The tears of actress Patricia Neal

Ready for the understatement of the day, the week, the month and, just maybe, the year? It is rare to see a religious website with a traditionalist approach to doctrine go out of its way to praise the New York Times.

Shocking, huh?

However, I think anyone who loves journalism has to cheer when critics of the press speak up to praise the good as well as criticize the bad. Can I get an "amen"?

In this case, the passage that drew justifiable praise from Creative Minority Report contains one of the more emotional hooks in the Times obituary dedicated to the life and times of Academy Award winning actress Patricia Neal. It focuses on the gripping aftermath of her relationship with screen star Gary Cooper.

During her affair with Cooper, she became pregnant. She had an abortion and according to her 1988 autobiography,"As I Am," (written with Richard DeNeut), she cried herself to sleep for 30 years afterward. "If I had only one thing to do over in my life," she wrote, "I would have that baby."

Of course, the Times could have gone much further and described Neal with another perfectly accurate term that would have described the causes that defined her adulthood -- she was a pro-life Catholic. When she received a major pro-life award in 2003, noted CMR, Msgr. Jim Lisante of the Diocese of Rockville Centre (New York) said the following:

I met Patricia Neal over 20 years ago, and we have become good friends ever since. One time when she was on my television show, I said to her, "Pat, in so many ways you are a female Job." She had, as you know, several strokes which put her in a coma for a month. She had a daughter who died of the measles at the age of seven. She had a son who was hit when he was an infant by a car in New York City, and he remains alive but brain-damaged and will be forever. Another daughter who suffered from drug and alcohol addiction; a husband who was great to her once she had the strokes, but he ultimately left her for a younger woman.

And I said, "In your life, Pat, if there was one thing you could change, what would it be?" And Patricia Neal said, "Father, none of the things you just mentioned." But she said, "Forty years ago I became involved with the actor Gary Cooper, and by him I became pregnant. As he was a married man and I was young in Hollywood and not wanting to ruin my career, we chose to have the baby aborted." She said, "Father, alone in the night for over 40 years, I have cried for my child. And if there is one thing I wish I had the courage to do over in my life, I wish I had the courage to have that baby."

There's more to the story and it's sobering.

Truth be told, I still find it hard to understand why the Times would do a fine job describing the pain that Neal experienced through much of her life without offering some minimal insight into the Catholic faith that ultimately helped her to gracefully transcend it. Instead, the obituary ends with this striking quote:

"I can't see from one eye," she said in 1988. "I've been paralyzed. I've fallen down and broken a hip. Stubbornness gets you through the bad times. You don't give in."

Actually, there was more to her strength than mere stubbornness and that fact could have been part of this news feature -- obviously.

Still, the Times did not hide the detail about the decades of tears about the loss of her aborted child. Thus, it was good for CMR to offer its praise for that editorial decision, even if the piece could have gone much further in capturing the angels that helped this remarkable actress transcend her demons.

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