For Sun editors, this one had to hurt (updated)

There are days when the age of specialty websites and reporters are especially cruel to the old guard in the mainstream press.

This is one of those days for the leaders of The Baltimore Sun.

If you read the newspaper that lands in my front yard, this morning’s tree-pulp edition contained zero about the biggest story in town. It’s clear that the Sun has its sources in some offices in the Archdiocese of Baltimore (click here to see what I mean), but not others.

However, if you are a news fanatic who reads Whispers in the Loggia, then you heard the big news, in depth, early Monday night from the omnipresent Rocco Palmo. Yes, I know. He didn’t name his sources. However, ask The Los Angeles Times if his track record is good.

More on Palmo’s scoop in a moment.

If you read the Sun, then the following information just went up online this morning. It’s easy to note that it appears there are key elements in the life and recent career of the city’s new archbishop with which the editors are not familiar.

Yes, this is the whole report:

Bishop William E. Lori, previously of the diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., was named as Cardinal Edwin O’Brien’s replacement as head of the Archdiocese of Baltimore by Pope Benedict XVI, the archdiocese announced Tuesday.

Lori, 60, becomes the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore. He replaces O’Brien, who served as archbishop from October 2007 to August 2011 before leaving the post to become the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

Archbishop-designate Lori will be introduced at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. today at the Baltimore Basilica. Lori was ordained a priest in 1977 and a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1995, according to the archdiocese. He has served as Bishop of Bridgeport since 2001.

I am sure that there is more information to come, once the Sun folks look it up online. Meanwhile, if you read Palmo, you already know this:

From its founding in the lone American colony founded by Catholics, the Premier See of Baltimore and its illustrious occupants have stood as a preeminent icon of religious freedom in these States. And now, the golden thread of that 223-year line is set to continue with particular vigor in the choice of its 16th Archbishop.

As soon as tomorrow, sources tell Whispers that Pope Benedict will name Bishop William Lori, 60 — leader of Connecticut’s Bridgeport diocese since 2001 — as the next head of the nation’s oldest local church, first shepherded for 18 years by John Carroll, a cousin of the lone Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and founder of the nation’s first Catholic university at Georgetown shortly after his appointment in 1789.

And the solid hard-news hook for the key words in that lede (I refer, of course, to “religious freedom”)?

The chief protege of the capital’s late Cardinal James Hickey (who ordained him a bishop at 43), Lori has come into an even brighter spotlight over recent months as the appointed head of the bishops’ newly-created ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, and thus the quarterback of the church’s recent surge against the contraceptive mandate of the Federal health-care reform law.

While the skirmishes have included Lori’s penning a widely-circulated swipe at America magazine following an editorial in the Jesuit journal lamenting the bishops’ strategy on the issue, in his most recent comments on the hierarchy’s tense face-off with the White House, Lori said he found a meeting last week with Obama administration officials “distressing” given a stance that, he said, made the policy appear “non-negotiable” and “here to stay.” The tenor of the sit-down “does not bode well for future discussions,” the bishop told Catholic News Service.

And you need more of a local news hook? Perhaps even a news hook related to the postmodern Catholic who is the apple of the Sun‘s editorial eye?

In Baltimore’s case, however, the liberty concerns aren’t limited to Washington. A concerted religious freedom push by the Maryland church failed on the floor of its state legislature last month, as the cradle of American Catholicism became the seventh US jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage. With its enactment, the bill’s lead champion, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, became the nation’s fifth Catholic chief executive to sign full recognition of gay unions into law. (For purposes of context, Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage into law in 2008.)

As a binding referendum on the issue is expected to be held in November — prior to the move’s entering into force next year — any new archbishop will arrive to find his tenure’s first major battle already lined up.

So it should be a rather dark day in the Sun editorial offices. But cheer up, folks! Maybe there will be another WomenPriests exclusive to cover between now and Easter. The Sun team will hear about that — perhaps they will even help do the planning for the rites — way in advance.

UPDATE: We now have a full Sun report on the appointment and, I swear, the lede might cause the Divine Mrs. MZ’s head to explode. Are you ready?

A Catholic bishop who has been at the forefront of fighting the Obama administration’s contraception policy will lead the Archdiocese of Baltimore and replace Cardinal Edwin O’Brien.

Bishop William E. Lori of the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese, becomes the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore, a historically important seat given that the Roman Catholic Church established its U.S. base in the city.

But, but, but … What about the national leadership post he holds in the Catholic hierarchy? That shows up later and, sure enough, the same talking point defines that biographical detail, as well.

Lori heads the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ recently created ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, making him the church’s leader in the fight against the birth control mandate.

Go ahead, read it all.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Samuel J. Howard

    There are some more local angles in the fact that Bishop Lori is Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, which has strong ties to Baltimore. Statement from the Supreme Knight.

  • Julia

    Bravo, Rocco.
    I read his stuff last night.
    Somebody needs to start an endowment fund for him.
    Or a newspaper give him a spot like the NCR gives John Allen.
    He doesn’t accept advertising & keeps going on donations.

    It’s no wonder that the Vatican had him chair a meeting of Catholic bloggers in Rome not that long ago. He is truly connected.

  • A.S.

    As a resident of the fine state of Maryland, I will tell you that the Baltimore Sun is to news what the Amish are to space travel.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Oh, A.S.! That’s absolutely hilarious! ROTFLOL!

    But, tmatt, the meme must go on! Religious liberty? What’s that? We must have the absolute and unfettered right to contraceptives! “It’s medicine,” saith Barbara Boxer, “and women deserve their medicine.”

    And may the Divine Mrs MZ’s head stay intact knowing that this kind of coverage is, in all likelihood, unlikely to ever change.

  • Maureen

    Heh… EWTN just had him on the other night being interviewed, where he claimed he was just a simple country bishop from Connecticut. He shared a laugh with the host about that (it did sound kinda like Bones McCoy on Star Trek claiming to be a country doctor), but now I wonder if the host hadn’t heard the same rumor….

  • Chris

    Those who read Mr. Palmo regularly should consider donating regularly. Almost like a “subscription”. His blog is an incredible resource–the Reuters of Catholicism.

  • Mollie

    It’s one thing to generally frame the story in terms of how one side of the debate — those imposing the mandate, naturally — would like to see it framed.

    But to keep that framing even in a story with a prominent leader on the other side of the debate?

    It’s almost like it’s deliberate misrepresentation of the issue or something. Or partisanship.

    Either way, it doesn’t really seem like great journalism.

  • Julia

    Baltimore, a historically important seat given that the Roman Catholic Church established its U.S. base in the city.

    The colony of Maryland was founded as a refuge for English recusant Catholics, who were not welcome anywhere else in the Colonies. Baltimore was named for the English Lord who made it possible. It was the first diocese established in the U.S. – as opposed to mission territory. That’s the significance of the archdiocese.

    The Catholic Church doesn’t have a base in the U.S.; Baltimore would be better described as the U.S. Mother Church. The Archbishop of Baltimore is not the head of the Church in this country – there is an elected President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is currently Dolan of NYC; however, each diocese reports individually to Rome in most regards.

    It’s not like the Catholic Church back then would have had a big choice about which colony in which to establish its base, if it had one, anyway. Don’t reporters know any history? About their own state?

  • John Pack Lambert

    The Bishops are not trying to overturn the HHS mandate. Some bishops have publicly stated the mandate is general is constitutional. They are trying to fight its application to religiously controlled institutions.

    I am not even sure that they have tried to make the exemption as broad as that given to the Amish, so that any business owned by a Catholic can chose to opt out of purchasing contraceptive coverage on 1st admendment grounds. I feel that that would be the minimum to comply with the 1st admendment and RFRA, and it appears that law suits will eventually force courts to decide if that interpretation is valid, but for now the Bishops seem content to focus on Catholic controlled universities, colleges, hospitals and social service agencies.

  • Joan Peterson

    Let’s correct a mistake consistently made in Catholic blogs and newspapers. Get this straight. A man is ordained ONCE in his life and once only. He is ordained a priest. He receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders ONCE in his life. He is NEVER “ordained” a bishop. When he is elevated to bishop the proper term is CONSECRATED, not ordained. He is “consecrated bishop.” Clear?

  • Samuel J. Howard

    Let’s correct a mistake consistently made in Catholic blogs and newspapers. Get this straight. A man is ordained ONCE in his life and once only. He is ordained a priest. He receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders ONCE in his life. He is NEVER “ordained” a bishop. When he is elevated to bishop the proper term is CONSECRATED, not ordained. He is “consecrated bishop.” Clear?

    Nope. Not clear at all. He was also ordained a deacon afterall, before he was ordained a priest. The theology and hence the terminology is still unsettled.

  • Leo White

    Hello Joan Peterson,
    What about deacons?