Monday, June 21, 2010

Truth be told?

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.


Shaun Kenney said...

Perhaps it's worth release the transcript this time? Not because there's dirty laundry to be aired, but if anything because it seems somewhat dichotic to deny the CNA news story then refuse to release the transcript...

Completely agree that confusing the issue helps no one. Clarity helps, as well as the sage advice to speak only when it improves the silence.

Just some random US$0.02.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I believe CNA on this one.

Say that, I completely expect to not see this comment published

Gracie said...

CNA has challenged you to release the portions of the audio file that they allegedly misquoted - why don't you do it? Furthermore, other news agencies have run stories saying essentially the same thing. Looks like you're the one with the bad reputation...

Gracie said...

I notice you haven't approved any comments for this article. CNA is welcoming comments. Which sounds more like seekers of truth??? CNA's latest story shows that the National Catholic Reporter is supporting their story - not to mention bishops present at the actual event.