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More Catholic Than The Pope

The Catholic guys who run are so uber-right-wing Catholic that they have the temerity to believe they can lecture Pope Francis about Catholicism.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/19/2018

The Media Research Center's "news" division,, and its leaders come down firmly on the right wing of Catholicism, and the operation has opined enough on Catholic-related issues that the C in CNS -- which originally stood for "Conservative" but became "Cybercast" when the MRC couldn't trademark the name "Conservative News Service" -- might as well stand for "Catholic."

Editor in chief Terry Jeffrey and managing editor Michael W. Chapman bring their pro-Catholic bias to the operation, they give space to uber-Catholic Bill Donohue for his dishonest rants, and the virulently anti-gay Chapman loves to invoke his fellow right-wing Catholics' admonitions against homosexuality.

It's to the point that Chapman apparently feels he knows better than the pope about what it means to be Catholic.

As a right-wing Catholic Church, Chapman is among the folks who think Pope Francis is just too darn liberal. For instance, he huffed in a March 23 blog post:

Pope Francis tweeted on Thursday that "to defend the earth and to safeguard water is to protect life," which has led some pro-life leaders to question whether the Pope is broadening the definition of pro-life to include environmental issues, such as protecting "Mother Earth" that, in turn, undermine the principle life issues that stem from abortion and euthanasia.

Chapman went on to lecture the pope about the finer points of Catholicism:

The "seamless garment" argument of liberal clerics seeks to put issues such as immigration, joblessness, and the environment on the same moral plane as abortion and euthanasia, which is illogical because abortion is the direct killing of another human being for no other reason than that the child is an inconvenience. The same moral position holds for euthanasia: murder is wrong.

Policies and laws against murder are not the same, morally, as policies on immigration or wetlands. Human life (and the immortal soul) takes precedence.
When the pope was reportedly quoted in an interview with a "longtime atheist friend" as saying there is no hell, Chapman was so apoplectic that his blog post on the issue was the CNS lead story for a time on March 29. "This is a denial of the 2,000-year-old teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of Hell and the eternal existence of the soul," he ranted.

Several hours later, though, Chapman had to update his post the Vatican's statement that the words attributed to the pope were not directly quoted and should not be considered a "faithful transcription."

Chapman followed up a few days later with quotes from Cardinal Raymond Burke -- a right-wing Catholic who was removed by Pope Francis as the head of the Vatican's high court and moved to a ceremonial position, which may have resulted in some anti-Francis bias and which Chapman doesn't note in his post -- calling the pope's alleged statements a "profound scandal" and "heretical ideas," then denounced the Vatican's walkback of the statements as not strong enough. This was also made the lead story on the CNS front page on April 6.

Chapman also quoted a nun who said that the pope needs "needs a sassy nun" as a personal assistant who will prevent him from ever speaking with his "atheist friend" again.

And that's how Chapman is spending his time instead of, say, trying to make his "news" operation less biased and more credible to the point that we're no longer moved to put scare quotes around "news" when referring to CNS.

Chapman's attacks on the pope continued. An April 10 blog post criticized "the ever-growing confusion and scandal in the Catholic Church created by Pope Francis's ambiguous teachings on divorce, remarriage, and adultery" and touted a "final declaration" by other church clergy and activists "that reaffirms the 2,000-year-old teaching of the church on these matters."

This was followed by an April 17 column that's an excerpt from the anti-Francis book "The Dictator Pope," from the right-wing publishing house Regnery. So the above activists weren't dictating things? Isn't the job of the leader of the Catholic Church to dictate things to a certain extent? The excerpt doesn't get into that, but there was confusion from the start. The book's author is listed on the cover as Marcantonio Colonna, but the CNS byline on the excerpt is Henry Sire, who's listed in his CNS bio as the author of the book. As it turns out, Colonna is Sire's pen name -- and he's such a reactionary that he doesn't believe that the church's Vatican II reforms of the 1960s were legitimate.

The excerpt itself got off to a misguided start that reflects the author's bias:

The phenomenon of widespread homosexuality among clergy and bishops had been public knowledge since at least 2001, when the Boston Globe began a series of exposés on the clergy sex abuse scandals. The John Jay Report, an investigation commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, published in 2004, found that more than 80 percent of the victims of clergy sexual abuse had been adolescent males. Reports from dioceses around the world—including national bishops’ conferences in Australia, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and most of Europe—found similar results.

The John Jay Report covered the period from 1950 to 2002 and found the complaints had peaked at a period coinciding with the vogue for ignoring or re-writing seminary admission guidelines to allow homosexuals to study and be ordained as priests—the 1960s to the 1980s—a period that can be likened to the Catholic Church’s own internal Sexual Revolution.

As ConWebWatch has pointed out when Donohue made this same basic claim, this is a deliberate misreading of the John Jay report. The researchers stated that no connection was found between homosexual identity and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse and argued that the idea of sexual identity should be separated from the problem of sexual abuse, since one does not have to have a homosexual identity to commit homosexual acts. The John Jay researchers also stated that the reason more than 80 percent of the victims of clergy sexual abuse were adolescent males is because that's who the priests were around a lot of the time, making this in no small part a crime of opportunity rather than one of sexual orientation.

The rest of the excerpt mostly complains that Pope Benedict -- a conservative pope more to the liking of Chapman and Sire/Colonna -- was being blamed in part for the church's slow response to the sexual abuse scandals.

Protecting the church

When a grand jury report was released in August detailing sexual abuse cases involving Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, you'd think that Jeffrey and Chapman -- being the double-plus-good Catholics they are -- would want to treat this report seriously and report on it journalistically (or, at least, what passes for that at CNS).

Well, not so much. The report was released on Aug. 14; for three days, CNS reported nothing whatsoever about it -- and, to date, it has yet to run a "news" article about the report.

The first mention of the report of any kind at CNS was three long days later, when it published a lengthy screed by its favorite Catholic, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League (on whose board of advisors Jeffrey and Chapman's boss, Brent Bozell, sits), purporting to "debunk many of the myths, and indeed lies, that mar the report and/or interpretations of it" and insist that "it's been a homosexual scandal all along."

Donohue also desperately repeated his fallacious attacks on the John Jay College report for previously shutting down his anti-gay argument by pointing out the fact that even though many of the priests' victims were boys and young men, that does not equate to the priests being gay since one does not need a homosexual identity to commit homosexual acts:

It won't help to say that the John Jay report did not conclude that homosexuals committed most of the offenses, even though their own data undercut their interpretation. The professors played the self-identity game: they said that many of the men who had sex with adolescent males did not identify as gay. So what?

If a straight priest who abused a teenage girl said he thinks of himself as gay, would the researchers list him as such? Self-identification that does not square with the truth is a lie. I recently spoke to a person in the media about this. I told him that I consider myself to be a Chinese dwarf—even though it is obvious that I am a big Irishman—and asked if he would describe me that way in his story. He got my point.

Donohue is playing a game as well, and it's called homophobia.

The only other article CNS has run regarding the scandal is a blog post by Chapman the same day featuring Cardinal Raymond Burke -- a right-wing cleric who was removed by Pope Francis as the head of the Vatican's high court -- attacking the "homosexual culture" in the church that purportedly led to the scandal and repeating Donohue's talking points about blaming gays for it.

There are other things CNS hasn't done besides not run an fair and objective "news" article on the scandal despite the fact that it calls itself a "news" operation. It has not published a voice on the scandal that is not right-wing and anti-gay, let alone allow that voice to rebut the homophobia of Donohue and Burke. It did not disclose in Donohue's post that Bozell is on the board of the organization Donohue runs. violating conflict-of-interest guidelines. It did not mention that the pope removed Burke from a Vatican post.

And the same day CNS published Donohue's screed, his Catholic League issued a wildly insensitive tweet attacking "conservative Catholics" (isn't that what Donohue is?) for allegedly being "singularly incapable of making a cogent argument, so all they do is vent like little boys." CNS hasn't said a thing about that.

Uber-Catholicism in football

CNS' uber-Catholicism even extends to college sports. CNS commentary editor Michael Morris showed he either really likes Notre Dame or hates the University Miami (or both) by cranking out a mean-spirited November 2017 blog post after the Notre Dame-Miami football game:

The Miami Hurricanes, also known as the “Convicts” in their rivalry game “Convicts vs. Catholics” with the “Catholics” of Notre Dame, roundly humbled the third-ranked Fighting Irish 41-8 on Saturday, Miami head coach Mark Richt saying about the win, “[P]raise God.”

“Both sides of the ball did play very well, and specials as well,” said Miami head coach Mark Richt after his team defeated the Irish. “And I want to say, praise God.”


According to the ESPN summary of the game, the “Convicts” (374 total yards) outgained the “Catholics” (261 total yards) in total yards, in time of possession (ND: 26:01 and Miami: 33:59), in first downs (ND: 13 and Miami: 18), in turnover margin (ND: four turnovers, none recovered and Miami zero turnovers, four recovered) and ultimately in the final score ( ND: 8 and Miami: 41).

Miami also clinched the ACC Coastal division Saturday when Virginia lost to Louisville. The Canes (“Convicts”) will play Clemson (8-1) for the ACC title.

Now, the "Catholics vs. Convicts" meme is an old one, coined in 1988 by T-shirt-making students at Notre Dame to hype a game between the two schools in a season when both were undefeated and after a couple of Miami players had gotten into legal difficulties.

Further, it doesn't really apply to the current situation between the two schools (nor is it a "rivalry" in a traditional sense despite what Morris claims, since the teams have met only four times since 1990). As SB Nation points out, the phrase didn't apply all that well back then (Notre Dame wasn't exactly a clean team either) and applies even less today.

It seems Morris is mad that Miami thrashed the Fightin' Irish on the field, and also apparently that the Miami coach said "Thank God" about the victory. How petty of him -- especially given how many times CNS has given space to athletes who praise God and/or Jesus after an on-field victory.

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