Friday, October 23, 2009

Benedict's Anglican Ploy: More Reactions, and More Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The National Catholic Reporter today has an excellent article on further reactions to Pope Benedict's strategy for bringing disaffected Anglican congregations into the Roman Catholic Church. I'm gratified that I am not alone in some of the "unintended consequences" I warned about yesterday. Below are excerpts from the article that expand on my concerns and raise additional ones.

Andrew Brown, a columnist for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper called this "the end of the Anglican Communion."

"One of the things that this development means is that the Roman Catholic church is no longer even pretending to take seriously the existence of the Anglican Communion as a coherent body," Brown wrote. "Instead there are various sections of 'the Anglican tradition' (not 'church' or 'communion'), some of which are still properly Christian and so able to become Roman Catholic."

But traditionalists in the United States were more circumspect.

Robert Duncan, who as bishop of Pittsburgh led his diocese out of the Episcopal church and is now archbishop and primate of the Anglican Church in North America, issued a statement on the Web site

"We rejoice that the Holy See has opened this doorway," he wrote, but "we believe that this provision will not be utilized by the great majority of the Anglican Church in North America's bishops, priests, dioceses and congregations."

They still have problems with the Roman church, Duncan points out, namely: "historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary and the nature of Holy Orders."

According to Stuart Laidlaw, faith and ethics reporter for The Star of Toronto, conservative Anglicans in Canada showed no interest joining "the pope's new church."

"This is not just a matter of wearing different clothes or having a few more rules," Bishop Don Harvey of the Anglican Network in Canada told Laidlaw.

Harvey said while conservative Anglicans share many theological beliefs with Catholics — both oppose same-sex marriage and gay clergy, for instance — there are still many differences between the two.

Anglicans, he said, would chafe at any notion of the infallibility of the pope, and do not accept Catholic teachings about Mary's immaculate conception, her assumption body and soul into heaven, or the transfiguration of Christ.

The announcement left Roman Catholics, too, thinking about what this means for their church.

British Catholics are worried, according to Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for The Times of London. She wrote: "In the [Vatican] curia itself and in particular in the College of Cardinals, there were — and there remain — deep divisions about the appropriate response to Anglicans and former Anglicans seeking some form of corporate unity.

She notes that worldwide the number of conservative Anglicans who would take up the Vatican's offer would be miniscule compared to the number of Catholics. But in Great Britain, the proportions are reversed, with 25 million baptized Anglicans but 4 million Catholics.

Writing online for The Washington Post, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese said, "Catholic liberals, especially Catholic feminists, fear that an influx of conservative Anglicans will further discourage reform in the Catholic church."

In this regard, though, he suggested, "Someone should warn these Anglicans that two out of three U.S. Catholics support the ordination of women. They will not find in Catholicism a controversy-free zone."

Reese continued: "But if the new procedures are used by large numbers of Anglicans, the result will be a more liberal Anglican church and a more conservative Catholic church, especially if liberal Catholics decide to go in the other direction."

Picking up on this theme was NCR senior correspondent John Allen, writing for The New York Times: "There's also nothing preventing the Anglican Communion from creating similar structures to welcome aggrieved Catholics who support all the measures these disaffected Anglicans oppose. Certainly, after today, the Vatican would have no basis to condemn such a move as an ecumenical low blow."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Catholic Church May Regret Benedict's Anglican Ploy, British Writers Say

The British blog Thinking Anglicans has links today to additional U.K. commentaries on Pope Benedict's move to bring disaffected Anglican congregations into a structurally modified Roman Catholicism. Several suggest that the Catholic church will live to regret the pope's surprise, not only because its consequences were not well thought out, but also for the important players it excluded in both communions.

The Guardian editorialized that not even Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William's supporters quite believed his press-conference remark that the Vatican's ploy was "not an act of aggression." The Guardian said the radical new policy smacked of "a move to asset-strip the Anglican communion of those bits the Vatican might find useful." The newspaper cautioned that the full impact of the policy will not be known until it is published in February. But it said the Vatican had seriously undermined Williams' efforts to hold the Anglican Communion together.

In a commentary in The Telegraph Damian Thompson said that the Anglican bishops of the United Kingdom were not the only church officials angry at being excluded from Rome's discussion. Their anger is shared by a number of Catholic bishops and theologians whom the Vatican also ignored. These included the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, regarded as too progressive to deal with conservative Anglicans directly, and even "the Vatican's own professional ecumenists in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity."

In a commentary in The Independent Paul Vallely noted an important figure was absent when the pope's initiative was announced in Rome by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "Cardinal Walter Kasper, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was noticeable by his absence. The word was that the Vatican's leading ecumenists had fought the move behind the scenes – and lost." Ironically, Vallely says it was Kasper who told the last Lambeth Conference, evidently on orders from Benedict, that the moment of truth was at hand: "Cardinal Kasper told Anglican bishops that they had to choose between being a church in the first-century apostolic tradition, or one in the 16th-century reformed tradition." Vallely says Pope Benedict felt they chose the reformed tradition, and the new policy is his response.

Rome Absorbing Anglicans: Unintended Consequences for Both Communions?

Multiple outlets are carrying the news that the Vatican is planning to create new church structures that would absorb disaffected Anglicans but allow them to retain their distinctive liturgy and spiritual practices, including at least some married priests. The outlets include the National Catholic Reporter, CNN, USA Today, the Associated Press, and the Toronto Star.

The news was most unsettling in London. There The Times has run several articles about it in the last two days, including two in banner headlines at the top of its front page, along with numerous commentaries.

Wednesday's front page screamed "Papal gambit stuns Church" and included the picture of a very distraught-looking Archbishop of Canterbury in the middle of the page. The online version was entitled "Pope's gambit could see 1,000 quit Church of England." It suggested as many as 1,000 priests could leave the Church of England, and perhaps thousands more from Anglican churches in Australia and America. It said Pope Benedict's planned decree "is a serious blow to attempts by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, to save the Anglican Communion from further fragmentation and threatens to wreck decades of ecumenical dialogue." The Times characterized Dr. Williams' at a joint press conference with the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster as "uncomfortable," and said that in a letter to Anglican bishops and clergy Williams acknowledged being blind-sided.

A related article published online the night before said "Vatican moves to poach traditional Anglicans." The Times said the Vatican made its decisions after secret negotiations in Rome with at least six traditionalist Anglican bishops and with no direct discussion with the Archbishop of Canterbury--not alerting him to the radical nature of the changes until two weeks ago, not giving him formal notice until last weekend, and basically roping him into a hastily called joint press conference with the Archbishop of Westminster.

Thursday's front page had a huge picture of Pope Benedict, under a headline that read, "When in Rome: 400,000 Anglicans plan to convert." The online version was entitled, "400,000 former Anglicans worldwide seek immediate union with Rome." It reported: "Archbishop John Hepworth, the twice-married Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, who led negotiations with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, said he was 'profoundly moved' by the Pope’s decision and would immediately seek the approval of the group’s 400,000 members worldwide to join."

Obviously the move is a big deal for the Anglican Communion--and perhaps Rome's most effective challenge to the Church of England in the 450 years since Henry VIII. But it is important for both communions to recognize that the papal initiative may have several unintended consequences for Catholics as well as Anglicans--consequences that may prove far more significant and even more enduring than whatever Benedict may gain in the short term.

The official Vatican announcement, made October 20, 2009, portrays Rome's move as a pastoral response to Anglicans who are distressed about specific recent developments in their communion and who "have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church." The announcement added: "At the same time, they have told us of the importance of their Anglican traditions of spirituality and worship for their faith journey." Evidently the Vatican considered accommodating the latter a small price to pay for gaining these Anglicans' adherence to official church teaching.

The document is not coy about which Anglican developments caused the distress Rome wants to relieve: "In the years since the Council, some Anglicans have abandoned the tradition of conferring Holy Orders only on men by calling women to the priesthood and the episcopacy. More recently, some segments of the Anglican Communion have departed from the common biblical teaching on human the ordination of openly homosexual clergy and the blessing of homosexual partnerships." The immediate impact of absorbing Anglicans who cannot abide these positions will be to increase the ranks of Catholics who support the Roman alternatives.

Those are the intended consequences, at any rate. Yet other consequences can be envisioned which Rome clearly does not intend.

One is that it will strengthen the more liberal position of those who remain in the Anglican Communion, not only in the Church of England but also in Canada and in the Episcopal Church USA. Rowan Williams may end up presiding over a considerably smaller Anglican Communion, but it will be comprised of Christians who are firmly committed to changes they believe God's Spirit has inspired. They will no longer feel the drag of those who believe otherwise.

The Times of London articles already speculate that it will accelerate the ordination of female bishops in the Church of England, which had been on hold in deference to those who already disapproved of female priests. It should also strengthen the existing practice in the United States. It will also embolden bishops and national Anglican churches who strongly believe that blessing same-sex unions is an important matter of justice and equal treatment of baptized Christians.

It should also strengthen those in other Protestant denominations that have adopted the controverted Anglican practices, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which in August decided to accept noncelibate clergy members and lay leaders who are in "lifelong" and "monogamous" same-sex relationships. Bilateral agreements between American Lutherans and Episcopalians will take on new importance and additional ones would become more likely.

By allowing married Anglican priests to serve as Catholic priests in its new Anglican ordinariates, Rome's move may actually strengthen the tradition of married clergy in the Anglican Communion. The message Rome is conveying, after all, is that Christians have found some value in married clergy. How can this not increase the commitment to married clergy among Anglicans who remain?

It should also give new impetus to their objection to Rome's earlier declaration that Anglican orders are "null and void." The Anglican clergy have long held that Rome's position was historically inaccurate in the first place, that it was eclipsed by subsequent events, and that even prominent Catholic bishops no longer consider it appropriate. Even though the Vatican is insisting on re-ordination of the Anglican clergy before they can function as Catholic priests, the fact that this apparently will be done with ease and with no additional doctrinal formation will tend to reinforce the Anglican position that their priests and bishops have always been validly ordained.

It may also impact the celibacy policy of the Roman church itself. The Vatican is at pains to distinguish the status of married Anglican clergy who now wish to profess allegiance to Rome from Catholic priests who vowed celibacy and then married. But allowing married former Anglican clergy to serve as married Catholic priests is sure to modify Catholics' perception of what a Catholic priest needs to be, and to highlight that celibacy is a policy choice and not the unchangeable essence of the priesthood.

The Vatican announcement implied that seminarians trained for the Anglican ordinariates would continue to be allowed to marry. However, an article today from Religion News Service waffles on that: "Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, suggested on Tuesday that the new dioceses will not ordain married men unless they have already started their preparation in Anglican seminaries, or permit unmarried priests to take wives after ordination." The article implies that if that Vatican does not make provision for a permanent married priesthood in the Anglican ordinariates, it will be a deal-breaker for some Anglicans. But even allowing existing seminarians to marry before ordination means that Rome will face pressure to allow more marriages when new seminarians are recruited for the Anglican structures.

A scenario that could result from Rome's new policy would place Rome in an interesting quandary. It is unlikely but not unthinkable that there are female Anglican priests who (obviously) favor ordination of women but not ordination of gay people or the blessing of same-sex unions. If such a female priest were to apply for admission as a Catholic priest, Rome would not be able to accept her because of its position that ordaining women is impossible. Yet Rome would be turning down an Anglican who professes everything else required by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It would also face pressure from Catholic women who would regard the Anglican female priest as the embodiment of what is indeed possible in the Catholic church. Clearly the Vatican does not intend by this initiative to strengthen the women's ordination movement in Catholicism. But that result may not be avoidable.

Nearly everyone will agree that Pope Benedict's gambit is a game changer for Anglican-Catholic relations. But what Benedict wants may not be what Benedict gets. There are other players with other agendas in both communions and in the other Christian churches. It will be interesting to see if Benedict has out-maneuvered them, or just out-witted himself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Opposition to Obama: Is It Racism or Populist Anti-Elitism? Isn't It Quite a Bit of Both?

On August 13th, decrying the fascist, racist tactics being used at town hall meetings in an attempt to bring down health care reform, I posted It's Time to Tell the Fascists: This Was Never Your Country, and You Can't Have It Back.

By now, of course, the town halls are history, and the tactics have largely disappeared from the daily news. Given the depth of hostility that was on display, it would be fool-hearty to think the right-wing has had a change of heart. But at least health care proponents had the good sense to stop providing them public venues to publicize their hate. After President Obama's national address on health care, Senator Baucus largely succeeded in moving the debate behind closed doors. The next opportunity for the tactics to resume will probably be during the floor debate, coming soon.

In the meantime, there have been a couple thoughtful analyses of the primary issue I raised, namely, efforts by the right to keep other Americans from speaking their minds on health care.

An exception was some feedback I received here. Typical was a gentleman who resented my condemnation of the people who painted swastikas on the office sign of a Georgia member of Congress who is black and who shouted down others at several town halls. His gripe? My accurate description of hate speech was--drum roll please--hate speech! The profundity was breath-taking. I saw no need to share it with a wider audience.

One of the the analyses worth listening to was published September 17th by New York Times op-end columnist David Brooks. In a column entitled No, It's Not about Race, Brooks argued that the passions of the health care debate were a replay of the early American disagreement between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians--the former characterized by "urbanism, industrialism and federal power," while the latter "were suspicious of urban elites and financial concentration and believed in small-town virtues and limited government."

Brooks says the Jeffersonian view spawned the populism of Andrew Jackson, which has had both right-wing and left-wing descendants in the decades since. But the populism of the moment is very right-wing, and it was already apparent in the presidential primaries that it would be at odds with anyone its proponents found elitist. Brooks says those who stir up the right-wing populists have been very successful in painting Obama and his administration as elitists, which "guaranteed that he would spark a populist backlash, regardless of his skin color."

The analysis is somewhat helpful. It reminds us that race is not the only emotion the right-wing is channeling at the moment. But it does not quite succeed in removing race from the equation. If it is accurate that right-wing populists hate elitists, it is also accurate that right-wing populists have a special, more vitriolic hatred for highly educated black elitists. Brooks is right to situate the current acrimony in the populist-elitist tension that has always characterized the United States. But he may not leave out the racist hatred of blacks and especially black intellectuals that has always been part of right-wing populism.

Another thoughtful analysis came from Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, in a September 16th piece that covered the Fiery rhetoric of Obama's critics. Page said it was good politics for the White House to contend that racism had nothing to do with Tea Party protests and loud protests against health care reform. But in practice, said Page, "Race still matters, although it's not always easy to say how much."

Page noted some indicators that others have pointed out. Like the sign photographed by the TV networks at the Tea Party protest on the Washington Mall: "The zoo has an African lion. The US has a lyin' African." Or other signs that said "that Obama is not really a naturally born citizen or that maybe he should just die."

But what Page found most telling were the pre-printed signs the organizers distributed that read, "Not a race issue, not a party issue, just an old American freedom issue." Page's response: "Dear sign carriers: I'm sure you mean well, but every time a black American of my generation hears someone say, "It's not a race issue," I immediately think, yup, it's a race issue."

I found Page's concluding remarks quite accurate:

"In judging Obama's performance it would be wrong to make too much of the role played by race, although it would be foolish to make too little of it... How do you separate the racial backlash against him as the first black president from the political backlash against his taking on so many problems on Day One?

"Still, I am amused by the conservatives like Rush Limbaugh who insist that racism has absolutely nothing to do with Obama's problems. Only a few months ago they were blaming white guilt for his success. Folks, you can't have it both ways."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Excellent Article on "Ministerial Religious Life" from Sister Who Is Professor at JSTB

The Master of Divinity that I earned before my Ph.D. was awarded by the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (JSTB). So I am always delighted when scholars still affiliated with the school produce remarkable theological work. It doubles my pleasure when the work lends support to the methodology and conclusions of my Ph.D. dissertation, The Creativity of Church Teaching, which is at the top of the web sites listed on this blog.

So it is with great joy that I direct attention to "The past and future of ministerial religious life," an outstanding essay in the October 2, 2009, edition of the National Catholic Reporter by Sandra M. Schneiders, professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality at JSTB and a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan.

At a time when the Vatican is questioning if the way female religious orders evolved in the United States is valid, the essay is especially momentous. With painstaking historical accuracy, it documents how the female orders responded coherently and faithfully to the mandate first of Pope Pius XII and then the Second Vatican Council to return to the spirit of their founders--even though in many instances church officials had spent decades getting in the founders' way.

Professor Schneiders acknowledges that the earliest form of Christian religious life was monasticism, starting in the 4th century in Eastern Church and the 6th century in the Western Church, codified in the Rule of St. Benedict around 530 CE.

Although monasticism was predominant through 1500, the same period saw the rise of less successful efforts to introduce itinerancy into ministerial works: the nascent efforts by the military and Hospitaler orders and then various mendicant groups. Schneiders sees these as among the earliest seeds of a form of religious life that would eventually surpass monasticism in popularity. She dubs this counter-movement "ministerial religious life."

She then traces the 16th century rise of the Redemptorists and the Jesuits. From this standpoint, the Jesuits "made the sharpest and most substantial break from monasticism," by deciding that reciting the Liturgy of the Hours in common was not compatible with their apostolic vocation.

Women, however, had to wait several centuries longer to enjoy this form of religious life. It was not as though several women's religious order founders, male and female, didn't try. But a ruling by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298--absolutized by subsequent pontiffs and the Council of Trent--excommunicated religious women who did not observe monastic cloister.

Creative founders tried various ways around the ban, some declaring their sisters "not religious," others supporting cloister in theory but, in the name of effective ministry, violating it in practice. Some groups of women succeeded; some were drummed out of the church.

It was not until 1900 that Pope Leo XIII "formally recognized as an authentic form of religious life noncloistered apostolic congregations... It was the public recognition of a fait accompli, namely, that over the course of nearly 400 years a new form of women's religious life had emerged and its validity, long recognized by the people of God and by civil governments..., required acknowledgment by the institutional church." This culminated in the moves by Pius XII and Vatican II to have these women religious reform themselves according to the charism of their founders.

Professor Schneiders also makes an important contribution by tracing the communal, itinerant style of ministerial religious life directly to the preferences of Jesus himself for his own ministry and that of his closest disciples. She finds this style unique to Christianity: "Unlike monasticism, which is a feature of all literate religious/spiritual traditions, there is no analogue outside Christianity for ministerial religious life."

She is careful to stress that Jesus proposed several forms of discipleship, "none of which is superior to any other." Therefore, she writes: "Only a mutually appreciative complementarity of and collaboration among disciples called to follow Jesus in a wide variety of ways will allow the church to be and do what it must if the world God so loved is to be served and saved."

This emphasis, however, seems somewhat at odds with identifying ministerial religious life as Jesus own personal style of ministry, and the one he challenged his closest disciples to pursue. Professor Schneiders makes the case the religious ministerial life emulates how Jesus himself lived and ministered. But there is a danger of over-emphasizing the similarity or making it too exclusive--so that once again Catholics assign ministry by baptized Christians in general to some lesser status than ministry by vowed religious.

"Mutually appreciative complementarity...and collaboration" should be the dominant note. Singing the praises of one form of ministry too loudly creates a disharmony that ill-serves God or God's creation.

As I said at the outset, what especially pleases me about this analysis is its compatibility with my doctoral dissertation, both in methodology and conclusions.

The middle section of my effort tried to show instances of creativity in nine Christian teachings, first Christology, and then four of faith and four of morals. Professor Schneider's excellent scholarship could serve as a tenth example, documenting moments of creativity in the movement to establish ministerial religious life, from Jesus' own ministry, through two millenia of efforts by nonmonastic religious orders.

Thus the history of ministerial religious life provides additional evidence supporting a model of Whiteheadian creativity in church teaching, in which old affirmations are upheld but found to have new limits, luring forth new teachings and new models to include what the old affirmations left out. This is exactly how creativity worked in the other areas I researched, and exactly how we should expect to experience it on the road to the kingdom Jesus promised.

U.S. Bishops Retract June Statement That Jesus Ended God's Covenant with the Jews

A National Catholic Reporter article posted October 6th said that top officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have retracted a June statement about Jewish-Catholic dialogue that many Catholic theologians found inaccurate and many Jewish organizations found offensive. Some excerpts from NCR's coverage:

The original note in question had been issued jointly by the USCCB doctrinal and ecumenical committees.

The most controversial passage in the note had said, “Though Christian participation in interreligious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism and entrance into the church, the Christian dialogue partner is always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited.”

U.S. Jewish leaders had found the passage offensive and said faithful Jews could not enter into dialogue with Catholics if those Catholics were always at least implicitly seeking their conversion.

When the note was released, it immediately provoked criticism from several leading scholars in Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Philip A. Cunningham, director of the Institute for Catholic-Jewish Relations at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, told NCR at the time that the statement about implicitly inviting dialogue partners to enter the church reopened “a can of worms … a Pandora’s box that most of us who have been involved in dialogical work had thought had been resolved a long time ago.”

In August, in a rare joint letter, five of the leading U.S. Jewish organizations protested that the note “is antithetical to the very essence of Jewish-Christian dialogue as we have understood it in the post-Vatican II era.”

They said even an implicit invitation to enter the church in the context of interreligious dialogue amounts to inviting the Jewish participants to apostasize. Further, the language saying that “interreligious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism” implies that in some situations it could include such an explicit invitation, they said.

The Jewish organizations expressing concern were the Rabbinical Council of America, American Jewish Committee, Orthodox Union, Anti-Defamation League and National Council of Synagogues.

NCR said that five key officials of the bishops' conference excised the passage from the committee guidance. In publicizing their decision the bishops very publicly affirmed Vatican II's solemn teaching that God's covenant with the Jewish people is eternal:

The church officials, who included Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president, also issued a six-point “Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue” that clearly affirms that God’s covenant with the Jews has never been revoked.

“Jewish covenantal life endures till the present day as a vital witness to God’s saving will for his people Israel and for all of humanity,” it says.

The six-point statement and an accompanying letter to heads of five leading U.S. Jewish organizations were dated Oct. 2 and released by the USCCB Oct. 6.

Signing the letter and statement, in addition to Cardinal George, were Cardinal William H. Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, USCCB episcopal moderator of Catholic-Jewish relations; Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Catholic co-chair of the USCCB consultation with the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America.

The six point statement can be found at

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Unfair, Unbalanced and Untrue: Fox News Gets It Wrong, Pretty Much Daily

After a month off to plan and deliver my best friend's 50th birthday party and then to celebrate my own completion of a slightly older year, it's time to resume postings here.

There are a number of back-burnered topics to be covered in the next few weeks, but I wanted to start with a long-time favorite to which I have not done justice before: Fox News as the gang that can't shoot straight, with a singular ability to turn almost every story they tell into a hapless fib.

That has been my impression of Fox News for several years. During the administration of G. W. Bush, I generally dismissed Fox News as "state television"--so much did it let Republican conservative ideology muddle anything Fox News tried to present as fact. Given that impression, I would never watch Fox News on purpose. But someone almost always had it on several television screens at the gym where I exercise, thrice weekly when schedule and motivation permit. So I suffered the indecent exposure of Fox anchors and reporters a lot more than I'd like--and ventilated my displeasure more than many other gym rats preferred.

The nadir was probably just over two years ago, when Columbia University allowed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to appear on campus while visiting the U.S. to address the U.N. I really could have cared less about the appearance, or anything the Holocaust-denier had to say. But I was keenly distressed when a Fox anchor interviewed an undergraduate and questioned her patriotism, Joe McCarthy-style, for supporting the university's right to host the harangue and her right to attend it. In my head I could hear Army Counsel Joseph Welch's indictment of such tactics during the Army-McCarthy hearings: "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

But now I have fresh documentation of Fox News' inability to be accurate--supplied in the latest column by Miami Herald commentator Leonard Pitts Jr.

Pitts acknowledges that in its coverage of the current ACORN controversy, Fox was the first news organization to get it right. But given Fox News' shoddy track record on other topics, Pitts says the ACORN coverage was the exception that proves the rule: Fox News can be counted on for accurate reporting about as often as the proverbial stopped clock that's right twice a day.

Unfortunately, since it is totally unpredictable when Fox News will lapse into accuracy, Fox News can never be relied upon to serve up anything more than right-wing ideology pretending to be fact.

Pitts provides specific examples of five stories between June 3 and July 31, 2009, where Fox News presented as fact claims that simply were not true. The perpetrators were Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Kimberly Guilfoyle. Pitts backs his indictment with research from and Click on the link to Pitts' column if you'd like the truth.

Pitts' verdict on Fox News is unassailable:

"...'every' news organization from CNN to CBS to Miami's Herald to to L.A.'s Times gets it wrong on occasion, and every single report risks reflecting the biases--political, racial, religious, class, educational, geographical, generational--of the reporter. This will be true until the day the news business is no longer run by human beings.

"But Fox is in a class by itself. In its epidemic inaccuracy, its ongoing disregard for basic journalistic standards of fairness, its demagogic appeals and its blatantly ideological promotions it is, indeed, unique--a news source in name only."