Cardinal Kevin Farrell

Why didn't journalists investigate McCarrick earlier? Because they thought conservatives were out to get him

Why didn't journalists investigate McCarrick earlier? Because they thought conservatives were out to get him

Wow, they’re all coming out of the woodwork now. That is, cardinals and bishops who swear they knew nothing of the doings of now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

A bunch of pieces on McCarrick came out on Tuesday, including the suggestion that rumors about McCarrick were ignored by some journalists because they were seen as coming from Conservative Catholics.

I was wondering when issues of doctrine and even politics were going to enter this journalism story. More on this in a moment.

First, some interesting tidbits in Rocco Palmo’s “Whispers in the Loggia” blog. He said that, technically, the cardinal is now “Archbishop McCarrick,” as he has resigned from the College of Cardinals as of last Friday. I wrote about this Monday. (By the way, it was Palmo's Twitter account that showcased the stained glass window photo I have with this post. It's a window in a New Jersey church showing McCarrick as one of the bishops co-celebrating Mass with John Paul II during the pope's 1995 visit to the Giants stadium in New York.)

Palmo gets details no one else gets, including the following:

Archbishop McCarrick's precise whereabouts have remained tightly held since the June allegation was made public, when he was moved out of the Washington nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Weeks before the New York report was revealed -- knowing that it was to come, and already under pressure to keep a low profile at home -- the fallen cleric chose to make one final trip in active ministry: an early June pilgrimage to the shrine of Poland's Black Madonna at Czestochowa, where he marked the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

The Catholic Standard’s laudatory May 18 piece is here. (The Standard is the archdiocesan newspaper). So what Palmo is saying is that McCarrick knew the ax was about to fall and that his free ride was over. So, he did one last overseas trip.

What must he have thought, knowing that he was about to lose everything? How could he, through a spokesperson when the news first came out June 20, say that he didn’t remember abusing anyone?

This curious lack of memory has emanated from other bishops.

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#BishopsToo has arrived? Let's see what happens at Vatican 'World Meeting of Families'

#BishopsToo has arrived? Let's see what happens at Vatican 'World Meeting of Families'

It has always been hard for religion-beat pros to convince editors to open the newsroom checkbook to back coverage of a story on the other side of the country or somewhere on the other side of the world. It's even harder today, with the horrifying economic crisis that shaking newsrooms in the age of Facebook, Google and the digital advertising pirates.

The key is to be able to link an event to a really big, really hot topic in the news. Why? That's one of the big ideas in this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

Let's cut to the chase: Newsroom managers! Who wants to say "Yes!" to sending a skilled religion-beat professional to cover the Vatican's World Meeting of Families, which will be held Aug. 21-26 in Dublin, Ireland?

Yes, Pope Francis will be there. But it also helps to know that this gathering -- "The Gospel of the Family, Joy for the World" -- is being run by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. Note that ecclesiastical office is led by Cardinal Kevin Farrell. That's a name that has been in the news quite a bit because of he is the former auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., where he served alongside his mentor Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Editors should note that this is "Uncle Ted" -- the cardinal at the heart of the current firestorm about accusations that he sexually abused young boys and teens, as well as decades worth of seminarians and young priests

This is the same cardinal who has been given credit for helping several other U.S. Catholic leaders -- in addition to Cardinal Farrell -- win their red hats. This is the same Cardinal McCarrick who, in a remarkable speech in 2013, described his (wink, wink) behind-the-scenes role in helping elect Pope Francis.

Hey editors: Need another news hook before you write that check? 

One of the major topics at this conference will be how the church relates to young people. It's hard to imagine that decades worth of scandals linked to clergy abuse of children and teens will not be discussed. That sounds like a news hook, to me. 

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Using the journalism TARDIS: Why was Cardinal McCarrick such a crucial news source?

Using the journalism TARDIS: Why was Cardinal McCarrick such a crucial news source?

When a big news story gets rolling -- like the fall of Cardinal Theodore "Uncle Ted" McCarrick -- the digital waves keep crashing in day after, even if there are no new developments in the mainstream press.

Here at GetReligion, it's hard to know what is worth an update or a critique. We will err on the side of keeping readers connected to some of the discussions that are taking place in serious blogging and social media.

Some of the most important issues in this case are linked to journalism questions in the past. If you have followed the must-read posts of GetReligionista Julia Duin (start here and here) and others (Rod "Benedict Option" Dreher, for example), then you know that news organizations had pieces of this puzzle years ago, but could not land the on-the-record interviews needed to satisfy lawyers and editors. One of the big questions: What happened to the New York Times Sunday Magazine story in 2012 that almost made it to print?

There are many "what ifs" to consider. Old-timers like me -- people who covered events in which Cardinal McCarrick was a player and watched journalists encircle him -- may also want to pause and consider why this man was such a prominent news source, in front of cameras and behind the scenes.

The bottom line: The Catholic hierarchy chose to put him in Washington, D.C.

So with that reality in mind, let's do something that your GetReligionistas hardly ever do (with good cause), which is jump in a journalism TARDIS (a Doctor Who reference, of course) and travel back in time. In this case, it's quite educational to pause and examine a glowing 2004 Washingtonian profile of Cardinal McCarrick. Here is the epic double-decker headline: 

The Man In The Red Hat

With a Controversial Catholic in the Presidential Race, the Cardinal Is Seen by Many as the Vatican's Man in Washington -- and He May Play a Big Role in the Selection of the Next Pope

Here is the overture. Pay close attention to the information about this cardinal's clout with journalists:

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Concerning NPR, 'green frogs,' Humanae Vitae and the Vatican family life conference

Concerning NPR, 'green frogs,' Humanae Vitae and the Vatican family life conference

Does anyone remember my "green frog" image from a few years back?

That old post opened with a flashback to my days long ago at the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, in that amazing university town in the middle of the kingdom of Illinois farm country.

I was a brand-new journalist -- working as a copy editor and, yes, the paper's part-time rock columnist. However, the news editor knew that I grew up as a Texas Baptist preacher's kid and that I was active in a local Southern Baptist church, of the "moderate" stripe. Thus: 

Every now and then an angry reader would call and accuse the newspaper of being prejudiced against all religious people. ...  Even when these readers had a valid point to make -- especially concerning errors -- they tended to go completely over the top in their criticism of the staff at the newspaper. In voices that would get more and more enraged, they seemed determined to accuse the editors of sins against God, as opposed to sins against the standards of journalism.

The news editor would bite his tongue and try to listen, as people accused him of taking orders directly from Satan. But after awhile he would roll his eyes, place his hand over the telephone mouthpiece and stage whisper across the news desk, "Mattingly, there's another GREEN FROG on line one. You take this call."

So that's the origin story for my "green frog" image, related to religion news.

Here at GetReligion, I still hear from "green frogs" all the time. I reject about 75 percent of the offerings to our comments pages and here are the two most common reasons: (1) The comments are not about journalism, but about the reader's own views about religion and, usually, politics. (2) The writer simply has an axe to grind about journalism -- period.

However, every now and then someone sends me a link to a person who has valid points to make about a piece of mainstream reporting and has managed to keep her or his wits while doing so. That brings me to a recent NPR report with this headline -- "50 Years Ago, The Pope Called Birth Control 'Intrinsically Wrong' " -- and an interesting GetReligion-esque take on that story's overture.

So here is the top of that NPR report, complete with its crucial hyperlinks. This is long, but essential to understand what follows:

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