Why Are They Going After Michael Rose?

December 2002By Jay McNally

Jay McNally was Editor of The Michigan Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit, from 1990 to 1995. He has spent 20 years as a working newspaperman, half of that in the Catholic press. He writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

While Michael Rose’s newest book Goodbye, Good Men has been hailed by many of America’s most respected Catholic commentators as one of the most important books in decades, the reception by conservative Catholic publications has been mixed: Some, such as the NOR, The Wanderer, Inside the Vatican, and Homiletic & Pastoral Review have been positive; others have been harshly critical. Regular readers of the NOR are familiar with this ongoing story. This journal (Sept. 2002) commented on the negative reviews published in Our Sunday Visitor and the National Catholic Register.

The criticism can be nasty, such as the Visitor’s denunciatory headline, “Goodbye! Scurrilous Journalist?” The criticism can be personally motivated, as when the Features Editor of the Register ventilated his ire with Rose for scrutinizing a personal friend of the editor who, as Vocations Recruiter for the Diocese of Providence, advertised for priestly vocations on the soft-porn cable channel MTV. The editor was so livid that he admitted that he had not read the book, save for the two pages on his friend, and that he had no intention of ever reading it.

Also telling is the self-righteousness and even hypocritical nature of some of the criticism. The Register’s Editor said in an Editor’s Note that a basic weakness of Rose’s book is his use of some anonymous sources: “It’s bad journalism to base an investigative report on the testimony of an anonymous source….” Yet, the very article that the Register offers as an example of “responsible” journalism on the very topic of seminary chicanery — an article that appeared in the Register — quotes anonymous sources. This double standard is detailed in NOR’s “The Register Steps Into the Ring” (Sept. 2002).

These criticisms of Rose appear to tell us more about the critics than they do about Rose. This hostility to Rose comes from publications — the Visitor and the Register — not known for tenacious investigative reporting on matters within the Church. Indeed, they tend to soft-pedal and even back-pedal on tough subjects, particularly when something might be embarrassing to the hierarchy, which would be just about everything Rose touches on in Goodbye, Good Men.

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The one British seminary criticised in GGM concerns a weekend of discernment by a prospective candidate for the priesthood in the now closed pre-seminary, Campion House. Unbelievably I was there that weekend! I wasn't the candidate but was there for a weekend of self-discovery through art.

Rose's book is extraordinary but how many vocations directors in the UK have read it? How many seminary rectors? Bishops? I suspect very few as the British Catholic Church continues to be run by a gang of liberals now recontructured (in some cases) as neo-cons of the Blairite school. In some ways the more obvious liberals such as Crispin Hollis (Portsmouth) are more honest than the younger neo-cons now emerging and in some ways less dangerous to the lives of souls.

The great mystery of the post-VII English Church is how the diocese of Portsmouth continues to dominate proceedings and perhaps is worthy of a more detailed article by one of your English agents.
Posted by: caesium
October 03, 2006 09:07 AM EDT
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