War of the Rose, Part Deux

Rod Dreher replies to Tom Hoopes:

Hoopes:First of all, on Rose: re-read the section on Father Taillon. The relevant section of Michael Rose’s book first tells about priests who do adoration for vocations and their successes. Rose should mention Father Taillon as one (his weekly adoration for vocations is increasing seminarian numbers at Providence), but he doesn’t. Instead he turns to contrast the good guys with the bad dioceses that fail to get vocations because they use slick marketing tactics and reject orthodoxy. He includes Father Taillon in this latter category, then adds “Catholics wonder if the [Providence] diocese is trying to attract ‘unchurched’ men that they can mold easily into their ‘reenvisioned’ image of the priest.” Then he quotes an anonymous source who characterizes the Providence seminary as a place hostile to orthodox seminarians (the opposite is true). This silly claim that the Register is jumping all over Rose for a paragraph about MTV ignores the argument that Rose actually makes in the book.

Dreher: Boy, that’s weak. Fr. Taillon and his MTV ad campaign are mentioned as but one example of what Rose calls “gimmicks” meant to attract young men to the seminary. The commentary about the campaign takes up all of four paragraphs in the book. Taillon’s name occurs exactly twice in those paragraphs, both introducing quotes he gave to the Providence Visitor explaining why he thought it was a good idea to advertise on MTV. Rose is not writing an evaluation of the overall efforts of Fr. Taillon, only bringing up the MTV campaign as an example of a gimmick. Which it most certainly is. If I were to write a critique of the State Department’s Visa Express program as being ineffective in the war on terror, would I be obligated to list things the State Department does that are effective? Of course not – unless the point of my story was to evaluate the overall role of the agency in the war on terror. Anyway, if Fr. Taillon spent hours daily in front of the Blessed Sacrament praying for vocations, he’d be eminently praiseworthy, at the very least – and his MTV campaign would still be an embarrassing gimmick.

As to criticizing Rose for using an anonymous source, he has been very clear why he had to do that in many cases: retaliation against these young men by their ecclesiastical superiors. Besides, the Register quotes sources anonymously in sensitive cases. It’s opportunistic, and indeed hypocritical, to blast Rose for doing something you rightly allow in your own newspaper.

You still have not explained, Tom, why you let David Pearson get away with writing as if Michael Rose were responsible for somebody else’s anti-Taillon letter to the editor of New Oxford Review. Probably because it’s journalistically indefensible.

Hoopes: Second, I had to laugh at the “mustn’t upset the bishops” line. In The Corner Dreher recently criticized the Register for being TOO critical of Frank Keating and the bishops’ policy. Mustn’t upset the bishops?

Dreher: You’re right, I don’t know why you’ve come down so hard and unfairly on Michael Rose. Nor do I know why the Register was so late to the scandal. I withdraw my speculation. You’re claiming that the Register was turned against “Goodbye, Good Men” by reports that good priests were maligned by the book without giving them a chance to defend themselves. I wonder, though, if Fr. Taillon’s situation is your idea of a good example of this. If Pearson’s article is the best you guys can do, I remain profoundly unpersuaded.

Hoopes: Rod, I know you’re in a tough position, with your name on the front of the book and all, but we should all be trying to help the Church here – together.

Dreher: I’m not in a tough position at all. I had no idea when I endorsed the book that they were going to put my name on the cover, and I don’t feel that my confidence in the book was misplaced. I’m responding because I’m alarmed to see elements of the orthodox Catholic press nitpicking a tremendously important book to death – and doing so most unjustly.

Just a note to all combatants. I’m going to be gone for the weekend soon. Feel free to send me more stuff, but it may not get posted till Monday.