The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a somewhat lengthy story out today reporting that “Hundreds of parishioners from across the Diocese of Fort Worth have begun the process to ask Pope Francis to remove Bishop Michael Olson.”
The story quotes in quite a bit of detail a canon lawyer named Philip Gray, who is president of The St. Joseph Foundation. The Star-Telegram says he “is advising the groups, gathering evidence and writing the petition.”
Strangely enough, though, the piece doesn’t quote a single upset parishioner.
So it’s only a minor surprise that the paper has a form at the bottom of the report asking for feedback from readers:
Do you want the Vatican to investigate Bishop Michael Olson or the Fort Worth Diocese? We want to hear your story.
But the wording of one of the questions in particular doesn’t seem entirely, um, impartial.
Here it is:
Why do you want Bishop Olson to be removed?
Not do you want Bishop Olson to be removed? But why do you want Bishop Olson to be removed?
That won’t skew the submissions at all, will it?
A reader who shared the link with GetReligion (and admits that “I’ve got a dog in this hunt”) raised these concerns:
I think there's a couple of things to unpack here. 1) I have to start with the banner. "DO YOU WANT THE VATICAN TO INVESTIGATE BISHOP MICHAEL OLSON OR THE FORT WORTH DIOCESE? WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORY. CLICK HERE." It feels pretty one-sided. If the writer is looking for follow-up opinions, she's only looking for one perspective. She also included a link to a pdf of the "mandate" form used to qualify the canon lawyer to speak on a person's behalf. It reminds me of a form to opt in to a class action lawsuit.
2) The writer includes lots of quotes from the canon lawyer about how big this case is. And how there are other cases out there that he can't talk about yet. And the writer also includes specific issues that folks have with the Bishop. The only rebuttal is a video from the Bishop about some of these issues from December, as well as official links from the Diocese. Should she have gone further and interviewed some parishioners? Again, I felt this was a bit one-sided, but I have to be honest in that I've got a dog in this hunt.
3) She did an excellent job presenting some of the mechanics of this process. It includes who in the Vatican views this request and what next steps they might take. It's obvious that there was either some good homework on her side or the St Joseph Foundation has some really good cliff notes for reporters.
4) I wish she had dug into the foundation's background. I have never heard of them but going to their website gave me an opinion that they seem to be in the business of challenging bishops on behalf of the laity.
Very interesting analysis.
For those following the big news in the Catholic world, some of the allegations against Olson include cases where — as I understand it from a quick reading — he’s criticized for acting too quickly and definitively against priests accused of sexual misconduct.
Some may recall that Olson was one of the first bishops nationally to speak out against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and those in the Catholic hierarchy who covered up his crimes.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Star-Telegram tweaks its slanted question. The effort to remove Olson, meanwhile, is definitely newsworthy. Here’s hoping that the Fort Worth paper will do so in as fair and balanced a manner as possible.