Kudos to Christiansen

The editor of America, Drew Christiansen, SJ, has a knockdown post on last week’s meeting between Obama and select members of the Catholic press (and one WaPo religion writer). It’s a particular examen of the profession and the church rather than Obama. Father Christiansen is rightly (to my biased mind) laudatory of daily wordsmiths like Pat Zapor of Catholic News Service–a top-notch outfit that is undervalued and underfunded. Those who can, write on deadline. Those who can’t, criticize them.

But Christiansen’s most incisive words are for a fellow participant, Fr. Owen Kearns, publisher of National Catholic Register, the newspaper of the right-wing Legionaries of Christ. I’d heard that Father Kearns laid something of an egg with his question-accusation for Obama, but Christiansen has the full story:


Fr. Owen Kearns, L.C., publisher and editor in chief of The National Catholic Register, wanted to press the president on the anti-Catholicism in his administration. Citing a line in the president’s Cairo address about hiding hostility to religion behind the pretense of liberalism, Father Kearns asked whether the administration didn’t harbor anti-Catholic sentiment. The president asked for specifics, and Fr. Kearns identified Joshua Du Bois, the director of the White House Office for Faith-based and Neighborhood Initiatives, as an offender. Rev. DuBois, Fr. Kearns alleged had called the pope “a discredited leader.”Kearns added that the president had backed him up.

The Rev. DuBois, sitting directly behind Father Kearns, denied the accusation and identified the offender as Harry Knox, an outside advisor to the office, who is the religious liaison for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian organization. It was the first the president had heard of the incident, and he had never backed up such an offending statement.
Journalists should know that if you are going to call an official out to his face you ought to have your facts straight. But nothing can deter the Catholic right’s idee fixe that Barack Obama is bound and determined to do the worst he can by the pro-life agenda., even when their position is shown up as empty prejudice as it was that morning.
Well said. The idea of going into a Q-and-A with the POTUS with some vague and factually incorrect grievance as your question is embarassing. Of course, the National Catholic Register has a number of skeletons in the closet regarding truth-telling, specifically in the case of the LC founder Father Maciel Degollado. And why the Register was invited and not Our Sunday Visitor was baffling, though OSV editor John Norton says he raised a stink, and rightly so. (OSV’s blog also edited Kearns’ question in a very sympathetic way for the priest.)
But Father Christiansen isn’t playing favorites. He also takes on a post-meeting post by one of America‘s own bloggers, Michael Sean Winters, who wrote a stinging and (to my mind) baffling critique of Obama’s responses at the meeting. (Read Winters’ post here.) 
Michael Sean Winters, though he didn’t participate in the round robin and, as far as I know, didn’t have access to the full transcript, gave the president a ‘B’. It is not exactly clear to me why. But, I am sure it grabbed readers’ eyes. Our meeting wasn’t a philosophy seminar, as MSW seemed to understand. Was it simply because the president couldn’t grant everything we Catholics would ask on the abortion question? That seems inappropriate for journalists to expect from any politician.
There were only two questions related to abortion. One on the conscience clause and one on the committee searching for common ground. The president’s response to the first was in the affirmative, but the specific policy is still under review, and in the case of the committee, though it has been corresponding and holding conference calls, its first meeting will only take place sometime soon. On both counts, it seems we will have to wait to see how the president and his team score on a Catholic test.
The weakness in the meeting, it seemed to me, was on our side. Only two journalists’ questions dealt with the president’s meeting with the pope and the broader international agenda they anticipate discussing-the reason the White House had brought us there. We Catholic journalists were preoccupied, I am afraid, with American Catholic politics. We couldn’t see beyond the eastern seaboard, it seemed. Perhaps the appearance Tuesday of Pope Benedict’s new social encyclical will open our eyes to the global responsibilities both pope and president want us to address.
Father Christiansen has another post up as well on his impressions of “The Obama We Met.”

Comments read comments(4)
post a comment

posted July 6, 2009 at 11:49 am

“We Catholic journalists were preoccupied, I am afraid, with American Catholic politics.”
As it pertains to Pres. Obama shouldn’t “American” Catholic politics take front and center stage, seeing as how US Federal policy on “Catholic” issues is what is particularily relevant? I had no earthly idea that Obama was going to revamp Phillipino Catholic politics (oops, that’s way over yonder off the WESTERN seaboard, my bad). My goodness, those Jesuits are sharp!!

report abuse


posted July 6, 2009 at 1:11 pm

dear servants,children and friends of the Lamb and His Bride,
I pray that St. Peter, the Rock of Our Faith,
the One Christ Jesus appointed to be the First Pope
would now arise and become Our Catholic Church’s
Last Pope, since these are the Last Days.
You know what I was just thinking?
If St. Michael, the holy Archangel,
is Prince of the Heavenly Host,
and St. Peter who is called holy, and
Prince of the Apostles,
could this correlation lead to the solemn conclusion,
in that both are called Princes of a certain type Host or Legion,
that indeed they are One and the Same?
Yes, indeed.
I conclude that it is so and is a hidden Truth
now revealed that we can depend one.
Hence, the fervent prayers of the Church
attached to the Rosary and at the Daily Mass
to St. Michael to rise up and protect Us.
Think about it.
Does it sound like the Truth to your hearts?
– signed,
friend to Humanity
Texas, USA

report abuse


posted July 6, 2009 at 6:59 pm

The impact that America has on the rest of the world does require us, as CAtholics, to be interested in it. It would be lovely indeed if we could turn a blind eye to how far our tentacles reach but that is simply not reality. If we want to assume the position of moral authority (which we clearly think we are) we need to ask the questions that may be uncomfortable, and President Obama should be the one who we strive to work with to realize our own agenda of peace and healing in the world. We cannot afford to be little minded, we need to truly be Christian…Jesus’s message is clear.

report abuse

Joseph Fromm

posted July 7, 2009 at 7:22 pm

You are correct that the Legion founder had lived a less than perfect life. Will you apply your same standards to America magazine and its lack of handling of the “Oregon Abuse Case”? 40 Jesuit and a bankrupt Province.It seems you have a double standard.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!   ...

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks... recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That ...

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored ...

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, ...

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's ...

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.