Dear NY Times: Less Yapping, more Actual Thinking!

I have been meaning to write for several weeks about Mary DeTurris Poust’s lovely new book, Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Spirituality, which I had a chance to read while stuck in a plane that never did leave the ground for Baltimore. I liked the book very much, as it gives some very personally-rendered, tried-and-true practical advice for bringing a contemplative habit to so much that is “ordinary” about our days, and helps to make them much less ordinary, and sanctified. This would not be a bad Christmas gift to give to someone — say a busy parent or co-worker — who struggles with finding time and mind for prayer.

But today the book is a peripheral thing. I write to thank Mary for taking the time and trouble to gently but firmly call out the New York Times for its continual habit of politicized caricature when it comes to all-things-Catholic, this time in the matter of what the Times pronounces Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s “unlikely” championship of Dorothy Day’s cause.

Writes Mary:

“Unlikely champion?” Really? Dorothy Day lived what our Church teaches, and although Cardinal Dolan may make headlines for his statements on abortion and contraception and other “conservative” issues, he also preaches on the rest of Catholic teaching. . . I find it funny that the Times, with all its great authority, still doesn’t understand some of the most basic things about Catholicism and about the people we call saints.

Mary notes the Times’ apparent unfamiliarity with the concepts of mercy, forgiveness and the heart’s ability to turn, which is so foundational to the life of faith, as they suggest that Day’s deeply lamented abortion should discount her holiness:

. . .the Times talks about Day’s canonization “even though, as some bishops noted, she had an abortion as a young woman and at one point flirted with joining the Communist Party.” Yeah, okay, please see above paragraph. Of course she can be a saint even though she had an abortion. We are a faith of forgiveness. St. Augustine, anyone? That’s what makes her story so powerful. Conversion to Christ transformed her life.

Clearly (and ironically considering its posings) the Times misunderstands mercy, which means they will misunderstand Day, as well. And they misunderstand because they’re not actually interested in thinking the story through; they’re not interested in actually comprehending Catholicism enough to see how completely logical it is that three very different Cardinals in three different eras have embraced her cause. Sadly, thinking it through, asking a few questions and actually understanding the story at its depths would really mess up the narrative, and to the Times, the narrative is what matters, and the caricatures must be sustained.

I don’t want to give away the whole thing, so go read Mary’s fisking for yourself. I particularly like how she gives a complete smackdown to the Times’ suggestion that Dolan’s enthusiasm for Day is motivated by political expediency.

The Times would think that, of course. Trapped as they are by the ideas of the world and the illusions of human power, everything is about political expediency in the moment, to them.

Enjoy Mary’s piece! Perhaps I so appreciate her efforts because I am increasingly feeling called away from my old instincts to throttle, maul and bash the Times. I’m feeling so merciful these days, I want to pray for them!

And don’t forget to check out her book. I’m looking forward to reading this one, too, when it comes out!

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About Elizabeth Scalia