A newspaper with the soul of a church

Kenneth L. Woodward, theformer religion editor of Newsweek, has written a piece for us about the New York Times's religion problem. It is, Woodward explains, a question of rival magisteria:

No question, the Timess worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times uniqueand what any Catholic bishop ought to understandis that it is not just the nations self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church....[L]ike the Church of Rome, the Times exercises a powerful magisterium or teaching authority through its editorial board. There is no issue, local or global, on which these (usually anonymous) writers do not pronounce with a papal-like editorial we. Like the Vaticans Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the editorial board is there to defend received truth as well as advance the papers political, social, and cultural agendas. One can no more imagine a Times editorial opposing any form of abortionto take just one of that magisteriums articles of faiththan imagine a papal encyclical in favor.The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ. As the papers first and most acute public editor, Daniel Okrent, once put it, the editorial page is so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.

You can read the whole piece here.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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