "Chronic Abuse of Gays and Lesbians" Recused Himself from Appeal Involving the Archdiocese, Records Show

Rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?.

Here, though, is what is most galling about the St. Louis Catholic's account of the RFT article. It omits the fact that, between the time that Mooney sent his letter to Burke and the time he was appointed to hear the St. Stan's appeal, Mooney sat in on two other appeals involving the archdiocese. In those cases, the archdiocese never asked for him to recuse himself. And, in fact, Mooney and his colleagues ruled in favor of the archdiocese in those appeals.

Update: Daily RFT has just learned that both those cases John Doe v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis and Matt Doe v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis both alleged sexual abuse by priests. In the appeal of those cases, Mooney and his panel agreed with the archdiocese that the statute of limitations had passed on the sex claims.

So, yes, it is curious that the archdiocese and its attorneys would wait until the St. Stan's appeal to unearth the private correspondence between Mooney and Burke and use it as reason to ask for his recusal. Even weirder, is that despite Mooney's sexual orientation, they believe he's more competent to hear a case about sexual abuse than the one involving St. Stanislaus which, at its core, is a debate over money.
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OK, first and foremost, I love the criticism of the headline. Anyone who reads this blog for a nanosecond will certainly agree that little I write "rolls off the tongue". Kudos for that. But I really wasn't trying to engage in a journalistic headline contest but to point out the error in, and misleading nature of, the RFT headline.

But as for the more substantive criticism of my post, I stand by what I wrote. The original RFT story, not repudiated by this latest post, leaves the reader with the impression that Mooney was asked to recuse himself because he is a self-identified homosexual. RFT maintains that despite the previous comments indicating the Judge's anti-Catholic position with regard to teaching on human sexuality, it was not relevant to the current case anymore than the two intervening cases.

First of all, I linked to the RFT story in my original post, and it cited the two other cases involing this judge, decided after the correspondence with the Archbishop. So, I didn't hide the fact, I just judged it as irrelevant as I do now. The other two cases involved statutes of limitation issues, which are more questions of law than fact. Bias, real or perceived, is far less a factor in an interpretation of a statute. Furthermore, the issue of the Church's teaching on human sexuality was not at issue in the other cases, which dealt with deviant behavior condemned by the Church. Whatever the faults of the Church's handling of those cases, it cannot be argued that such behavior constitutes the Church's teaching. These cases serve to show, if anything, that the Archdiocese was not motivated by the proclivities of the Judge, but rather moved to recuse only when it was relevant to the case.

And how are the Judge's comments relevant in the St. Stan's case? Well, in a significant way, for the following reasons:

1. An issue in this case is whether the parish is Catholic or not, which is in question due to the rejection of many Church teaching by the leadership there, including the teachings about human sexuality.

2. "Gay marriage", the condemnation of which is presumably part of what Mooney called "chronic abuse of gays and lesbians", is specifically supported by Mr. Bozek and his crew.

3. This case turns on factual determinations to a large degree, and on credibility issues as well.

In such a circumstance, the request for recusal seems obvious and natural. Judge Mooney's acquiescence to the request speaks well for him. The RFT tries to make something out of this that it isn't. Hence my criticisms.

But thanks for the shout-out.

5 comments:

Show Me No Hate said...

Thanks for the Scrooge-like entertainment again Timman.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

thetimman said...

   Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they
should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

HSMom said...

:)

God bless us, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Timman is to Dickens as Show Me No is to the Stooges.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, to have the quick wit of the Timman. Thank you for the great quote and a smile to start the day. I will try to be a bit more scrooge-like today.