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paranoid or just plain crazy?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 06, 2009

When he sent out the daily CWN headlines last night, our editor felt obliged to debunk a nasty rumor. For the benefit of those who missed it, here's what he said:

Yesterday the news media (and the internet) carried quite a bit of analysis and speculation on the coverage of abortion in the Obama health-care reform plans. With so much information swirling around, there was bound to be some misinformation as well. Let me clarify just one point, since several different readers raised questions about it: It is not true that Catholic Charities USA received a huge grant to promote the White House plans. It is true that Catholic Charities received a large federal grant-- for an entirely different purpose.

We can speculate as to whether-- or rather, how-- the White House is courting favor with Catholic voters. And we can suggest that Church leaders might be more energetic in opposing morally unacceptable health-care proposals. But let's stick to the facts.  

Good point, Phil. Stick to the facts. Squash the crazy rumors. And this rumor really was a crazy one. 

Still, if I were an American bishop (which I'm not, in case anyone was wondering), this particular crazy rumor would worry me, and give me cause for reflection. How did this rumor gain any traction at all? Are there really that many disaffected Catholics out there, ready to believe a report that Church leaders are going to sell out the unborn? Why wouldn't people immediately dismiss the suggestion that a major national Catholic agency, under the supervision of the bishops' conference, would join forces with the Obama administration against the pro-life movement? You might hear rumors like this in the fever swamps of old-fashioned anti-Catholicism, among the readers of Jack Chick comic books. But how did this one make the jump onto the Catholic blogosphere? Are there that many Catholics who have so utterly lost faith in their Church leaders? Apparently there are, and that's frightening.

You might say that the rumor was promoted by Catholic bloggers who harbor an unhealthy suspicion of the hierarchy. But the bishops are shepherds of all Catholics: the confused and misguided as well as the sober and sensible. Some people need to be rebuked for spreading this nasty rumor. But others-- the credulous people who believed it-- need to be reassured that their Church leaders really are on their side. If I were a bishop, I'd be thinking about how I might reach out to these suspicious Catholics, to coax them away from the edge of paranoia. 

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