E.J. Dionne, Jr.’s column in today’s Washington Post on Pres. Obama’s upcoming appearance at Notre Dame is filled with deceptive and misleading statements and presentations of facts.
He leads into his article by suggesting that an article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, characterizing the president as less than extreme in his abortion politics proves that “[w]e now know that the reaction of right-wing Catholics to Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama falls into the category of ‘more Catholic than the pope.'”
The implication is that the folks affiliated with Notre Dame protesting the school’s decision to honor Obama aren’t doing so because of a principled stand on the Church’s doctrine regarding life issues, but because they are wingnuts. Without the authority of Church teaching, the conservatives’ case falls apart. Hence Dionne’s subtitle: “Words From Rome Change The Debate on Inviting Obama.”
Except for one problem: the L’Osservatore Romano article that paints Obama as a moderate in no way reflects Church teaching or the voice of any Church official. It was written by Giuseppe Fiorentino, a foreign correspondent. L’Osservatore Romano bills itself merely as the “semi-official” newspaper of the Vatican, and doesn’t pretend to express the pope’s teaching.
It is especially disingenuous for Dionne to pass this article off as a statement “from Rome” since the Church hierarchy has, when it has spoken on the issue, clearly and unambiguously condemned Notre Dame’s decision to honor Obama. At last count 70 American bishops, including 4 cardinals, had responded publicly to the Notre Dame situation. All were at least skeptical of Notre Dame’s choice, and many denounced the university officials in strong language. Such a reaction from the American bishops is very unusual, and for Dionne to present a random article by a layman in Rome as representative of the hierarchy in light of the bishops’ response is dishonest.
Among other obfuscations, Dionne also argues that the people objecting to the school honoring Obama are crazed conservatives out of lockstep with the mainstream. He cites Pew Research Center polls that gauge the public’s attitude toward the situation, which show mixed results. He neglects, however, a Rasmussen poll that directly asked the pertinent question, namely whether the university should award an honorary degree to the president. The poll showed that 60% of U.S. Catholics thought that it should not (compared to 25% who thought it shoud), and 52% of Americans overall thought the same thing.
Dionne’s article fell well short of a basic level of journalistic sincerity, and I expect that he will hear from some of the bishops who, unlike a random columnist in Rome, actually speak for the Church. This column is an embarassment for him and the Washington Post.
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