Yes, the Media Is Our Enemy

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It has always surprised me that the mainstream press is so down on Theodore McCarrick. In fact, one would expect them to take his side. An elderly gay man trapped in a homophobic institution, taking young men to his beach house so he can seduce them… I’m surprised The New York Times hasn’t asked Mr. McCarrick to write a religion column.

In fact, his life sounds like the script for a real blockbuster—sort of like Calvary meets Call Me by Your Name. Hollywood is full of aged perverts who, I’m sure, would love to make it happen. Woody Allen could direct it. Harvey Weinstein could put up the cash. Kevin Spacey could star as Uncle Ted.

Mr. McCarrick’s misconduct was egregious. There’s no question about that. Nevertheless, the point remains: if he were a professor or an artist—anything but a Catholic priest, really—Theodore McCarrick would be a pop-culture hero.

Now, I’m not in the habit of agreeing with Archbishop Christophe Louis Yves Georges Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. But he seems to understand this point all too well. As he told the recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,

There is a lack of authority on the part of those who pretend to exercise power; a lack of trust and belief in those who are supposed to have authority, namely those in leadership; and manipulation by the press, which, at times, cares little for the truth but which erodes the confidence and trust of the people in the authority of the press. No one seems to be offering real values or solutions to bring about healing. These factors have created the crisis in both society and the church.

Of course, there’s a certain irony in hearing those words issue from the mouth of the Pope’s own ambassador in Washington. But, on this count, he’s absolutely right. The press is indifferent to the truth.

Nobody would downplay the grave harm caused by the sexual abuse scandal. But only a fool would think that the media put Mr. McCarrick through the wringer out of some sense of justice. They glorify sexual predators like Michel Foucault—so long as those predators are on “the right side of history.”

Unsurprisingly, the National Catholic Reporter doesn’t agree. Heidi Schlumpf, its executive editor, published a column yesterday in which she declares, “The media is not the church’s enemy.” (Would it be tiresome to point out that the Reporter refuses to capitalize the “C” in Church?) No, Ms. Schlumpf insists, “the media are not the enemy. We are professionals, trying to do our jobs, in the service of the truth.”

It’s telling that Ms. Schlumpf uses the royal “we,” lumping herself together with the good folks at The New York Times. The Reporter has been ordered to remove the word “Catholic” from its title by the local ordinary, although they’ve steadfastly refused. That’s because the Fishwrap (like the Grey Lady) has no interest in truth—only in advancing the latest progressive narratives.

For instance, did you know that sex abuse is slightly more common among Protestant ministers than Catholic priests? Yet the Times has never commented on posthumous revelations that Paul Moore, Jr.—the liberal activist who served as Episcopal bishop of New York throughout the Seventies and Eighties—was a serial homosexual predator. Why? It doesn’t fit the narrative.

Or did you know that schoolteachers are almost twice as likely to abuse children than are Catholic priests? Yet The Boston Globe has never held a full investigation into the well-documented role of teachers’ unions in shielding predators. Why? It doesn’t fit the narrative.

So, yes: progressive media is the Church’s enemy. And Catholic media is the enemy of progressive media. There is no “we” when talking about Catholic and progressive journalists. It’s comparing apples and oranges, or ought to be. We don’t share a common vocation. Real Catholic media exists to defend the Church; progressive media, to destroy her.

Don’t take my word for it. The popes have made this point abundantly clear. As Pope Leo XIII wrote in Dall’alto dell’Apostolico Seggio,

Seeing that the chief instrument employed by our enemies is the press, which in a great part receives from them its inspiration and support, it is important that Catholics should oppose the evil press by a press that is good, for the defense of truth, out of love for religion, and to uphold the rights of the Church.

Of course, our love for religion will compel us to expose predators within the holy priesthood and their enablers in the hierarchy. But it also compels us to approach every accusation objectively, respecting the accused man’s right to a fair hearing, and with respect for his reputation. As Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently explained,

In coming to terms with atrocities committed by clerics, one should be guided only by truth and justice, without regard to the person. On the other hand, this coming to terms with the past must not be used to unleash additional personal antipathies against a certain Church superior or against a certain religious community. Emotional neutrality is necessary for a fair judgment.

The proof is in the pudding. Secular outlets will run any accusation against any priest, however spurious. And it doesn’t matter if the accusation can be disproven. We all know that, once a priest is publicly accused of abuse, his career will never recover.

Our case in point is George Cardinal Pell. Many of us—thousands of us—realized from the beginning that the accusations levied against His Eminence were patently ridiculous. Yet that narrative was pushed relentlessly by Australian media, including the left-leaning public broadcaster. For those with eyes to see, those journalists’ anti-Catholic agenda was transparent.

Of course, the Reporter sided with the press and against the Church. They named yours truly as one of the shadowy figures of conservative-Catholic media who doubted the Australian courts’ conviction. As the Reporter declared, “Those who dismiss the Pell verdict ignore integrity of legal process.” (Our answer was: Yes, absolutely. How could you not? It’s a total farce!)

And, of course, when His Eminence was at last found innocent, the Reporter didn’t apologize. They didn’t admit their mistake. They didn’t stop to consider how their mindless opposition to “conservative” (orthodox) bishops is not only unfair to innocent priests—it’s not only unethical, from a professional standpoint—it doesn’t only trivialize the suffering of real abuse victims—but it also causes real and measurable harm to Holy Mother Church.

None of that matters to the Fishwrap and their colleagues in the anti-Catholic press. They’re out for scalps. They’ll happily use the tragedy and iniquity of sex abuse to advance their political agenda. And they’ll cast aspersions on anyone who questions their motives.

We should all thank God for real Catholic media. I don’t know whom to thank for the National Catholic Reporter, but it ain’t Him.

Michael Warren Davis

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Michael Warren Davis is a frequent contributor to The American Conservative and The Spectator USA. He's the author of The Reactionary Mind (Regnery, 2021) and the former editor of Crisis Magazine.

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