Boston

That Theodore McCarrick crisis: New York Times started this nasty poker game. Now what?

That Theodore McCarrick crisis: New York Times started this nasty poker game. Now what?

Step into the journalism Wayback Machine for a moment, please. 

So how did this wild game of Vatican news, commentary and rumors get started? While reporters continue to jump up and down on Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano (his infamous letter is here), U.S. papal nuncio from 2011-2016, it may help to look back at the first card that was played in this poker match.

Well, let's say that this was the first card played in public.

I am referring, of course, to the New York Times piece that ran on July 16 under this headline: "He Preyed on Men Who Wanted to Be Priests. Then He Became a Cardinal."

I realize that there were stories in June, when McCarrick -- one of the most powerful Catholic media figures for decades -- was hit with charges that he abused a male teen-ager. Our own Julia Duin began writing posts about McCarrick's shady reputation and how reporters had never been able to get the right sources, on the record, that would allow them to nail down reports about McCarrick that had circulated for many years.

But the Times report on "Uncle Ted" and his years of abuse and sexual harassment raised haunting questions: Who had protected McCarrick and promoted him throughout his career? How many men in red hats were loyal to him, because he helped them? How high did these connections go, in the Catholic hierarchy in America and in Rome?

This is the deeper background behind this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), which focuses on what I believe is the core story linked to the Vigano letter. Yes, Vigano said that media superstar Pope Francis should resign -- a sure headline maker under any circumstances. But the real story here remains McCarrick and the network that surrounded him.

Was Francis part of that network, in recent years or in the past? If Vigano is telling the truth, then the odds are very good that all the details will be in church files in Washington, D.C., and Rome. Vigano is saying what a five-star source would say, as a story like this unfolds: Open the files. Prove me wrong. Make my day, pope.

Meanwhile, what about the news media? It the Times -- the ultimate game changer -- played a key card in this game, what will the media do next? 

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Free-speech protests in Boston: How many points of view, on left and right, made it into news?

Free-speech protests in Boston: How many points of view, on left and right, made it into news?

To be honest, I'm still working through the emotions and, at times, confusion that poured out the other day in the Crossroads podcast that ran with this headline: "Your depressing 'think' podcast: Faith, hate and details that mattered in Charlottesville."

I want to make sure that readers know how much of a challenge hard-news reporters face covering massive protests at street level, as opposed to the angle used by members of the chattering classes as they sit in studio chairs in Washington, D.C., and New York City (and a few other hives).

Take the demonstration the other day in Boston. How many different points of view did you have to understand to explain to the public what appeared to happen there?

First: Let's mention the religion angle. I became interested in this "Free Speech Rally" because of the involvement of some pro-life, or anti-abortion, demonstrators. They were there as part of the coalition that put the event together for the expressed purpose of (a) standing up for the free-speech rights of conservatives outside the media mainstream and, at the same time, (b) to condemn the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville. I think it's safe to say that religious faith is central to the story of the pro-life demonstrators.

According to reporter Garrett Haake of MSNBC, this small circle of demonstrators faced some pushy, some would say violent, opposition from the left. The quote from Haake's tweet:

These protests rarely end pretty. Antifa folks just mobbed some anti-abortion protestors w/ posters. Yelled & tore posters til cops came

Kudos, by the way, to MSNBC for reporting that information.

So we have some pro-lifers, we have some Antifa folks. Who else is there? Let's pause for a moment and look at the top of an ABC News report on this drama. I thought this passage -- which is a bit long -- was especially crucial:

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Church planting in Boston: Brilliant Alternet satire or, well, something else?

Church planting in Boston: Brilliant Alternet satire or, well, something else?

When I was a lad back in the early 1960s, my father left his work as a Southern Baptist pastor in inner-city Dallas and took a position in North Texas, near the base of the Panhandle, that was often referred to as an "associational missionary." It helps to know that Southern Baptists have regional "associations," as opposed to conferences, presbyteries or dioceses.

One of the primary duties of this associational leader, in addition to serving as a pastor or consultant to the region's pastors, was to direct efforts in what has long been called "church planting." The goal was to figure out logical places to "plant" effective new churches and then help people do precisely that. Click here for a rather mainstream take on this topic, from a middle-of-the-road Protestant flock up in Canada.

There was nothing sneaky or threatening about this work, at least not in Texas a half century ago.

It seems that times have changed, at least in some blue zip codes. Either that, or some journalists simply have zero familiarity with how church leaders think and talk? Yeah, that could be what we are dealing with here.

But maybe not! As several people have noted in emails to me -- including a former GetReligionista known as a wit -- the following Alternet piece may not, as it appears, be a stunningly tone-deaf look at a perfectly normal church topic.

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The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

If you have, through the years, followed the legal and cultural wars about gay rights and the New York City and Boston St. Patrick's Day parades, you know that these battles have often included discussions of a very interesting question.

That would be this question: Do these St. Patrick's Day events have anything to do with one of the greatest missionary saints in Christian history, the bishop now called St. Patrick? The saint associated with these words:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

As is often the case, fair-minded journalists should note that this is an emotional story about a debate that has, at the very least, two sides.

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