Monday, December 16, 2013

Frank Bruni delivers another unfair attack on the Catholic faith. Is Bruni prejudiced against Catholicism?

Remember those old western movies?  There was often a scene where the cowboys have circled the wagons and are awaiting an Indian attack.  Someone like Harry Carey Jr.  would gaze into the empty darkness and say, "It's awful quiet out there." 

And the movie's hero--someone like John Wayne--would always reply.  "Yeah--TOO quiet."  And five seconds later the Indians would come whooping onto the scene, bent on murder and rapine.

"It's awful quiet out there."
"Yeah, TOO quiet." 
Well, like those cinematic Indians, Frank Bruni has been quiet lately--TOO quiet.  It's been weeks since he's attacked the Catholic Church in the New York Times.  But just like John Wayne in a classic western movie, Catholics knew Bruni was skulking around in the darkness  somewhere like a wild-eyed heathen sneaking up on our wagon train.

And yesterday he pounced again. In an article entitled "The Catholics Still in Exile," Bruni basically argued that some Neanderthal American Catholics were refusing to abide by Pope Francis's recent pronouncements on sexual morality.   Bruni's article contained three basic errors, which I will briefly refute.

First, the title itself--"The Catholics Still in Exile"--may be misleading.  Bruni tells the story of two Catholic school employees who were fired for engaging in same-sex marriage, and his title implies these people are Catholics who were unfairly persecuted. But these people may not even be Catholics.

In any event, assuming Bruni's depiction of these firings is accurate, the employees were fired for failing to abide by Catholic doctrine, which Catholic schools are obliged to enforce. I feel sure both employees were fully aware of Catholic doctrine on same-sex marriage when they went to work at a Catholic school. No one should be surprised or offended when these schools upheld their obligation to uphold Catholic doctrine on same-sex marriage by terminating employees who flaunt that doctrine.

Second, Bruni implies the Catholic schools that fired these employees are renegade outfits that didn't get Pope Francis's "memo" urging Catholics to stop focusing on sexual morality.  But Pope Francis hasn't issued any memo disavowing Catholic doctrine on same-sex marriage.  If Catholic doctrine changes, it won't happen because Pope Francis made an informal comment in a press interview. Catholic doctrine will change when the Catechism changes or the Vatican issues a formal statement or encyclical.

Third, Bruni said that some Catholics' focus on sexual morality has driven a  "wedge between open-minded Catholics and the [C]hurch's hierarchy." But that's misleading. Millions of American lay Catholics--men and women, young an old, and Catholics of every race and color--have striven to lead their lives in accordance with the Catholic faith and the ancient traditions and doctrines of our Church.

Frankly, as a simple lay Catholic who lives in fly-over country, I resent the repeated attacks on our Church by the op ed essayists of the New York Times, with Frank Bruni leading the charge. Mr. Bruni doesn't have to agree with Catholic traditions but it is none of his business what we believe or how we conduct our religious affairs.  As he continues to attack the Catholic church in essay after essay, I am beginning to wonder if Mr. Bruni is nothing more than an anti-Catholic bigot.

If so, Catholics have seen bigots before--the Ku Klux Klan and the Know-Nothing party come to mind. Throughout history, the Catholic faithful have persevered and prevailed against persecution and oppression. Certainly we will not be downcast by Frank Bruni's op ed essays.

But Catholics should remember this. Frank Bruni repeatedly criticizes the Catholic Church because the New York Times, the most influential newspaper in the United States, allows him to do so. The demon of anti-Catholic bigotry now roams through a nation that once respected freedom of religion. Catholics should prepare ourselves for outrages far worse than Frank Bruni's sniping attacks.


Frank Bruni. The Catholics Still in Exile. New York Times, December 15, Sunday Review Section, p. 3.


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