I had a boss once who always told me he didn’t want any “spin” on his messages. “If I tell the truth, I don’t have to remember what I said,” he explained. His honesty served both him and the organization he served well.
It appears that Catholic News Agency would benefit from a similar strategy. To put it plain and simple, the quotes they attribute to Cardinal Francis George in their story (also posted on EWTN) are just wrong. I was in the room, as a member of the USCCB staff, for the presentation. And the official audio file that recorded the session for USCCB archives confirms my memory.
While the cardinal did present a sequence of events to the bishops, he never used the phrase “so-called Catholic,” accused the Catholic Health Association of creating a “parallel magisterium” or said the meeting of the three bishops with Sr. Keehan had “frustrating results.” And that’s just three examples. Not to mention that the reporting of the events is just plain wrong: for an example, the Stupak Amendment was not defeated in the Senate in December 2009, as the article states.
The one hour session was executive, without media present, because Cardinal George felt it was important to report personally to the bishops how he and the three committee chairmen directed the staff to represent the Conference's position with both the CHA and the Congress in the final days of the debate on healthcare reform. He asked the bishops to provide honest appraisal of those efforts.
To honor the bishops’ privacy and confidentiality, we will not be releasing the transcript. It’s unfortunate if someone breached that confidentiality; also unfortunate if CNA tried to take an educated guess at what the cardinal might have said and cobbled together its own fabrication of the session.
For CNN to elaborate even more on what CNA said in error is even more disturbing. If CNN had tried to verify the citations, it would have learned that CNA fabricated quotes. It also would not have made its huge and erroneous assumption that the issue in question was an example of the bishops at odds with the sisters.
There’s certainly plenty of disagreement between the bishops and the Catholic health care organizations regarding the implications of the health care legislation. But to confuse the situation with quotes that aren’t true is just plain dishonest.