Friday, September 5, 2014

National Catholic Reporter's Call for Archbishop Nienstedt to Be Transparent and Accountable: Sauce for Nienstedt's Goose Also Sauce for NCR's Gander, in Censoring Jerry Slevin?

As Jerry Slevin pointed out in a posting at his Christian Catholicism site yesterday, in various threads, readers of National Catholic Reporter articles continue to discuss his recent banning by NCRAs I noted in a posting a number of days ago, recently, when Jerry tried logging onto the NCR site to leave comments, he began receiving a message informing him that he had been banned from commenting at the site. Jerry also reported that he had contacted NCR managerial staff to ask why this had been done to him, but had received no explanation.

Dennis Coday, NCR's editor, did eventually respond to Jerry about his banning, and Jerry published Coday's email to him several days ago. Discussion of Jerry Slevin's censorship by NCR has continued at the NCR site (and elsewhere) since that time, and as Jerry notes in a comment here today, a thread has developed just today in response to NCR's editorial calling on Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis to be transparent and accountable, and to release the report the archdiocese had commissioned to investigate allegations that Nienstedt had had sexual relationships with adult men.

The editorial states,

The health of any organization, especially one holding itself to the high standards of a religious community that regularly presents itself as a public arbiter of personal morality, is dependent on mutual respect and trust. Those characteristics, in turn, are dependent on transparency and accountability, particularly on the part of bishops, who hold almost unlimited authority over the Catholic community.

And so, understandably, some folks responding to this NCR editorial today are asking about NCR's own commitment to the standard of transparency and accountability as it censors people contributing comments to its website — e.g., people like Jerry Slevin. For instance, Rob Christopher writes,

I agree that report should be made public. This is a position we have consistently defended here. I also agree that people who argue for full disclosure should practice full disclosure, and not conceal information when it seems convenient to do so. I encourage the editors to disclose their reasons why some people have been barred from this site, while others -- some of whom do their best to offend those with whom they disagree -- are allowed to continue. To demand disclosure from everyone but oneself would be transparent hypocrisy.

Some critics of Christopher's position are responding that Jerry Slevin's Christian Catholicism blog doesn't allow comments. Jerry has responded to that critique in a comment here today, in which he notes that he "barely know(s) how to type" and wouldn't know how to manage a commenting system at Christian Catholicism. I can vouch for Jerry here: I have pointed out to him in the past that his website doesn't lead anyone who clicks on the main page to the site itself, but returns an error message. To find the site, you have to find the title of any article on the site and click on it.

Jerry has responded to me that he sees the problem, but his technical skills to fix it are limited. And I fully understand, since I struggle here myself to figure out how to manage the various tools of a blog — and am not always entirely successful at this. 

Beside being misplaced — since it doesn't recognize Jerry's difficulties at the technical side of managing a blog — this critique ignores the sizable and important contribution he has made and continues to make at his blog and many other places as a commentator on critically significant Catholic issues including the need for democratization of the governing structures of the Catholic church, the inappropriate politicking of the U.S. bishops and the Vatican, the imperative demand for justice for abuse survivors, women in the church, and LGBT Catholics, the untenability of magisterial teaching on contraception and the misery this teaching has inflicted on numerous Catholic families over the years, etc.

I agree with those who are pointing out to NCR that what's sauce for Nienstedt's goose is also sauce for NCR's gander: if NCR expects to be taken seriously in its call to Nienstedt to be transparent and accountability (and I surely second that call), NCR needs to exhibit the same concern for transparency and accountability in how it deals with people making comments at its site.

The graphic is by Dan T., who has made it available for sharing at Wikipedia's entry for the proverb, "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." 

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