In an amazingly honest op-ed last week, evangelical WORLD Magazine editor Marvin Olasky addressed the publication’s handling of the controversy surrounding David Barton’s discredited writings. Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies was recently pulled from the shelves by publisher Thomas Nelson after its rampant historical inaccuracies received widespread attention.
Historians have been calling attention to Barton’s shoddy, misleading work for years but have largely been ignored or dismissed as biased by conservative media. Outlets such as WORLD have only acknowledged these critiques because conservative Christian scholars have finally started echoing Barton’s longtime critics in the scholarly community.
Olasky’s op-ed addresses this inconsistency but does not apologize for it!
Left-wing historians for years have criticized Barton. We haven’t spotlighted those criticisms because we know the biases behind them. It’s different when Christian conservatives point out inaccuracies. The Bible tells us that “iron sharpens iron,” and that’s our goal in reporting this controversy.
To be clear, Olasky is admitting that he summarily dismissed legitimate criticisms of Barton’s work for ideological reasons, yet he defends that decision by maintaining the attack on these scholars as the “biased” ones.
Olasky’s preference for judging scholarly qualifications by ideology instead of accuracy is also evident in his continuing faith in Barton’s credibility.
David Barton should not be, nor does he want to be, defended as if he were inerrant: If his history writing does include some inaccuracies, I trust he’ll make corrections.
What Olasky fails to acknowledge here is that we’re not just dealing with minor blemishes; almost the entirety of Barton’s body of work is based on a sloppy, willfull distortion of history to suit his partisan political ends.
It’s certainly possible for a religious magazine with an ideological point of view to meet standards of journalistic integrity. But Olasky’s oblivious editorial misses the mark.
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Analyzing the Catholic dimensions of the 2012 Presidential race now that Paul Ryan has joined the Republican ticket, Catholic conservative Deal Hudson attempts to minimize the critique of Ryan’s budget plan levied by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Hudson decries that media who covered the critical letters from the USCCB failed to note that they came from only two bishops, suggesting that their concerns only represent some bishops, not all.
That’s the same defense Ryan employed when questioned about the bishops’ rebuke earlier this year. Unfortunately for both Ryan and Hudson, the conference definitively shot down their excuse.
Responding to reporters who inquired about Ryan’s apparent discrepancy in understanding, the USCCB said:
“Bishops who chair USCCB committees are elected by their fellow bishops to represent all of the U.S. bishops on key issues at the national level. The letters on the budget were written by bishops serving in this capacity.”
While there might be individual bishops who disagree with these committees’ criticisms of the Ryan budget, they (and Hudson and Ryan) do so as dissenters from the official position of the U.S. Catholic Church.
Photo from the National Catholic Reporter
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In a statement objecting to a perceived lack of coverage of the recent Catholic lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Service’s contraception regulations, Catholic priest Jonathan Morris characterized the HHS policy requiring employers to include contraception services in their health care plans as a “rape” of the First Amendment:
Any national media outlet that fails to report the obvious raping of our First Amendment rights by this Health and Human Service mandate, is trumpeting either woeful incompetence or shameless bias. The Catholic Church didn’t pick this fight, but it knew that if it didn’t fight back now, every religion would eventually lose, and America would be fundamentally redefined.
Morris is the Program Director of The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM radio and a Fox News analyst who regularly appears on programs like Fox & Friends and The O’Reilly Factor. The statement was included in a list of comments by conservative figures in a press release from the right-wing Media Research Center.
Not only is Morris’s rape analogy a grossly misleading characterization of a complicated policy debate, it’s a shockingly insensitive insult to the millions of people who have been victims of horrific sexual violence.
As the response to Rep. Clyburn’s use of this same language to describe Bain capital earlier this week has reinforced, this kind of extremism has no place in our political dialogue. That’s especially true when it comes from a member of the clergy, and Fr. Morris should immediately issue a retraction and an apology.
Catholic bishops are already concerned about their efforts on this issue being associated with extreme rhetoric. USCCB President and supervising bishop of Fr. Morris, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, would do well to weigh in here to make clear that this language has no place in the Church’s campaign.
Photo credit; Premiere Speakers, Wikimedia
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Earlier this year, Rush Limbaugh’s hateful attacks on law student Sandra Fluke prompted an advertiser exodus of over 140 companies and organizations, a phenomenon that one radio company admits has already cost them millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, that list has not so far included the Christian social relief agency The Salvation Army whose advertisements for a local service center have been running during Limbaugh’s show on St. Louis station KMOX over the last few months.
Thankfully, after learning of the situation, both the national Salvation Army and the St. Louis area affiliate issued statements making clear the timing was not intentional and they do not want their ads running on Limbaugh’s show.
Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army said:
Nationally, The Salvation Army does not advertise on the Rush Limbaugh Show. We have a limited advertising budget and the program does not fit into our media mix. All local advertising decisions are made at the local level.
And Will Becker, Communications Director of The Salvation Army St. Louis confirmed:
The Salvation Army Midland Division stands by the national Salvation Army’s statement. The ads that ran on local KMOX were not intentionally placed on The Rush Limbaugh Show and we have instructed the station to keep any of our future ads off of that program.
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When I first heard about the recent Vatican effort to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) I assumed it was a complex story not easily summed up by broad generalizations about thousands of diverse congregations of sisters across the country.
Then I ran across George Weigel’s recent piece at National Review Online, which helpfully disabused me of that notion and brilliantly defended the Vatican’s efforts as a much-needed corrective to rampant theological abuses.
Here’s a rundown of Weigel’s telepathic insight and flawless logic:
He knows the motivations of those who reacted negatively to the news:
That imagery — three men, acting on behalf of a male-dominated Curia, assuming leadership of an organization of women religious — proved irresistible to Vatican critics, eager to drive home the point that the Catholic Church doesn’t care about one half of the human race
He knows that if you’ve ever helped women, you can’t be accused of having problems with gender issues:
The problem with the former criticism, of course, is that the Catholic Church is the greatest educator of women throughout the Third World and the most generous provider of women’s health care in Africa and Asia; there, the Church also works to defend women’s rights within marriage, while its teaching on the dignity of the human person challenges the traditional social and cultural taboos that disempower women.
He’s intimately familiar with the inner spiritual life of every American nun:
Yes, many sisters continue to do many good works. On the other hand, almost none of the sisters in LCWR congregations wear religious habits; most have long since abandoned convent life for apartments and other domestic arrangements; their spiritual life is more likely to be influenced by the Enneagram and Deepak Chopra than by Teresa of Avila and Edith Stein; their notions of orthodoxy are, to put it gently, innovative; and their relationship to Church authority is best described as one of barely concealed contempt.
He went to a Mass once, which is entirely representative of American nuns’ worship practices:
Even those LCWR-affiliated communities that hold, tenuously, to the normal sacramental life of the Church regularly bend the liturgical norms to the breaking point in order to radically minimize the role of the priest-celebrant; at one such Mass I attended years ago, the priest did virtually nothing except pronounce the words of consecration.
Regardless of how one feels about the merits of the Vatican’s actions towards American sisters, it should be obvious that this kind of sloppy pontificating adds nothing of value to the conversation.
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