Okay, I’ve got a few minutes for some brief blogging. The Springfield Republican says that only 20 percent of priests in the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, signed the petition to pass a constitutional amendment to protect marriage. That’s false.
In fact, it’s bad journalism on the level of the New York Times. I can confidently say that because the Republican relied not on the actual petition papers filed with the Secretary of State, but on the partisan KnowThyNeighbor web site. Despite the fact that the data on that site is unreliable because it is presented by a not-disinterested party, it is also incomplete because it only lists certified signatures, not all signatures.
Yes, the newspaper acknowledges that, but way down in the story and only in a quote from one of the petition organizers who is trying to explain the low turnout. In fact, whole sheets of signatures can be thrown out on the flimsiest pretext, including any kind of smear or mark on one of the sheets.
Does that explain the entire 80 percent of diocesan priests who didn’t sign? No. Clearly some didn’t sign because they’re either gay or gay-friendly. Others were lazy or couldn’t be bothered. Still others probably just didn’t get around to it. After all, most of the signature-gathering was done on Sundays and many priests are a little busy Sunday mornings. It’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation.
Yet, I think the Springfield Republican is trying to draw a conclusion based on unreliable data in order to make the claim that the bishops—and the Church—are out of touch even with their own priests. That doesn’t stand up.