Catholic World News News Feature
Theme and Variations July 04, 2002
Twice in the past month, an excerpt from reports on the ubiquitous sex-abuse scandal has stirred me into journalistic action. Each time, I noticed a particular sort of logic in the sentences that I read, and I decided to test whether the same logic could be applied to different stories. Let the reader be the judge.
Excerpt from an editorial in the Boston Pilot, March 15:
Some op-ed journalists have suggested that Cardinal Law should step down. A recent public opinion poll, with a margin of error of 4 percent, showed a large number of the laity in the archdiocese hold the same position, while many do not, and 16 percent simply do not know.
Variations on the theme:
Professor von Neuschlag analyzed the recently excavated fossil by means of a Carbon-14 dating procedure accurate to within a half-century, as a result of which he was able to determine that the proto-reptilian creature was "like really, really old."
Laser interferometry has given physical chemists a new window into the micro-structure of naturally occurring acetate crystals. A new instrument at the University of Aberdeen with a resolution of 3 Angstrom units enabled the research team to measure--for the first time ever--the sheath circumference of the rigid amyl ion, revealed to the astonished scientific community as "wee."
I asked Dr. Rupert Sonnenschein of NASA's Hubble Observatory how many stars and para-stellar bodies made up the Crab Nebulae. "You know those six-ounce bottles of Bac-O-Bits you get at Dominic's? You know how many Bac-O-Bits there must be just in that one jar? Well more than that."
First National Bank Statement, April 5, 2002: Balance at beginning of period: $431.20. Deposits/Credits: $187.22. Withdrawals/Debits: 606.29. Ending balance: frankly disappointing.
A portion of a Newsweek magazine interview with Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, just prior to the April meeting of American prelates with Vatican officials:
Q: Will homosexuality and homosexual priests be discussed there this week?
A: [Gregory's voice rose and he slapped the table.] I would not be surprised. However, I think that the focus should be on, and this is what I've continually said: The focus must be on the safety of children! That's A-number one!
Reading that passage, I thought first about the busy intersection near my home, where several collisions have occurred during the past week. An investigative reporter might approach the local police department:
Q: Will the City Council consider installing traffic lights at that intersection?
A: [Officer Krumpke's voice rose and he slapped the table.] I would not be surprised. However, I think that the focus should be on, and this is what I've continually said: The focus must be on the safety of drivers and pedestrians! That's A-number one!
Then you might have heard about the trouble at Mel's Diner, where 47 people contracted food poisoning last week.
Q: Has the Health Department warned you to expect a close inspection of sanitary conditions?
A: [Mel's voice rose as he swatted at a passing fly.] I would not be surprised. However, I think that the focus should be on, and this is what I've continually said: The focus must be on the quality of our food and the health of our customers! That's A-number one!
What about a politician who has been accused of accepting bribes from a local business? He could clear the air by speaking plainly to the press:
Q: Do you think the FBI will be questioning your staff about the men who came into your office carrying wads of unmarked $20 bills in brown paper bags?
A: [Senator Foghorn's voice dropped into a quiet, confidential tone as he leaned across the coffee table.] I would not be surprised. However, I think that the focus should be on, and this is what I've continually said: The focus must be on the integrity of the legislative process in our proud democracy, for which our brave forebears fought at Gettysburg and on Iwo Jima! That's A-number one! And God bless America!