New York Times not scared of Catholics

Via the indispensible Deacon's Bench blog at Beliefnet, I learned that Archbishop Timothy Dolan's latest criticisms of the New York Times are getting some media coverage. Not in The Times, but the local CBS affiliate has noticed.

You can read his full argument here -- laid out on the Archdiocese of New York web site -- but he cites two examples from the October 15 paper:

First there's the insulting photograph of the nun on page C20, this for yet another tiresome production making fun of Catholic consecrated women. This "gleeful" tale is described as "fresh and funny" in the caption beneath the quarter-page photo (not an advertisement). Granted, prurient curiosity about the lives of Catholic sisters has been part of the nativist, "know-nothing" agenda since mobs burned the Ursuline convent in Boston in the 1840's, and since the huckster Rebecca Reed's Awful Disclosures made the rounds in the 19th century. But still now cheap laughs at the expense of a bigoted view of the most noble women around?

Maybe I'm especially sensitive since I just came from the excellent exhibit on the contributions of Catholic nuns now out on Ellis Island. These are the women who tended to the homeless immigrants and refugees, who died nursing the abandoned in the cholera epidemic, who ran hospitals and universities decades before women did so in the non-Catholic sphere, who marched in Selma and today teach our poorest in our inner-city schools. These are the nuns mocked and held-up for snickering in our city's newspaper.

Now turn to C29. This glowingly reviewed not-to-be missed "art" exhibit comes to us from Harvard, and is a display of posters from ACT UP. Remember them? They invaded of St. Patrick's Cathedral to disrupt prayer, trampled on the Holy Eucharist, insulted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was here for a conference, and yelled four letter words while exposing themselves to families and children leaving Mass at the Cathedral. The man they most detested was Cardinal John O'Connor, who, by the way, spent many evenings caring quietly for AIDS patients, and, when everyone else ran from them, opened units for them at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center and St. Clare's Hospital. Too bad for him. One of the posters in this "must see" exhibit is of Cardinal O'Connor, in the form of a condom, referred to as a "scumbag," the "art" there in full view in the photograph above the gushing review in our city's daily.

The CBS affiliate sums up the arguments and gets perspective from a CUNY professor:

"The Times was very anti-Catholic in the 19th century," City University of New York professor Paul Moses told CBS 2's Tony Aiello.

However, Moses said he doesn't think the paper has an anti-Catholic bias these days, but added printing the picture of O'Connor was a terrible lapse in editorial judgment.

"That's a really scathing image of Cardinal O'Connor," Moses said. "I think that was a lapse with the Times, not that they're anti-catholic. Maybe it's more they simply didn't do a very good job on that story."

So what do you think? That The Times would give favorable reviews to anti-Catholic plays and art exhibits probably shocks none of us. That they're not likely to run favorable reviews of plays that support Catholicism isn't newsworthy either. I frankly have a hard time getting worked up over that, considering the much larger issues involving religion news coverage.

But I am surprised that the picture depicting O'Connor in such a manner was allowed through the editorial process. I'm not Catholic but you don't have to be to find it inappropriate for a newspaper.

I would love to hear an explanation of why, as this August 2009 New York Times article states, The Times banned images of the Muhammad cartoons that helped spark one of the biggest news stories of 2006.

I wonder if it's simply that The Times is scared of Muslims but not Christians? Or what?

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