Tuesday, September 18, 2012

* OUCH ! New York Times Scoops Yale Daily News on the Same Yale Story Twice in Six Months.

Missing the Forest for the Trees

It's so easy for old people to tell young people what they "ought" to do that I hesitate to write this post.  Yet the Yale Daily News is sitting on top of an elephant and doesn't seem to notice it.  Sometimes if you are too close to the trees you fail to notice that they comprise ( i.e. compose) a forest. 

Ever hear of Birnam Wood, Thane of Cawdor?

Last June after the final issue of the Daily News had been printed, I wrote them a letter about the fact that the New York Times  had reported that a Yale Divinity School faculty member had been censured by the Vatican for a book she wrote.  

The Daily News wrote an addendum to their final paper, a short article about the matter.

And then apparently forgot about it. 

I had to remind them again, and the editor sent me a note saying he would publish my June  letter which they did do and that they would also look for a way to raise the matter in the Daily News

That was two weeks ago.

Today in the New York Times, an editorial appeared (see below) entitled "Speaking the Truth to the Vatican".  Although it did not mention the Yale faculty member by name (Sister Margaret Farley) it mentioned the Vatican's censure.

And that censure DID mention Sister Margret by name and the title of her book,  which the Vatican  condemned : JUST LOVE: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.

In other words, they scooped the Daily News even though I had twice gently reminded YDN that they are sitting on an elephant.

This is a BIG story----as the New York Times rightly understands. 

An institution has tried to   exert a chilling effect on the scholarship of a  forty-year Yale faculty member (emerita though she be).

If I thought the Daily News was dragging its feet because they are composed of young journalists who simply don't know any better, I would be more patient with them. 

They do excellent reporting, and in my opinion, deserve a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting of the tragic murder of a Yale graduate student two years ago.

But I don't think it's just a problem of being young and not knowing the world.

No, youth is not the problem.  The problem is secularization.  

The Daily News, and indeed Yale itself, fails to recognize that the Vatican is a thousand year old institution of enormous wealth and influence reaching every corner of the globe, trivializing, Yale's influence, and golden coffers.

For them to censure a Yale scholar is not merely to hit a flea with a sledge hammer, it is to condemn the flea to eternal  ignominy.

For Sister Margaret to defend herself against the power which invests her sacred obligations, is an act of enormous courage.  

It is to throw the  sledge hammer back over the walls of Rome. 

And that's the point. 

Secular Yale and secular Yale Daily News  act as though they believe the religious institutions of the world  (whether they emanate from the  Vatican, Islamia, Canterbury, or Jerusalem)  are vestigial appendages on  a modern secular world which no longer needs them in order to function.

Birnam Wood can indeed  still come to Dunsinane.

This blindness may be hubris, at least for young journalists who have twice now missed a story on their own turf.

Thrice to thine and thrice to mine

And thrice again, to make up nine.

Peace! The charm’s wound up.

(I, iii)  Macbeth

Paul D. Keane

M. Div. '80

M.A., M.Ed.


Speakingthe Truth to the Vatican

The New York Times

Published: September 17, 2012


After years of drug addiction, serial theft and hard prison time, a 54-year-old mother named Renee is entering a revolutionary phase of her life — transition from a rehabilitation sanctuary in Coney Island to the possibility of self-reliance in the outside world. The sanctuary is one of several outposts of Providence House, a recovery program run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, a society of street-tough, adaptive New York nuns. The program has nurtured more than 12,000 women parolees and their children back from the brink.

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Renee’s progress is worth celebrating as an example of what nuns actually do day after day, contradicting the Vatican’s sweeping accusations of “serious doctrinal problems” and “radical feminist” tendencies among the nation’s 57,000 Roman Catholic nuns. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents most orders of American nuns, properly rebutted the Vatican’s contention as unsubstantiated and flawed.

The nuns of Providence House don’t have time to be distracted by doctrinaire dust-ups as they serve paroled and homeless women. The sisters’ first ground-up construction project — a six-story apartment house for 46 troubled and low-income women — should open in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn by the end the year. A second is in the planning stages at a time when government support has dried up and the nuns are fiercely begging private donors for charity. “The sisters set me along the path,” said Renee. “I forgot nuns ever existed, but they turned out to be people, very helpful people.”

Much of the Roman Catholic laity has registered outrage that the church would make a show of investigating nuns when it should be focused on the priesthood’s pedophilia scandal. Working in hospitals, slums, schools and prisons, nuns serve as a powerful antidote to the church’s tattered reputation. In seeking dialogue with their Vatican critics, the nuns’ leaders stressed that they wish to only “speak the truth as we understand it about our lives.”

Overseers investigating the state of the American sisterhood might want to check out the lives of the nuns and parolees at Providence House.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on September 18, 2012, on page A24

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