A defense of Catholic teaching appears in a Catholic newspaper. Should we applaud?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 18, 2015

Here’s two cheers for the Pilot, the Boston archdiocesan newspaper (which—full disclosure—I once edited), for publishing a column by a priest defending Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. This comes a week after the Pilot printed another column, by another priest, ridiculing the same teaching.

So now we’re even, right? Wrong. We shouldn’t expect an archdiocesan newspaper to maintain its neutrality regarding Catholic doctrine: to balance the critics with the supporters. We should expect more.

The new column, by Father David Barnes, is excellent. Had it appeared ex nihilo, it would have been a fine example of what a Catholic newspaper should do: a cogent and winsome explanation of Church teaching. But in fact the Barnes column appeared only after damage had been done, by the appalling outburst from Msgr. Paul Garrity.

Father Barnes does not mention the Garrity piece in his own Pilot column. (He did, in an earlier post on his own blog, offer a very charitable but spirited rebuttal of Msgr. Garrity’s argument.) His gratuitous use of the word “ludicrous,” in a sentence where it really doesn’t belong, will tip off perceptive readers that he is reacting to the Garrity piece. But he does not chastise his fellow priest. Nor should he; that’s not his job. But it is someone’s job.

So again, two cheers to the Pilot for publishing the Barnes column. It would merit a full three cheers if the Pilot had published:

  • An apology for running Msgr. Garrity’s column, or
  • A statement from Cardinal O’Malley—not just another priest, but the archbishop—correcting the record, or
  • A retraction from Msgr. Garrity, or
  • An announcement that Msgr. Garrity had been replaced as pastor.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Sep. 18, 2015 6:17 PM ET USA

    This is a time to use the principal which Cardinal O'Malley seems to like so very much, "One strike and you are out!"

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Sep. 18, 2015 5:07 PM ET USA

    Only the latter choice is acceptable.