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 ($26,341 to go):
$150,000.00 $123,658.96
18% 82%
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 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Denial of Service Attack: Success! 7 hours ago
Federal debt as a social-justice concern 10 hours ago
Another side of Francis: US-Cuba role shows Pope's diplomatic muscle December 18
Silly season: a Christmas approaches, a scholar questions whether Jesus ever existed December 18
The intrinsic immorality of torture: still not convinced? December 18

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: Europe seems 'elderly and haggard' CWN - November 25
Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch sign joint declaration, lament persecution of Christians CWN - December 1
Consistory for new cardinals scheduled for February CWN - December 11
Vatican report on US women religious calls for further self-assessment CWN - December 16
Pope brokered deal to open US-Cuba ties CWN - December 17