Reading dotCommonweal with the Catholic League
A kind correspondent, concerned for our souls here at Commonweal, passed along a photocopy of a column in the latest issue of the Catalyst, which -- as you are no doubt aware -- is the newsletter of William Donohue's Catholic League. Donohue mentions Commonweal, you see:
A radical atheist organization took out a vicious full-page ad in the New York Times ripping Catholicism, and professed Catholics agreed with it. The ad, Quit the Catholic Church, was paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation; it ran on March 9....Many of the comments about the ad that were posted on the websites of liberal Catholic media outlets agreed with the ad. America, Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter ran several statements of support.
Wait, that's not true. On what grounds does Donohue claim that we ran a "statement of support"?
Some wondered why anyone would object. For example, Gerelyn at Commonweal questioned, "Is there something in the ad that is untrue?"
Aha. As I am sure Gerelyn would be the first to tell you, when Gerelyn, or any other commenter, leaves a comment on a post here at dotCommonweal, that comment is not from Commonweal. Is it possible that Donohue does not understand how blog comments work? (It wouldn't be the first time that this distinction has caused trouble for someone in search of infidelity on the Catholic Left. It's funny that the confusion never seems to work the other way.)
Donohue goes on, "Some who could not bring themselves to condemn the ad teach at Catholic colleges." He first criticizes something Tom Beaudoin, a Fordham professor, wrote at America's blog ("Blaming the victim was never put more crudely," he says, which when you think about it is a pretty bold statement coming from Bill Donohue). That wasn't exactly a "statement of support," either, but at least he's moved on to reading things actually posted by magazine contributors. Then he turns back in this direction:
Not to be outdone we have the Commonweal contribution of Father Robert P. Imbelli. He also teaches theology at a Jesuit institution, this one being Boston College. He was delighted that the Times ran the cartoon that accompanied the ad. The cartoon, which featured what appears to be Cardinal Dolan, shows the New York archbishop screaming at a woman "Over Something This Small" (it shows a picture of the pill with the inscription, "Birth Control"). Father Imbelli opined, "Happily the punchy cartoon was spared the censor's ax." He had nothing to say about the propriety of the hate speech directed at his religion.These are not isolate examples, for if they were they would hardly be worth mentioning; Commonweal and the Reporter regularly feature self-hating Catholics...
Here's the post from Fr. Imbelli that led Dr. Donohue to call him a "self-hating Catholic." (It happens to be the same post that provoked the above-quoted comment from Gerelyn -- a comment I am fairly confident she viewed as dissenting.) All I can say is, the distinction between "comments people leave on our posts" and "statements endorsed by Commonweal" appears to be just the beginning of Dr. Donohue's comprehension issues. What I think I like best about this is the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger conclusion:
Over the years, America and Commonweal have published some brilliant articles that challenge the accepted wisdom in Catholic circles. That is why it is distressing to note some of the commentary they are featuring these days.
It's true -- why, I can hardly count the times Donohue has recommended our brilliant articles challenging accepted wisdom to his fellow Catholic Leaguers. How sad to see him forced to reconsider the high opinion in which he has always held us, and the deep respect and careful attention he has always brought to reading Commonweal. As Cardinal Dolan has said, "Keep at it, Bill! We need you!"
About the Author
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.