One does wonder about Hollywood types, you know, stars such as Barbra Streisand and Harry Belafonte. When they step outside their areas of expertise, do they know what they're talking about? They are celebrities, and they are looked up to by the American people, or by most of them. Apparently, celebrity status makes you an expert on everything, makes you omniscient, and there are gullible Americans who will fall for whatever these celebrities say. As H.L. Mencken said, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
We've received some letters and phone calls on why we've taken such people as Fr. Frank Pavone and Michael O'Brien to task -- see our New Oxford Notes "Kill 'Em!" (Jan. 2006) and "Hysteria Central" (Oct. 2005), respectively. In our small world of orthodox Catholicism, such people are celebrities. Fr. Pavone has done tremendous work for the prolife movement, and O'Brien is an accomplished Catholic fiction writer. But when they step outside their areas of expertise, do they know what they're talking about? Because orthodox Catholics have such high respect for Fr. Pavone and O'Brien, we are prone to believe whatever they say. But when Fr. Pavone steps outside his prolife work and makes comments on the Iraq War, and when O'Brien ventures out of fiction and into the nonfiction area of political science, you might wonder if they know what they're talking about. Well, they don't. Some people are polymaths, but most people aren't, and Fr. Pavone and O'Brien aren't.
Most orthodox Catholic publications only criticize the easiest of targets. They only want to spoon-feed their readers, to comfort their readers, rather than challenge them to think outside the ideological box.
We're not aware of any other orthodox Catholic publication that will criticize Fr. Pavone and O'Brien when their comments are ultra vires, that is, when they exceed their authority. So why us? Because somebody's got to do it. If we don't criticize our own, orthodox Catholics will become intellectually sloppy, will become ideological in the worst sense of the term. That's why we do it, so orthodox Catholics can stay in fighting trim.
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