Quashing ‘dissent’

Smear Tactics

Regarding Jerry Ryan’s “Orthodoxy & Dissent” (February 8): In August 2009, Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin of Providence published a review of Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s autobiography A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church in the Rhode Island Catholic, the diocesan newspaper (“Archbishop Weakland’s Perplexing Pilgrimage”). Unlike some conservative critics of Weakland, Bishop Tobin generously acknowledged many of his fellow bishop’s personal qualities and achievements. But he was also harshly critical of what he described as Weakland’s “self-serving inconsistencies and contradictions.” All four of the examples Tobin gives are seriously flawed, but it is the first that is apropos here. It concerns dissent.

Bishop Tobin writes, “For example, although the archbishop always took pride in his liberal theological tendencies and his public pronouncements on controversial issues, he seemed to be genuinely puzzled, even hurt, when others labeled him a dissident.” The archbishop was called a “dissenter” and many other things by critics during his decades as a high-...

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