I don’t believe the NY Times

I’m thinking this too absolutely perfect narrative, tailor-made to reinforce the sensibilities of NY Times readers, sounds more like Mike Daisey.

Sorry, but I think this is a cock and bull story and I don’t believe a word of it. It’s too perfect, too caricatured, too fakily supportive of the whole NT Times wish-fulfillment fantasy. I sincerely hope somebody seriously tries to vet this. And I’ll lay odds that nobody properly vetted it before it ran. Why should they? Sacred religious dogmas require no evidence. And this is, above all, a statement of the faith of the NY Times editorial board and staff, written to bolster the faith of the flock.

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  • Loretta

    I can only assert that the poster existed, because in college in 1971 I had one like it. So what is the purpose of the piece? To make Santorum’s cafeteria Catholicism acceptable to southern conservative voters? Duplicity will be its own reward.

    • OK, I give, how did this have anything to do with Santorum or those who might vote for him?

      • Tim

        The piece did mention Santorum:

        “For some readers his journey will be proof positive of Rick Santorum’s assertion last month that college is too often godless and corrupting. For others, it will be a resounding affirmation of education’s purpose.”

        Though, I’m not sure why.

        • If the “purpose of education” is to make people atheists and abortionists, then I guess he fulfilled it.

  • Maryam M.

    It sounds a little too “perfect” to me, too. It paints an overly simplistic picture of a “character” who lost religion as he found education. Of course, this happens all the time, but I’d argue that it mostly happens to those who never critically examined their beliefs beforehand. I find the comments to be quite ridiculous, lauding this “character” as a hero. Whether or not one believes in God or the Catholic Church, this man has done nothing I see as heroic in any way. But maybe I’m missing something?

  • I did the same thing in college. Baptized Anglican my freshman year. Changed my business major to philosophy my sophomore year. Became an atheist soon after. Ran from God for a good fifteen years. Nothing special here. Being a Christian–especially a Catholic–takes patience, determination, and a lot of hard work, especially while swimming against the secularist tides of the academy. It’s just easier to let go and float along. God will catch up to him.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    • Disgusted in DC

      I’ve re-read the story three times. Nothing in the story in of itself rings false to me. There is little preposterous about it. The problem is that Bruni both lays it on veeerrry thick and is so clearly pandering to the worst prejudices of his base (“Aha! I KNEW it!” they will all say), that the account just lends itself to questions. Not to mention that Johann Hari recently had the same m.o. and was exposed as a fabulist…or at least an embellisher.

      It is too bad that I am not in a position to confirm (or refute) this story, as I lived in Chapel Hill at the time. I was, alas, in seventh grade, I believe, and was too young to know who were the people involved in the story.

  • Noah D

    Was there a talking point he didn’t hit?

  • Emil Berbakov

    That guy should talk to me. I had religion, lost it in college and regained it again with a vengeance when Nietzche and Schopenhauer couldn’t provide answers for the death of my first born son, 9/11 or a host of other real flesh and blood issues that only the Word made Flesh could possibly understand.

  • TC

    I suspect the “friend” in this parable is a composite character.
    The giveaway is the “pro-life protester gets abortion” story which has a beard down to its knees. It’s been in magazines, all over the net and I’ve heard it personally from pro-choicers.

    Well, I suppose he could have wound up the piece with his invisible friendbeing assassinated by Opus Dei.

    • Dale Price

      That’ll be next Sunday’s tragic follow-up.

      “Cowled albino spotted fleeing the scene.”

      • Oy. I read this as “cow-led albino spotted fleeing the scene”!

        Why is this poor albino chap being led by a cow?

        Time for bed.

        Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    I liked the part about reading the Bible cover to cover and taking notes on the parts he liked and didn’t like. Sounds more Protestant than Catholic.

    • Careful now, Protestants of a traditional leaning wouldn’t do that any more than Catholics would.

      • A Protestant would be more likely to do that, because they have no other authority than the Bible and if they could find internal inconsistencies that they could not reconcile or things they couldn’t reconcile with their conscience, they’d be conflicted.

        A Catholic would understand the various senses of Scripture. But, seeing as catechesis is really bad on this point, maybe not.

  • I believe it. I’ve read that story a thousand times. The names change, but the cliches remain the same.

  • John C

    Sounds to me like a recycled Anna Quindlen column. Same kind of smarmy rottenness.

  • It’s rubbish. The character is a composite or a fiction, existing nowhere outside the author’s fantasies. The giveaways are there long before he trots out the hoary abortion anecdote at the end. The anonymity alone is telling because it is unwarranted – why is this man’s identity being protected?

  • Matt

    Rethinking his Religion: Wherein Frank gently takes Catholics by the hand and leads us to the Promised Land

  • John Sheridan

    The complete giveaway was the abortion protester who referred to the clinic clients as “whores.” As if.

    • fr. richard

      Exactly. (And this would have been a one word reply but it’s not allowed by the software here. 🙂

    • Richard Johnson

      Yes, because we all know that pro-life protesters never refer to women who obtain abortions as whores.


      • Mark Shea

        Do you have any actual evidence that the fringe author of this screed (who actually insists that only the king James version of the Bible may be read) has ever actually protested at a clinic–or that this kook is remotely affiliated with the terrible awful Catholics at whom Bruni’s piece of fabulism is targeted. Do you have any experience with real prolifers, like 40 days for life? Idiots with keyboards and the culture outside a typical clinic are not interchangeable.

  • Dale Price

    Internally-inconsistent bullshit:

    Because we never really talked after freshman year, I didn’t know that, nor did I know that after graduation he ventured to a desperately poor part of Africa to teach for a year. College, he recently told me, had not only given him a glimpse of how large the world was but also shamed him about how little of it he knew.


    Even so, he added to his teaching duties in Africa a weekly, extracurricular Bible study for the schoolchildren. But the miseries he witnessed made him second-guess the point of that, partly because they made him second-guess any god who permitted them.


    THAT happened in a church, he noted. He hasn’t belonged to one since college. “Religion too often demands belief in physical absurdities and anachronistic traditions despite all scientific evidence and moral progress,” he said.

    So, he taught the Bible to kids in Africa after he decided that religion was utter, malevolent crap which he abandoned during college.

    Yeah, it hangs together beautifully.

    It took me two minutes to see it for the absolute bullshit it is.

    Yet the “reason”-worshipping “brights” are lapping it up with uncritical adulation.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Actually, that’s your interpretation, oddly enough. I read that same passage to mean that when he returned stateside, he did not rejoin the church he was with in college, nor find a new one. And that he probably wasn’t a member of the church or denomination making use of his services in Africa.

      Not saying a word’s true. Just saying that’s not necessarily an internal inconsistency.

  • MarylandBill

    Rather convenient to write a story that is totally unverifiable. I know Op-Ed pieces are not held to the same factual standards that a new story is, but still, I think out right fantasies should be banned.

  • Steve P

    I love all the self-congratulatory, echo chamber adulation from the open-minded commenters. Oooohhh, aaahhhhhh it’s the deepest most profound most beautiful poetic thing I’ve ever read. It should be sent to everyone! EVERYONE! It’s almost like they have their own spambot generator just for those sorts of comments…

  • “Questioning his church’s position on homosexuality made him question more. He read the Bible ‘front to back and took notes of everything I liked and didn’t like,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of wisdom there,’ he added, ‘but it’s a real mistake not to think about it critically.'”

    So we’re supposed to think critically when we read the Bible? Glad he cleared thatup for me. Who knew?

    • nate

      Ha ha. Yeah, that was my thought too. I’m calling his bluff.

      “Wait. I thought we were supposed to read the bible UNcritically. Here, this whole time…Now I see!”

      Bruni is seriously…er…coddling…his readers here, and hitting every cliche. I really want to replace ‘coddling’ with a more vivid turn of phrase, but this is blog is rated PG.

  • I know that Mollie Hemmingway over at GetReligion has gotten wind of this story, so I wonder if her folks will have a crack at it. I hope so, as they do great work.

    I too clearly see a “composite”, made by a mix of literary license, mental reservation, and ideology. I recognize the style as such though, easily. I was actually “the roommate” in an analogous story some years back, where an acquaintance of mine spliced together a detail from an event here, a discussion there, etc, and got it published in the newspaper of record in a midsized city. It had the same touch- feely tone and connect-the-perfect-dots trajectory. From reading the piece one would conclude I condone certain grave intrinsic evils, which I most unabashedly do not, indeed the opposite. For years I lived in fear that old acquaintances would Google me and, well, get the wrong idea. And my family and I still do to this day.

    • Dale Price

      It’s a sort of pseudo-intellectual “Penthouse Forum” for well-heeled ex-believers.

      • “I’m not normally a Catholic-turned-abortionist, but…”

      • Ed Pie

        I was more wondering if he was riffing off Jack Chick’s conversion story. The storytelling is a little better but as YOS pointed out the pre-conversion version just sounds about as legit as parents trying to talk hip to their teenagers’ friends.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    Conversion stories often become clichéd and all the same, whether it’s to or from religion. Even Augustine was aware of how memory can vary and thus his conversion story included long meditations on time and memory, which most people skip. All the same, I’m sure a lot of the story was true but there is certainly some artistic license.

  • Christina

    Oh my, that’s an awful lot of schlock to pack into one meaningless, fake story. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised the Times’ readers bought it hook, line, and sinker.

  • I think I just threw up a bit in my mouth. What garbage. I wonder if the NYT will publish my story if I send it to them – except it reads quite the opposite.

  • Sean O

    Mark nailed it. This story is hard social left “wish-fulfillment” or gospel. The story is perfect for them in every way: becoming “educated” & thereby leaving old fashion, bigoted religion, discovering the sacrament of abortion, evil violent Pro-Lifers who shout murderer & whore, and hypocritical to the extreme by being willing to have an abortion themselves. The writer has no shame. He is convinced that this is for the good of the simple & narrow-minded. A “higher” true is served by his false story.

    This should be exposed as the fraud it undoubtably is. “Beard down to its knees..”. Loved that comment.

    Jayson Blair the Times is calling again.

  • Sadie

    Ah yes, the classic story of a woman who screams outside abortion clinics and then has an abortion herself. The moral being that pro-lifers should stop being all judgmental and weird about the fact that some people simple want to rip their offspring to shreds. Or something.

    My favorite part of this fake story is the comments. The wise sages that read the NYT are praising this as “brilliant” and “thought-provoking.” Yeah, I’m sure you never really thought about the Catholic church being bigoted, hypocritical, and homophobic until you read this article and saw the light. I suppose any article that basically says “Catholics hate gays and don’t like abortion! That’s not very Jesus-like, now is it?”, no matter how cliched and bland, is considered a literary masterpiece.

  • Martin T


    Ah, well, you see. I grew up Catholic in the South (TN) and there was nothing homogeneous about being Catholic in a world of Southern Baptists. Beyond that, if Catholic, the character went to a Catholic school run by liberals (there wasn’t any other kind until recently) or to a public school, rubbing shoulders with the wordly and the Baptists.

    Went to Church in a coat? Ha, ha ha. ROFL. Think about it. ( I checked Wikipedia, he was born 1964 so college was 1984 or so.) Name two friends you knew who wore a jacket to Mass.

    Ok, clearly he could have known a Catholic who went to mass in College, then medical school, then Africa and became an atheist abortionist. But the person he describes does not exist.

    • Carbon Monoxide

      As a Knoxville resident, I can attest that the only homogeneity is around my dinner table.

  • Anne Winkler

    For the record, I’m ordained in the Episcopal church, and I do know how to read the Bible–inconsistencies and all. You all would be more sympathetic if you weren’t so condescending about non-Romans. 🙂

    I call BS on this guy’s medical adventuring. An MD who is treating internal medicine problems and thus would know about a philandering pastor (yawn) and a drug-using financier (fair balance yawn) isn’t boarded in general surgery. He’d better not be performing abortions as a Medicine doc. If he’s moonlighting as an abortionist with an internal medicine license, he’d better not screw one up. I doubt if his malpractice carrier would cover him practicing unboarded surgery. And if he’s a surgeon, he isn’t following patients’ lives the way Bruni claims.

    This story smells bad.

  • Penny B

    I’ll bet Bruni has never written about Bernard Nathanson–or even bothered to ready his story to get another perspective besides his own. I have to say that I am very suspicious of this column. So this “doctor” delayed medical school to go teach in Africa? Or did he teach medicine? It’s unclear. Whoever he is (and I think he’s a figment of the author’s imagination), his life journey sounds like a plot line for any number of boring television or movie scripts that picture Catholics/Christians as tortured souls who, deep down, hate themselves. It’s why I cancelled cable and don’t go to the movies.

  • buster

    That column was junk, but these comments make up for it.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I don’t believe Bruni’s story; I’ve already heard all the variations and permutations of this many times and always from anonymous sources. But let’s broaden the focus a little. How many of us believed Fr. Corapi’s conversion story when we first heard it? I know I did. I never became a big fan of his, never bought any of his material or followed him on EWTN. I did hear him lecture at a couple of conferences. I considered him an eloquent and orthodox (if slightly superficial) preacher, but I never doubted the truth of what he said about his personal experiences. I was inclined to support him when first allegations were made against him and only after he went into the whole black sheepdog thing did I begin to doubt his back story. Now he was not anonymous, but did anyone fact check him when he first put out his conversion story tape? Conversion is something which is very close to the center of Christian life and I think we Catholics accept it without question when it is going in our direction. And that means we can often be played for suckers too.

  • Mike Dwyer

    I figure this is about as true as any of the stories you read about in the Bible. Somebody’s got to be the 10th teller.

    • Mark Shea

      I figure you don’t really know anything about the Bible beyond the most superficial dismissals you learned at your high school sophomore lunch table.

  • no one

    It’s a Leftist Litany of Everything Wrong With Catholicism — it includes an Anti-Concordance “of everything I liked and didn’t like” in the Bible and a premise on Church History! — and the only reason anyone would be “confessing” these horrors to Bruni would be if Bruni were the perfect I Hate Catholicism Sounding Board.

    And the man knew this because he suspected Bruni was gay (or something) and caught up with him 20 years later? Or because Bruni does, in fact, hate Catholicism.

    I know it’s fake because Bruni’s Litany is leftist-comprehensive — meaning, it doesn’t come from the mind of a man who “attended Catholic services every Sunday in a jacket and tie” .. and here’s the clencher .. “feeling that CHURCH deserved such respect.”

    We don’t get dressed up for CHURCH. We get dressed up for Christ. We get dressed up for communion. A fall-away catholic doesn’t abandon the Church. He would abandon the Eucharist.

    Catholic authenticity is completely missing.

    There’s only the Bible — no mention of catechism, communion, confirmation, Catholic family connections (“what my catholic wife thought when she found out.. my catholic kids!! oh, and my mother who dressed me up in a tie every Sunday!”), no mention of anyone who tried to keep him Catholic. No priest friend from the University Catholic Center he attended.

    Leftist Litany, period. You guys can’t make it seem real if you tried.