Along with countless others who appreciate excellent writing and trenchant, incisive commentary from a Catholic perspective, I have long read and admired First Things Magazine. And now I have a new reason to like those folks: They took notice of and commented on the little dust-up I’ve been involved in with some apparatchiks in the community of disciples over at the National Catholic Reporter and America Magazine, as well as with one rather peculiar blogger on the fringe who’s been taking a few potshots of his own.
I know that this discussion is really but a tempest in a teapot. However, since it is happening in my teapot, I’d like to send a thankful shout-out to The Anchoress and say “thanks for noticing! I appreciate your thoughtful commentary.”
(Let me add that I do have one minor difference of opinion with her observations: I really don’t think my opening gambit in this discussion was “undeniably rough.” Forthright, yes, but rough?)
The Catholic Donnybrook; One Kennedy Legacy?
Sep 1, 2009
In John Ford’s classic film, The Quiet Man, John Wayne plays Sean Thornton, a quintessential American gone back to Ireland to connect with his roots. He marries Mary Kate Danaher, who warns him with a measure of pride, “I have a fearsome temper; we Danahers are a fighting people.” The highlight of the film is an epic donnybrook pitting Thornton against Mary Kate’s brother, the bellicose “Red” Will Danaher; it is a fight over cultural and moral understandings, and as the fisticuffs spill through a meadow and into the towns and pubs, the townspeople enthusiastically join in. Other communities send spectators and even the priests and bishops look on and make discreet wagers.
Something like that is occurring within the Catholic web community over the death and subsequent mainstream media—glorification (and alternate media grimaces) of the man often called the Liberal Lion of the U.S. Senate.
Here is what’s going on: Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Sr. Maureen Fiedler posted that Kennedy made her proud to be Catholic. It would be dishonest to pretend that there are not thousands of Catholics, particularly those of Boomer-age and older, who completely understand Sr. Maureen’s sentiment.
Taking an opposing viewpoint, writer Patrick Madrid responded:
Maureen, with all due respect, I can appreciate your nostalgia for the Kennedys, but I cannot understand why you would insist that Senator Edward Kennedy was a “champion of the welfare of ‘the least of these’” among us. . . . Whatever his positive qualities may have been, and no doubt he had some, the tragic reality is that Sen. Kennedy’s long political career was squandered by his vociferous, relentless promotion of abortion. And that, sadly, will be his enduring legacy.
Well. Over at America magazine, the usually restrained Michael Sean Winters did not like that—did not like that at all:
Someone named Patrick Madrid, who runs a blog and is involved with something called the Envoy Institute . . . decided to attack my colleague at NCR, Sr. Maureen Fiedler for her post remembering the late Senator. “Maureen, with all due respect,” he begins, words that reek of condescension.
Oh. My. “With all due respect,” rather than reeking of condescension, seems a sensible preface to polite disagreement, but I am pretty sure that “Someone named Patrick Madrid, who is a blogger, involved with something called. . .” actually does reek of both condescension and too, the haughty huff of one writer believing his credibility, and thus his opinion, is to be vastly preferred compared over another’s. Clearly, Michael Sean Winters was writing while angry enough to be the equal of the wildest and most wrathful Celt who ever stepped across a bog.
The Catholics are going to tear each other apart over Ted Kennedy. Is that really the legacy anyone wants to bequeath to him?
Who are these people? To what level of boorishness have the spokespeople for the pro-life community descended?
Again, a bit condescending. Just a tad. There appears to be a class clash, here, reminiscent of the GOP intelligensia and their response to non–Ivy League Harriet Miers and that upstart peasant Sarah Palin. “Eww . . . who are they?”
It’s not a great way for folks in general to regard each other, but for fellow Catholics, one may bet the Mighty John O’Connor or the Tender Timothy Dolan would counsel, ala Spencer Tracy, “ixnay; on the uperioritysay anceday; it won’t get anyone to heaven.”
[ . . . ]
Madrid’s work may be unknown to the “better elements” of Catholic punditry, but his career is a respectable one and while his undeniably rough piece displeased Winters in tone and timing, he did have a point.