Simply breathtaking!

Kate of “Australia Incognita” has often complained of misrepresentation by Mr Michael Mullins on the CathNews “Blogwatch”. Now I am the victim of his fantasies. He reports on this morning’s Blogwatch:

Sentire Cum Ecclesia surprises himself when he comes out in support of gay marriage, or at least accepting it as inevitable and tolerable.

How he managed to get the impression from this post that I accept “gay marriage” as “inevitable and tolerable”, let alone that I am “in support of gay marriage”, I have no idea at all.

Thank’s to “DN” for already posting an objection and for alerting me to this slander. I myself have just submitted the following comment to Mr Mullins:

SCE coming “out in support of gay marriage, or at least accepting it as inevitable and tolerable”? How on earth do you get that out of what I posted?

“Supporting gay marriage” is NOT the same thing as “accepting it as inevitable and tolerable”, and I did NOT even (DO NOT even) do that.

I think this might be an appropriate opportunity for you to offer me a public apology for grossly misrepresenting what I wrote, Mr Mullins.

I wonder what will happen now? Nothing, if Kate’s experience is anything to go by.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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26 Responses to Simply breathtaking!

  1. Kate says:

    Ah yes you’ve definitely been Mullinsed! Talk about reading what you want into things! I feel your pain.

    Now if we only had Human Rights Act amendment of the kind advocated by so many liberals, you and I could make the same case against him as those who took on Andrew Bolt did for misrepresentation…(just kidding, not advocating).

    In fact I too thought (for a brief moment at least) about complaining about the slant he’d taken on my post today too – though a far less serious issue than yours, I was annoyed (as I am most weeks!) since I was pretty supportive of my Archbishop’s Sunday assembly initiative, yet he somehow manages to make it sound as if I was being critical of it! But I’ve long since given up expecting responsible journalism, or even common courtesy, from those employed by Cath News.

  2. matthias says:

    Obviously Mr Mullins has moral dyslexia

  3. matthias says:

    my friend and yours has put in a word for you too David

  4. Marcel says:

    David, you should know the blogosphere does not do nuance.

    Blogger A: “Catholic theologians debated the issue of ensoulment down the centuries.”

    Blogger B: “As Blogger A conceded the Church used to be pro-choice.”

    Blogger B has an agenda. Perhaps next time you talk about ‘same sex marriage’ put a generous dose of Genesis, Leviticus and St Peter Damien in there to remove all trace of nuance.

    :)

  5. Tony says:

    You won’t welcome this, David, but I’ve often felt the same way about you (and Kate, for that matter) in terms of the way the points of view of some individuals are characterised in pretty unflattering ways. I have, from time to time, taken you to task over it.

    If the characterisation stopped at he comes out in support of gay marriage I think you’d have an unequivocal case for a retraction and apology, but the whole phrase is clearly different when … or at least accepting it as inevitable and tolerable is added. Taken as a whole, it is not too different from acknowledging, by way of a common metaphor, that the ‘sky won’t fall in’. He then goes on to quote a substantial amount of your post which gives his readers the chance to make up their own mind if his characterisation was reasonable.

    And there is a bright side: more people get to hear about SE. :-)

  6. Jim Ryland says:

    Tony,

    The trouble is that an opening statement like that has an impact on the reader’s interpretation of what follows. It’s similar to the “McGurk Effect” and sets up a biased “filter” for the reader and his comprehension of the material.

    • Schütz says:

      Yes, Jim. If Mr Mullins had silply said that I view same sex “marriage” as “inevitable” (which I don’t) I could see how he squeezes that out of my post. But that is not at all the same thing as saying that I view it as “tolerable” (which I also don’t), and I don’t see how any sane person coild derive that conclusion from what I wrote. And completely different in quality (and not just in quantity as the statement “at least” would imply) is the claim that I “support gay marriage”, which it is plainly evident from my post that I do not.

      If I were a year 8 English teacher marking Mr Mullin’s comment in a comprehension exam, I would be obliged to fail him.

      Further, it is as if the only sentence he read of my post was the statement that “the sky will not fall in” if same-sex marriage is legalised. If that were all I said, then, yes, his conclusion might be rational. But my point was made in the following assertion tbat the “sky has already fallen in”, so far as reason and sanity goes in this debate.

      And by way of comparison, I note that neither you yourself, Tony, nor any other commentatotor on that particular post, drew the same conclusion as Mr Mullins concerning the position expressed there.

      His representation of my position was so far from fair and reasonable as to be completely fantastic (in the true meaning of ghe word).

      • Tony says:

        Thanks to Jim for the reference to the ‘McGurk Effect’. Fascinating.

        While he could have certainly characterised your position better, I just don’t agree that the Mullins interpretation was anywhere near the ‘fantastic’ benchmark. This kind of blogging is not a precise world of cold hard definition and sometimes remarks push the envelope of reasonable for the sake of ‘colour’. Again, I think this is a feature of the SE style. A recent example in the I may not know much about art… post where you describe Rachel Kohn in terms of ‘oh no, she is far to clever for that’ is an example that comes to mind.

        Bottom line is that you’ve corrected any possible misinterpretation on the blog, but I can’t see any apology coming your way.

  7. Lance Eccles says:

    CathNews is Australia’s version of the National Catholic Reporter, a forum for nominal Catholics who hate the Catholic Church and everything it stands for.

    I gave up reading CathNews when they rewrote a comment I made and posted it under my name.

    • Peter says:

      You are on the money there Lance.
      You have done well to get a response published.I have never got that far.

    • Stephen K says:

      I think you may be guilty of some exaggeration, Lance. Even a casual glance at the balance or content of the commenting posts on Cathnews shows it’s no more a forum for “nominal” Catholics than for any other kind: all get represented, with all the usual contributors from all camps. If you were edited then it may have been an attempt at moderation in your own interests. Perhaps your original version was libellous or particularly narky and the editors thought it prudent to eliminate an offending portion? Try not to be too aggrieved. All the comments are just opinions and its probably salutary to remember that none of them are indispensable.

      • Lance Eccles says:

        Well, thanks for those thoughts, Stephen. I might even go back to reading CathNews.

        • Schütz says:

          I too do not want to stick the boot into Cathnews. I know that other Christian communities in Australia are very envious of this service. In its general content, Cathnews reflects whatever is in the papers (which, given Australian media, tends to favour anti-magisterial views). In its commentary and opinion it tries to be “balanced”, even if “balanced” is defined in terms of Aunty ABC’s policy: half way between left and right, or as many “left” as “right” articles. Of course, we know that in the Christian faith, the truth is not a matter of the Via Media, and that the media often takes the wrong via!

          • Gareth says:

            The problem with Cathnews is
            a) it is funded through the Australian Bishops Conference (ie the money we give each week) and
            b) I have seen it being presented in parish bulletins as the standard bearer of Catholic news in Australia.

            Surely, considering the above and considering what we know its objectives are, whoever maintains Cathnews is trying to have their cake and eat it too?

            • Peregrinus says:

              So far as I know Cathnews is a service of Church Resources, which is self-funding, and doesn’t get any money from the Bishops Conference.

              I myself haven’t seen it presented in parish bulletins as the standard bearer of Catholic news, or anything like that, but of course you may be reading parish bulletins that I am not. To the extent that this does happen, the fault surely lies with those who produce the bulletins, and not with those who produce Cathnews? It makes no such claim for itself.

              Besides, nobody who spends more than five minutes on the site could possibly think it presents “news with a Catholic slant”. It’s quite obviously a news aggregator, presenting news items from non-Catholic, and almost entirely secular, sources which are chosen on the basis that they deal with matters of likely interest to Catholics.

              If you want “official Catholic” news, most or all dioceses publish newspapers of one kind or another.

            • Schütz says:

              I recently saw a quotation from Pope Benedict in my parish newsletter (not a spot where one would naturally look for such things). The source? Cathnews. The good with the bad, Gareth. Like the news.

    • Antonia Romanesca says:

      “I gave up reading CathNews when they rewrote a comment I made and posted it under my name”

      That is shocking. Its just outright lying. How do such persons rationalise such behaviour, one has to wonder? It certainly smacks of “just please don’t expect too much of me!”

  8. Kate says:

    The problem with Cath News is firstly that it doesn’t just present what is in the media, it is highly selective. Certain stories are ignored; others played up. And its selection of opinion pieces and featured websites is highly skewed indeed! ‘Blogwatch ‘ with its interesting interpretations of my and others posts are perhaps the most extreme example of this but the subtle and less subtle editing is there all the time.

    Take for example the reporting of the Pope’s comments to the bishops for the ad limina visit – big focus on evangelisation, but none at all on the other themes the Pope pointed to such as attention to the liturgy, cleaning up from the abuse scandal, and the need to encourage vocations!

    More fundamentally though, what is the point of a news service that simply re-presents what the secular media say? A straight clippings service available earlier in the morning (and there are a few commercial operations around) could do the job (and does) probably at a lower cost.

    The point of something sponsored by the Bishops’ Conference, and allowing readers to comment on posts, should surely be to give Catholics the ammunition to respond to what the secular media are saying, to equip them to respond to the attack at the watercooler, not just regurgitate the attack on catholicism uncritically. Yet that dimension is almost totally absent from the site, while free reign is given to dissent and worse in the comments box.

    • Peter says:

      Could not agree more Kate!
      Cath News is a waste of space.

    • Peregrinus says:

      More fundamentally though, what is the point of a news service that simply re-presents what the secular media say? A straight clippings service available earlier in the morning (and there are a few commercial operations around) could do the job (and does) probably at a lower cost.

      The CathNews service is free to the user (and to the bishops conference). I don’t see how a commercial clippings service can possibly do the job at a lower cost.

      The point of something sponsored by the Bishops’ Conference, and allowing readers to comment on posts, should surely be to give Catholics the ammunition to respond to what the secular media are saying, to equip them to respond to the attack at the watercooler, not just regurgitate the attack on catholicism uncritically. Yet that dimension is almost totally absent from the site, while free reign is given to dissent and worse in the comments box.

      Couple of points:

      I don’t know in what sense Cathnews is “sponsored by the Bishops’ Conference”. It gets no money from them. On the ACBC website there is a link to Cathnews, but it’s buried on the second page of the “media links” section, and to get to it you have to scroll past links to AD 2000, John Garrett Publishing and Eureka Street. Nobody could reasonably construe the listing of Cathnews on this page as “sponsorship”, still less any kind of grant of authoritative status.

      The point of the news service is to increase brand awareness among potential customers and members of Church Resources (which is essentially a buyer’s co-operative), to give them a reason to visit the Church Resources page regularly and (I suspect) to help maintain a current database of e-mail addresses of prospective customers/members. To that end it has to provide links to news that potential customers/members are interested to read. They claim to have 157,000 e-mail subscribers, and 160,000 unique site visits per month, and the Church resources business model is notably successful and has been mirrored in other countries, which suggests that, in terms of the point of the news service, Church Resources has judged it fairly well.

      As for “giving Catholics the ammunition to respond to what the secular media are saying”, I don’t see that you can reasonably impose this function on CathNews. Linking to content on the web is one thing; analyzing or criticizing it is is an entirely different matter, requiring much more time, commitment and money. Cathnews does provide a useful service for others – like our generous host here – who are interested in analyzing or criticizing media reports, but I don’t see that doing so themselves fits with the Church Resources business model.

      They used, as you may recall, to operate a discussion board, which was a fairly lively place with a wide diversity of opinions expressed. That satisfied most people, except those who felt that only certain perspectives should be allowed to be expressed. But it grew to be a fractious place, and moderating it came to consume more time and energy than they were willing to allow, so that – to my lasting regret – they closed it.

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes, Peregrinus. The other thing is that Cathnews provides ample space for people to express their slants on things. I don’t see why one has cause to be unhappy or should insist that a news digest service should mimic the many individual blog-sites that represent largely one-way pulpits for their hosts. By approaching the news-distribution and its discussion topics in the way it does, I actually think Cathnews reflects quite honestly the diverse profile of the spiritually or religiously aware members of the community. Maybe that includes the bishops!

        One of the things I like about David here is that he actually shares the port bottle, and doesn’t scrimp by insisting that the port be drunk in “so” way or “such” a manner or in “such” quantity. It suggests to me that he is really quite comfortable and relaxed in his own skin and with his own beliefs and is not in need of constant affirmation, which is not to suggest he is not open to asking himself questions about the foundations of what he does believe.

        We all enjoy reading what we like, if you know what I mean. Just imagine what it would be like if every single Catholic thought exactly the same about everything! There’d be no need for all those individual blog-sites, now would there? How Stalinist it would all seem! Cheers.

        • Kate says:

          In fact Cath News is cross subsidized from Catholic Church Resourdes other services. If they didn’t run it, they could use the money for something else. Something that actually promotes the faith for example.

          Secondly, it was as I understand it, originally given startup funding from the ACBC, and continues to be supervised by them (very loosely indeed!). Quite what the formal connections are it is hard to gather, but their annual report assigns roles both to Fr Ludcas and Archbishop Hart in ths context.

          Thirdly, they use the name Catholic. As such they come under the supervision of the Bishops.

          • Peregrinus says:

            In fact Cath News is cross subsidized from Catholic Church Resourdes other services. If they didn’t run it, they could use the money for something else. Something that actually promotes the faith for example.

            I think only in the sense that all expenditure on advertising/marketing/promotion is cross-subsidised from other activities. It doesn’t generate any revenue directly; instead it generates revenues by increasing the sales of whatever goods or services the enterprise produces.

            In general, it’s not true to say that if companies didn’t engage in promotion “they could use the money for something else”. Companies engage in promotion because they think it generates more in additional revenues than it costs to run, and if they didn’t engage in it they not only would have the money to use for something else, but they would have less money for their core activities and would have to curtail them.

            Secondly, it was as I understand it, originally given startup funding from the ACBC, and continues to be supervised by them (very loosely indeed!). Quite what the formal connections are it is hard to gather, but their annual report assigns roles both to Fr Ludcas and Archbishop Hart in ths context.
            If Church Resources was given startup funding by the ACBC, was this specifically for the news service? Church Resources primary activity, and primary attraction from the ACBC point of view, has always been the purchasing co-operative; it turns over $180 million a year, which wholly dwarfs whatever the news aggregation service might cost.

            Secondly, you should consider the possibility that the ACBC does not share your views about the perceived slant of Cathnews coverage. As David points out above, if Cathnews is going to reflect what’s in the mainstream media, and is going to reflect the range of opinion to be found within the church, then it is going to contain a lot of stuff that you, or I, or anyone else is either going to disagree with or find upsetting.

            Thirdly, they use the name Catholic. As such they come under the supervision of the Bishops.
            Actually, they don’t “use the name Catholic”. They use the name “Church Resources”, and their news service is branded as “Cathnews”. The closest they come is when, in their “about us” page, they describe the website as “the most visited Catholic website in Australia”. You’d have to consult a canonist for an authoritative opinion as to whether describing a product or service as Catholic is the same thing as “claiming the name Catholic” so as to bring them within the scope of Canon 216, but I doubt that it is.

            Even if Cathnews is covered by Canon 216, it’s not right to say that this means that they “come under the supervision of the Bishops”. All that Canon 216 requires is that they should have the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority (which would be, not the ACBC, but the bishop of whatever diocese Church Resources has its principal office in) to claim the name “Catholic”. Claiming that name, and/or getting that consent, doesn’t give the competent ecclesiastical authority any kind of supervisory or other power over them. They would only become “subject to the vigilance of ecclesiastical authority”, as the Code of Canon Law puts it, if they sought and obtained a formal decree constituting themselves as a “private association of the Christian faithful” under Canon 322 which – so far as I know – they haven’t done. And even that “vigilance” would have to be exercised in a way which respected their “autonomy according to the norm of Canon 321”, which provides that “the Christian faithful guide and direct private associations”.

            • Stephen K says:

              Peregrinus, it’s a shame you feel you have to resort to the fine detail of the canon law here, when the real issue is that Kate et al. would just prefer that everyone who thought differently about his or her religion, and what it meant to be a Catholic etc, would just shut up, or call themselves something else. They are obviously quite happy to get up the nose of others but not happy vice versa.

              Obviously some clearly rely on the exactitude with which they replicate some official promulgation to exhaust the possibilities by which a person can assert his or her “Catholic-ness”. As if, almost, that were all that was required, or what was required or beyond dispute. The many emerging voices today is testament to the fact that many baptised do not think this with reasoning and good faith.

              I would have thought the diversity of “catholic” discussion and debate represented a marvellous opportunity for everyone to hone their own thought and gentle persuasions, at the very least, perhaps even to think about things anew.

              Cathnews items reflect, as you rightly suggest, the reality of such diversity, passion and understandings. We may not agree, we may contest, but censorship of sincere ideas is the hallmark of dictatorships, and we know, from recent events, where these lead!

      • Gareth says:

        Of all the silly things I have heard you say Pere, your defence and diluted view of the old Cathnews discussion board would have to rank up there.

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