Calling Father Reese

On Silencing the Messenger

I had just taken my seat at the Diocese of Brooklyn’s annual World Communications Day lunch when religion journalist David Gibson told me that Rev. Thomas Reese had been pressured into resigning as editor of America magazine. This major news story had been developing for some time.

Vatican pressure to remove Reese from the Jesuit-run weekly began five years ago, according to a source who asked not to be identified, when some U.S. bishops complained to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that Reese was quoted so often in the media. They thought bishops should have been quoted, the source said.

If these bishops believe that clamping down on Reese will alter the way the Catholic Church is presented in the media, they’re wrong. Journalists aren’t going to stop seeking out independent commentators such as Reese. There are obvious journalistic reasons that reporters are more likely to quote someone like Reese than a bishop. “Too many bishops will not talk, or will not talk honestly, about the issues and the dynamics that face them,” Gibson, author of The Coming Catholic Church and board member of the Religion Newswriters Association, told me a few days after our lunch. “Talking honestly about the process is seen as being disloyal.” Ari Goldman, a journalism professor at Columbia University and a former religion writer at the New York...

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About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).