A Catholic Crack-Up At CNS
The uber-Catholics who run CNSNews.com still think they're more Catholic than the pope and will chastise Pope Francis for not hating gay people enough -- but they flip-flopped on how to report on a prominent bishop caught in sexual misconduct.
By Terry Krepel
Michael W. Chapman
Patrick Goodenough wrote that the pope's pronouncement "shock waves around the Catholic world," followed by reminders of how much the pope and all Catholics are apparently supposed to hate gay people:
Catholics on both sides of the divide over the sanctity of marriage and same-sex rights acknowledged that the pontiff’s comments do not constitute a change in church teaching on homosexuality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares unequivocally that homosexual acts are “contrary to natural law,” noting that the Bible “presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity.”
This was followed by an article from managing editor Michael W. Chapman denouncing the pope's "heretical remarks" and featuring how his favorite right-wing evangelical, Franklin Graham, "rebuked the pontiff's blasphemy." Chapman waited until the eighth paragraph to remind readers that Graham is a Protestant, not a Catholic. He also rehashed a Catholic document declaring that any legal recognition of same-sex relationships "would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity."
CNS then devoted an anonymously written article to rehashing how "The Roman Catholic Church says that homosexual acts 'are contrary to natural law' and 'under no circumstances can they be approved' ... says paragraph 2357 of the Catholic Catechism as posted online by the Vatican." This was followed by another anonymous article recounting that "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, authored a pastoral letter on the care of homosexual persons that was distributed to the bishops of the Catholic Church in 1986 that noted that St. Paul had listed 'those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the kingdom of God.'" Strangely, no mention was made of the pope's pronouncement in either of these articles, which would have provided the context for their existence.
Finally, Chapman trotted out one of CNS' favorite right-wing Catholics, Raymond Burke, to declare that "no Catholic is bound to support the recent statements by Pope Francis in support of gay civil unions and gay families. Catholics are instead obligated to oppose such abominations, said Burke, because they are contrary to Church teaching and they are the private opinions of Francis as a man, not as the Supreme Pontiff."
CNS gave a column to another right-wing Catholic, Rev. Michael Orsi, to assert that "Francis’ remark about civil unions didn’t rise to the status of an infallible pronouncement. They didn’t even come close. In fact, they hold no theological weight at all." Orsi went on to huff that the pope's statements "are questionable and highly problematic. They seem to give approval to sinful behavior. They create the false impression that the Church now says homosexual relationships are acceptable, even equivalent to the love between a man and a woman" and that "his words actually undermine marriage." He concluded that "Pope Francis might want to be a bit more prudent in sharing his private thoughts."
CNS also published a column by John Horvat II declaring that "God is offended" by the pope's statement because "no pastor can express approval for an intrinsically evil sexual relationship that will drag its participants to Hell unless they repent," and that "the faithful have the right and duty to resist his errors."
Outside of Goodenough's original article that quoted some supporters of the pope's statement, CNS declined to give non-right-wing Catholics a voice in discussing this issue.
Flip-flop on predatory bishop
When former Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was defrocked after revelations of sexual abuse of children came to light in 2019, the uber-Catholics at CNSNews.com worked to try and tie McCarrick to Democratic politicians. An anonymously written Feb. 25, 2019, article worked hard to do just that:
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked by the Catholic Church on Jan. 11 for abusing minors and the Sacrament of Confession, presided over the Aug. 29, 2009 burial service for Sen. Ted Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
The anonymous writer also made sure to rehash an old Kennedy scandal irrelevant to the McCarrick story: "On the night of July 18, 1969, after leaving a party on Chappaquiddick Island along with 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne (who had been a staffer on Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign), Kennedy drove off a bridge into a channel of water. Kopechne drowned."
The next day, another anonymous article tried to hang McCarrick around the neck of another Democratic politician:
On Jan. 6, 2009, the day that Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) was re-elected to serve as speaker of the House for the 111th Congress, then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said the opening prayer for the House of Representatives and Pelosi said he had honored the House by doing so.
But CNS doesn't want to tell you that McCarrick was very much a bipartisan cardinal. The Washington Post reported that McCarrick curried favor on both sides of the political aisle -- reading at a memorial service for Ronald Reagan and earning praise from President George W. Bush -- and that he "basked in the glow of being a crossover figure who presented himself as the righteous person whom politicians sought when they faced their own theological questions of right and wrong." The Post also pointed out -- where CNS failed to -- that nobody knew about McCarrick's proclivities.
Curiously, both of the above stories have been mysteriously deleted from CNS' archive without explanation; because the Internet never forgets, the links for those articles come from the Internet Archive.
Still, CNS continued to use McCarrick's behavior as a cudgel, this time to attack Pope Francis, whom those CNS uber-Catholics see as too liberal:
In a June 17 column, dishonest right-wing Catholic Bill Donohue declared McCarrick to be the church's "poster boy for sexual abuse crimes," then complained: "What Catholics want to know is not one more anecdote about McCarrick's homosexual adventureswhich is all the story offeredthey want to know who knew what and when about his behavior. The Catholic clergy and laity have been waiting for more than two years for the Vatican report on him. Why the delay? Never once do the reporters mention this."
CNS even snuck in a stealth attack in an Oct. 22 article stating how much the Catholic Church is supposed to hate gay people while omitting the context of Pope Francis expressing his support for same-sex civil unions included a file photo of the pope "reaching out to hug" McCarrick (while not otherwise referencing McCarrick's scandal).
Well, that Vatican report on McCarrick finally came out last month, and nobody looks particularly good, least of all Pope John Paul II, who elevated McCarrick to archbishop despite warnings about his behavior. Pope Benedict XVI -- like John Paul, a conservative-leaning pope in line with what CNS thinks a pope should be -- removed McCarrick as archbishop but not from ministry and did not do a full investigation into claims about McCarrick. Even Vigano doesn't come off well, with the report finding that he didn't investigate McCarrick when ordered to by the Vatican in 2012, and that he invited McCarrick to event while serving as the papal nuncio to the U.S.
In other words, there's a lot here that's worth reporting, especially to the Catholics who run CNS. But that didn't happen -- CNS devoted no news article to the McCarrick report. The only mention of the report at CNS came in a Nov. 11 column by Donohue -- who was not interested in discussing what was in it:
Having read the 449-page report by the Holy See on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and having completed a manuscript on the subject of clergy sexual abuse (it is scheduled to be published later next year), I am in a position to assess its findings. That will be done soon.
So, yeah, that's pretty much it. It seems that the uber-Catholics at CNS have decided that if they have to admit that their preferred popes and their favorite pope-basher were also complicit in letting McCarrick get away with his predatory behavior for decades, they weren't going to talk about it at all.
Meanwhile, CNS split over McCarrick's successor as Washington archbishop, Donald Wuerl (later named a cardinal), amid questions about how he handled sexual abuse allegations against McCarrick when both were in the Pittsburgh diocese.
An October 2018 article by Chapman highlighted Pope Francis accepting Wuerl's resignation as archbishop, though he didn't explicitly highlight the pope who appointed him to the Washington position -- perhaps because it was Pope Benedict, beloved by conservatives like Chapman, and not Pope Francis, whom Chapman would like to tie to purportedly insufficiently Catholic behavior like not completely despising gay people.
Donohue, meanwhile, staunchly defended Wuerl. In an August 2018 column published at Newsmax, he claimed that Wuerl was being "unfairly trashed," adding: I have known Cardinal Wuerl for 30 years, having first met him when I was a professor at a local Pittsburgh Catholic college, La Roche. I had the opportunity to assess his record during his first five years of service: it was meritorious, and it has only gotten better." He concluded: "Cardinal Donald Wuerl is a good man who deserves our commendation, not condemnation."
After Wuerl's resignation, CNS published a another defense of him by Donohue, this time also attacking his fellow conservatives for calling for Wuerl's head:
Some argue that Cardinal Wuerl should be held accountable for the behavior of Theodore McCarrick, his predecessor in Washington. But Wuerl had no authority over McCarrick when he was abusing seminarians in New Jersey. Moreover, to blame Wuerl for McCarrick's refusal to abide by restrictions placed on him by Rome is similarly misplaced: No one at the Vatican ever asked Wuerl to be McCarrick's policeman.
Apparently, if you're Donohue's buddy, he gives you a pass on your questionable behavior.