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The Register Apologizes. (Not Really.)

You may recall our New Oxford Note, “The Register Steps Into the Ring” (Sept. 2002), where we commented on the National Catholic Register’s attack on Michael Rose’s book Goodbye, Good Men in its issue of June 30-July 6, 2002. The author of the attack was David Pearson, the Features Editor of the Register, and the title of the story was “Goodbye, Good Journalism?” and the spread included a large photo of the cover of Rose’s book superimposed on a picture of what looked like a raging, smoky conflagration, with burnt edges. The clever photo montage seemed to signal that Pearson’s story would send Rose’s book up in flames.

Now, six months later, the Register returns to the scene of the crime with an editorial titled “Goodbye, Bad Blood?” (Jan. 5-11). Referring to the original attack on Rose, the editorial says that the Register “regrets” the story’s title and photo montage.

Well, hallelujah!

Unfortunately, however, that’s as far as the apology goes. The editorial reiterates Pearson’s complaints and makes it clear that the Register is not apologizing for what Pearson wrote in the text of his story.

So, what prompted, at this late date, the apology for the title and photo? There are clues aplenty in the editorial: “Michael Rose, author of the book Goodbye, Good Men, has been intensifying his drumbeat of criticism for publications that cited major flaws in the book…. Rose has turned several people into public opponents of the Register. The very fact that he has written a document purporting to be a ‘point-by-point’ refutation of the Register [on the Internet] is enough to convince some people that we’re wrong…. Since then, we’ve been accused of all kinds of things. For one, we’ve been told that we lack the courage to face the problems in the seminaries that Rose has exposed.” In other words, it’s Rose’s fault that people have turned against the Register — as if Rose picked the fight (he didn’t, the Register did), as if Rose has no right to defend himself, and as if the Register didn’t shoot itself in the foot when it attempted to blow away Michael Rose, whom many beleaguered Catholics lionize for having had the guts to tackle a taboo subject fraught with several personal dangers to Rose himself.

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