We have $163,080 to go in our Fall Campaign. Every penny is used to strengthen the Church. See details!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Why you need CWN: illustration #6,407

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 19, 2008

 This headline is popping up in quite a few newspapers in and around Vermont:

 Former Vatican counsel castigates Vt. Church

 The story-- here's a representative sample-- involves testimony by Father Tom Doyle in a case involving clerical abuse. 

Father Doyle is a well known figure in these cases. Back in the 1980s he was among a handful of people who tried-- energetically but unsuccessfully-- to persuade the US bishops that they should confront the problem forthrightly. He was remained outspoken on the issue, and while his comments on Church authority raise concerns about his own theological beliefs, there's no question that he qualifies as an expert witness in a secular courtroom. 

But the headline doesn't describe Father Doyle as an expert witness; it calls him a "former Vatican counsel." That description suggests someone high up in the Roman Curia-- perhaps the equivalent of a White House counsel, who has regular access to the Oval Office. The headline conveys the impression that some ranking official in Rome has singled out the Burlington diocese for special criticism. That's not the case. Father Doyle once worked in the office of the apostolic nuncio in Washington. It's true that he handled canonical affairs; in that sense you could say that he was a "counsel" for an office of the Vatican. But by no stretch of the imagination was he an important policy-maker for the universal Church.

It's easy for secular journalists, who know little about the workings of the Vatican, to exaggerate the importance of Church functionaries. One regularly sees references to statements by  "important Vatican officials," who turn out to hold minor clerical posts in the Roman bureaucracy. 

The people who run the Vatican post office are "Vatican officials," and since mail service is important, you could describe them as "important" Vatican officials.  Keep that in mind, next time you see that phrase.  


An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($163,080 to go):
$200,000.00 $36,919.72
82% 18%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.

Fall Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Church Fathers: St. Clement of Alexandria, Part I 0 hours ago
Internalizing marriage at this year's synod 2 hours ago
Gay Vatican official who 'came out' may influence Synod in a way he didn't expect--or want 20 hours ago
Another serial killer? Blame 'religious rage.' 23 hours ago
At Synod's opening session, evidence of a different dynamic October 5

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope issues new rules to streamline annulment process CWN - September 8
In Cuba, Pope emphasizes service to the vulnerable, praises thaw in US-Cuban relations CWN - September 21
Pope challenges America in speech to US Congress CWN - September 24
As Synod opens, Pope calls on Church to defend ‘unity and indissolubility’ of marriage bond CWN - October 5