One strategy to avoid being marginalized on an issue is to show concern for the problem. Take the climate change issue in which we've probably progressed to the point where arguing that “climate change is a hoax” hurts your credibility. As I documented earlier this year, Ogden newspapers (and local congressman David McKinley) appear to have moved away from their former outright climate change denial position to admitting that the earth’s climate is changing. That is, for the most part, as far as they go because they haven’t suggested how the problem can be lessened. Instead, they focus on knocking down any proposal that wants to limit the use of fossil fuels. (For example, look at the number of editorials, syndicated columnists and op-ed pieces that both papers have published since January attacking the Green New Deal.) That they have not offered any solution doesn’t seem to matter; by switching from outright denial to concern, they’re no longer seen as a part of the problem even as they repeatedly attack any pro-active proposal that deals with the problem.
On Sunday I reacted to the Sunday column by the editor of Wheeling’s Ogden papers on the scandal involving the former Catholic bishop for the state of West Virginia, Michael Bransfield. (See next post down.) The editor, Mike Myer, asked the question:
If Bransfield did all these things for so long, how did he get away with it?
Myer faulted the diocese. I agreed but I also argued that West Virginia media had not done its job.
Despite the fact that the Catholic Church has yet to prove that it can investigate itself, today’s editorial* wants the Conference of Catholic Bishops, who are meeting in Baltimore this week, to probe the gift giving and other financial irregularities as well as their connection to the Church’s sexual abuse problems. Given its past (and even, recent) history, how can anyone seriously believe that the Church can investigate itself? The editorial wants the bishops to do something (in this case, investigate) even though it knows that it won’t change anything. It’s important, however, that Ogden come out against the diocese’s misuse of funds even as West Virginia's media has long been aware of the bishop’s spending habits. For example, here’s the lede in an article from six years ago in the Charleston Gazette:
Angered over what they call a vindictive transfer of their local pastor, a group of Catholics in Huntington are accusing leadership at the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston of living too profligate a lifestyle and not following the example set by Pope Francis. . . .
Pennington and other West Virginia Catholics criticized Bransfield for spending too much on building projects and things like chauffeurs and personal chefs, and not enough on helping the needy.
And as I argued on Sunday, it would be hard to have lived in the Wheeling area without having heard of Bransfield’s extravagance. Where have the media been? Isn’t there at least one reporter or editor with some curiosity who thought upon hearing the rumors: “if it's true, this might be an important story.” No, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to write editorials and columns calling upon the Catholic Church to investigate itself after the damage has been done. That way, you can criticize without admitting that your unwillingness to investigate was part of the problem. (The previous post cites two obvious examples of newspapers that investigated charges against a church hierarchy.) The editorial includes five questions that the bishop’s conference should consider. (For example: “How widespread has such gift-giving been among the church hierarchy?” As even the editorial acknowledges, Archbishop Lori who headed the Bransfield investigation failed to mention his $10,500 gift from Bransfield.) I’m sure the bishops will get right on them. Hey, but we now know that the Intelligencer is concerned – but not concerned enough to investigate and report.
Here’s what the Washington Post is reporting about the conference:
The strong possibility that the U.S. Church will vote this week to create a system of bishop oversight is historic, though critics and watchdogs remain worried about a possible weakness: In the measures under consideration, all future probes will remain in-house. Lay people can be involved, but it’s not mandatory, and the pope retains full power over whether to keep or how to punish bishops.
*Note – No link. Morning editorials can almost always be found online. For some reason, this one ("Probe Gifts Within Church") didn’t make it.