PRAISE INDEED . . . "Washington, like Chicago, is a great news town," said Vickie Burns, a news show producer on her way to a Washington job. As opposed to what? Boston, where clergy abuse has been exposed in spades? Omaha, where the Boys Town financial scandal was exposed decades ago? Los Angeles? Cincinnati? Where is this city that is not a great news town and what is the meaning of such a statement except to butter people up?

COUNTING THE WAYS . . . Sun-Times item-purveyor Michael Sneed 8/28 has "I'm going to leave him in . . .able hands . . . " said Judy Baar-Topinka. But "I'll be taking one of the final voyages [on QEII]," chirped Judy. And "quoth [Warner] Saunders: "He kept saying . . . " Said, chirped, quoth? What's going on here? To keep up with that, a thesaurus is required.

DISSEMBLING . . . Robert McClory tore into the RC church in Chi Trib Perspective page one Sunday 8/17, contrasting its peremptory officialdom with that of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., where things are discussed and voted up or down. Perspective gave the other side, of course. [Just kidding.] But it also failed to identify McClory in a way to distinguish him from the dozens of academics/book authors to whom it gives space: he's professor emeritus of Medill journalism school, Northwestern, yes. He wrote the book Faithful Dissenters, etc., yes.

But he's also a founder and board member of Call to Action, the Chicago-based dissenting Catholic's national organization par excellence and long-time if not still a reporter for National Catholic Reporter, the liberal Catholic's vade mecum. Would not this be worth telling Chi Trib readers, even if McClory makes an iron-clad case vs. RC Church, including a history-oriented shot at the Galileo debacle?

CORRECTION . . . The further trouble is, McClory, also a long-time contributor to Chicago Reader, got in over his head with the Galileo business, specifically by claiming that some RC churchmen declined to look through Galileo's telescope, saying it was not necessary. McClory used the Galileo business to buttress his contention that the church's condemnation of homosexual activity is subject to change, no matter what today's churchmen say.

Not so fast, said Robert Bireley, Loyola U. history prof (and for truth in packaging here, a Jesuit and Renaissance historian, author most recently of The Jesuits and the Thirty Years War:
Kings, Courts, and Confessors (Cambridge U. Press, 2003) but also of The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700 (Catholic U. Press, 1999), which is required reading at the U. of Missouri and maybe other places in Religious Studies 204: The Reformation to the Present, and of three other books, in a letter which Trib ran eight days later, 8/25.

That was no churchman who wouldn't look through the telescope, said Bireley; it was an atheist philosopher (whom he named), if it was anyone, and that's in doubt, there being no record of it. The Galileo case was bad enough, he said, but "let's not oversimplify."

McClory also aimed his peashooter at the church over slavery, in a short list of familiar grievances. But the church "had a lot to do with" ending slavery, medievalists agree, said Bireley. Indeed, a 1537 papal statement provided backup for anti-slavery work by churchmen in Latin America.

History, he said, in a closing rapping of McClory knuckles, is "messy and complicated," as any freshman knows. But McClory "ignores . . . circumstances" surrounding events and so "raises questions" about his trustworthiness in judging "contemporary matters."

And there you had a Medill professor emeritus not only inadequately identified by the once world's greatest newspaper, but also rebutted by a Loyola historian, in broad daylight.

No comments: