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What do the National Catholic Reporter and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ have in common?

March 1, 2013

They both are packed with so many factual errors and so much utter nonsense that they can only be enjoyed for the comical effect that comes precisely from packing so many errors and so much nonsense into one sitting. From a cornucopia of examples, consider just this petulant piece by publisher Tom Fox. Fox in black, me in red.

With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI [actually it’s taking effect] at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow Rome time his pontificate comes to an end, [most] Roman curial heads resign [they don’t “resign” but they do cease to exercise most duties], and the Vatican shuts down [oh really? no administrative activities, no post office, no liturgies, no museums, no Scavi tours?].

We all become adults again [and some will start sniping like pre-adolescents now that the big bad pope won’t spank them—as if he ever did], at least until we have a new “Holy Father.” [charming use of scare quotes; come to think of it, I’d’ve put “adults” in quotes, as Fox’s essay is “adult” only in the technical sense that it was written by someone over 21.]

But that’s not all.  The old guard, those Vatican prelates who colluded [Fox’s understanding of worked together at the direction of the “Holy Father”] to force [Fox’s word for conduct] an outrageous [Fox’s word for careful] investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and who ordered LCWR into a receivership [Fox’s categories of ecclesial analysis are socio-economic, not ecclesial] until it mends its ways, are out [well, most of them are sort of out, as above.]

They will have no authority to continue their work, pending a new dictate [in Fox’s world, popes only “dictate”, I guess] by a new pope.

In turn, any authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, who officially serves as “archbishop delegate” to LCWR, ends as well [well, sort of, as above.]

After tomorrow the chair of the bishop of Rome becomes empty and we enter a period known in Latin as “sede vacante,” the seat being absent [empty, not absent; the “seat” didn’t go anywhere, there’s just no one in it].

In his Apostolic Constitution promulgated in 1996, late pope John Paul II decreed that all [not all] senior leaders of the Roman Curia—effectively the government of the Catholic Church—has [have? or had?] to resign [not resign] when the pope steps down.

Among those resigning [not, not, not resigning. c'mon.] will be Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state—effectively the Vatican’s number two job [I think Fox means, the Holy See’s number two job; the Vatican’s number two job, under the pope, is the governorate of the Vatican City State]. He will remain only as Camerlengo (Chamberlain).

The Camerlengo has traditionally had the role of officially certifying the death of a pope—he used to do so by striking the pontiff’s forehead on his deathbed with a special silver hammer and calling out the words “Holy Father” [noooo, he used to do so by calling out the pope’s baptismal, or Christian, name three times, not his title. It's a great little story, is it too much to ask to get it right?]

He is also the Vatican official charged with destroying the pontiff’s “Fisherman’s Ring”—a gold signet ring—in order to prevent the use of the official seal on any counterfeit documents issued in the pope’s name [correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Fisherman’s Ring has been used to seal papal documents for more than a century.]

Among those required to resign [what is Fox’s obsession with resignation? They don’t resign! There is no one to resign to! Geeze.] will be Cardinal [cardinal? did I miss the memo?] Gerhard Ludwig [Müller], prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who, when he took the appointment last July, inherited the congregation’s sanctions [sanctions? there were sanctions? Canon 1312 was applied? how, pray tell?] against LCWR.

It was last April that the CDF released its critical doctrinal [well, it is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, right?] assessment [not sanctions?], after years of secret study [ah yes, “secret” study, unlike, say, the policy of the National Catholic Reporter to publish a complete transcript of all their editorial meetings…what's that you say?, they don’t publish all of their in-house discussions?; saints preserve us! a secret meeting!] of LCWR.  Among the findings the congregation identified were a “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” in LCWR’s programs and “corporate dissent” in the group regarding the church’s sexual teachings. [Yes? So? Is Fox denying that the LCWR is marked by “certain radical feminist themes”? Is he upset that LCWR is marked by such themes? Is he upset that the CDF finds those themes “incompatible with the Catholic faith”? Could we at least be told what Fox is complaining about?]

There was more, but I’m bored. Except for one screamer at the very end:

Were Vatican actions against our women religious to end, it seems, no one might be more relieved than Archbishop Sartain.

“our women religious?” … “OOOOUR women?” These women belong to Fox? I can just hear it: “Them’s ooooour women; y’ouse guys just stay away from ooooour women.” Fox as the paternal protector of “our women”. It’s too funny.

Bp. Michael Sheridan is right, the National Catholic Reporter is an embarrassment to the Catholic Church.

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