OK, use your imagination a little while David Clohessy of SNAP waits desperately for that telephone call from the local press. (What? the third day since the new Archbishop was appointed and I haven’t been on camera yet!?)
Scene: the local newspaper, city desk
Players: progressive editor; religion editor; political correctness editor; (not pictured– reporter who owes religion editor money)
Time: well, any time really, but in this case, last night
Religion editor: Boss, can we finally run that hit piece on Carlson?
Progressive editor: Who?
Religion editor: Carlson. The new Catholic Archbishop. (gets blank stare) You ran a story on him today.
Progressive editor: Oh, some Catholic. Sure, fire away. Wait, what do you think, Ms?
Political correctness editor: (in metallic monotone) Yes, run the story. Be sure to emphasize the oppression of the Catholic Church. Women and poor are always hardest hit.
Progressive editor: Whatever. Get on with it. What’s your angle?
Religion editor: No problem. I’ve written this same story for years. Or maybe I’ll just dress up the NCR piece on that reactionary Finn. (Turns to leave, then halts) Oh No!
Progressive editor: What is it?
Religion editor: I already promised those leftist nuns that I would cover their bowling tournament/healing touch workshop. Darn.
Progressive editor: So, get someone else to do it– the story writes itself.
Religion editor: You’re right, I’ll get Bryce to do it. He owes me money.
Saint Louis Catholic, no stranger to the world of investigative reporting, has surreptitiously obtained a copy of the template used in such stories. I will apply it to this completely unrelated story appearing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today, just for instructional purposes. I can’t show you the actual document, as it will compromise my sources.
New St. Louis archbishop shepherded conservative change in his former diocese
BY Phillip O’Connor
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Bishop Robert James Carlson arrived in Saginaw, Mich., in 2005 with a reputation as a rising star sent to reel in a renegade diocese [Begin by drawing the analogy: liberals= rebel alliance, led by Luke, Han, and Leia; Catholic Church= evil empire, led by Darth Vader.]
Carlson — named archbishop of St. Louis [Remind readers that Church doesn’t allow its members to choose their leaders.] on Tuesday — was a big adjustment for the Saginaw Diocese, which over four decades had become what some considered among the most liberal in the country, priests and parishioners there say. [Relate the destruction of the veritable new Eden he wreaked in his last gig.]
Carlson replaced a bishop whose views often put him at odds with the Vatican. [He replaced Luke Skywalker, in other words.] Untener led the Saginaw Diocese for 24 years and often spoke about the church’s need to re-examine its stance on fundamental issues such as abortion, birth control and the ordination of women. [Emphasize the liberal’s “prophetic voice”–hee!– and run this little quote on the front page along with another story about how teenagers can now legally buy the abortion pill; our readers’ irony meters aren’t functional.]
“It was considered a progressive, forward-looking diocese, in some ways, a model,” said the Rev. James E. Falsey, a parish priest who served under Untener. “Of course, if you were conservative, it was considered a suspicious district.” [Insert quote from heroic hippie priest who can properly lament the passing of the perfect Vatican II playground and insinuate that Catholics, er, “conservatives”, are paranoid.]
Some parishioners felt the diocese and its leader at times strayed too far. [Power to the people!]
Within church circles, Carlson — who first led a diocese as bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D. — was known as a conservative who embraced moves by Pope John Paul II [Huh? Oh, yeah, the template does say John Paul II was “traditional”– but what does that make the new guy?] and Pope Benedict XVI to return the church to its traditional doctrine.
When Carlson accepted what looked to some like a lateral appointment to Saginaw, the message seemed clear: Change was in store for the diocese of about 130,000 people bordering Lake Huron. [Cue Gestapo music: change we can’t believe in.]
“He was sent here with a particular charge from higher-ups and that was to shake this diocese up … to make sure the practices of the diocese were in conformity with the expectations of Rome,” said the Rev. Tom Sutton, who was administrator of the diocese before Carlson arrived. [Get quote from an ousted adversary who can imply the Catholic can’t think for himself.]
By that time, many of the 100 or so churches in the diocese had loosened some traditional practices, such as kneeling, and allowed lay ministers, including women, to play a prominent role in church functions. [Emphasize the fact that the Church wants to keep women and ordinary people down, and women, too. Did I mention women?]
Seventeen parishes were administered by lay people, many of them nuns drawn from other parts of the country where bishops wouldn’t allow them to preach. [Praise the Red Brigade volunteers at least twice in this story.]
Carlson followed Vatican orders and called for ending those practices, a move that angered some and pleased others. [Nuremberg!]
“He works for the pope not the people,” said Virginia Phelps, 87, a retired lay minister at a diocesan parish. [Get quote from the youngest liberal left to emphasize our youthful zeal–huh, 87 is the youngest? oh well…] “I don’t think he was a shepherd of our flock. I don’t think he listened to what people had to say.” [Power to the people!]
The Rev. John Sarge, another parish priest, said Carlson emphasized that a church is bigger than a parish or diocese. Still, Sarge said it was difficult to see changes dismantled that he’d supported during 35 years in the diocese.
“Putting the brakes on is psychologically hard for a lot of us,” he said. [Feel their pain, you cruel Catholics!]
Many priests say Carlson simply conformed with the wishes of church leaders.”What’s going on there is a bishop implemented what the church has asked us to do … nothing more, nothing less,” said the Rev. Denis Heames, 36, a former seminarian who followed Carlson to Saginaw from Sioux Falls [I suppose you must quote at least one toady of the new guy. Do so here.]
Some parishioners, including Leonard and Gerry LeFevre, both 76, thought the changes Carlson helped enact were long overdue. [Remember to get a quote from the oldest conservative you can find, to emphasize their dead, reactionary ideas.]
Both said they had grown unhappy with the direction of the diocese and uncomfortable with a bishop that talked about priests being allowed to marry and the ordination of women. [Prudes.]
“I don’t believe in that,” Gerry LeFevre said.
While some described Carlson as warm and caring, others said he had a hard time connecting with people, including priests. Some say he had a tough act to follow. [Stalin had a tough act to follow.]
Untener often shed his clerical collar and mixed easily with priests and parishioners, playing hockey, drinking beer and playing piano at gatherings. He died from cancer in 2004. [Don’t draw the obvious conclusion that shedding one’s clerical collar causes cancer.]
Carlson, on the other hand, often came across as reserved in dress and manner, some said. [Boo!]
The Rev. Jim Heller, 67, who was Carlson’s vicar general, said he was disappointed to see the church reverse changes made over the past 40 years that he said created excitement and encouraged experimentation in the Saginaw Diocese.
“I feel like Moses. I’ve seen the promised land, but I probably won’t get to enter it,” Heller said. [Viva la revolucion!]
In St. Louis, Carlson follows an archbishop cut from similar cloth, Raymond Burke, who left to head the Vatican’s supreme court. Carlson, who like Burke, is a canon lawyer, will be installed as leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis within two months. [See if you can’t get a quote from that Bozek guy– “We need a Bishop who is a shepherd, not a lawyer.” What? He’s out? Oh, well…]
“He’s being promoted upward for being a good, faithful servant,” Sutton said. [End with some quote that emphasizes that the new guy is just some flunky.]