Liberals discuss, conservatives rail

A few readers sent along a Detroit Free Press story by religion reporter Niraj Warikoo about the American Catholic Council, a group of reform-minded Catholics that held its first national conference in Detroit this week.

Here’s the lede:

The top Catholic leader in Michigan slammed a big liberal Mass today in Detroit, saying it had significant abuses and he ordered a review of a Ferndale priest who led the services before 1,500 Catholics, a church spokesman said.

The phrasing seems a bit awkward to me. Is the Mass itself liberal? How so? Or was the group comprised of liberals? Or both? We get a hint here:

“There were several, serious liturgical abuses at that service,” said Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese. “It’s disheartening that a Detroit priest would preside over a service with so many…serious liturgical abuses. There will be — has to be — a careful and thorough review.”

Sounds dramatic, eh? What were these abuses? Well, you won’t find out by reading the article! Also, check out this exchange:

[Rev. Bob] Wurn [sic] told the Free Press afterwards he was aware that Archbishiop Allen Vigneron had explicilty warned all priests and deacons to not participate. But Wurm said he’s not worried being punished.

“I don’t see that happening,” Wurm said. “I’m older than he (Vigneron) is.”

I have no idea what that means. I mean, I’m not Catholic but I’m pretty sure that “respect for the aged” is not a good defense for liturgical abuses and what not. The article presents this dispute as a debate among equals as opposed to a situation with a pretty clear line of authority.

Anyway, the best part of the whole story are the competing summary paragraphs of two groups that met in Michigan. Here’s the summary for the reformist group:

The Mass was part of a weekend conference that’s drawn some 2,000 liberal Catholics from around the world who are upset at the rightward turn of the Catholic Church. They want lay people to have more say in church decision making. Many also want discussion about women, gay, and married priests, and greater accountability on the issue of child abuse by priests. The conference came on the 35th anniversary of a conference in Detroit led by the late Cardinal John Dearden, former Archbishop of Detroit, a leader seen as progressive by liberal Catholics. To them, he represented the spirit of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which they say recent leadership has abandoned.

What rightward turn? I don’t know. It’s just an assertion. But note that the conference participants “discuss” good things and represent nebulous other good things.

Now, check out the summary for the other group:

A conservative conference endorsed by the Archdiocese, Call To Holiness, was held over the weekend in Livonia and put more of an emphasis on social issues. They said their conference was legitimate, unlike the liberal one, because it was endorsed by the Archbishop and was loyal to Rome.

Speakers at the conservative conference railed against abortion, contraception, yoga and the gay rights movement.

Ha! You can’t make this stuff up. Liberals “discuss” and conservatives “rail,” don’t you know?

Be sure to check out the slide show complete with Womenpriest pictures.

Image via Te Deum laudamus.

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  • Bill

    Speakers at the conservative conference railed against abortion, contraception, yoga and the gay rights movement.

    And don’t forget organic vegetables, nonfat dairy products and new age music.

    It seems that many don’t seem to grasp the issue of church discipline. (Within any church or denomination.) The Catholic Church seems hopelessly behind the times to them, and the coverage shows that. I heard an interview on BBC a few months ago where the presenter argued with a Catholic clergyman that the RC Church would have a lot more respect from people around the world if it got with the program and moved into the 21st century. It seemed inconceivable to him that being up with the times and gaining the admiration of men are irrelevant.

  • Daisy

    The ACC is basically apostate (heretical Christian) — http://catholicknight.blogspot.com/2011/06/acc-calls-for-reforms-already-realized.html

    What’s more annoying than a secular liberal/libertarian is a liberal/libertarian, Cafeteria “Catholic” or “Christian” (aka CINO).

    The press and the media either continually misinterprets religious ideals (e.g. praising liberals again and again) OR since it is so far-left it believes liberal “conservatives” (libertarians, neoconservatives and capitalists) like Beck, Palin, Hannity, Limbaugh and others as “far-right” when most religious conservatives ignore them, criticize them or avoid them.

    Another reason for the avoidance of many media outlets.

  • Daisy

    “I heard an interview on BBC a few months ago where the presenter argued with a Catholic clergyman that the RC Church would have a lot more respect from people around the world if it got with the program and moved into the 21st century.”

    Agreed Bill. If anything liberalism tends to kill religion — http://catholicknight.blogspot.com/2011/06/anglicanism-implodes-while-anglican.html

    And no I’m not a fan of FOX News, Beck/Palin/Limbaugh/Hannity or anything near them either.

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    “I don’t see that happening,” Wurm said. “I’m older than he (Vigneron) is.”

    A joke, nu?

  • Bill

    My point was not that the Catholic Church is right or wrong, or whether it needs reform. Nor is it about the ordination of women or gay clergy. It seems to me that the reporter does not understand the issues. As with the Womenpriest stories, there is a tendency to cheer for the new and scoff at the old. And there is an assumption that a “progressive” faction has the same standing to set policy as the established hierarchy. The RC Church is not a democratic institution. The laity can and does speak up and apply pressure for change, but it cannot implement those changes on its own. To many reporters, this seems unjust and unfathomable. And it shows in the coverage.

    I’m not trying to skewer reporters who cannot be experts on all the things they cover, and I know about deadlines. But, to answer your question, I did not think the reporter gave me much to think about.

  • Jerry

    What were these abuses? Well, you won’t find out by reading the article!

    A grade of F in jounalism 101 for that omission. If this goes on, soon we will read “Today, the Senate passed a law by 63 to 35 with some people unhappy and some cheering”. Or perhaps, “something happened today that some were upset with and others liked”.

    About rail versus discuss: That could be accurate or it could be bias. Obviously you think it was bias but if the one side talked calmly and reasonably and the other “complained or protested strongly and persistently” that characterization could be accurate. I’m not saying you’re wrong but that I don’t know enough about what happened to make that judgment. But I suspect you are right.

  • Dan Crawford

    The article implies not so subtly that the late Cardinal Dearden bought into the contraception, abortion, gay rights, “womenpriests” agenda. Afraid not. BTW, there are people who call themselves “liberal Catholics” who regard the agenda of ACC with great disdain. I know “liberal Catholics” who would appreciate greater accountability from their clerical leaders while at the same remaining faithful to the orthodox doctrine and moral authority of the church (they even attend Mass on Sunday in their parish church). The word “liberal” with reference to any religious group should be dropped entirely. It means little and says nothing significant about the real issues distinguishing the group.

  • Dave G.

    Liberals “discuss” and conservatives “rail,” don’t you know?

    All things equal, one of the fastest ways to see where a reporter or journalist stands on an issue. I remember a few years ago, the Today show had a segment on the rise of Turkey in the modern world. I noticed as it did its brief 60 second history of the region, that the Ottomans tended to ‘take over’, ‘assume control’, and ‘change’ things like the culture, the name, or whatever. I noticed that the crusaders or the Europeans in general tended to ‘invade’, ‘attack’, ‘destroy’, and ‘conquer’ whatever they ran into. Since it was all in the little history blitz part of the story, the choices of words was quite telling, and obvious. Ever since then, I’ve paid closer attention to the word choice of a story. It really can be the fastest way to get to the bottom of a reporters POV.

  • EssEm

    I wrote to the reporter when the story was published and simply pointed out the difference between “discuss” and “rail” for the two different groups, liberal and conservative. The next online version changed “rail” to “spoke against”.

  • Doug Sirman

    It says “railed” again now. It’s also noteworthy that the author has difficulty with articles (such as when a “the” is required), as well as verbs. Also, if you’re going to use personal pronouns in an article such as “they” in “they said” you might want to actually be able to discern to whom “they” is referring.

    I don’t know where the author is from or if English is their first language. Perhaps they are so poorly educated in the language that he thinks “discussed” and “railed” mean essentially the same thing. Or maybe he was just unfortunate enough to graduate from a Detroit high school. In any event, the author is obviously not terribly good at using English in its written form.

    BTW, the FREEP welcomes comments or you can contact the author: Niraj Warikoo, nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792.

  • Norman

    “I don’t know where the author is from or if English is their first language…maybe he was just unfortunate enough to graduate from a Detroit high school.”

    Tsk, tsk, as evident as the bias is in the story, I have to defend the Freep. They are a major American daily and I can assure you that they only hire qualified people who are well-versed in the English language, graduates of places like U-M, MSU and even the Ivy Leagues. Any bias in this story is down to the journalist’s deliberate choice and not ignorance. The Free Press does not hire cretins.

    I should add, too, that there is much more to Metro Detroit than the city of Detroit. People not from here seem to think the entire area is a giant smoking ruin, but 3/4 of the population lives in quite peaceful suburban communities.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Also, the reporter has done good work in the past — you can see our reviews of some of his previous stories here.

  • Martha

    Jerry, “railing” is – it seems to me – a pejorative. How do we know the speakers “express(ed) objections or criticisms in bitter, harsh, or abusive language” (online dictionary definition) when we get only one line of description:

    “Speakers at the conservative conference railed against abortion, contraception, yoga and the gay rights movement.”

    Granted, the reporter might have gone into greater detail but this was chopped for reasons of space, but the liberal conference gets an entire story to show how wonderful they were, whereas a rival conference gets one line about how bitter and abusive they were (and no explanations as to why yoga gets lumped in with abortion to be execrated, which comes off making them sound like cranks and oddballs ranting about Reds Under The Bed).

    We’re told there were 2,000 from around the world at the American Catholic Council conference. How many were at the Call to Holiness conference? No idea. 60? 6,000? A comparison of numbers attending would be very informative, but we don’t get that.

  • Julia

    FYI

    Here’s the link to the issues discussed in break-out sessions.

    http://americancatholiccouncil.org/update-detroit-breakout-sessions/

    BTW The priest in the photo is the Catholic blogger Fr Z and not the priest who says he’s older than the bishop.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    The 1976 meeting in Detroit, by the way, was A Call to Action; one suspects the conservative meeting was not named “A Call to Holiness” by accident.

    I know one liturgical abuse: the laity wearing clerical stoles. That picture in the online Free Press article is telling.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    All right, it is (claimed to be) a direct quote. But “I’m older than he is” strikes me as the non sequitur of the year.