Thursday, August 14, 2014

FOXNews' hit piece on Cardinal Dolan—UPDATED

Being the paladin and protector of all things conservative, FOXNews published on Tuesday a distorted, slanderous screed that perpetuates the "Pope Francis Hates the Traditional Mass" trope. The object of the attack: Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Although I'm on record as supporting the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (i.e., the Tridentine Latin Mass, or Vedus Ordo), I've criticized the segment of traditionalists that aren't happy unless they feel persecuted. In reply other traditionalists have scolded me as if I were a badly-educated Episcopal convert with chrism still on my forehead and heresy in my heart — I'm part of the "neo-Catholic Brute Squad". (One woman claimed I've “politely defecated” [?] on the traditionalist movement.) And half of them, along the way, unconsciously prove the points I make with their own criticism.

So here's my warning: I'm going to criticize that same segment again. As Bill Mauldin once said, "I make a certain kind of shoe; if someone wants to put it on and loudly proclaim it fits, that's their lookout" ... but don't assume it fits your family and friends as well. If it doesn't fit, it wasn't made for you. However, if it really doesn't fit, don't go describing it in terms that will make others think you're merely uncomfortable with how well it conforms to your foot.

Having said that ....

Has Cdl. Dolan gone "liberal"?

As is depressingly common throughout the media, including the Catholic blogosphere, Shaw conflates political conservativism with doctrinal orthodoxy. As is standard practice among the radical traditionalists I criticize, he also conflates traditionalism with orthodoxy as well. (Dr. Taylor Marshall, a traditionalist himself, refers to this as "gnostic ecclesiology".) So anyone who doesn't correctly pronounce any one of a dozen or more shibboleths is a goldang Neo-Catholic librul (as is anyone who dares criticize such faithful but lonely Real Catholics™). Example:

In New York, under the leadership of the once moderately conservative Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archdiocese was a place that allowed the traditional mass to be said without hassle after Summorum Pontificum.
However, since Pope Francis arrived, Dolan — commonly referred to as "America's Pope" [mostly by idiots who don't know anything about the Catholic Church except what they write] — has shifted to the left, so much so that even the New York Times has noticed. Dolan has become a spokesman for Francis' view of capitalism, has softened on gay rights, been an even stauncher advocate of amnesty for illegal immigrants and incredibly — criticized ObamaCare because it didn't provide free health care to illegals, putting him to the left of Nancy Pelosi [because, y'know, Real Catholics™ don't support free health care for anyone].

As I tire of pointing out, the Church is neither Democrat nor Republican, neither "liberal" nor "conservative" so far as either label is defined by American politics. She has her own agenda, one that was set 2,000 years ago, which can't be subordinated to the platforms of either party.

If the bad Times has "noticed" a sudden leftward shift in Cdl. Dolan's politics, I'm not surprised — the media is very good at "discovering" things that were always right under their bloody noses to begin with. Cardinal Dolan was never a platform conservative except to the liberal media, who usually ignore anything he says that could be construed as "liberal" and emphasized all his "conservative" pronouncements.

Moreover, the Times is one of the media outlets most responsible for the "Francis the Progressive Pope" story frame that's now dying a slow but long-overdue death. The only thing that could be called "the Francis Effect" is the way the "progressive pope" paradigm forces the media — but not conservative "cafeteria Catholics" — to rediscover the "liberal" side of Catholic social doctrine. (I haven't used this many "scare quotes" since I became an adult!)

Again with the "progressive pope"!

Of course, the point of painting Cardinal Tim as if he were Leroux's Phantom suddenly removing his mask is to further calumniate him as an ecclesial minion of the evil "sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass". This label was given Pope Benedict by the same Argentinian journalist who said Cdl. Bergoglio "has not fought against abortion and only very weakly against homosexual 'marriage'" — in other words, not a very credible source).

Shaw mentions that the Franciscans of the Immaculate were banned from celebrating the TLM, but he doesn't mention that the FFI is not an extraordinary-form community like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. (Read here and here for more background on the ban.) And when Shaw sadly reports, "Pope Francis has dismissed Catholics who attend the older rites in Latin as 'ideologizing' and being guilty of 'exploitation,'" it's an almost textbook illustration of unconscious irony ... not to mention chutzpah. He fails to link us to the quotes, most likely because it was taken out of context.

("What's chutzpah?" Well, as the late Leo Rosten explained it, it's the combination of audacity and effrontery with which a boy could kill his parents, then plead for clemency because he's an orphan.)

Fr. George Rutler "kicked out" of Our Savior?

"Now," Shaw utters in direful tones, "he's [Cdl. Dolan] turned on traditionalists." His first example is the transfer of Fr. George Rutler from the traditionalist parish Our Saviour in Grand Central to St. Michael's in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan a year ago. The priest who replaced Fr. Rutler could not say the Latin Mass; so, in compliance with "Instruction on the application of Summorum Pontificum" 20b, the Latin Mass was stopped at Our Saviour.

Again, what Shaw leaves unsaid, and what Matthew Schmitz pointed out in First Things at the time, is that Fr. Rutler had served at Our Saviour for twelve years, twice as long as the six-year term limit set by the USCCB well before +Dolan became a bishop. While there's much to be said against term limits for priests — and what Schmitz, quoting George Weigel, says is short but sweet — the point is, there was nothing shady or underhanded about the transfer; Fr. Rutler was by no means "kicked out", as several rad-trad publications have hysterically claimed.

Shaw also leaves out any mention of the "Instruction" ("Regarding the use of the Latin language, a basic knowledge is necessary, allowing the priest to pronounce the words correctly and understand their meaning;" contrary to what you might think, many American priests never received more than a cursory introduction to Latin). Of course, this prompts the question, "Was there no other priest available with the basic knowledge required?" As far as I can tell, though, no one has thought to ask either Cdl. Dolan or his chief of Priest Personnel, Msgr. Edward Weber; you'd almost think FSSP priests were lounging all over the Archdiocese of New York, breathlessly waiting to be assigned a Latin-friendly parish.

The sacking of Fr. Justin Wylie

Then comes the recommended closing of "the internationally-renowned Church of Holy Innocents". This is where we get into the real purpose of Shaw's diatribe.

Consequently at a recent Mass, Rev. Justin Wylie, a priest from South Africa who worked at the U.N. for the Holy See and who said regular masses both at Holy Innocents and at the third place of traditional worship — St. Agnes — compared the situation for traditionalists in the archdiocese to Reformation England and Cromwellian Ireland. Wylie asked traditionalists "why are you scurrying about like ecclesiastical scavengers, hoping for a scrap or two to fall from the table for your very existence?" and called on them to peacefully assert their rights as baptized Catholics.
This was apparently too much in the era of Pope Francis.
Sources told me that a letter was immediately sent to the papal nuncio to the U.N. and, incredibly, to Wylie's archdiocese in Johannesburg, scolding Wylie for his comments and threatening to recommend Wylie's priestly faculties be removed — an extremely serious move that essentially prevents a priest from acting as one and is usually reserved for very serious accusations like sexual abuse, not upsetting a cardinal.

Actually, according to the Times, Fr. Wylie had much stronger words: "I worry about the situation of traditional Catholics in the archdiocese. ... No longer, I say, should you think of yourselves as squatters in the mighty edifice of the Holy Church, nor should you find yourselves turned out like squatters." [H/T to Fr. John Zuhlsdorf ... yet again!]

Was the punishment a little draconian? You'd have to ask his superiors at the UN and Johannesburg why they yanked him, and whether they did so at Cdl. Dolan's request. I suspect, though, that, like the situation at Fisher-More College, there's a lot we don't know about Fr. Wylie's relationship with Cdl. Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York that, for the sake of charity and justice, the administration can't reveal, but which if known would paint his tenure as something less harmless than a simple pastor who preached beautiful homilies. If for no other reason, I suspect it because Shaw has already shown a penchant for telling only the half of the story that paints +Dolan (and, by extension, Pope Francis) a black-hearted, capricious tyrant.

"Cock-up before conspiracy"

Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.
—Bernard Ingham 

Ingham's rule (better known as "Hanlon's Razor") is best remembered about a Catholic Church about which the late Fr. Andrew M. Greeley once said, "Not only does the left hand often not know what the right hand is doing, they operate unaware that coordination is required."

Bishop John O'Hara, the auxiliary overseeing the parish consolidation project, sent Fr. Wylie a "strong reprimand", taking him to task for criticizing the archdiocese. Spokesman Joseph Zwilling said, "It reminded the father that he is a visiting priest, that we need priests who don’t criticize or attack the local diocese, that we need priests who work to build up the church rather than try to bring disunity." +O'Hara also copied Fr. Wylie's superior at the Vatican Embassy at the UN, where he an attachĂ©, and his ordinary in Johannesburg, South Africa. Within weeks, his superior at the UN dismissed him and his bishop had recalled him.

Apparently, though, +O'Hara didn't copy Msgr. Weber. So when Shaw first asked him about it, he hadn't seen it, and denied that any order to dismiss Fr. Wylie had "come straight from the Cardinal's office", as had been reported by — wait for it — Rorate Caeli. (RC, you'll remember, was instrumental in blowing the suspension of the TLM at Fisher-More College out of proportion.)

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity "for fear of retribution from church officials" claimed to have seen the letter, and that it had threatened revocation of Fr. Wylie's faculties (i.e., the permission of a priest not incardinated in a diocese to perform certain rites and sacraments):

Later, the archdiocese admitted in a statement that there had indeed been a letter, but said it did not come from the Cardinal's desk, and it did not threaten to remove Wylie's faculties. When I asked if they had threatened to recommend that he have his faculties removed, the archdiocese did not respond.

Did they need to? Arguably "the archdiocese" — whoever Shaw was speaking to — should have had the answer to that question. But then again, it's a ridiculous question ("threaten to recommend"? Seriously?), the kind of question a shady DA uses against a defendant to gin up a grand jury indictment on an otherwise improbable charge.

Nobody expects the New York Inquisition!

What about all Shaw's sources who live in fear of retaliation from the administration for having supplied Shaw with his documents?

This I gotta call BS on: What documents?

What information has Shaw given us that couldn't have been gotten from non-diocesan, third-party sources — sources I was able to find myself with no real trouble? When Laurie Goodstein of the Times laid her scurrilous charges against Pope Benedict, she at least provided links to .pdf files that contained copies of the relevant documents. Shaw doesn't give us so much as a .jpeg; nor does he refer to any other document than the letter from +O'Hara.

If the charges Shaw lays against Cdl. Dolan involved some real malfeasance or misfeasance — a violation of the laws of the USA, the City, County and State of New York, or the Code of Canon Law — I could see all this hugger-mugger, this desire to protect whistle-blowers. But this is just "talking smack" about the Boss; to invest it with all the high-tension secrecy of "Deep Throat" in All the President's Men is simply absurd.

Will Holy Innocents be closed?

And what of the closing of Holy Innocents?

In his own blog, Cdl. Dolan tells us that "In a few cases, the recommendations of the clusters and the advisory committee about parish mergers were not accepted.  However, 90% of them made eminent sense, and got the council’s support." The TLM community was one of the "unique groups" who needed "special consideration".

I learned  that one of the recommendations was that Holy Innocents be merged with ... St. Michael's. (So the Latin community of Holy Innocents may have Fr. Rutler back again!) On the other hand, because Holy Innocents is in the black and flourishing — they recently had a $370,000 restoration of some beautiful artwork — it may be one of the 10% whose closure Cdl. Dolan didn't agree made sense.

As Pat Archbold said, "it seems fair to intuit that Cardinal Dolan is trying to send a message. By specifically mentioning that some parishes on the list will be spared and by specifically mentioning the TLM community, one could reasonably intuit that His Eminence is trying to send a message to a community and a parish that has probably been the largest source of controversy thus far. I mean, not many parishes have been the subject of New York Times articles and an Internet frenzy."

Is this whistling in the dark? One sense I get from Cdl. Dolan is that, whatever else he is, he's a pastor first. Like any human being, he's got his biases and his blind spots, but I doubt the traditionalist community is one of them. I'm putting my bet in that Holy Innocents is saved from merger. [UPDATE July 2, 2015: The final lists did not include Holy Innocents. They remain a separate parish, offering a Latin Mass every day. Causa finita est.]

Ergo, hit piece. QED.

I can't even give Adam Shaw for having his heart in the right place. This was a hit piece, pure and simple, with all the selective quotation and creative interpretation of facts we've sadly come to expect from the MSM nowadays. While the archdiocese didn't help with the communications disconnect concerning Fr. Wylie, Msgr. Weber's initial lack of knowledge would have been seen as innocent had not Shaw and others been looking for an anti-TLM conspiracy to begin with.

There is no "war on conservatives", any more than there's a "war on women". Every once in a while, you do get a real story about a real bishop who takes real steps to squelch the Latin Mass (e.g., Great Falls-Billings Bp. Michael Warfels). But regardless of how traditionalists were treated in the past, it still doesn't justify rash judgment, and it still doesn't justify the disrespectful and dishonest treatment of Pope Francis we see from radical traditionalists.