Friday, June 9, 2006

Don't Make Me Laugh

By Mitchell

Spellbinding reporting this morning by Star Tribune writer Pamela Miller, who has suddenly discovered, two weeks into the game, that Archbishop Flynn "has asked the Vatican for a coadjutor archbishop with rights of succession." This news flash from "knowledgeable Catholic Church officials," which I would take to mean archdiocesean officials who are desperately trying to spin the story their way. For example:

Flynn, who became archbishop in 1995, has been praised for his personality and leadership. He has been outspoken on some social justice issues and has taken the middle ground on others, and his successor is likely to embrace the same style, observers say.

In other words, forget about a conservative.

Names of possible successors are not the result of leaks from those with real knowledge, [St. Thomas Prof. Robert] Kennedy and archdiocese officials said, but merely speculation or wishful thinking.

In other words, forget everything you've read in blogs.

Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates, one name often mentioned, is unlikely to be Rome's choice because it usually looks for a successor outside a province, which in this case includes Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Kennedy said.

In other words, forget about Aquila.

And, for those of you out there in the blogosphere who think the Archbishop is a controversial figure, you can forget about that, too. Nary a word of anything but praise:

On Thursday, scholars and clerics praised Flynn. "He is so appreciated by so many people for his warmth, friendliness and care," said St. Paul Seminary Prof. Katarina Schuth, citing as an example his daily delivery of the Eucharist to Sister Ann Ganley, his special assistant, who died Monday.

Bishop Peter Rogness of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America called Flynn "a fine ecumenical partner who has served the community well as an advocate for those on the margins -- the poor, immigrants."

Flynn's 2002 role in leading a committee of U.S. bishops that drafted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in Dallas was pivotal in helping the church face the sex-abuse scandal, [former America editor Thomas] Reese said. While his leadership hasn't gone far enough for some victims' advocates, "he did a very good job of helping the church begin to clean up a real mess at an extremely delicate time in its history," Reese said.

I'm surprised they had the courage to rule out a woman being the next bishop. Although, come to think of it, they didn't actually say that, did they?

Now, I've got some real problems with this story. Oddly enough, I don't challenge the positive comments about the Archbishop. As I've tirelessly said in the past, there are a lot of good things going on in the Archdiocese - reform at the Seminary, increase in Eucharistic Adoration, good priests, and so on. Much of the credit for that goes to the Archbishop.

And yet, you simply can't deny that Archbishop Flynn's been a lightning rod for controversy. There are a whole lot of groups and a whole lot of people out there who have a whole lot of bad things to say about his leadership in the Archdiocese. This article skips completely over this. It reads, in fact, more like a eulogy than a news story. It gives an incomplete and inaccurate portrait of the true state of affairs here. Not a word about VIRTUS, not a breath on SJA, nary a whisper regarding the Rainbod Sash, not even a nod toward all those priests who opposed his support of the Marriage Amendment. Archbishop Flynn has become one of the best-known bishops in the United States, for good or ill, because of these controversies. And the Star Tribune, as parochial as ever, fails to deliver. For them, it's all kind hearts and coronets around here.

I've often said that you can't ignore the good just because of the bad; now I offer the flip side, which is that the good does not negate the bad. If the Star Tribune was interested in the whole story they would have recognized that. If the Star Tribune wanted to give their readers a portrait of an archdiocese in turmoil, if not transition, they would have looked deeper into the story.

I don't know how Pamela Miller did her research for this article; I wonder if she consulted the blogosphere? (If you're a blogger who was contacted by Miller, I'd like to know about it.) I wonder if she talked with any "Catholic experts" besides Thomas Reese or Prof. Kennedy, the chair of Catholic Studies at St. Thomas? Did she talk with anyone who had even a hint of anything remotely critical to say about the Archbishop? I wonder, in fact, if Miller has anything beyond a dim conception of how the rest of the nation (that is to say, those who take an active interest in these kinds of things) views this archdiocese?

There's always a danger of thinking that events are more important than they are. In using that line in the previous paragraph - the one about "how the rest of the nation" views the archdiocese, I do so with apprehension. After all, most of the nation gives not a whit about what goes on here. For that matter, I'd imagine most of the people within this very archdiocese have little idea about the tensions under the surface.

But if this is a danger, then so too is the danger of disregarding any external importance to a story. The fact of the matter is this: if you read national publications, if you consult national experts, if you make even a cursory Google search, you'll find that there is indeed a great deal of interest in what goes on around here. Great newspapers, if there are any left, recognize that. They have a way of making the big story more intimate, while at the same time realizing the hidden importance of the small story. The Star Tribune does neither, and hasn't in my lifetime. Mind you, I'm not ruling out the possibility that this story could turn out to be completely and entirely accurate, and that Miller knows more about this than the rest of us put together - but it does seem awfully one-sided, don't you think? And I'm not trying to cast aspersions on Pamela Miller the writer - I don't know her myself, and she could be a quite delightful person. I cite her less as an individual and more as a representative of the MSM in general.

(And by the way, that crack from Kennedy about speculation being "wishful thinking" - it's curious, isn't it, that this story first broke on the blogosphere. One would suppose that Kennedy and his ilk would have dismissed that speculation as "wishful thinking" on the part of disgruntled orthodox Catholics. Until it was to their advantage to acknowledge the story, that is. But that "wishful thinking" turned out to be accurate, didn't it?)

But let's not be too harsh on the Strib. After all, it only took them two weeks to catch up with this story. For this lummox of the MSM, that's not too bad.

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