Dan got it wrong, badly

Dateline: Mon 09 Jul 2012


As an editorial columnist, a liberal and a Catholic, the Star's Dan Carpenter certainly has the freedom to criticize the Catholic Church and just about anything else. But he should get his facts right.

Granted, Carpenter often writes for effect, not to persuade of the logic of his position; he is preaching to the choir, and his pieces are typically predictable.

Still, last Wednesday's column, criticizing an editorial in the Criterion (local Catholic weekly) about the history of anti-Catholicism in the U.S.A., and somehow linking the bishops to the Ku Klux Klan, badly misstated the record of the Catholic church regarding universal health care as well as the current battle over whether or not Catholic institutions should be required to provide birth control and abortificants, against their beliefs.

First Carpenter sliced and diced the bishops (an absurdly easy target, but in truth, the church has supported universal health care). Then he implied that these same bishops have cast President Obama, "the first black president," as the heir to the Ku Klux Klan's D.C. Stephenson when it comes to persecuting the Catholic church. OK, that's some serious hyperbole, with the race card thrown in for good measure.

Distancing himself from these church fathers, Carpenter wrote from on high:

"I prefer to go with the Catholic Health Association, the hospital group headed by one of those incorrigible nuns, which hailed the court ruling and welcomes Obamacare. Somehow, the sisters have bought into this wacky notion that a government policy that provides health care to those who cannot afford it, while at the same time excluding abortion, is compatible with the Gospels and church teaching."

In fact, the good sisters of the Catholic Health Association stand squarely with the church on the birth control/abortion provision, as you can read yourself in interviews with Sister Carol Keehan, who worked mightily to pass the ACA but is certainly not abandoning her church when it comes to who defines a ministry -- the government or religious leaders. Read her comments:


under the healdine: "Catholic Hospital Leader (that's the good nun) Defends Split With Obama Administration On Contraceptives"

Maybe this is inside baseball to non-Catholics, but the facts are that the Criterion column was simply a factual history of various times when the church has been under siege. It was written by John Fink, a longtime senior editor, and it was fair and balanced.

Carpenter's column, however, totally twisted Fink's words to suit Carpenter's own biases. The real folly was that he incorrectly invoked the nuns at the Catholic Health Association as being in his corner, when in fact, their position is in agreement with the church's.

What's really ironic, and sad, is that the Star never corrected the factual error in Dan Carpenter's column. (A commenter on Facebook did, however).

Finally, a letter to the editor ran today in the lead spot, calling Carp's column "unwarranted and wrong" and explaining what I've already said about the Catholic Health Association's position. The letter was written by Jeff Field, who is identified as being from New York, N.Y., but not stating that he is a spokesman for the Catholic League. That, too, is a mistake and oversight on the Star's part.

Good journalism takes work. Correcting an error takes an understanding of journalism ethics and a commitment to integrity. The Star could do better.

BTW here's the latest story on that nun, who has come up with a compromise solution to the current church vs. Obama fight re: the birth control mandate:








hendy [Member] said:

The Reverend Dan, God Bless Him, can get a bit preachy. Because this is a doctrinal fight and I have no dog in this fight, I can't comment-- save that getting the facts right is very important.

I'm reminded of Vonnegut's _Cat's Cradle_, where he cites _The Book of Bokonon_, where he reveals the words of Bokonon:Nice Nice Very Nice, So Many People in the Same Device. I wonder sometimes, why St Thomas Aquinas doesn't simply explode, or implode.

2012-07-09 21:24:28

John M [unverified] said:

I'm not sure I understand your beef with Carpenter here. The Criterion editorial compared the persecution suffered by Catholics at the hands of the Klan in Indiana in the 1920s with what is happening today.

"In the 1920s, it was here in Indiana, with the Ku Klux Klan, which controlled the Republican Party, the governor and the legislature. Catholics were persecuted, but also stood up for their rights.

Today, the religious rights of Catholics are being threatened by certain mandates from the federal government. Once again, Catholics are being urged to assert their rights."

Sure, the editorial didn't mention DC Stephenson or Obama by name, but they are the respective leaders of the two institutions decried in the above cited paragraph. I don't think Carpenter's twist is absurd by any stretch, the Criterion's mealy-mouthed passive voice notwitstanding.

It's also not clear to me what Carpenter misstated factually. It's true that the Catholic Health Association opposes the HHS regulation that requires religiously affiliated institutions to provide birth control coverage. I don't see where Carpenter suggested otherwise. It is, again, objectively true that the CHA applauded the Supreme Court's ruling. Here's the link. http://www.chausa.org/Pages/Newsroom/Releases/2012/Catholic_Health_Association_Pleased_with_Supreme_Court_Ruling_on_Affordable_Care_Act/

You are correct, of course, that the CHA is in agreement with the USCCB on the birth control mandate. But that isn't what Dan's column is about. And you are correct that the bishops claim to be in favor of "universal health care." That doesn't affect the truth of Carpenter's point, which is that whatever the bishops claim to be for generally, they opposed the only universal health care bill that has ever reached the desk of a United States president, while the CHA supported it.

Again, something may be going over my head, but I am failing to see any misrepresentation of fact in Carpenter's column.

2012-07-11 07:31:23

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