I Have a Dopey Question for Time Magazine

Dopey because I probably should be immune to media bias by now. I probably should be more at peace with the realities of the world such that I no longer would yell at my computer screen as I read the Time “Most Influential” list. I’ve already commented over on my home base (National Review Online) about Cecile Richards’s entry, an ode to Planned Parenthood and all it represents culturally and politically. But now I have to say a few words about the entry on Cardinal Dolan.

Firstly, I should be grateful: Thank you, Time, for including him at all.

But now to my question: Why did Jon Meacham, who seems a very pleasant man and writer, write the entry on Cardinal Dolan?

If Sandra Fluke gets to write the entry on Richards, shouldn’t like a George Weigel or, I don’t know, a young-ish but not so young woman who attended a D.C. Catholic school with a known opinion on abortion and a deep affinity and committment to the Catholic Church (to stay on the Fluke model) or someone write the entry on Dolan? Someone who not only likes  him but is inspired by him (to use the Fluke model again)? Who gets what motivates the guy? Who is on the same team? And when I say the same team, I do not mean anything political. I mean this: Jon Meacham, the author of the Dolan entry, writes that Cardinal Dolan is

a warm prelate who leads his flock more by charm than fiat.

Now, I, of course, know what Meacham intends here. Cardinal Dolan doesn’t come across as an iron hand, insisting you do what he says you do. (But then I don’t know many priests or bishops who do.) He welcomes you, he invites you, he meets you where you are. He is eminently pastoral.

And he also challenges you. He doesn’t just manage to get authentic Catholic teaching some air time. He leads in the most personal and political — he surely has had to do that of late, in defense of religious liberty itself — and cultural ways. With the emphasis on the first part, the pastoral part. Because the latter are only ever as good and healthy as the former, the fundamental.

But here’s my problem with the word fiat as it was used in the Time piece: The man is all about fiat. It’s at the heart of what we believe. That cross is about surrender. Christ’s self-sacrificial love which we believe we are called to enter into. It’s about Yes — the fiat of a young virgin in Nazareth. Of a humble carpentar, who offers a model of living as a man of wisdom and virtue. Of the Son of God, who showed us the Way to live, the purpose of our lives, offering us everything. Of each and every one of us, every moment of the day, we pray.

The Time entry is written like the author never prayed with Timothy Michael Dolan at the consecration, never saw the intensity of this priest’s prayer on the altar. And given the Fluke-Richards model, that just does not seem right.

Cardinal Dolan is not just some nice camera-ready prelate with a proposal. He’s a radical revolutionary. The truly Christian always are.

Planned Parenthood was given a commercial in Time magazine. Catholics were given a wake-up call.

Fiat has to be the storyline we tell with our lives.


(Photos from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.)

This, by the way, is the photo I would have used of Cardinal Dolan, had I had a hand in the Time feature:

It is from his pilgrimage with priests from the Archdiocese of New York earlier this year, on the steps of Calvary.

  • http://humanlife.net/ Dan Kennedy

    It may be a dopey question, but it still has to be asked. I’m beginning to think that some of what we consider media bias, may be blind ignorance. Either way, it doesn’t speak well for much of what passes as journalism these days.

    • Jim Grodnik

      What’s the question?

  • Sandy Daze

    eh, Time Magazine ?? Irrelevant. Soon to go the way of Newsweek.

    Take good care.


  • John Watts

    Thank you so very much for manifesting courage and being steadfast in your profession of faith; I will circulate copies of your writing to others of the faith.

  • mary

    Thanks Kathryn.. it is obvious the author had no idea of what Fiat really means. Truth is most believers realize mainstream media and that includes Time, etc — are biased in their interview approach and in what they produce. Most of us now know where to go to find ‘the truth’ and it aint mainstream media who are being ‘led from behind’- same goes for TV news — ‘prepared news to give someone’s point of view’ certainly not to give the truth of the situation.. Their coffers will dry up as they are – people smartly are putting their money and time elsewhere..
    Deceit and biase in reporting get you nowhere — Keep up your great reporting!.

  • http://cleansingfiredor.com/ Thinkling

    I found the last line of Dolan’s entry curiously ambiguous.

  • Chuck Murphy

    Please, everything is interpreted as a snub. +Dolan can write his own article, then.
    Why does everyone have to imagine the cardinal is somehow suffering under all this exaltation?
    (Shouldn’t he be reading the passion narratives from the gospels or the penitential psalms or the songs of the suffering servant from Isaiah, instead of the rosary? Why do Catholics so easily dispense with scripture?)

  • Peter

    The MSM fears Cardinal Dolan.

    • Terry

      And they fear Archbishop Chaput, Cardinal George, George Weigel, Pope Benedict XVI, the works of PJPII.

      With good reason.

  • Mary-Jo Marino

    After reading the profile I wondered if Meacham even knew Cardinal Dolan, his comments seem pasted together from other news sources. Time found people to write profiles of the others that had a relationship either business or personal, intimate musings. Meacham sounded like a bewildered academic.

  • Timid Atheist (@TimidAtheist)

    “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”


    • Charles

      To the Timid Atheist with respect:
      First, the article you link is at the very least vulgar and flippant and it apparently confuses the use of fiat within church theology: ( any command, decision, or act of will that brings something about[from Latin, literally: let it be done, from fierī to become] and the common use of the word as a command imposed on someone rather than a statement reflecting one’s will . Mary surrendered to God’s will as quoted in this scriptural passage: “I , the servant of the Lord; let it be done with me according to your word.”—Luke 1:38 . The phrase, Dolan’s Fiat, in Lopez’s article is used in this regard, as an act of the will. It reflects the catholic theological understanding within the context of Mary’s Fiat. Therefore , it means a surrender of the will to God, a “YES” to God freely given. So again, when Ms. Lopez says Cardinal Dolan is all about Fiat, she means he is all about surrendering his will to God ! He says YES to God. This is opposed to Meacham’s attempt at a compliment to say Dolan is more personable and less authoritative and imposing. But in fact it is a stereotypical slight that feeds into the portrayal of Cardinals,Bishops and Priests being mini-tyrants who rule with abject power over their subordinate laity which in truth is a deeply anti- clerical and anti-catholic prejudice, which as a deeply historical context in our country.

  • Cheryl

    Ditto Peter!

  • David Shannon

    You know the common meaning of the word “fiat” and you know that Meacham used the word with it’s common meaning. (“Now, I, of course, know what Meacham intends here.”) Yet you seize upon the word and — disingenuously at best — use it to make a specious claim that Meacham’s article victimized the Catholic faith.

    I guess that’s what makes it a dopey question…

    • David Shannon

      “its common meaning” – Sorry, speech recognition system is good but not yet perfect…

    • Paul Taylor

      I didn’t see any references to “victimization” in the post. KJL was simply pointing out the undeniable fact that, unlike other profiles, the Cardinal’s was written by someone who obviously didn’t know him or understand where he is coming from. Further, notwithstanding its “common” meaning, the word fiat is actually a loaded word in this context. By saying that the Cardinal doesn’t lead by fiat, Meacham was clearly reminding his readers that the Church is, to him and many others, a dictatorial institution, however he also demonstrates his lack of understanding of Catholicism in that the word fiat is central to Catholic belief and that Mary’s fiat is central to the Catholic meditation of the mystery of our Lord’s divinity.

      • David Shannon

        “Planned Parenthood was given a commercial in Time magazine. Catholics were given a wake-up call.”

        Read it however you like…

  • http://empirethebook.com Russell

    I have a dollar. Is Time magazine for sale yet?

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  • John D. Michels

    I learned more than 20 years ago that Time was, at best, superficial. Beats me how it could have deteriorated, but it has.

  • JimV

    I guess I am just trying to figure out why anyone would read Time Magazine.

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