Are my articles ‘Anti-Catholic?’

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My title for is “Scranton Atheism Examiner.” My job is to report and publish stories that are interesting and relevant to atheists. My articles also have to have some sort of local angle to them. This is much different than my blogging in which I often, depending on the post, respond to arguments, try to persuade, or say what my opinion is. My position is very similar to that of a reporter for a local newspaper. Like me, local newspaper reporters simply report. When I publish my articles, I do my best to be as objective as possible and instead of giving my opinion on matters, I report and interview other people in order to obtain their opinions.

I’ve been extremely charitable in previous articles, especially my interview with Michael Voris of RealCatholicTV fame and the “Catholic Government” and “Angry Atheists” videos for which most atheists know him. While I disagreed with almost everything Michael Voris said in my interview, I continued doing the interview and reported what he said without arguing with him, reporting why he was wrong, etc. It was quite the lofty task, but I was able to do my job. Instead, or in addition to my article, I deliberately saved my criticism for a separate blog post.

Any commentary I add to articles, such as in my first article, “Priestly abuse: The Diocese of Scranton and beyond,” is quite uncontroversial. In one of my most popular articles, “Atheists to protest Harrisburg mayor Linda Thompson,” I left my ‘strong opinions’ about separation of church and state out of the article and pulled in outside opinion while again providing very uncontroversial commentary such as noting that Thompson should focus on her job responsibilities instead of acting like a preacher.

I linked one of my articles on the wall of a former co-worker of mine who lists herself as a Roman Catholic on Facebook. We worked together and both held the unique positions of Writing Center Tutors in which we would edit papers of students who would seek help. During some downtime at work, she and other co-workers would discuss everything from religion, politics, and college life. Although this former co-worker would not defend her positions after making very problematic claims (another word for an unhealthy diet is a vegetarian diet) and deflecting criticism about her problematic ‘pro-gun’ claims, I wouldn’t think that linking an article on her wall would be an issue.

Since we were both English majors or minors of some flavor, I supposed that my linking of an article that I wrote on her wall would cause no problems; a former co-worker of mine would be able to see my work and hopefully be happy that I got a writing position. I was, of course, very wrong because she commented on my link seconds after I linked it saying, “Hey Justin. Would you mind not posting anymore anti-Catholic articles on my wall? I don’t post anti-atheist stuff on yours.”

The article that I linked titled, “Amidst sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia, Bishop Bambera praises Rigali” mainly recounts recent and ongoing events surrounding the sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Reporting of events in an objective manner should not be considered “anti-Catholic” like the commented claimed. If this were the case, every reporter who covers any sexual abuse within the Catholic Church (or at least in the Archdiocese) would be considered “anti-Catholic,” but this is ludicrous because many of these reporters are themselves Catholic, “pro-Catholic,” or neutral toward the events being reported. Just because an “anti-Catholic” person happens to report does not mean that the report itself is anti-Catholic.

The problem here, I think, might be that people who see negative brute facts about their religious institutions being reported might construe this as some sort of ‘attack’ on the institutions themselves. It might also be the case that people can’t separate the writer from the reporting or they just didn’t read the article. The article I wrote regarding the sex abuse scandal is no different than what local newspaper writers publish when they report; we’re simply telling you the facts, pulling in outside commentary/opinion, and are being as objective as possible.

While some other writers or reporting organizations might be very biased and intentionally so, I do my best to be objective as possible and I believe, with a careful examination of my articles, that almost every rational person should agree with this assessment. Here’s a breakdown of my article on the sex abuse scandal and Bambera:

Paragraph one is an introduction to the article and a fact; Bambera had nothing negative to say about Rigali even though he is embroiled in controversy.

Paragraph two consists of public factual information with attributed sources.

Paragraph three states information from Bambera’s document.

Paragraph four is more reporting of public information and stating that the new replacement for Rigali is similar to Martino (that’s also a fact with attributed sources.)

Paragraph five is a slight bit of commentary from me (which is quite uncontroversial, too) and statements of fact from SNAP with attributed sources.

Paragraph six states that the Diocese of Scranton is doing little about abuse (quite uncontroversial) and Bambera’s recent document barely addresses it (fact, attributed).

Paragraph seven: I tried to interview Genello, but he didn’t respond.

Paragraph eight: Comments from an NEPA Freethought member and commentary that is also quite uncontroversial.

While I try to take nothing to heart and disregard criticism that comes from people who aren’t being rational about a specific topic are otherwise are ignorant, claiming that my article was “anti-catholic,” besides being very wrong and misinformed, boarders on the line of very offensive. I intentionally made sure to do my best to be objective as possible and report and someone is basically coming out saying that I am not acting like a reporter.

After the initial comment of my article being “anti-catholic,” the commenter’s husband make what might even be a more ridiculous comment saying “Well, examiner does pay by the page view” that perhaps is insinuating that I’m merely linking my article just to get pageviews/money. This comment, also, is one that I take offense to. Money is not the goal of my writing and is not a top priority of mine. This blog, for example, is quite active and generates zero revenue for me. This blog is merely a personal page that I’ve been maintaining for about two years. When I applied for the position, my first thoughts included expanding my audience, being able to write for a more professional format, being able to write in a different manner, etc.

After giving my paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown and defending myself, the person’s husband commented by saying “tl;dr” in a very immature and dismissive fashion. If someone is going to levy absurd claims that warrant long responses, long responses will be given…and they weren’t even that long, anyway. Typing “tl;dr” in response to something someone else wrote, after levying absurd claims amounts to simply not answering any of the arguments and perhaps shows that you have no counter-argument or otherwise won’t defend your position.

Next, the original commenter wrote, “Justin, I consider you a friend, but I would like for that to consist of more than your atheist evangelicalism.” This comment immediately revealed a tremendous lack of understanding and perhaps is even worse than the “anti-catholic” comment…and showed that the commenter either totally ignored what I had to write in the thread of willfully ignored my counter-argument. How in the world is reporting about the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church atheist evangelism [some might jest that this is a ‘good argument’ against Catholicism or otherwise that the church is good PR for atheists, but I digress]? What, also, is atheist evangelicalism?

One who understands what an atheist and what evangelism is should conclude that the terms, when put together, are incoherent (unless, of course, someone is joking such as Sam Singleton). One who talks about “atheist evangelicalism” shows that he/she has no idea what he/she is talking about. An atheist is one who lacks belief in any gods: nothing less, nothing more. How can one spread a lack of belief? Either way, my article should not be considered to be any sort of evangelism. When I noted this, the response was something akin to “spreading a belief to someone who doesn’t believe can be called evangelism.” This definition is far too general and would make all teachers evangelists, but this clearly is not the case.

Instead of jumping to conclusions and thinking that reporting of brute facts about the religious organizations you cherish or the people you defend are somehow “anti-catholic,” time should be taken to evaluate the claims being made, verify that the cited attributions are accurate and fair, and also remaining open while you are reading. No matter what a person believes, it is very possible for someone to write an objective article and report.


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