Catholics, Kerry, and a Column

David McCarthy (Pitt News) wonders why a priest at the Catholic Newman Center
critiqued his writing. Perhaps this sloppy and uninformative segment
demonstrates why. By the way, this
article
is a follow-up to another
of his
.

Sitting down with a priest at the Catholic Newman Center,
I politely asked the clergyman’s opinion [about why many Catholics would
not vote for Kerry]. He started talking about the church’s views on
abortion and that despite how the media portrayed them, Catholics tend
to be relatively split between voting for Kerry and Bush.

He reminded me of the awesome knowledge members of the clergy
possessed and how, as a small child, hearing them speak always comforted
me. I even started to feel a little embarrassed for having taken such a
swipe at the Catholic Church in the first place.

But then the priest’s tone changed, and he started to question my
abilities as a writer. He told me that my piece was unconvincing and
even offered me some tips on how I could make it as a journalist.

I left the Newman Center feeling much the same way I did when I left
Catholic school: bad about myself. How could a Kerry supporter, a Bush
supporter, a Catholic and her mother, a celebrity and a superhero all
agree with and respect my writing if I lacked the ability to effectively
convey an opinion? I sighed when I knew the answer. While the Catholic
Church may offer holy teaching dating back to Christ, it hasn’t been in
touch with humanity for thousands of years. If I had presented the same
column to a priest in a different era, I probably would have been burned
at the stake or excommunicated.

I wonder which priest he interviewed. I wonder what he said about
the Church’s positions on abortion and pro-choice Catholic politicians.
I wonder what he said about why Catholics were split. If he was so awed
by the knowledge the clergy possess, why didn’t he share some of it with
his readers? Why did the priest’s criticism of his writing change his
feelings about the wisdom imparted to him?

The Pitt News allows readers to comment on articles. I invite my
readers, especially those in the Pittsburgh area, to respond to
McCarthy’s “journalism”. By the way, should Mr. McCarthy find his way
back here and criticize my writing, I won’t be upset. I’m not the one
pretending to be a journalist, writing for a rag that pretends to be a
serious publication.

Comments 8

  1. theomorph wrote:

    “[T]he awesome knowledge members of the clergy possessed…”

    Sure, whatever. The more I learn the more I know that nobody possesses truly awesome knowledge. Clergy are just human beings, too. They don’t impress me in the slightest.

    But some people feel the uncertainty of life (which is real, I might add) and like to think that somebody, somewhere has All the Answers. I have a friend who is a former member of the clergy. He tells stories all the time about people who came to him full of doubts and expecting him to have a perfect solution for everything like he was some kind of theological apothecary. Except the priestly model has always been a sham. Priests don’t have any secret knowledge. They’re just people who do religion for a living.

    Posted 06 Nov 2004 at 3:15 am
  2. EmilyE wrote:

    I attempted to post feedback on their website. I gave my name, my profession, my e-mail address, and tactfully told the writer that he should consider taking an expository writing course.

    My feedback was rejected. No reason was listed in the automated e-mail I received from the moderator. Apparently the Pitt News doesn’t want to post criticisms of their columnists.

    Posted 06 Nov 2004 at 4:06 pm
  3. Funky Dung wrote:

    I learned that the priest involved is Joseph Scioli and he doesn’t plan on dignifying McCarthy’s article with a response. Other folks hanging about the Oratory, however, might.

    Posted 06 Nov 2004 at 1:32 pm
  4. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Maybe this would be best dealt with on another posting. I’ll get to it.

    Posted 07 Nov 2004 at 7:21 pm
  5. EmilyE wrote:

    Not that I’m necessarily surprised, mind you. A fellow journalism major and I wrote two letters to the editor criticizing the Pitt News’ journalistic practices and urging them to develop some sort of code of ethics — just because one *can* print something doesn’t mean one *ought* to. Needless to say, we never heard from them or had our letters printed.

    Still, I think it is worth criticizing the Pitt News. If they are criticized often enough, perhaps (just perhaps) they’d be willing to change a little.

    Posted 06 Nov 2004 at 4:10 pm
  6. Jerry Nora wrote:

    True, they don’t have secret knowledge. Nor are they necessarily the most saintly folk. Nor do they necessarily know more than laymen. This may contradict the shaman/mystery cult model of priesthood, but not the Catholic/Orthodox understanding, where the priest is taking on a role in administering sacraments, not through his own power, but by God’s. It is an office (which is used by the Roman Church in the sense of its Latin root, which means “duty”, I recall), and one of great honor, as one is following the footsteps of Christ in a particular way by continuing His work as a pastor. Everyone’s understood that following Christ does not mean perfectly imitating Him. Otherwise, the Church would not have survived St. Peter’s vacillations or cowardice. Or St. Paul’s considerable temper.

    So I don’t know what exactly you mean by the priestly model when you call it a sham, but insofar as you’re denying those more superstitious ways of thinking of priesthood that I mentioned above, I can agree with you. The “just doing religion for a living” is perhaps a bit too simplistic and dismissive, but not without truth, either.

    Posted 06 Nov 2004 at 4:25 am
  7. theomorph wrote:

    What is “priestly” religion? This is the religion that interposes an individual or a small group of individuals between the greater population and the god they worship. These individuals regulate access to the divine–er, “administer sacraments”–by deciding whether a person can participate in the sacraments. In order to make that decision, this priest, this ordinary human being, must have something the laity does not have–knowledge, authority, or both. Even if you claim that he does this “not through his own power, but by God’s” then you are setting up the question of why this particular power of God’s flows through some people and not others. How is that different from a shamanic system where a shamans perform rituals and duties not through their own power, but by that of the spirit world? The only difference is the theological content and the outward ritual. The social function–an individual who mediates the divine to the rest of the population–is the same.

    Posted 07 Nov 2004 at 6:26 am
  8. Jerry Nora wrote:

    With the Pitt News, I am always at a loss about I should begin… Is it worth it, critiquing them?

    Posted 05 Nov 2004 at 10:53 pm

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