Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Reason for Calm Response

Source: In defense of L’Osservatore Romano | National Catholic Reporter

On Monday I posted an article about my misgivings on the lynch mob mentality towards the L'Osservatore Romano (henceforth abbreviated L'OR).  On Tuesday I posted an article on a Vatican Press Conference which seemed to negate one of the charges against L'OR.  Today, we seem to have an article which seems to negate another charge against L'OR.

John Allen, in a well balanced article, brings up what seems to be some mitigating factors in what appeared to be the most substantial charge: That L'OR violated the embargo. 

While it is true unlimited discussion was barred until 11/23, all papers had the right to discuss certain chapters (1, 6 and 17) on 11/21/10.  John Allen tells us:

L’Osservatore, because of its special status, was allowed to comb through the entire manuscript, and obviously made some journalistically sound judgments about which sections would be of widest public interest, including the lines on condoms (which come from chapter two). The paper waited until Sunday to run the extracts, though because L’Osservatore is always released the evening before its publication date, it actually came out Saturday night.

If this is true, this seems to destroy, at one stroke, most of the charges against L'OR.  If the Vatican Publishing House did give permission for L'OR to discuss more of the book than others on 11/21, and if the 11/21 edition went public on 11/20 due to simple standard procedure, then it seems the charges of violating the embargo cannot be applied to L'OR.  In such a case, either the Vatican Publishing House broke the embargo, or nobody did depending on whose authority the permission was granted.

If this article is true, it seems the only charges validly remaining is whether L'OR did the Vatican a disservice by translating the German word used for "basis" as "justification" and whether they were guilty of lack of context.

Still, while such decisions may indeed be poor judgment, they certainly seem less severe than the original charges, and may merit an action less severe than those who are calling for the head of Vian.

That's not to say there is nothing wrong with this article.  There are things in this article I disagree with. Regardless of Vian's actions on layout or color, these are irrelevant and the "hard hitting editorials" and focus on popular culture is only of value if it reflects a Catholic view.  Let's not forget the USCCB debacle over The Golden Compass for example, where the (removed) review kind of forgot to mention the atheistic message of the book/movie.  Some decisions by the L'OR editorial staff were decidedly uninformed, creating moral confusion.  So I don't think this is entirely an example of seeking payback as Allen seems to think.

However, I believe the points made concerning the level of culpability of the L'OR do require us to consider the grounds on which Vian is being called on to resign, and whether such a call is rational or not.  If it is for a cumulative set of complaints, this should be stated, and not seek a cumulative penalty for one charge.

However, as I said before, if Vian and his staff have done anything wrong, it falls to the Vatican to determine what should be done.  It might be more lenient or stricter than we would want, or it might match what we would want.  That's irrelevant.  The fact is, the Vatican has the authority to treat with this as they see fit.

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