Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dear Dean Baquet: Please Press the Reset Button on the NY Times's Bigoted Attacks on the Catholic Church

Dean Baquet was named Executive Editor of the New York Times yesterday.  He has had a distinguished career as a journalist working for several distinguished newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. In 1988, he won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of the New York Times

Let's hope Mr. Baquet's ascension to the Executive Editor's post signals a change in the New York Times's coverage of the Catholic Church. In recent years, Times op ed writers have mercilessly attacked the Church with a stridency and shrillness that often crossed the boundaries of professional journalism.  Just last Sunday, Maureen Dowd accused the Vatican of bullying nuns because it censored the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for straying outside Church doctrine. Dowd then went on to falsely charge the Vatican with accusing the LCWR of "caring for the sick instead of parroting church teaching . . . ."

In the same issue of the Times, Frank Bruni excoriated the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for requiring teachers in Diocesan schools to sign contracts agreeing to abide by Catholic doctrine.  Resorting to a common tactic of New York Times op ed writers, Bruni obtained a quote from a disgruntled Catholic (a school teacher) who obligingly described the Church's policy as "really misogynistic. " Bruni's almost hysterical vitriol descended to the level of nonsense when he asserted that "virtue" has nothing to do with whom one sleeps with.

Two anti-Catholic essays in one day should alarm any practicing Catholic, but Bruni and Dowd have repeatedly attacked the Church, often inserting gratuitous insults into what might have passed for reasoned commentary.  For example, in her column last Sunday, Dowd described St. John Paul II as a "the pedophile-shielding pope," an needlessly hateful remark that had nothing to do with the main thrust of her argument.

Without question, Bruni and Dowd are the Times's prime hectors of the Catholic Church, but Bill Keller has weighed in as well.  He once described Pope Benedict as a rottweiler.  And Nicholas Kristof has also indulged in Catholic-baiting.

Perhaps Mr. Baquet can restore a more reasonable tone to the Times commentary on contemporary Catholicism.  I do not know whether Mr. Baquet was raised as a Catholic, but I do know that he grew up in New Orleans, a deeply Catholic city, and that he attended St. Augustine Catholic School. Even if he is not a Catholic, he must surely have learned that St. Katharine Drexel once supported St. Augustine School.  Perhaps he also knows something about the Sisters of the Holy Family, an African American order of nuns that was founded in New Orleans by Venerable Henriette Delille.

And surely Mr. Baquet  is familiar with the story of Joseph Rummel, Archbishop of New Orleans, who displayed great physical courage in integrating Catholic schools in spite of the vicious opposition of racists and the Ku Klux Klan.  And he might even know something about the Holy Ghost Fathers, who made African American Catholics their special mission and provided the sacraments to Creole and African Catholics who were often discriminated in white Catholic churches of Louisiana.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a perfect institution and never has been. The Ursuline nuns of New Orleans are famous for invoking the aid of Our Lady of Prompt Succor before the battle of New Orleans--perhaps ensuring Andrew Jackson's victory over the British. But the Ursuline sisters were slaveholders during the antibellum period, which is an ignoble blot on this noble order's history.

Of course the Church deserves to be criticized and censored for its faults and failings, which are many.The Church's decades-long sexual-abuse scandal is reprehensible of course, and surely ranks as the most shameful episode in the history of American Catholicism.  Any priest who sexually abused a child should be in jail, and any bishop who knowingly allowed a pedophile priest to continue to have access to children should be in jail as well.  I think Mr. Bruni, Ms. Dowd and I agree on that.

But the Catholic Church does not deserve to be bullied and harassed in the op ed pages of the nation's most prestigious newspaper simply because Times columnist disagree with Catholic doctrine.  Perhaps Mr. Baquet will provide new leadership--one that supports forceful, combative and stinging commentary without descending to the depths of anti-Catholic bigotry.


Frank Bruni, A Pope You Can Eat. New York Times, February 9, 2014, p. Sunday Review section, p. 3.

Frank Bruni. Beyond the Bedroom. New York Times, March 17, 2013, Review Section, p. 3.

Frank Bruni. Catholicism's Curse. New York Times, January 26, 2013.

Frank Bruni. Lessons in Catholic Judgment. New York Times, May 11, 2014, Sunday Review section, p. 3.

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

Frank Bruni. The Conclave's Fixed Ways. New York Times, March 12, 2013.

Frank Bruni, The Faithful's Failings. New York Times, July 23, 2013, p. A19.

Frank Bruni, The Pope's Gay Panic. New York Times, June 16, 2013, Sunday Review Section, p. 3.

Frank Bruni, The Pope's Muffled Voice. New York Times, February 18, 2013.

Frank Bruni, The Pope's Radical Whisper. New York Times, Review Section, September 22, 2013, p. 3.

Frank Bruni, The Wages of Celibacy, New York Times, February 25, 2013.

Maureen Dowd, How Mary Feels About Being a Virgin. New York Times, March 28, 2013, Sunday Review Section, p. 1.

Maureen Dowd. Is pleasure a sin? New York Times, June 5, 2012.  Available at

Maureen Dowd. With Malice Toward Nuns. New York Times, Sunday Review section, p. 13.

Editorial. Unholy Alliance: The Vatican, Iran and Russia Work to Block Global Standards on Protecting Women New York Times,  March 12, 2013.

Freedom From Religion Foundation.  It's Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church. New York Times, March 9, 2012, p. A10.

Bill Keller. The Rottweiler's Rottweiler. New York Times, June 18, 2012, p. A21.

Nicholas Kristof. We are all nuns. New York Times, April 28, 2012.

Jonathan Mahler. A Passion for Saints Football Leads to One for Newspapers, Too. New York Times, May 15, 2014, p. B2. 

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