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Washington Post columnist critiques Vatican for something it didn't say

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 07, 2012

Washington Post columnist Lisa Miller has produced a hilarious piece. But I’m afraid the humor is unintentional.

Miller takes Vatican officials to task for using the term “radical feminist” to describe some American women religious. The title of her column tells the story: “Vatican’s term ‘radical feminist’ says more about cardinals than nuns they rebuke.”

There’s just one problem. Miller doesn’t provide a single example in which a Vatican official used that term. The word “feminist” is used once in a sentence fragment from a 4-year old radio interview. But “radical feminist”—not once.

In fact Miller’s column—which, keep in mind, is about the Vatican’s use of that term—begins this way:

It surprises me a little that the men who run things at the Vatican did not use their most favorite recent pejorative – “feminist” — when they rapped the knuckles of Margaret Farley…

It surprises Miller that the Vatican officials didn't say what she claims they typically say, yet it doesn’t stop her from writing the column that she had planned anyway. No sense wasting a good argument, just because the facts don’t fit it.

Insofar as one can follow Miller’s line of thought in this remarkable column, she seems to be defending Sister Farley against the recent Vatican criticism of her work. You’ll recall that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned that Farley’s book, Just Love, makes arguments that are “in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality.” Here’s what Lisa Miller says to defend the book, and criticize the cardinals: “In a million other ways, it doesn’t uphold their view of Christian sexual morality.”

Ummm. Isn’t that exactly what the CDF said? Miller seems better at criticizing what Vatican officials don’t say than at understanding what they do say.

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