Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oh no! Maureen Dowd doesn’t seem to like me!

America’s 43rd most influential liberal doesn’t seem to like me, and that’s a scary thought. Not.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is well-known for her acerbic (sometimes snide) writing style, and for her frequent substitution of ad hominen attacks for sustained and reasonable argument. Such writing appeals, I guess, to those taxed by thinking but amused by rudeness, but beyond seeing her popularity as yet another example of De gustibus, I don’t get it.

In any case, Dowd’s June 18 NYT column ridiculing New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan for his stand against New York’s endorsement of “gay marriage” is nothing if not vintage Dowd. She scarcely engages Dolan’s reasoning, but disses Dolan as “the Starchbishop” (real grown-up writing, that) and attacks his Church as being “a haven for gay priests” that essentially ignores “the right of a child not to be molested by the parish priest”.*

With a predictability that borders on banality, Dowd thrice-in-one-column hurls the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the face of Catholics like Dolan who dare to take a stand on issues of morality contrary to the “spirit of the times” just as, in my recent Catholic World Report essay on the Cuomo-Communion controversy, I predicted would happen for the rest of our lives.

Dowd didn’t invent this style of attack, but she employs it with an excess that should embarrass even those who otherwise like her sassy shtick. Dowd does not blush from piggy-backing her "gay marriage" agenda onto the suffering of clergy abuse victims, like some politico attaching a dubious rider to a sure-to-pass bill in Congress, hoping to short-circuit a debate on the merits of the matter. Or maybe Dowd’s frequent reuse of such tactics is what happens when, as Belinda Luscombe opined in her Time report exploring whether Dowd had committed plagiarism, Dowd “plum runs out of inspiration on any given topic and falls back on less-than-original notions”. Either way, I say, let's stick to the topic, and the topic, per Dowd, is the legalization of “gay marriage”, not clergy sexual abuse.

Fine, you ask, what does any of this have to do with me? I might have thought, nothing, except that Dowd decided to link my recent criticisms of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reception of Communion at a Mass celebrated by Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard (despite Cuomo’s open cohabitation with a woman not his wife), with Abp. Dolan’s criticism of efforts in the New York legislature to legalize “gay marriage”, the 'link' being that Cuomo is a strong proponent of “gay marriage” and would sign such a bill if it reaches his desk.

Okay, yes, I think that Cuomo’s signature on such a bill would add to his Communion-eligibility problems under Canon 915, but Abp. Dolan is not making that argument: he is arguing natural law on marriage and common sense, not sacramental discipline. (I know, I know, one would have to have read and understood Dolan’s arguments to see that point, but even if Dowd didn’t or doesn’t, some of her readers would have and do). So why does Dowd not discuss Dolan’s arguments on marriage in her article about Dolan on marriage, and later, if she wishes, tackle my arguments on holy Communion in an article about me and holy Communion (assuming I was worth her time in the first place)? Why smush these two strains together?

Because Dowd apparently thinks she has discovered some "ah-ha" contradiction in the Church's logic. She writes: “Therein lies the casuistry. On one hand, as Peters told The Times about Cuomo and Lee, ‘men and women are not supposed to live together without benefit of matrimony.’ But then the church denies the benefit of marriage to same-sex couples living together.”


That’s not right. That doesn't even rise to level of being wrong. Instead, that’s what comes from someone who is not even pretending to be interested in what the other side actually holds.

* Memo to MD: You might want to temper your insinuations that “gay priests” are linked to clergy child abuse, or, as you state later in your column, that it is “absurd” to deny a link between homosexuality and sexual misconduct. Considerable effort has gone into denying any connection between homosexuality and/or the gay life style with sexual exploitation of youth, and your comments in this article undermine those efforts.