Dowd's Yips Derail Even Her Praise – UPDATED

Seems yesterday was my day for writing about female journalists. Last night I was late to the Anthony Weiner/Andrew Breitbart story, barely having time to observe Barbara Walters diminish herself by allowing her hate to overrule her sense. Before that, I was filing my latest column for First Things, which looks at how Maureen Dowd — whose whole career, latterly, has been about stone-throwing and filtering hate through pop-references — has so ruined her pitching mechanics that even when she tries praise, it can’t make it over the plate.

It’s what happens when you’re throwing while cramped:

In her June 5 piece on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a churchman of moderately progressive bent, Dowd discovers a Bishop she can like. No, rather, in her traipsing through Northern Dublin, she stumbles upon “that rarest of things in the church’s tragedy: a moral voice.”

Never mind all of those other Catholic voices raised in outrage at the priestly abuse crisis, from Commonweal to Crisis and beyond. Never mind Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s well-documented and sympathetic work with sex abuse victims both in the United States and Ireland, or New York Archbishop Dolan’s participation in the sensitive investigations in Ireland. Certainly, let us not discuss Pope Benedict’s tireless efforts, since 2002—even before his papal election—to address “the filth” that has so roiled the church; to meet with the victims and to establish norms of investigation and reportage that he hopes establish church-wide. None of those voices, it seems, are as moral as Archbishop Martin’s; he managed to melt Dowd’s church-disdaining frost via last February’s “Liturgy of Lament and Repentance.”

‘Wearing a simple black cassock,’ Dowd wrote, ‘[Martin] helped wash the feet of eight victims and conceded that the church “will always bear this wound within it.”’

This is certainly a fine thing, and I doubt anyone could or would argue differently. Let us have more such liturgies, of course. But how can Dowd neglect to mention that Martin was joined in this act of penitence by Cardinal O’Malley, who wore the “simple” robes of a Capuchin Friar, which is what he is. Indeed, despite his exalted office, O’Malley can often be spotted in his Franciscan brown robes, eschewing other vestments.

I can’t imagine why Dowd would not mention O’Malley’s paired penitence with Martin; she could not have missed it—reports are not difficult to come by. . .

Actually, I can imagine why Dowd could not bring herself to praise O’Malley as well — go read and see if you agree!. Hint: you won’t be that surprised.

Meanwhile, the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland is done,
and the report will be out by January!

YouTube Preview Image

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Jack B. Nimble

    The RCC is, as they say, blessed in the identity of its critics. Miss Dowd, is an easy target to attack, and for all the reasons you and others (not just on the right) have set forth.

    But surely Ms. Scalia you could not have missed a central argument of the piece which is this: Archbishop Martin is a pariah in Rome and among a traditionalist swath of your church, both lay and clerical. That you chose not to address that assertion strongly suggests your own bias or discomfort with that argument. If you felt that Ms. Dowd got that wrong and Martin is not Peck’s Bad Boy in the eyes of the curia and the holier than the Pope temple police, then make that point.

  • Annie


    Is Archbishop a pariah in Rome? I don’t think so. He spent over 20 years working in the Vatican and I’m sure that he has many friends.

    Ms. Dowd’s problem is that she always manages to jump the shark where the church is concerned…making numerous mistakes along the way. She is free and right to criticize the RCC on her failings, however, she has a privileged position in one of the most (if not THE most) influential newspapers in the world, and is therefore not free to distort the truth and leave out important facts to advance her narrow agenda. She would be a better writer if she was more responsible and used more nuance and less vitriol.