Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

pink elephant in the pressroom?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 29, 2004

Back when the New York Times still made a show of objectivity in its reportage, editor Abe Rosenthal famously declared to his stable of reporters, "Look, I don't care if you [violate ministerial boundaries with] elephants, but if you do, you don't cover the circus."

Yesterday, a gay Catholic journalist named Chuck Colbert "embedded" himself in a parish mass in the Archdiocese of Boston with the express purpose of disrupting it.

The man "chose to disrupt" the service at the conclusion of the video supplied to the parish by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference which defends traditional marriage, said the Rev. Michael Doyle of St. John the Evangelist church. The video "showed the need to preserve marriage as a union between one man and one woman," Doyle said, one day before the Legislature renews debate on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

"I just found it to be such a scurrilous, scandalous piece of misinformation," Chuck Colbert, the man who protested, told The Associated Press. "For me to sit there and take it is out of the question."

Colbert, who has degrees from Notre Dame University and, more recently, the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, frequently writes news stories for the National Catholic Reporter. Several reports on the clergy abuse crisis in the Boston area have appeared in the NCR under his byline. Well, does the Rosenthal Rule apply here? He might still pen opinion-essays as an advocate, but are we supposed to pretend that Colbert -- who plants himself in a parish he doesn't belong to, who claims he couldn't "sit there and take it" when the video he went out of his way to see is shown, who then stages a bit of calculated agit-prop to further the cause of gay rights -- is a neutral and objective observer of the situation?

And while we're on the topic of journalistic integrity, let's do a little arithmetic. The Boston Globe posts this Associated Press story with the stamp of Sunday at 15:59. According to its on-line schedule, the first Mass at St. John's is 7:30am and the second is at 9:30. That means the AP journalist got wind of the incident by 8:00 at the earliest, got reaction quotes from Colbert, the St. John's pastor, the pastor of the other church in Canton, the archdiocesan spokesman Fr. Coyne (on Sunday, no less), wrote up the story -- complete with background on the offending video -- and managed to file the finished version early enough to make the wire by 4 o'clock the same afternoon.

Truly an astonishing set of coincidences.

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