Rhetorical reindeer games

Rhetorical reindeer games

Last week, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retiring archbishop of Washington, was on CNN talking about a variety of things, including same-sex marriage. Within a convoluted series of hedges and qualifications, McCarrick said he could support civil unions between gays and lesbians. The blogosphere sprouted all kinds of reactions at this apparent refutation of the Church clear stance on this, but I waited. Now the archdiocese has come out with a “clarification,” which unfortunately sheds no more light on what McCarrick actually said.

Diogenes nails the phenomenon at work here, a technique that McCarrick has mastered.

The game is to win the favor of the liberal media by addressing the hot-button issues in a “balanced” manner: that is to say, signaling sympathy for the heterodox position while uttering a few inert bromides that make indirect reference to the orthodox one. The heterodox innovation gets the media attention, as it was meant to, while conservatives who complain can be palmed off after the fact by pointing to the crumbs of Rotarian bonhomie scattered here and there in the same discussion. It’s their fault, of course, for not giving their anointed shepherds the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, such “clarifications” never make it into the media or get the coverage that the original statement did. Thus you leave the vast majority of people, including very many Catholics, with the impression that the bishop was advancing an idea contrary to the teaching or discipline of the Church, while the bishop retains suitable deniability to which he can point when challenged.

McCarrick on JPII on ordaining women

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli