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Georgetown, Sebelius, and the LA Times: who's stifling debate now?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 18, 2012

Are the editors of the Los Angeles Times misinforming their readers intentionally? Or are they really too stupid to make simple distinctions?

In an editorial with the grossly misleading title “Silencing Kathleen Sebelius,” the Times criticizes the Washington archdiocese for finding fault with the school’s decision to honor the HHS Secretary. The editorial makes the preposterous assertion that the archdiocese suggested “students at the Jesuit-affiliated university shouldn't be able to hear her speak at an awards ceremony for its Public Policy Institute.”

Of course Sebelius was not “silenced,” Georgetown students were not required to wear ear plugs, and the archdiocese never made either absurd suggestion. This was never a case of “censorship,” as the Times editorial asserts. A commencement speaker is not brought onto a college campus to enter into debate. The question was whether a woman who has led the drive against religious freedom should be honored by a Catholic institution.

The Los Angeles Times opens this noxious column with the claim that the archdiocese issued its statement in response to pressure from “ultraconservative” Catholics. The use of that pejorative adjective--applied to Catholics who simply believe what the Catholic Church teaches--is a cheap rhetorical trick.

But then the entire editorial is a cheap rhetorical display; the editors completely distort (or is it possible that they completely misunderstand?) the protests against the Sebelius appearance. While claiming to champion open and honest debate, the Times does its editorial utmost to ensure that readers won’t understand the terms of this debate.

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 See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - May. 19, 2012 3:42 AM ET USA

    It has been a while since I last used the Jerome Biblical Commentary (JBC) and the NJBC, but I recall a very liberal use of the term "ultraconservative" in one (NJBC?) or both of these Catholic publications. I have always wondered why a political term would be so often thrown about in a scholarly Catholic scripture resource.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 18, 2012 11:02 PM ET USA

    This "humor" gets worse and worse! " response to pressure from “ultraconservative” Catholics.." Does THAT mean US??? My... I "feel" guilty! Maybe I shouldn't write in anymore?! JP

  • Posted by: Defender - May. 18, 2012 5:37 PM ET USA

    "...misinforming or too stupid. ...misinforming or too stupid." Ah, there's the rub!