Peggy Noonan: The Voice of Conscience

Peggy Noonan: The Voice of Conscience April 16, 2010

She’s all about Transparency and Facing the Truth, doncha know.

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Rod, Rod, Rod:

Last week you ran the grossly inaccurate and inflammatory headline “Ratzinger: Bishop, take your time with that pedophile” and encouraged your readers to make plenty of false assumptions about a case against Ratzinger that, once again, turned out to be utterly insubstantial. You also encouraged your readers to assume that Ratzinger’s language about the “good of the universal Church” was code for “don’t let anybody know about the pervert” when it was, in fact, boilerplate, mid-1980s form letter bureaucratese for “Hey! We aren’t handing out laicizations like Pez dispensers here. These priests who are all bailing on their vows need to slow down and think about the people of God they made promises to.” In short, the guy was following basic procedures over which he had little control, not trying to cover anything up and not endangering any kids. Despite your reader Roland de Chanson’s quite clear case for the sloppiness of this lazy act of defamation (“contumelious”, what a cool word), I’ve seen no retraction from you on this, just more vaunting of how we all need to be grateful to the media for this grotesque feeding frenzy on Benedict.

Now you hold up Peggy “Keep walking. Some things should be a mystery” Noonan as our paradigm of moral courage in media in yet *another* entry in the ongoing Benedict Media Slamfest?

Seriously, Rod. You have battened on every rumor, every craptastic piece of reportage in the Get Benedict campaign for the past month. Ocassionally, you’ve been forced to dial back when it became overwhelmingly evident that, for instance, the Times reportage on the Murphy case was crap. But mostly, you’ve promoted the Benedict bashing far beyond the merits of the evidence and lectured us on our debt to the press while that press has been engaged in gross violations of decency and honesty. And now this encomium to Peggy Noonan, Voice of Transparency and Reform?

Please. When you were Catholic, there was call for you to crusade against corruption in the Catholic Church (though I would hardly say that “following a slow and dumb bureaucratic procedure in laicizing a priest who had been removed from ministry” is “corruption”). But you bailed on the Church and found a new spiritual home in the OCA. It’s not my job to judge you for that and I wish the best to you and your family there. However, when you make that choice, it is rubbish to then invoke your duties as a crusading journalist dedicated to the public welfare to make Benedict-bashing mountains out of evidential molehills like the Kiesle case while studiously ignoring the log in your very own communion’s eye. If you feel you need to write highly inflammatory headlines based on hair trigger assumptions of bad faith against good men, you might look closer to home at the story of how one of your bishops once received into the OCA a monastery crawling with pederasty (the “abbot” and his right-hand guy apparently imported young Ukrainian novices for all their on-site molestation needs). When this happened, it was under police investigation because one of the young Ukrainian kids, after years of sexual abuse, had stabbed a young nun 97 times.

There’s actually a book about the whole depressing mess: Murder at Holy Cross. Is the book biased? You bet. Sort of like Castrillon Hoyos, under the gun from Benedict’s Vatican for his stupid behavior, claiming that he had John Paul’s full approval. But since there seems to be no problem instantly crediting Hoyos as a proof of JPII’s perfidy, I don’t see why you shouldn’t turn to this book as proof for putting the darkest construction on the heirarchs in your communion too.

Of course, the ecclesial authorities in this matter might be as innocent as Benedict was in the Kiesle case. My money is on the truth that they are. But don’t consider that. Your Abp Dmitri lives in the same geographical area. He apparently had nothing to do with it and even opposed it, and we don’t really know that the people who did have something to do with receiving the monastery had evil intent, but don’t bother with those distinctions. Just write a headline like “Local OCA hierarchy to pervert murder monks: Welcome aboard!” It will be as just and fair to Dmitri as that headline was about Ratzinger.

So: fine. Cardinal Law, I agree, needs to be doing something besides padding around some Church in Rome, doing nothing. Personally, I think we laity should have put him behind bars. You are unhappy that he has not been punished to your satisfaction. Duly noted.

But you aren’t Catholic anymore. What’s it to you? And before you say something with the phrase, “My sacred duty as a journalist” in it, lemme ask you again, what service to journalistic truth was done by publishing a headline like “Ratzinger: Bishop, take your time with that pedophile” on a hair trigger and inflaming people to mob hatred against a guy who is, as I do not doubt your own bishop is, a good man struggling to purify the filth in the Church? If your sacred duty impels you to send the torch and pitchfork wavers off to crucify Benedict as a guardian of pedophiles on evidence with all the strength and stability of wet toilet paper, why does it not likewise oblige you to crucify your own bishop and local heirarchy on equally dubious grounds?

Alternatively, you could take my suggestion: at the very least, retract and apologize for that headline and for the “Benedict thought pedophiles should be hushed up for the good of the universal Church” analysis that went with it. Cut him the same slack you cut Dmitri and your own bishops, Rod. That’s only fair.

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