The Famous Anti-Catholicism of the New York Times

Ah yes, the famous anti-Catholicism of the New York Times.  In fact, I was just speaking with someone about that topic today, a person convinced that the New York Times has it out for, or in for, the Catholic Church.  Its supposed bias is thought to contribute to the paper's relentless coverage of the sex abuse crisis.  Several Catholics I know refer to it as the Summa Contra Gentiles.

In that case, it's very hard to explain today's paper, which includes, in the Metro section, no less than three entirely laudatory articles specifically about Catholicism. The first is this somewhat bemused piece about the writer Pete Hamill receiving, after many years and after having dropped out, his diploma from the Jesuit-run Regis High School in New York.  "The Jesuits believe in taking their time on the big decisions," said Hamill.  The second is an inspiring piece about a possible new saint, Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn, from Brooklyn.  Msgr. Quinn worked with African-American Catholics and advocated on their behalf when that was a distinctly unpopular position, even among his brother priests.  Finally, the moving story of an elderly nun, Sister Mary Celine, of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Hearts of Mary, who was tragically killed by a speeding minivan fleeing a crime. The story focuses on her beautiful life.  "Inside the convent," writes the Times reporter, "at 15 West 124th Street, the remnants of Sister Mary Celine’s life were there for all to see. Less obvious but perhaps more telling was the lasting impression she left with the generations of children she had taught and mentored."  Stop the anti-Catholic rhetoric!  She's pictured above, in that obviously anti-Catholic portrait.


The next time someone tells you that the New York Times is a hotbed of anti-Catholicism, you might pull out today's paper. 

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8 years 7 months ago
Earlier this week, the Times ran a neat piece of Fr. John Flynn, retiring at 80, after many years of service to the poor in the Bronx.
If NYT is critical of the Church, it's critical of the hiera5chy and not the troops in the field who do so much good.
That doesn't make it anti-Catholic to my mind.
Kate Smith
8 years 7 months ago
When the editor of the NYT was confronted with supposed anti-Catholic bias, he was easily able to cite and remind people of the many good Catholic stories it regularly does.    As a regular, every day reader of the NYT, I can confirm there are good Catholic stories every single week.
What I've discovered is Catholics have extremely low tolerance for criticism.  At a time in our country when Catholics are in the majority on the nation's highest court, it's time to put to rest the bias accusations.
In my region of NY, the problem is the opposite.   Federal authorities go after Muslims with sting operations, while ignoring Catholics violating a man's civil rights because they did not like him protesting at a church.   I'm writing to the US Attorney General about this problem this weekend:  Catholic exemption from the civil rights provisions of the law.
I also know from experience that the NYT is very even handed and surprisingly accurate with clergy sexual abuse stories.   The complaint from ''bias seeking Catholics'' is that the stories are written at all, as though Catholics have special privileges.
Jim McCrea
8 years 7 months ago
The "peace" Hammill achieved with the Jebbies may be bemused, but I think the article itself is better characterized as a "piece."
Hey, I'm a Jebbie grad, so I was taught to be a critical thinker.
8 years 7 months ago
The anti-Catholic bias of the MSM has to due with the presentation of the Church hierachy and doctrine. I did not read today's NY Times pro-Catholic articles but I suspect they are puff-pieces about either liberal woman religious, liberal order of priests or a NY Times approved social justice piece.

You won't see a positive or neutral piece about the institutional Church, obedient bishops, the Church's teaching on sexuality or the Pope.

I would suspect that America Magazine and most Jesuits are in good standing with the NY Times.
8 years 7 months ago
My take on the NYTimes is not that it is anti-Catholic, but that it is inaccurate in its reports concerning the Catholic Church, especially the recent reports about the sexual abuse scandals.  Until recently I usually read the National and International articles about the Catholic Church, and these are very distorted pieces.  So the reader does not get all the facts or biased interpretation of the facts.  I have discontinued my NYTimes feed because of this.  In fact, I have lost confidence in all mainstream media outlets.
Brendan McGrath
8 years 7 months ago
Despite stories like these, it's hard to think that there isn't some strain of anti-Catholicism in the New York Times (or other media outlets), even if it’s uncoordinated, and often unconscious, unintentional, etc.  See a recent Commonweal blog post ( about an art review in the New York Times, which contained this delightful little gem:
“How did the Roman Catholic Church maintain its grip on European hearts and minds for so long?  Judging by this exhibition, the answer seems to be by artfully managing the fear,  ignorance and superstition of the faithful.  The rise of humanism from the Renaissance on came as an exhilarating release for the Western world’s cramped imagination.”
Ccan you imagine if it were a review of some other type of exhibit, and it said something like following? -  “How did the establishment of Jewish rabbis maintain its grip on Jews’ hearts and minds for so long? Judging by this exhibition, the answer seems to be by artfully managing the fear, ignorance and superstition of the Jewish people. The rise of secularism from the Enlightenment on came as an exhilarating release for the Jewish diaspora’s cramped imagination.” 
Victor Poole
8 years 7 months ago
That's just it. The recent NYT reports on sexual abuse were consistently inaccurate and negatively slanted against the Pope (or then Cardinal Ratzinger). Imagine if such stories were to be printed about the President or a Prime Minister. Reports of such caliber, or course, render themselves to the tabloids. But the NYT is supposed to be above that level! Such inaccuracies would demand apologies and corrections and further beg the question of whether they were due to poor journalism or deliberate intent.
Since other, less prestigious sources of journalism were able to reveal the much fuller-but less sensational-reports, and because the negatively inaccurate reports from the NYT tend to keep on ''accidentally'' bashing authentically Catholic themes-such as its hierarchy or doctrine-I'm inclined to believe that the NYT's inaccuracies were deliberately anti-Catholic.
8 years 7 months ago
The New York Times is an atheistic institution.  Not that everyone that works there is an atheist but its philosophy and content will be consistent with an atheistic or secular world view and the editors are well aware of it.  Don't let the odd story confuse you.  Atheist look at religion like anything else, a social or economic phenomena and any stories describing the social phenomena does not mean any endorsement.  If something exists, it must be observed.  It is more like looking at an animal in a zoo, with curiosity and occasionally admiration for some of its behavior.
I was once on a cruise which had as a guest lecturer a professor of religion from a secular school.  She was describing the religious traditions of places we were visiting.  I asked her how many of the faculty of religion where she was, were religious.  She said hardly any and most were atheists or agnostics.  She said religion was just like any other academic study where people study the phenomena in question, write papers about the behavior and artifacts that accompany it as well as its place in history and current society.  In other words, religion was a sociological happening.
Anyone who looks to the NY Times for insight and guidance and believes in God should beware.  It is the supreme secular organ in our midst and wishes no Christian, well.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 7 months ago
The New York Times is my favorite newspaper.  I can sit for hours on a Sunday and find a broad range of timely articles about the arts, food, international news, people, books, history, culture etc. 
I appreciate the objectivity it employs in reporting on religions, not taking an insider's view or role.
I also agree with Brendan that the little gem that he found in an art review did show anti-Catholic bias.  I think that that sort of bias happens, but is not the commonplace in the Times, and if you pointed out to the Times, they would see and acknowledge their own error.
8 years 7 months ago
In 2004 the Public editor of the times, Daniel Okrent, said.
''if you are among the groups The Times treats as strange objects to be examined on a laboratory slide (devout Catholics, gun owners, Orthodox Jews, Texans); if your value system wouldn't wear well on a composite New York Times journalist, then a walk through this paper can make you feel you're traveling in a strange and forbidding world.''
Starting in the 1970's Catholic universities started making accommodations with the atheistic secular left.  They did this so they could attract faculty to their universities.  Most Catholic universities have a heavily atheistic faculty.  Has secularism accommodated itself to Catholic teaching, my guess is that there are some instances but in the whole it is Catholic academia that has adjusted so they do not feel so uncomfortable with their faculty or walking down those aisles of the New York Times editorial offices.
And where are devout Catholics also under attack?  Could it be within the confines of some Catholic institutions.
8 years 7 months ago
''The Jesuits stayed with him, as well. “They put doubt in you, intellectual doubt,” Mr. Hamill said.''

I am Jesuit trained. It took me years of wandering before I discovered JPII's encyclicals and corrected the doubt that the Jesuits instilled in me. Thanks to, I am now only have difficulties, but no doubts.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 7 months ago
"The Jesuits stayed with him, as well. “They put doubt in you, intellectual doubt,” Mr. Hamill said. “Someone presents a thesis, you back up and say, ‘Is that really true? How do we know that’s true?’ ”"
I was so grateful to get to the Jesuits after years of frustration with "blind" obedience.  Thanks to the Jesuits, I now know that my doubts are ok, and can lead me to deeper understanding and challenges.
Vince Killoran
8 years 7 months ago
I have my own complaints about the NYT (e.g., in the 1980s they were apologist for Reagan's Central America policy).  I don't read it everyday and I know they make some factual errors now & again (which, like Beth writes, they will usually acknowlege), but they have a more complicated and varied approach to reporting on religion in general and the Catholic Church specifically than simple anti-Catholicism. 
I don't expect the NYT to be OUR SUNDAY VISITOR or ETWN.  I think that some Catholics have gotten defensive and have tried to blame the secular media for our own internal troubles.  That's a bad idea.
none none
8 years 7 months ago
Joe is right.
I would ask the author of this article to reflect upon why he feels the need to defend the NYTimes because of a couple of puff pieces and when was the last time he gave a surmon defending the unborn.  Truely the NYtimes must be the least amoung us.
8 years 7 months ago
I've often wondered at Catholics singling out the NYTimes as an anti-Catholic medium. Over the years, I've certainly seen plenty of diatribes and screeds reflecting the secularist, Enlightenment claptrap we Catholics are used to. When the Times gets lazy, it can be as bad as any paper. On the other hand, it's not nearly so bad as many, many other media. Try CNN, for starters. At least the NYTimes has Peter Steinfels and a few other serious journalists aboard, who not only are knowledgeable, but who even have a deeply Catholic perspective on things.  I'm sorry Steinfels is no longer an editor, but his positive influence remains evident. there is often more sophistication in the Times than in any other given daily on topics Catholic or Christian.
Having said all that, I am well aware of anti-Catholic bias and bigotry. I fear that many of our institutions will deteriorate seriously because of it-especially our health-care institutions these days. The bias against Catholicism within health care, despite the Church's large footprint in the industry, bodes very ill for its continued influence. That is just one place where anti-Catholicism has practical repercussions; we can all point to many others. It's not helpful to scapegoat a newspaper whose often-(but not always)-liberal bent is so generally disagreeable to many as particularly anti-Catholic, especially when it is hardly the source or engine of our problems. We Catholics should be especially sensitive to being scapegoated in such a way.
Jim McCrea
8 years 7 months ago
Healthy doubt is a good thing.
“Sometimes I like to put sands of doubt into the oyster of my faith.”    Brother Cadfael
“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainty.”     Sir Francis Bacon
“Faith means doubt. Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it. The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith.”    Thomas Merton.
8 years 7 months ago
''Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.''
John Henry Newman

I thought the educated readers of America would have recognized the reference to the Venerable John Henry Newman who should be beatified in September 2010!
Vince Killoran
8 years 7 months ago
I think the issue is not being framed quite right-the focus or question should be, "How should our secular newspapers deal with religion and the Catholic Church?"  not "How bias is the NYT?" No one has mentioned other major papers or the media.
How can we know if one newspaper is better than the other?  Of course we want newspapers to be factually correct, but must each article be in sympathy with Church doctrine and the hierachy? That seems pretty unrealistic as well asunwise: I want to read a wide range of views and be challenged on my beliefs.
Pearce Shea
8 years 7 months ago
I think it has a whole heck of a lot less to do with any conspiracy than with the simple fact that among highly educated, urban-dwelling self-proclaimed intellectuals (I don't mean this sarcastically, I just mean that if asked, these people would say that they did indeed think themselves to be intellectuals) it is a widely accepted fact that most organized religion is at the very least quite bad for freedom of thought if not also quite nasty when it comes to things like the rights of women or whatever the particularly minority in question may be. These are people that don't particularly feel the need to be religious or even for religion. They don't really understand religious people and make very little effort to do so.
That at the very least, has always been my impression of fellow NYT readers. So when there is the possibility of the Pope being in on some terrible crimes, it is not all that shocking for us sophisticates. We sort of knew that already. Or at least, we knew that it was pretty likely.
My source for this isn't just the fact that the majority of my friends and family are just such people, nor that I once too felt and thought this way, but also because the NYT public editor more or less admitted that the paper had a liberal slant back in 2002 and that it didn't really "get" conservatives or traditionally-minded religious people. His point was that the paper was, ultimately, not really for them. I'd also point anyone who doubts that the readership of the times has such a bias to any of Stanley Fish's interesting and often brilliant blog posts at the NYT's website and then scan through the responses.
To suggest that the writers and editors at the Times weren't educated and aren't largely living in such an environment, where being religious, much less devoutly so or a member of a "conservative" church is to miss a very huge, and obvious bias. It's the same bias that we see in a great many college classrooms and amongst otherwise very open-minded people.
I'm not saying we should burn the paper or shut down the building or even stop reading the thing. But the bias is there and these three articles do not in any way reflect a sea change in the culture at the NYTs.
Pearce Shea
8 years 7 months ago
Believe it or not, but that question has been asked of a great many newspaper editors, including those at the times. They have nearly unanimously defended themselves. Frankly, I see this all as much less a function of even liberal ire directed at a "conservative" institution so much as it is a business necessity, and here's why: the NYT and WaPo (my two major news sources) have both adopted the habit of slacking on their source-checking, have made little effort to understand canonical processes and, I think, more damning than anything else, have tried to "create news." For example, a while ago, Michelle Boorstein at the Post reported that a church music director had resigned because she no longer agreed with Church teaching on the male-only clergy. It later seemed that she felt perhaps that she had been pushed out. After that, she retracted her statement and said that she had, in fact, left of her own volition (she was older and didn't want to start any trouble). That, effectively is the end of the story. Boorstein ran a couple blog posts and then a follow up story (without any new information; the only new stuff were comments posted on her blog). On her blog, Boorstein admitted, before even running the second story, that  the music director had begged her to stop digging and that nothing more was to be gained, to stop calling her, etc.
And frankly, this is the issue. I don't mind the bias. What I mind is when media "creates news" in order to keep a story alive. And this is a huge issue in the field of journalistic ethics. The convergence of blogs, op-ed pieces, a 24 hours news cycle and traditional media has pushed newspapers and traditionally "just the facts" news sources well into the realm of opinion and the like. The times certainly did this many times with a couple of the recent abuse articles.
Kay Satterfield
8 years 7 months ago
Regarding doubt, Saint Therese of Lisieux experienced terrible doubt in the last months of her life and wrote about it in her autobiography ''The Story of a Soul''.  She said it felt like she was sitting at the table of with the unbelievers and eating their black bread.  Her desolation gave her compassion for those who didn't believe and she desired to pray for them from heaven.  She held onto confidence in the goodness of God and persevered despite the darkness.  Pope John Paul II named her a doctor of the church in 1997.  The only doctor he named in his long pontificate.
Regarding the NYT.  We subscribe to it because the writing is so good and in depth.  It does have bias. However, the articles mentioned of the two religious who really gave so much good to the people of NYC, these articles are great.  These two are the stuff of saints and their lives encourage our faith, hope, and love.  I hope the NYT writes more articles portraying the good of Catholic Christians. 
8 years 6 months ago
Well I am certain that the Grey Lady and its devoted Upper West Side readers appreciate this thunderous defense of its Catholic bone fides.
Mary Jane Ryan
8 years 6 months ago
Dear Father Martin:
This New York Times article of June 24th, 2010 on Monsignor Bernard John Quinn describes his dealings with a fellow pastor of the diocese of Brooklyn, Msgr. John L. Belford, who was “outspokenly antiblack”.  This is an accurate statement.
Here is a quote from the Msgr. Quinn’s biography “Quintessential Priest” that is significant. “During his hospitalization in preparation for his fateful surgery he was visited by Msgr. John Belford, who was radically changed from a man who had vehemently excoriated blacks to a person who had become gentle and kind to them.  Indeed, he showed great kindness to Quinn when visiting him at the hospital.  It gave him the greatest joy to see that his prayers for Belford had borne fruit in the conversion of his heart.” [1] 
I believe Msgr. Quinn would want charity and justice for Msgr. Belford.  Therefore I relate the story whose outcome may be one example of the miracles of “Father Quinn.”
Please note one correction to the NY Times article.  Lena Horne never attended St. Peter Claver School. As a young child, Ms. Horne attended St. Peter Claver Church with her grandmother.
 Mary Jane Therese Ryan

[1] p. 280. Quintessential Priest by Paul W. Jervis, Editions DuSigne, Publisher 2005

none none
8 years 6 months ago
the non-biased nytimes just put out another article today saying that as the Cardinal in charge of CDF, the Pope had responsibility to deal with sexual abuse cases but chose not to.  ....but don't believe your lying eyes....secular humanism is christianity.
Martin Gallagher
8 years 7 months ago
I agree Joe.  I don't know if the innacurate NYT coverage of Pope Benedict's alleged involvement sex abuse scandal resulted from ignorance, animus, or both.  I suspect they desire to divide the faithful from their shepherds.


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