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A Whitewash

Obituaries are not fun reading, but they can be revealing, not necessarily about the person, but about the newspaper. For example, many liberal newspapers portray notorious Communist fronters as “idealists” who “worked for a better world.” The Communist fronting is airbrushed out.

Retired Bishop Joseph Ferrario of Honolulu died on December 12, 2003. He was, to put it gently, a controversial figure.

There are four general-interest national Catholic newspapers in this country. What did they say? The National Catholic Reporter and the National Catholic Register had no story on Ferrario’s passing. Maybe they figured that if they couldn’t say anything nice, it’d be better to say nothing at all. O.K., that’s one way to handle deaths that are embarrassing to the Church, though the Reporter seldom shies away from stories that embarrass the Church (and well they shouldn’t).

However, Our Sunday Visitor did print an obituary (Jan. 4). Accompanied by a flattering full-color photo of Ferrario in full regalia, it noted where he was born, that he was Auxiliary Bishop and then Bishop of Honolulu, that he died at 77, and that he “had undergone quintuple bypass surgery in 1992 and resigned because of ill health the following year,” etc. A lovely obituary it was, with nothing embarrassing to the Church.

Let us note here that Ferrario resigned at age 67, eight years before the retirement age for bishops.

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