The writer Dawn Eden Goldstein has been going hell bent for leather against Cardinal Raymond Burke. Her efforts reveal more about Dawn than they do about His Eminence.
Ms. Goldstein charges Cardinal Raymond Burke with questioning the validity of the conclave that elected Francis as Pope—and, therefore, whether Francis is really the pope. In the same thread, she tweeted: “there’s a wealth of evidence Burke is waging an active campaign—complete with press secretary—to position himself as a teacher of the faith against the pope.” That’s a gross (and, I suspect, deliberate) misreading of an interview His Eminence gave to the on-line personality and apologist Patrick Coffin.
On his podcast, Coffin asked Cardinal Burke about a theory making its rounds on the internet, which holds that the conclave electing Francis was invalid because of campaigning by a cadre of cardinals—something forbidden by the Apostolic Constitution Universi Gregis. Cardinal Burke’s response? “I have studied that question, and I don’t see there that it would in any way call into question the validity of the election.” Pretty direct, that.
Coffin then brings up a book written by Antonio Socci speculating that Benedict’s abdication was invalid and he remains the rightful pontiff. “That simply won’t float,” Cardinal Burke replies bluntly. “There’s only one pope, and the pope has to govern the Church. He can’t simply say, ‘I want to be pope, but I’ll have someone else to govern the Church.’ So, that won’t hold water.” Is this not crystal clear? Not to Dawn.
According to Dawn, His Eminence admits that Francis is the true pope, but only “reluctantly.” How does Dawn know the mind of Burke at that moment? How does she know he’s “reluctant”? She doesn’t. And yet she goes further still, saying the Cardinal’s response “is enough to show Burke is too close to the schismatic rails.”
Alas, this kind of sloppy journalism is rapidly becoming Dawn’s modus operandi.
In recent months Dawn has fashioned herself as the scourge of what she sees as right-wing anti-Francis heresy. Her specialty is making wild charges against these “heretics” and then often having to walk them back and apologize.
No, it’s not just Burke. She doesn’t like the Catholic News Agency. She doesn’t like EWTN. She doesn’t like the National Catholic Register. She doesn’t like the Catholic Herald. She doesn’t like the Napa Institute. She doesn’t like Sophia Institute Press. She most especially doesn’t like rich guys she thinks have an inordinate influence over the Church.
I first experienced Dawn’s animus during the Viganò-McCarrick controversy. Dawn was incensed at Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s claims of deep episcopal corruption and spent weeks on Twitter going after him. I felt it strange that she seemed far less interested in getting the Vatican to release their files on McCarrick. When I told her so, she blocked me on Twitter.
Then, last winter, Dawn was invited to a luncheon for the launch of the Catholic Herald’s US edition. My wife and I were there, too. The bunfight was held at the exclusive Metropolitan Club in Washington, DC. Dawn sat at a table that included Herald chairman William Cash.
According to Dawn, Cash told the table that he and others had solicited publishing advice from former Breitbart Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, who had turned Breitbart into one of the largest news sites in the world. Consulting such an expert would make perfect sense. But not to Dawn. For her, this was on the order of an alt-right hate crime.
On Twitter, she blasted Cash for attending a pre-lunch meeting with Bannon. It turned out, however, that Cash couldn’t have possibly been in attendance: he was on a plane over the Atlantic. Dawn had to apologize, and then admonished herself to “be more cautious when Tweeting remembered conversations.”
Such a spectacular error didn’t stop Dawn’s jihad against the Catholic Herald, however. She was incensed that some of the board members favored, wait for it, Brexit! She says they were more concerned about leaving the EU than in being Catholic… though she must have missed that they were funding a Catholic magazine.
She went after the Herald for publishing rich-guy writer Taki, who refers to New York City as the Big Bagel (lots of our Jewish brothers live there). It should be noted that Taki is a frothy, lavish, and indiscriminate name-caller of all ethnic groups.
Dawn also went after Herald columnist Charles Coulombe for comments he supposedly made on the first episode of his podcast, “Off the Menu.” Somehow, Dawn came to believe that Coulombe described his beliefs as “dangerous”—the implication being that he would espouse things at odds with the Church. Of course, Charles said no such thing. In fact, he didn’t use the word “dangerous” at all! This may seem niggling, but it points up how Dawn sees and hears things that confirm her bias and runs with them even if they are not there. Dawn had to retract and apologize. Ever the gentleman, and much to his credit, Coulombe kindly accepted and noted Dawn’s good work.
Sadly, this is part of Dawn’s MO: ready, fire, aim, retract, apologize.
But that’s only when she does apologize. In the same anti-Herald tirade, she dug into contributor Jon Anderson, saying that his personal blog “championed pornography and masturbation.” Herald columnist Matthew Schmitz called her out, accusing her of defamation and demanding she produce evidence to back her claims. She privately provided Schmitz a list of the offending columns, which he then made public; not one of them champions pornography or masturbation. She has yet to say sorry.
She even went after the Herald’s suitemates, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which also rents space to Robert Royal, editor of The Catholic Thing and member of EWTN’s “Papal Posse.” See all these nefarious connections?
Dawn and I go way back, as a matter of fact. We first met in my New York office; she needed advice on what to do about her emerging problems at the New York Post. Dawn was trying to put (quite reasonable) pro-life edits in news stories; her editors weren’t happy about that, and it appeared she was heading out the door. I don’t think she was Catholic at that point, though I gave her a Rosary along with the advice. Years later, she told me she’d carried those beads for a long while.
Back then, she was a charming, eccentric, if slightly whacky (in a good way), incredibly fun woman. She eventually converted and has written a handful of books well-received in Catholic circles. She took an advanced degree in theology and taught online courses for a seminary. All excellent stuff.
But, somewhere along the line, she has become an uncharitable scold who sees herself as a one-woman wrecking crew against those she sees as the enemies of Francis, many of whom are her former friends in the Catholic trenches. She’s on the trajectory of Mark Shea-ing herself—of getting so lost in the battles that she loses both her reputation and her (forgive the expression) brand, both of which have been quite good.
At the very least, she might consider taking her own Twitter advice from a few months ago: “Everyone deserves a charitable reading, including the Holy Father.” She is certainly correct.