Bull Schuck is becoming one of my favorite GetReligion readers.
Why is that?
Because he’s so good at doing my work for me.
Back in June, Schuck — yes, that is his real last name — tipped GetReligion to a petition drive calling for the removal of Fort Worth Catholic Bishop Michael Olson. Earlier this month, he told us about a feature on a fired ESPN staffer who became a priest. In both cases, he shared not just links but also some helpful analysis.
Schuck’s latest email-to-the-rescue followed the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on alleged apparitions this week. I heard about the story Thursday night when the Star-Telegram sent a breaking news alert with the subject line “A charlatan, not Virgin Mary, stirred in Denton, diocese suggests video shows.”
Before I had a chance to read the piece real closely, Schuck contacted us with his thoughts, and — once again — I think they’re worth sharing.
Before we get to his analysis, however, here’s the top of the newspaper’s report:
A rose by any other name — fraud, perhaps — may smell as sweet, but what about its provenance?
Petals found last month on the floor and couch at a “pro-life assistance center” in Denton had an earthly explanation and were not a signal that the Virgin Mary was checking in.
The reality was revealed in surveillance video released by the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.
At the petals’ discovery, a woman attending Eucharistic adoration at Loreto House on the night of July 27 suggested to administrators that the flowers were apparitions and gifts from the Virgin Mary.
Administrators reported that during adoration, the woman said she had experienced an apparition that included rose petals falling from a book she was using to record the words from the Virgin Mary, the diocese wrote in a statement.
Now, let’s turn to Schuck:
First, I think the article misses on some background kinds of things. There's no discussion of what Eucharistic adoration is. There's no discussion about the history of apparitions or where they fit in the life of the Catholic Church or anything about a process that a diocese might use to discern whether they are valid or not. If this were a Diocesan newsletter, I might expect this level of detail. A public newspaper in North Texas deserves better. So total whiff on that.
For the record, it should be noted that a breaking news reporter produced the story — not a religion beat specialist.
As far as I know, the Star-Telegram — where the late Jim Jones spent more than 20 years on the Godbeat — does not have a religion writer.
More from Schuck:
But I noticed something else that they missed. It's in the letter from the Bishop to the Diocese, available on Facebook and at the Diocesan website. Hugely inside baseball of me, but the person who dropped the rose petals (watch the video) backed out of meeting the Bishop but said that they could meet at a later time with the request that "our canonical counsel, Philip Gray, be in attendance." Philip Gray's name has come up a lot lately in regards to Bishop Olson. I searched for him in the Star-Telegram and he's in a similar capacity for a group of folks who are upset that the Bishop declared their long-time house of worship to be a mission, not a parish, and closed it. https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/fort-worth/article220712105.html He's in a similar capacity advising another group of folks who are trying "to ask Pope Francis to remove Bishop Michael Olson." https://www.star-telegram.com/entertainment/living/religion/article231402073.html and also https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2019/6/11/why-do-you-want-bishop-olsen-to-be-removed-yes-texas-newspapers-survey-seems-um-one-sided.
Finally, Schuck opines:
I included a comment to the article that this is akin to telling President Trump that you can't meet with him but maybe later if they invite AOC to represent you. This Philip Gray guy gets around. Anybody who has a beef with the Bishop either goes to him or he reaches out to them. So, in addition to the background stuff, read the whole letter and search every person's name that comes up. Maybe pass the article around to some folks who have already written articles about the Bishop before publishing it.
That ought to about do it for this post. Perhaps I should my meager pay to Schuck?
Got any thoughts or questions related to the journalism issues raised? By all means, comment below or tweet us at @GetReligion.