Catholic bishops need to be a bit more careful about how they approach the media. Not only are there real world consequences when they fail to understand how the media works, but the media must become a tool for the bishops in evangelizing the culture and correcting the gross ignorance of and bias against basic Catholic beliefs and ideas.

Last night, Bishop Tobin of Providence went on MSNBC’s "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. The first problem was that Tobin did not appear in the studio with Matthews but was in a studio in Providence. The momentary delay in transmission always makes the interlocutor look a little slow, especially with someone who talks, and thinks, as fast as Matthews. The interview began with a clip from JFK’s Houston speech about separation of Church and State in which the future President said, "I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute…where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any ecclesiastical source." Now, if Bishop Tobin had only read my book Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats he would have had a ready and thorough critique of JFK’s speech. The short-hand critique is six words: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All the liberal canards about ecclesiastical encroachment, or about not legislating morality on others, require a bit of refinement when you consider the career of Dr. King.

The interview got worse as it went on. The bishop was completely unprepared to answer the questions asked, unprepared for the rapidity of Matthews’ questioning, and all too willing to get into a bizarre adult version of the playground excuse, "But, he hit me first!" Take five minutes and watch the interview. It could become a textbook case in how not to conduct a media interview. Indeed, Matthews' show is called "Hardball" for a reason and the bishop never should have been on it.

Sunday before last, the priest at my church here in Washington apologized to the congregation for the dreadful public relations job the Archdiocese had done in dealing with the impending fight over the same-sex marriage bill and its requirement that the Church provide same-sex partner benefits. Indeed, the Church was getting rolled in the press, and in speaking to reporters covering the story, it was clear that even after four or five days of covering the story, they were not clear about what precisely concerned the Church. I had a neighbor call me one morning after reading a front page story in the Washington Post that suggested the Church was closing down Catholic Charities. She was confused and distraught and deeply shaken in her confidence in the Church.

In my dealings with the press, almost all of whom are really bright people, it is always worthwhile to take your time and make sure that you explain how differently the Church approaches some issues from the way the mainstream culture approaches those same issues, that it is not mere disagreement about outcomes, although there is that, but more often a completely different point of departure for analysis and understanding. In explaining the Church to politicians, one of the things I find you have to say over and over again is "Yes, but you know they are bishops not politicians." (The reverse is true, too: Sometimes I have to say to clergy: "Well, you know they are politicians not theologians.") For too long, bishops wanted nothing more from a communications director than to keep the Church out of the news, but those days are gone. We need the media if we are to reach our people and spread the Gospel. We need the media if we are going to reframe the national debate on an important issue like health care reform or abortion. In my experience, the media are fascinated by the Church and eager to learn how and why the Church does what it does. I have encountered ignorance of the Church’s ways but never hostility. Bishops should draw the right lesson from their recent fiascos: Get it right, but don’t think it can’t be done well.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Catherine Ceigersmidt | 12/2/2009 - 5:50pm
Beth,
Who are you quoting? Do you know the answers to those questions yourself? I'd need to revisit the recap of the letter but I believe you're right in that he didn't actually say he would deny Kennedy Holy Communion. But he obviously isn't going back on what he said in his letter to him.
 
Bob,
OH yes. We all must examine our consciences, but examination alone is not enough to free us of sin. If Sen. Kennedy decided that killing his wife was okay in his mind, would that make it permissible? If he truly examined his own conscience, in light of the teachings of Christ and of the Church He founded, he would find that his support of abortion in any way for any reason is unjustifiable and a mortal sin, period. Check your catechism, it's all there! Just as Archbishop Tobin said in response to Kennedy, the respect of life at all stages is one of the core teachings of the Church that must be abided by, no excuses.
Marie Rehbein | 11/27/2009 - 12:10pm
Bob Hunt, when I read "Well, Congressman, in a way it does [make you less than Catholic], it seems to me that he is judging Kennedy to be "less than Catholic".  That he continues to refer to himself as Kennedy's bishop is due to the reality that he has not excommunicated Kennedy.  The criteria he sets by which Kennedy can determine his Catholicism are criteria which many who consider themselves Catholic fail to meet 100% of the time.  As someone who grew up in Rhode Island (which the bishop did not do), I can tell you for a fact that Catholicism so permeates that culture that though I am not Catholic, I came to know a lot more about Catholicism than those who grew up as Catholics in other parts of the country. Bishop Tobin, in fact, lives in a Catholic cemetary just a short distance from one of the places I used to live, and in that cemetary is buried a noted New England crime boss.  This man received a Catholic funeral, just like Patrick Kennedy's father did recently.  I questioned this, as many seem to be questioning the Church's acceptance of Edward Kennedy despite his apparent opposition to the Church's values.  From this I learned that the Church is not here to judge, but to facilitate people's relationship with God.  That people fall short does not make them less than Catholic.
Anonymous | 11/26/2009 - 12:39am
Jim,
 
There is a difference between authority and authoritian...
 
Your calls for the end of all hierarchy are plainly leftist in orgin and are against the basics of natural law. Not to mention that the pope himself is a humble servant of God who has given up all (matrimony, faimly life, individual wealth) to serve and lead the body of Christ as was called for by Christ.
 
Errors of previous popes or of current bishops should be recognized but do not call the basics of this reality into question.
 
Those who rebel from hierarchy due to the fact that its very existence limits their indiviudal desires and ego and, therefore, these individuals attack it in the hope of freeing the "self" from the requirements and love of God.
JIM MCCREA | 11/25/2009 - 5:10pm
To add to what Ed Gleason said, it's time to drop Your/His Holiness from the myriad of titles of the pope.  There is an unwarranted assumption that, because of the office, the man is ipso facto holy.  History and human nature tell us otherwise.
 
Just think what it would be like of all of these careerists didn't take on appellations relating to royalty.  My goodness, someone might then get the idea that they are NOT Princes of the church, but rather this:
 
25     But Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
26     But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
27     Whomever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Mt 20:25-27
Robert Hunt | 11/25/2009 - 4:28pm
Ms. Rehbein, a careful reading of Bp. Tobin's letter to Mr. Kennedy will reveal that the bishop does not state that Mr. Kennedy is less than Catholic, much less not Catholic at all.  Rather, he recommends to Mr. Kennedy what it means to be Catholic and leaves it to Mr. Kennedy to discern if he meets those requirements.  The essential paragraph in the bishop's letter begins by quoting Mr. Kennedy: '''The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.'  Well, in fact Congressman, in a way it does.  Although I wouldn't chose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially in a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church.''  Even if Bp. Tobin had applied this standard to Mr. Kennedy, rather than speaking in general terms, it's still a long way from telling him that he isn't Catholic.  Later in the letter, Bp. Tobin refers to himself as ''your bishop and brother in Christ.''  This would be improper and, frankly, disingenuous if the bishop regarded Mr. Kennedy as not being Catholic.
Anonymous | 11/25/2009 - 4:10pm
I winced every time Matthews called Tobin your Excellency. In this day and age it sounds like dialogue from an old Three Musketeers movie. At the next USCCB meeting instead of taking up a new missal translation let them at least discuss dropping Your Excellency and Your Eminence if they still want to be interviewed in public.... nix any change to Your Grace too..
Terry Duerr | 11/25/2009 - 1:43pm
Dear Vince Killoran,

Your attack on Bishop Tobin, that he is playing politics and is a Republican is rash judgement. The proof of my argument is the fact that Bishop Tobin wrote an article taking on Rudy Gulianni for his support of abortion, during last years presidential primary. Rudy responded correctly by saying he would not argue with bishops. You owe Bishop Tobin an apology. I'm sure anyone can find the article on the internet.
Terry Duerr | 11/25/2009 - 1:32pm
I would suggest what is being missed in this whole affair with Hardball is two fold:

The Kennedy Family has been attacked. They and their friends have decided to play poltics and attack back. They will destroy those who attack their family.

Secondly, Chris Matthews, a catholic, would like to get into poltics. His conscience is bothering him over issues like abortion, so he is attacking those who cause his soul to hurt.

Bishop Tobin handled this as Christ did when he was grilled by King Herrod and Pilate, he remained silent and only spoke when the Spirit required him to. Sometimes we need to remain silent when attacked, which speaks louder than words.
Marie Rehbein | 11/25/2009 - 1:12pm
Bob Hunt, you wrote "Bp. Tobin is not adding any qualifications to Mr. Kennedy's Catholic identity.  He is not telling Mr. Kennedy that he is not Catholic."  Is this because you believe that the open letter to Patrick Kennedy that Bishop Tobin published in his diocesan newspaper in which he stated that Kennedy was less than Catholic was simply being rhetorical or do you mean that less that Catholic is different from not Catholic?
 
Ed Gleason, I completely agree that Bishop Tobin's first priority should have been to be ready with the answer as to the punishment for violating an anti-abortion law.  This should be the focus of anyone who insists that the answer to a high rate of abortion is to outlaw it.
Anonymous | 11/25/2009 - 1:55am
PS - the media you claim that Catholics need is dying...and I can't say I'll cry when the liberal rags such as the Boston Globe, Hartford Courrant or NYTs go bankrupt (they will probably get a governemnt bailout so that the state has something print its propaganda)
 
Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are dropping off a cliff  - the media we need now is the internet - blogs, social networking.
 
 
Anonymous | 11/25/2009 - 1:45am
I enjoy Michael's take on this subject and the reference to MLK's use of a distinctly Christian theology/agency to take on government sactioned oppression; however, it appears that he is being an apologist for the general anti-Catholic flavor of liberal media coverage.
 
It is not just that the Catholic leadership is a bit naive about media relations or or that it makes the occasional blunder, it is that the media ACTIVELY looks to exploit such blunders because it opposes what it sees as a "traditional patriarical, oppressive instituation." 
 
Not only does the media pick up on Catholic mistakes, it actively works to take quotes out of context (e.g. Benedicts speech on Mulsims) and actively words "reporting" in a manner that is most conducive to creating anti-Catholic reactions in the general public. 
 
A prime example of this would be the DC law debate: instead of reporting the facts on the ground (i.e. the Church objectively stated that if the law passes with the current wording and lack of religious exemptions Catholic Charites will no longer be eligable for city contracts) the media twisted the story and presented it as one where the Church was using the poor as leverage and would starve the hungry in order to influence politics!
 
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice...
 
The media is not a friend of the Catholic community and Church and it will actively report the "news" with an eye on advancing it's own "progressive" policies and discrediting any independent opponets of their ideology in the public square such as the Church.
Robert Hunt | 11/25/2009 - 12:25am
Mr. McCrea, your comment misses the point.  Bp. Tobin is not adding any qualifications to Mr. Kennedy's Catholic identity.  He is not telling Mr. Kennedy that he is not Catholic.  Indeed, the only reason Bp. Tobin acted is because Mr. Kennedy is Catholic.  Bp. Tobin is informing Mr. Kennedy, as a pastor ought, that his actions are threatening his communion with the Church.
Beth, the Eucharist is not a source of nourishment for those who receive while in mortal sin.  Rather, those who receive unworthily bring a judgement upon themselves.  This is the consistent teaching of the Church from St. Paul and St. Justin Martyr through to the present day.  It is the responsibility of the Church, in the person of the bishop, to protect the integrity of the sacrament while also encouraging the sanctity of the members.  Bishop Tobin would be remiss in his duties should he fail in either matter regarding Mr. Kennedy.  There is also the matter of scandal.  The matter became public because Mr. Kennedy chose to make it public.  In doing so, and because Mr. Kennedy is a public figure who is identified as a Catholic, Bp. Tobin was forced to speak publicly to the matter or else risk scandal to the faithful.
JIM MCCREA | 11/24/2009 - 8:27pm
Dear US Bishops.  Phone home and listen to your leader -
"There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism," Benedict XV concluded. "It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname’ “
David Gibson, “Who Is a Real Catholic?” The Washington Post, Sunday, May 17, 2009 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/15/AR2009051501390.html?sid=ST2009051503626
Anonymous | 11/24/2009 - 8:16pm
Look at the video again, Matthews asked him three times what would be a just sanction in the proposed anti-abortion law,. Tobin refused to answer, a scriptural three times. Not one blogger on this thread, nor I, has any idea what Bishop Tobin would say a just sanction should be.. from $10 fine to life in prison. Law without a sanction is a brass gong. And O'Reilly will not ask what a sanction should be on abortion..because Tobin is unprepared to answer. I am pro-life but know that the Roman idea of law is to pass a law civil or canon and then wink about enforcement.. We American's are not quite that hypocritical yet,,We take law seriously.. I truly believe Tobin and other Rome trained clerics would be quite content to have a law out lawing abortion without any sanctions and they would all rejoice in a Roman victory,, and abortions would go on and on..
Anonymous | 11/24/2009 - 6:40pm
Catherine,

You say, "I don't think it justifies this sanction by the Bishop".

Did the Bishop "sanction" Kennedy or did he advise him, in private, that if he should not receive communion because he is in the state of mortal sin? Did the bishop ever say that he would deny him the Eucharist? Did the bishop instruct others to deny him the Eucharist? Or did he just advise him about the the potential consequence of knowingly receiving the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin?
Beth Schaper | 11/24/2009 - 6:22pm
Catherine -
Your scripture quote contains a key phrase that I would like to draw your attention to: "Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup."
Let a man examine HIMSELF! It doesn't say anything about the Bishop doing the examining.
No one of us is finished in our formation, in our growth in Christ. I am worried about a bishop who would seek to deny the Eucharist, a source of growth in Christ, to a baptized Catholic who is still being formed. What good can come of this?
I don't buy Kennedy's policy stance at all but I don't think it justifies this sanction by the Bishop. Is the Bishop acting as Christ would have with Kennedy? How many times should I forgive my brother?
This is just a bad news story on every level.
Robert Hunt | 11/24/2009 - 6:20pm
''... in speaking to reporters covering the story, it was clear that even after four or five days of covering the story, they were not clear about what precisely concerned the Church.''
''In my experience, the media are fascinated by the Church and eager to learn how and why the Church does what it does.''
Okay, why is it that, after four or five days of covering this story, these ''really bright people'' who are ''eager to learn'' about the Church can't connect the dots in the DC gay-marriage controversy?  I'm sure I'm not as really bright as many reporters, and I understood the Church's concerns from day one after reading my first article on the matter, and that was from a secular news source.
''I have encountered ignorance of the Church's ways but never hostility.''
As Seth and Amy would say, ''Really, Mr. Winters?  REALLY?''  I suppose ol' Chris Matthews was in such a bad way 'cause he just wasn't clear about what precisely concerned Bp. Tobin.  Yeah, that explains it.  No hostility.  I didn't see any hostility at all.
There is no doubt that the Church could do a better job with PR and in getting the word out.  But, let's get this straight: The Church and the culture, which the media both shapes and reflects, are in conflict with each other because they have different interests.  This isn't just a matter of misunderstanding each other.  This is conflict over disparate interests, and the media are never hesitant about pushing its interests.    
Beth Cioffoletti | 11/24/2009 - 5:47pm
Chris Matthews, thank God, shredded the arrogant, selfrighteous Republican cleric, who was indeed, unprepared.  These so-called leaders of dioceses are mostly Republican and deserve to be exposed in their thinking, their morality, and their dispositions.  If he (Tobin) took seriously the breviary readings on Sunday by St. Gregory the Great and another I cannot recall right now, he would get off his "gd" high-horse, and learn to be a disciple of Jesus with a degree of authenticity.
Beth Cioffoletti | 11/24/2009 - 5:47pm
Chris Matthews, thank God, shredded the arrogant, selfrighteous Republican cleric, who was indeed, unprepared.  These so-called leaders of dioceses are mostly Republican and deserve to be exposed in their thinking, their morality, and their dispositions.  If he (Tobin) took seriously the breviary readings on Sunday by St. Gregory the Great and another I cannot recall right now, he would get off his "gd" high-horse, and learn to be a disciple of Jesus with a degree of authenticity.
Vince Killoran | 11/24/2009 - 4:31pm
One thing that Church officials-high and low-might consider is to stop speaking in such negative terms about the hostile and evil "mainstream culture." 
Wasn't it Pope John XXIII who reminded the bishops that we are in that world and we helped to create it?
Anonymous | 11/24/2009 - 4:26pm
Tim,
I didn't say that the are not potential converts. Its just that for MSNBC viewers it will take prayer and fasting!
Tim Lacy | 11/24/2009 - 3:47pm
Joe:  800,000 potential converts is no insignificant number, even if O'Reilly's 3-4 million outnumbers Matthews' viewership.
BTW: Sorry, everyone, for my multiple comments.  I've been lurking for awhile and this post has clearly brought me out of the woodwork.
- Tim
Tim Lacy | 11/24/2009 - 3:44pm
Catherine,
Your long comment seems to assume two things:
(1) That Tobin didn't know what he was getting into (he surely did) and was ambushed. I just don't buy that. And
(2) That Patrick Kennedy doesn't have a potentially rational position-one that respects long-term Catholic abortion goals (i.e. ending abortion) with short-term political scenarios and realities. It's not as much about communion as it is politics.
- Tim
Tim Lacy | 11/24/2009 - 3:39pm
Meant to write: "This bubbled up last fall (2008) during the..." - Tim
ROBERT GRIP | 11/24/2009 - 3:29pm

The “interview” if you can call it that, bothered me on a number of levels.   I recognize that Hardball is an opinion show and that Matthews’ MO is asking tough questions.  However, it was clear from the first few seconds that Matthews intended to badger his guest, interrupt him and until the very end of the session, refuse to let him talk.  When Matthews did pose a question, he reminded me of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
It was also apparent that Matthews refused to acknowledge, or purposely disregarded the main reason for the Bishop’s instruction.  Rep. Kennedy claims to be Catholic.  To be Catholic means to subscribe to some basic tenets of the faith.  Kennedy apparently wants it both ways.  He wants to be regarded as Catholic (in a state where many people claim to be Catholic), but doesn’t want to support what is a longstanding, consistent belief of the Church, namely its opposition to abortion.
The Bishop gets kudos for first, agreeing to go into the lion’s den, and two, for keeping his cool.  It must have been hard to do, but he handled it well.
When I teach my students at Spring Hill College, I always tell them to draw their questions from the responses given by the person they are interviewing.  Basically, to listen to them.  It was clear that Matthews didn’t really care what the Bishop had to say.  The only thing that mattered to Matthews, was what Matthews had to say.  In that case, he could have simply interviewed himself.
Tim Lacy | 11/24/2009 - 3:26pm
My problem here is not just with Bishop Thomas Tobin's answers, but also with Mr. Winters' approach to this column. Let me begin with the former.
Bishop Tobin, for all his learning and network of contacts, couldn't give a coherent answer to Matthews' central practical question: How will we handle transgressors of the law ~if~ abortion is outlawed?  This is surely the central issue behind why some Catholics remain apparently in the pro-legal camp on the issue of abortion.
I can't decide if Bishop Tobin didn't have an answer, or was afraid to give the answer he wanted.  In either case, he should be ashamed of himself.  You don't go on a political talk show focused on law and policy without being prepared to talk about both, and the consequences of both.  Politics is about action, not just moral law, ethics, and theory.  If Bishop Tobin ~didn't have~ an answer, well, that shames him and the hierarchy.  You can't spend 30 plus years arguing against Roe without having alternative scenarios on the tip of your tongue.  If he was ~afraid to give~ his answer because of perceptions, well shame on him again.  If Tobin and/or the hierarchy does indeed have some tentative schema to suggest for penalties (prison, fines, community service, for mothers, fathers, parents, doctors, etc.), then they shouldn't be afraid to show their hand.  Bishop Tobin has been credited with being a political junky.  If so, and if this is the best the hierarchy can show on alternative scenarios to Roe, then we're a dunderheaded bunch.
On Winters' column, well, I'm normally with, or to the right of, him on the topics he chooses to discuss, but here I'm going hard left.  Here we have a Bishop, Chris Matthews, and one of ~the~ topics of the past five years, and Winters chooses to weakest link about which to write: Bishop Tobin's media savvy.  This wasn't about savvy or just interview preparedness.  It was about getting a chance to speak to a very large audience about a topic that matters, and having no reply to a central policy/legal question.  This shouldn't have required any content preparation by Tobin.  But he even flunked that.  He had no practical political content to discuss even though Matthews gave him the same question 3 times.
But beyond Tobin and Matthews, what we have here in the Church is a brewing civil war between anti-abortion folks and the end-it-now abortion abolitionists.  This bubbled up last fall (2010) during the presidential campaign.  I use the end-it-now qualifier because anti-abortion folks are long-term abolitionists, to be sure. 
Why can't the Church hierarchy, as a whole, tolerate or advocate a long-term anti-abortion position when the circumstances require?  Why does the hierarchy (Tobin, Burke, Rigali, Chaput, Naumann) seem to continually press the abolitionist position? Where's the practical flexibility that still respects the universal goal?  And why do they apparently believe that Republicans support the abolitionist position despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary?
We have to tolerate the prudential/moderate anti-abortion position because it gives us political flexibility.  When the seemingly abolitionist political candidate turns out to be a war criminal or unethical or incompatiable with the whole of Catholic teaching, then as flexible anti-abortion folks we can switch to a longer view when needed.
Let's back away from the precipice and try to get along. - Tim
Pearce Shea | 11/24/2009 - 3:07pm
Matt Bowan, ha ha, I have to say you may be a bit on point. I like MSW, but his usual rational, intelligent approach to things flies out the window when conservatives or denying communion comes up.
Pearce Shea | 11/24/2009 - 3:04pm
MSW,
 
I do pretty heartily disagree with your take on the Tobin interview. The Bp. probably should never have walked in there in the first place. Part of good media relations is picking your battles. Matthews very clearly had an axe to grind, repeatedly interrupted, browbeat, talked down to and ignored Bp. Tobin. 
 
And I do have to say that there are a great many Diocese with a strong communications office. Tom Reese, as another poster pointed out, seems to go out of his way to score points on "the hierarchy" and "Church conservatives" and the like so I would be very dubious of relying on him as a source. I'm not clear why his leaving America Mag and going to work for the Post means for reporters. Paper employees call each other for info all the time.
 
I also think there is a sort of prevailing naivety on the part of MSW in respect to reporters. I KNOW that Tom Craig called the Diocesan Director of Communications (who is generally respected by reporters, so I understand) and I KNOW she described the Diocese's position in clear, sober terms. That the Post chose to run a raft of articles as if this had never happened, as if Aux. Bp. Knestout's clarifying letter had never been sent them does not indicate "interest" in the Church, but something much more cynical.
Think Catholic | 11/24/2009 - 2:51pm
Yeah that could have gone better.  But nothing a little preparation can't fix.  Don't look for Tobin to call Winters for media training however. Greg is right-Winters knifed Tobin over the Communion issue this weekend.  So his sanctimonious lecturing about doing better in the media counts for very little.  What he means is, Bishops need to start agreeing with Winters.  Big surprise that would be his advice.
Marie Rehbein | 11/24/2009 - 1:27pm
I don't understand MSW's shorthand.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was not an elected official. 
 
Is the comparison here supposed to be between him and JFK or between him and the Catholic Church leaders? 
 
A politician, like JFK, is elected to take the place of a multitude of individuals in order to represent their interests and perspectives in the Congress against or with the interests and perspectives of other individuals from other parts of the nation.  We have this representative democracy in order to make governing manageable.  Electing these people is not the same thing as giving them power over us or permitting them to impose their will over ours. 
 
If the Church wishes to influence social policy in the US, it can only do so by persuading the citizens who do the electing, not by coercing the elected officials to disregard the will of their constituents. 
 
Helena Loflin | 11/24/2009 - 1:15pm
Bishop Tobin should never have exposed himself to questioning by Chris Matthews.  Why didn't someone stop him or at least urge the bishop to prepare?  Matthews' questions weren't tough, just designed to challenge the illogic of the bishop's "voting instructions" to Rep. Kennedy (and all Catholic lawmakers) and to expose the Church's authoritarian assumption that it knows best what is good for all Americans.  Any leftist radical or other thinking individual watching last night would have had all of his/her concerns about the Catholic Church, or any church, meddling in matters of government confirmed, and a few new concerns created.  Lucky for Bishop Tobin, he'll be fielding softballs from O'Reilly.  
 
JFK got it right. 
Anonymous | 11/24/2009 - 12:14pm
As far as the comment about Father Tom Reese? I have never read a new article with a Tom Reese quote where the quote actually defended the Church and Her teaching. That is why the media love to quote Father Reese in my opinion. They love the red meat that he feeds them.
Anonymous | 11/24/2009 - 12:09pm
I did watch the "Hardball" interview. Why would I? Does anybody still watch this program. Last I checked he gets less than 800,000 viewers.

The bishop will be on O'Reilly tonight. O'Reilly gets 3 to 4 million views per night which include conservative, independents and liberals. I can guarantee that his interview will be much more respectful yet challenging.

If the bishop made a mistake it was to waste his time going a program that only has a few leftist radical viewers who won't change their mind based on an interview. What MSNBC and its viewers need are prayer.
Gregory Popcak | 11/24/2009 - 10:47am
Michael,
Considering your comments in light of your CBS interview over the weekend, I daresay that whenerver a Bishop is being interviewed in the media, he should also be sure to check behind him, where he will undoubtedly find Michael Sean Winters crouching on all fours waiting to help the reporter to push him over.
"Read my book!" indeed.
Greg
Beth Cioffoletti | 11/24/2009 - 10:41am
Thank you for this, Mr. Winters.
 
Chris Matthews very forcefully articulated the problems with the Church imposing its moral authority on the secular jobs of our lawmakers.  I don't know that I've ever seen anyone do this as provacatively (or effectively) as Matthews did when he confronted Bishop Tobin.  Tobin was obviously unprepared.
 
And you are absolutely right - the life of Dr. Martin Luther King is the leading American example of how to bring morality to the legislative level.  His nonviolent drive was one of the most successful expressions of Christian social action in the history of the United States. 
 
6294802 | 11/24/2009 - 10:40am
When Tom Reese left America, a reporter from Newsday did a column or reporter's notebook on Reese's departure and the overall issue of the Church and the media. He said that he and other reporters covering the religion beat would miss Reese and relied on him greatly because he would take the time to explain why the Church takes a particular point of view, would give them the background, explain Church teaching and, most importantly, take their calls and answer their questions. The writer said that when reporters speak with Chancery priests on the phone, they don't leave the conversation feeling like they understand an issue or the Chruch's point of view on that issue well enough to effectively inform their readers. That's a real problem for reporters and hurts the Church's ability to engage and inform the larger society. The reporter indicated that those designated to speak by a diocese were often skittish on the phone and didn't answer questions. The problem with that is that the resulting story winds up favoring those who are at odds with the Church on the issue in question simply because they took the time to answer questions, explain and engage. The writer said there often wasn't enough on-point rebuttal from the Church for the reporter to effectively represent the Church in a story. That reporter concluded his column saying he would continue to call Reese when he needed to understand the Church's views on issues of the times.
Catherine Ceigersmidt | 11/24/2009 - 10:23am
Typo...I meant ''A gravely evil disservice to Christ to receive Him unworthily.''
Catherine Ceigersmidt | 11/24/2009 - 10:19am
I just watched the entire video of Chris Matthews grilling Archbishop Tobin, and I did not see what you described as Tobin being ''completely unprepared to answer the questions asked.'' He was honest, articulate and to-the-point, as much as a human being could be with the amount of gruff interrupting that Matthews laid into him. I understand that is Matthews' ''style'' of interviewing, but let's face it: Tobin wanted to speak, and when he was allowed to speak and finish a thought, he spoke well in upholding the core Catholic teaching (in relation to the questions posed to him) and rightly expressed that he is not a legislator but a shepherd of the faithful who is responsible for guiding his Catholic flock in matters of the doctrine of the Faith. 
One could say that Tobin was led into a media trap, because obviously the CSNBC producers wanted to make him look like a blubbering fool, and knew Matthews could deliver, but at the same time Matthews didn't do a very good job of hiding his tactics - for instance, when he said at one point to Tobin, ''Oh, go ahead'' and then preceeded to bark over Tobin's attempt to speak. Tobin was basically talked AT for the majority of the ''interview,'' if you could even call it that. I honestly don't think he had any interest in what the Archbishop had to say except as it fueled the fire for his stance.  Of course, this isn't Fox News so ''God-forbid'' if Matthews gave Tobin the breadth to explain the doctrine of the Faith to his viewers, they might convert or something (no pun intended)! Or worse, Matthews could lose his job or be forced to resign. Matthews didn't dare bring up the question of why barring communion is so significant. I only wish Archbishop Tobin had found a way to share this uttmost truth in more specific terms relating to The Eucharist.
Let's not forget what St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians:
''For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died'' (1 Corinthians 11:26-30).
It's interesting that you were quoted by Fox News as saying,
''It's really bad theology. You're turning the altar rail into a battle field, a political battlefield no less, and it does a disservice to the Eucharist.''
How can you justify your opinion, when in fact that it does a gravely evil disservice to Chris to receive Him unworthily?? Patrick Kennedy and any Catholic who receives the Eucharist with a mortal sin is committing an even graver mortal sin. Have you read any of the homilies of Saint John Chrysostom, a doctor of the Church from the late-300s AD? He regularly preached with brave authority from the pulpit warning of the condemnation that would befall any Catholic receiving Christ unworthily; that they shouldn't dare come forward without being in a state of grace. And he had no interest in politics.