RNS (cherry-)picks a cardinal: More on that Dolan & St. Pat's story


My kind of "Cherry" picking: Neil Diamond strums and sings "Cherry Cherry."

My GetReligion post on Religion News Service's article concerning Cardinal Dolan and the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade has caught the attention of RNS blogger Mark Silk, who counters my claim that the article mixed news with opinion.

Calling me "the latest horse in Terry Mattingly’s GetReligion stable" (to which I say "neigh"), Silk writes that, in my book, RNS reporter David Gibson’s "journalistic crime is to suggest in a piece of reportage that the cardinal’s position is of a piece with Pope Francis.’ "

Well, yes, that is my claim, and you can read my post here to see how I back it up. Silk argues that I am misjudging Gibson, "because the offending sentence points beyond the issue at hand":

It’s not just that Francis’ widely reported remarks about not taking criticism from the Vatican too seriously, about not overemphasizing abortion, about the dangers of an excessively purist church provide more than enough evidence for such a “more inclusive posture.” Or that Catholic conservatives have been upset with Francis for exactly that reason. It’s that Dolan himself is quoted specifically pointing to the pope’s inclusiveness. Which makes Gibson’s characterization a journalistic statement, pure and simple.

Here is the section Silk cites from Gibson's piece quoting Dolan on Francis:

The cardinal last month gave a lengthy interview to the Boston Globe’s Vatican expert, John Allen, in which Dolan indicated that the days of the culture wars in the church were coming to a close.
The effort to withhold Communion from pro-choice Catholic pols “is in the past,” he said. And he also said that Francis wants pastoral, social justice-focused bishops “who would not be associated with any one ideological camp.”

To Silk, these quotes show that Gibson is not merely expressing his own personal opinion when he says "Dolan clearly seems to be comfortable with the more inclusive posture adopted by Pope Francis": Dolan and Francis really are of a piece -- a piece of a big, inclusive tent.

I'm glad Silk makes this argument, because it gives me an opportunity to point out another problem with the RNS piece, one that was brought to my attention by commenter Lori Pieper: the way Gibson cherry-picked quotes from John J. Allen's three-part interview with Dolan. For example, here, from part two of the interview, is the source for Gibson's claim that Dolan said [the] effort to withhold Communion from pro-choice Catholic pols 'is in the past'":

Mid-term elections are close, and soon the 2016 race will heat up. Where are the American bishops today on the issue of Communion for pro-choice Catholic politicians?
In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities, but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past. I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially. I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.

As Pieper observes in her comment on my Dolan post, "Notice that he wasn't saying that bishops no longer considered withholding Communion an issue of national debate among bishops, [nor] that they no longer thought it should be done. They have decided to leave it up to the individual bishops -- which is very different from what was implied."

And what does Pope Francis say about the issue of withholding Holy Communion from pro-abortion politicians? He hasn't spoken about it with regard to the United States, but he did make a statement with regard to Latin America, and his message was loud and clear. In a letter, he urged the bishops of Argentina to follow the Apareceida Document, which he himself had presented to Pope Benedict XVI on the bishops' behalf in 2007. The document states:

We should commit ourselves to “eucharistic coherence”, that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated.  This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.

Yes, Mark Silk, Pope Francis is a culture warrior, if that means he is committed to defending the doctrines of the Catholic faith. It really does help to do the journalistic thing, which is to quote this pope in context. Yes? Or neigh?

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