18 August 2011

Sneer Factor: The Post-Dispatch and Bishop Finn

Sometimes choosing which to decry from among the anti-Catholic articles on the religion page of the Post-Dispatch's STLToday site can be difficult.  Today, the choice is obvious.

In an article of which the ostensible subject is Bishop Robert Finn's workshop on Catholic media at this year's Missouri Conference Annual Assembly, gossip columnist Deb Peterson takes the time to figuratively paint raised eyebrows on the reader, as she apparently tries to choke back the obvious disbelief that someone who is on the hit list of the Kansas City Star would DARE to lead a conference on Catholic media--even if such a person's credentials as a Catholic (um, a Bishop) and a media person (former long-time editor of our town's St. Louis Review) are well-established.

There is a sneer factor to this piece that is palpable.  I will run it below, and will try my own hand at editing as though it were written for a reputable newspaper:

St. Louis native, the embattled Kansas City bishop, to lead workshop on the media 

by Deb Peterson 

FINN INN: St. Louis native and embattled Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, whose resignation has been called for by the Kansas City Star, will lead a workshop in Jeff City on Oct. 1 on the subject of ... the media.

Finn, who has been bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese since 2005, is scheduled to lead a panel at the annual statewide Missouri Catholic Conference. 

The workshop's title: "Catholic Press: A Tool for the New Evangelization."

A website regarding the conference says Finn will talk about how Catholic news outlets compare "to the secular media in methodology and goals." Finn is a former editor of The St. Louis Review, the weekly newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

Finn's "presentation will suggest how we can be more savvy consumers of media and ways in which the Catholic press can better realize its power and potential in the church."

Finn has been embroiled in a scandal in Kansas City involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan who was arrested in May and who has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls. The most recent of the pictures allegedly were taken during an Easter egg hunt in April.

At least two times before that it was suggested that Ratigan had an inappropriate interest in young girls. Part of the complaint about Finn's dealing with the Ratigan allegations is that Finn promised in 2008 that he would immediately report anyone suspected of being a pedophile to law enforcement authorities.

That promise was included in a long list of preventive measures that he agreed to in the wake of his settling lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10 million.

Now, at this point, instead of just lining out the following paragraph as off-topic, or simply including it as on-topic (which it may be if the above text were not included, as it is another workshop at the same conference), I would send a note to the writer before publishing to the effect of "Hey, is there a reason you chose this workshop to highlight after gratuitously smearing the subject of this article about the actions of someone else who is a suspect of indecency charges in that Diocese?  What link are you making between these two workshops in light of your article?"  However, the edit would probably run like this:

Another workshop at the conference, “What you need to know about pornography,” will be headed by Robert Furey, a St. Louis therapist who helps sexually troubled clergy. Furey also directs a church-operated center for pedophile priests in rural Missouri that was criticized last year in a two-part KSDK (Channel 5) series.

I won't charge the Post for this free editing service.  Let's see if they can correct the article by the end of the day.


Wade St. Onge said...

People are still very upset about what Bishop Finn did (and didn't) do, and rightfully so. Yes, the media has an anti-Catholic bias, but I do not blame the media for continuing to draw attention to it. In fact, it was the anti-Catholic media that prompted the bishops to finally act on the molestation of children by clergy, which the Catholic press generally kept silent about, and which would not have changed if not for the anti-Catholics.

In the Old Testament, when there was corruption in the Religion of Israel, God would raise up the pagans to conquer the Jews. He does no different today.

X said...

You're losing it kid, get a grip.

Anonymous said...

Count me in as one of the many who were hugely disappointed in Bishop Finn's inactions here. I want to be proud of our Catholic church. Had Bishop Finn done what he said he would do in 2008, there would have been absolutely no further press about this story.

Sooo, I agree partly with the Post that the choice to use Bishop Finn to talk about the Press would have been fine had he reported Ratigan as he said he would. Instead, Bishop Finn found himself splattered all over the front pages of newspapers across the country. He knew better, and thus the irony of him talking about using the press to further the presence of the Catholic church - right after he grabbed unwanted headlines for screwing something up.

JBQ said...

I have positive vibes about Bishop Finn. When you go into the marketplace and "rocks are thrown", you have to be willing to take some hits. He "stuck a stick in a nest of rattlesnakes" and they snapped. These are atheists who resent any Christian beliefs. The Bolsheviks were of just such a feel before the revolution against the czars. Josef Stalin was even trained at an Orthodox Seminary until the age of 19.

Anonymous said...

Since when is referring to the MO state capital as "Jeff City" considered journalistic profesionalism? Only a column filled with such anger and contempt would make such a basic journalistic error. Count me in as one who was disappointed by the recent news in KC, but I still believe the tone of this article is uncalled for.

-- YoungCatholicSTL

Methodist Jim said...

YoungCatholicSTL, I'm just wondering if you've ever read a gossip column before. Objecting to the use of a colloquial nickname for Missouri's capitol city in a gossip column seems to miss the entire point.

On the other hand, The Timman's edits are well done. Peterson, like many in the media, seems to revel in the opportunity to smear someone. In this case, the target is Bishop Finn. And Peterson takes the cheap and easy way to sell (or at least try to sell) a newspaper or two - gin up churn a controversy, the more sex involved, the better, even though the subject she is writing about has nothing to do with the Ratigan controversy - talk about it again anyway.

Anonymous said...

JBQ - we could only dream that in this instance, 'rocks were thrown' at Bishop Finn because he was standing up to the materialism culture of America. Unfortunately, he isn't 'taking some hits' for that, but for failure to report a priest who was into abhorrent, deviant behavior totally inconsistent with his call to be a man, a Christian, a Catholic and a priest.

His error in this particular matter is NOT something any Catholic can defend - to call me an atheist, Bolshevik or Stalinist because I too think he made a grave error in the handling of this case is indefensible.

Let us all pray for Bishop Finn - and hope he returns to the front pages for actions we as Catholics can be proud of.

If you're into conspiracy theories, here's one for you. After 9/11, "W" Bush chose to invade Iraq using America's righteous anger, but based it on two out-and-out lies. 1) That Saddam had WMD, and 2) there was some sort of connection between secular Saddam and the right-wing religious fanatic Osama bin Laden. He knew that the only voice in America that might offer a unified protest against this would be the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II was vehemently opposed to this war. Isn't it interesting, then, that right in the height of what would have been the church's strong opposition to this unust war, the news suddenly broke about wide-spread abuse among clergy in the US, spread by the press that fed Bush's war propoganda while simultaneously blasting the pedaphilia crisis in the church.

thetimman said...

Methodist Jim, I agree with your comments. She is a gossip columnist, writing about a local happening. In the context of her article, the lined-out stuff is a smear, and gratuitous at that.

If the Post were writing a news article about the Kansas City situation, and included the lined out parts, I may or may not agree with some characterizations, but it would be topical and germane to the story.

Last anon, I don't know how much Bishop Finn knew about this case before it broke, so pointing to the principal's letter may--or may not-- settle the issue. I don't think we have enough info to say that he made an error that no Catholic may defend. He may have, and he may not. I don't know.

As to your conspiracy theory, it rings more true than many others I've heard. The current foreign policy of our country (for the last four presidents at least) is in my opinion seriously wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:45

Yeah, it's safe to say that its a conspiracy theory that the press was attempting in any way to (1) encourage war in Iraq, or (2) support Bush II's foreign policy. I don't know that I've heard a more ridiculous theory.

Anonymous said...

Methodist Jim - Ah, you are correct. That is my fault for assuming something in the Post/STL Today must be actual journalism. If I had taken time to actually click Timman's link, I would have been enlightened to the fact that the Post has sunk even further into the depths of yellow journalism than I ever realized. Thanks for correcting me.

- YoungCatholicSTL

Anonymous said...

The Post had two articles in this weekend's paper about a Catholic nun doing great work. So this morning I look up this website to see if indeed they picked up the story. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

The articles were about Sr. Helen Prejean who wrote Dead Man Walking. The 1st story talks about her and her ministry to people on death row. It was well-written, with such quotes as: "It was grace that woke me up," she said. Doing this work was the way she was called to follow "the Gospel of Jesus. It wasn't just sayin' my prayers and goin' to church. It had to do with justice."

The second was about the opera written to her book and the subsequent movie.

Hmmmmm, no mention here. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why, but here are some possible conclusions:

1. A great article about a Catholic nun living her faith just doesn't fit this blog site's bias against the Post, so, can't acknowledge that.

2. She has differing political beliefs than most the readers on this site because she wants to end America's culture of death starting with capital punishment. Is the only culture of death topic supposed to be abortion?

3. When Pope John Paul II was in St. Louis, he said the word "abortion" 3 times, but "capital punishment" 22 times. Wrong issue I guess.

4. She mentioned the word "Social justice." According to bloggers here, that should be equated with socialism and communism, so therefore it gets no mention.

5. But the real reason, if you've been paying attention to any of Timman's recents posts, has absolutely nothing to do with this sister's vocation, her calling, her spirituality, her lived faith, her love of both perpetrators AND victims, or anything of depth, substance or meaning. The heart of the matter probably is that she is a nun who isn't wearing a habit. And as we've been reading here, that's the core issue to being Catholic - your personal appearance of piety. All the rest is irrelevent.

Just sad

thetimman said...

Just sad,

Cheer up.

As this is a personal blog, I do admit I post about things that interest me more than about things that don't.

Sister Helen's stance on the death penalty is one I used to share, but do not anymore. Catholic teaching has always allowed the state to have recourse to the death penalty, and no Holy Father, John Paul II included, has repudiated this. The question is one of prudential judgement-- given modern circumstances, is it prudent or wise for a state to exact the death penalty? There can be differences of opinion among Catholics on this, as opposed to abortion, where there cannot. I think the death penalty in the US is often unfairly applied, maybe not as much as you do, but I do believe this nonetheless. So, the issue isn't as interesting to me as a blogger. I apologize. If it is to you, feel free to start the Catholics against the Death Penalty in Every Situation Possible blog.

As for Sister Helen's failure to wear the habit of a religious sister, that is of course deplorable and sad. Think of the witness she would give her cause if she did. But this has nothing to do with my failure to blog about the Post's coverage of it.

Be happy!

Anonymous said...

Anon at 16:39, you nailed it. Catholic nuns who are not right-wingers aren't good enough for The Tinman to mention. Evidently, he believes it's morally acceptable for the state to stop a beating heart. But hey, you know, he's pro-life and all that. Or at least he tells himself he is with a straight face.

thetimman said...

Yep, I love being told what I think.

thetimman said...

David Clohessy of SNAP sent in a comment on this post. I am not going to post some of it, as it is not germane to the subject of this post. Also, some of it involves speculations that I have no way of proving or disproving.

So, in a move that will surely satisfy nobody, I will try to relate the substance of it:

Mr. Clohessy took issue with one commenter referring to Bishop Finn's "error", and in rejoinder stated that the Bishop's actions or inactions were a conscious choice, and that the Bishop should be credited for being an intelligent man. He also referred to the Bishop's second-in-command and criticized the handling of the principal's letter which has been the subject of published articles. Mr. Clohessy challenged people to refer to the sins involved for what they are, and finally to pray not only for the Bishop but also for those who were harmed.

Anonymous said...

So, in good conscience, Timman, you could look a man in the face, tell him his life is not worth living, and shoot him straight in the head blowing his brains out? (That is indeed what you do if you support capital punishment or abortion - you just have someone else do it for you.)

Again, Pope John Paul II decried capital punishment while in St. Louis. Not a single word he said in those 22 direct comments indicated a single loop-hole where it might be allowed. Zip. Nada.

So it is interesting that the moral law is so black and white in the area of abortion for you, but gray in capital punishment. We have a term for that - MORAL RELATIVISM. It's the same reason most politicians, and the majority of Americans, would allow abortions in the case of incest or rape: Moral Relativism. Welcome to their club.

Sad, really.

thetimman said...

Really sad,

Ignoring your inflammatory preface, let me just cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church entry for capital punishment, published by the authority of John Paul II:

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'

Now, as you see the traditional teaching of the church is stated-- the state has recourse to this penalty. Added is the prudential reflection that the circumstances of when it would really be necessary may be exceptionally rare. Great. Talk about moral relativism-- is adhering to the teaching of the Catechism an example of moral relativism? For that is what I'm doing. For though I hinted in my last comment that I agree that the recourse to the penalty prudentially may indeed be rare, you have ignored that.

However, if you deny the right of the state to ever exact that penalty in any possible circumstance whatsoever, you are the one dissenting from Church teaching. Who is the moral relativist? You? Me? The Church? And who is agreeing with the Church here?

Anonymous said...

Oh please!

Tell me one single instance when in our culture you would pull the trigger to blow someone's brains out when in fact, we have maximum security prisons and extreme safeguards protecting society from individuals.

Again, Pope John Paul II, while in St. Louis, never once mentioned a single loop-hole when he denounced capital punishment 22 times. I guess that, according to you, it makes him a moral relativist. Please, do us all a favor and stand in St. Peter's square with a sign saying "Stop railing against Capital Punishment - it is our right to kill people." Or protest in front of his grave.

Please do us all a favor and be as specific as possible and list all the people you believe who are on death row that you yourself would kill to "defend the life of humans." Not some vague hypothetical instance, but the name of a real individual whose life and human dignity are so not worthy of life you would blow their brains out.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, of course. Clause 2267

once again, Timman, you have made it all so abudantly clear-cut. If THE CHURCH says it's okay to kill someone, then it's okay.

No moral/ethical relativity here...

...until YOU pull the trigger.

I LOVE this blogsite!


thetimman said...

cdg, you deliberately misrepresent what I have written about this. It may make you score a point with some reader, but it doesn't actually address my point.

And of course, we all know that every time the death penalty is enforced, the state lets the victim's relatives "pull the trigger". Oh wait, they don't.