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Kresta in the Afternoon – April 8, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 8, 2015


4:00 – Kresta Comments: South Carolina Shooting, Boston Bombing Verdict and More


5:00 – Catholicism’s Challenges in America

The ludicrous and irresponsible news coverage of Indiana’s religious freedom law should be a warning sign for Catholics. Any opinion that goes against the status quo is going to be misrepresented and beaten into submission. Indiana isn’t the only example. We’ll talk about it with Bill Donahue.

Gay Marriage Isn’t About Justice, It’s About Selma Envy

By Hans Fiene via thefederalist.com


Why do so many young adults paint absurd caricatures of Christians who request government protection of their religious freedoms, arguing their true goal is to ban gay men from sitting at the local lunch counter? Why do they spread falsehoods about legislation, insisting that bills like the one recently signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pencewill unleash a Republican-led Jim Crow revival aimed at the LGBT community? Why do so many people, Gen Xers and younger, invent a monster of anti-gay bigotry and keep screaming the monster is real despite a mountain of contrary facts standing before them?

The answer is “social studies.” My generation engages in straw men, misinformation, and lies because, in every year of social studies class, we studied the civil-rights movement not as history, but as hagiography. We didn’t just learn what events happened on American soil, we were encouraged to mimic the segregation-defeating holy ones and merit for ourselves a place alongside them in glory. Combining that admonition with our general aversion to hard work, we concluded that the only thing necessary to be as righteous as the saints who fought racial injustice was to decry an injustice that no one else was. And we became so desperate to find that injustice, we lost our minds in the process.

Once upon a time, my generation learned in first-grade social studies, everyone thought it was good to hate African-Americans. But then a group of saintly figures arose who were better human beings than the rednecks from the South, and they changed the world for the better. This story captivated us, and we wanted to change the world, too.

Once, black Americans weren’t allowed to use the same bathrooms as white Americans, we learned the next year, but the holy warriors of progress came along and saved the day.As just as much as we wanted to rescue damsels in distress, Superman style, we wanted to have our own victims to rescue from the forces of bigotry.

The saintly song of the civil-rights movement grew even more rapturous as we grew old enough for our American history teachers to pop a tape in the VCR and show us the gruesome images of the era. Look, children! Look at this sneering face of Southern hatred! Look at these enemies of progress holding the firehoses! These were not human beings corrupted by their circumstances and giving in to the vilest impulses that lurk in the hearts of all men. No, these were demons, evil embodied in human flesh. Look again, children! Look at the faces of these saints who used non-violent protests to fight for equality and change legislation. These are the faces of the morally superior, the holy ones who marched on Selma, those who were more enlightened, more compassionate, more loving than anyone else who had ever lived because they defended the mistreated and defeated discrimination when no one else would.

More than we wanted to find the perfect prom date, we wanted to find our own bigotry to eradicate. After years of hearing those saints sing “We Shall Overcome,” we were overcome with jealousy. We coveted Selma. We envied that march. We looked at that footage and hungered for our own cause to devour.

Just Give Me a Hashtag Campaign

Cruelly, the Lord of Social Justice wouldn’t grant us a cause, at least not an easy one. Sure, we could march against Roe v. Wade and defend the unborn. But opposing abortion would have required us to adopt sex lives consistent with that position. No more hookup culture, no more consequence-free sex, no more placing our own desires over the needs of children. Opposing Planned Parenthood would never be our cause. It would have cost us too much fun.

Likewise, fighting poverty couldn’t possibly be our Selma. The annoying thing about defending the poor is that the poor need money, and we had student loans to pay. And sex trafficking wasn’t any more attractive. To be holy, you need a cause no one else supports, least of all those wretched white Southern fundamentalists. While forcing women into prostitution is certainly bad, what’s the point of speaking against it if Jerry Falwell agrees with you?

Then, one day, manna descended from heaven in the form of gay marriage. Here it was! The cause we’d longed for all these years had finally arrived! Here was an injustice no one had ever opposed before. Here was a group of marginalized people no one had ever defended. So by embracing this cause, we would instantly be more compassionate, more accepting, more saintly than every human being who had ever lived.

What did it cost us to embrace this cause? Absolutely nothing! It required no moral consistency, no financial sacrifice, no effort. We could sleep with as many people as we wanted, divorce as many people as we wanted, father and then abandon as many children as our hearts desired, and lose no credibility. We could spend our entire adult lives defecating on the institution of marriage and this could not sully our gay marriage halos.

On top of that, these oppressed souls were so gainfully employed that they paid for their own lawyers and lobbyists, so we didn’t need to give them a cent. All we had to do was change our profile pictures on Facebook and beatification was ours. Our prayers were answered. The bright, shiny diamond of righteousness no other generation could claim had been placed into our hands.

Don’t Let Facts Sully Our Self-Righteousness

But after all those years of waiting for that diamond to arrive, we weren’t going to let anyone to tell us what we held in our hands was really a cubic zirconia. This cause made us righteous. We were certain of it, so no opposition was allowed. No debate on the issue could be tolerated. No damn, dirty facts would take our saintly status away.

So when you argued that disapproving of gay marriage didn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as oppression of black Americans, we knew you were right. Of course we know that politely telling a customer you’ve served for nine years that you can’t, in good conscience,provide flowers for his wedding isn’t in the same moral universe as murdering a black teenager for talking to a white woman. Of course saying “you don’t get to vote because your skin has a different amount of melanin than mine” is logically indefensible, while saying “I don’t think a union that’s biologically incapable of procreation fits the definition of marriage” is an argument that needs to be fairly considered, even if we don’t agree with it. But we wouldn’t consider it, wouldn’t even let your words embed in our ears because we would not risk having to surrender our halos in the offhand chance that you maybe, sort of, kind of had a little bit of a point.

Likewise, when you insisted that not all opposition to homosexuality is created equal, we knew this was true. We knew the vast majority of you would never have assaulted a gay classmate or kicked your lesbian daughter out on the street. We knew that you have gay friends, gay siblings, gay uncles that you love, cherish, laugh with, and have over for Thanksgiving Dinner while still not approving of that one particular aspect of their lives. We knew that you look at your gay children with the same ratio of love and disapproval as a devout Catholic mother who would give her life for her atheist son yet weeps that his children aren’t baptized. We objectively know you’re not hateful bigots. But we called you that anyway because, in order to keep our righteousness shiny, someone had to play the role of Bull Connor, and you were the best fit we could find.

Lies and Coverups Against Religious Liberty

On the issue of religious liberty, we were just as recalcitrant. Of course we support the overarching protections of conscience offered in the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and in similar laws or constitutional interpretations found in 30 other states. Of course we understood that this bill would provide a day in court to every citizen, gay, straight, Methodist or Muslim, if he believed that the state government or a private party was infringing upon his right to live according to the dictates of his conscience. Of course we support religious groups like the UDV appealing to laws of this nature to keep sacramentally smoking their hallucinogenic tea.

But we still misrepresented the bill, lied about it, shared articles on social media that labeled the legislation asintentionally, undeniably anti-gay, and dismissingly enclosed the phrase “religious liberty” in scare quotes. Just as we did with such success in Arizona, we screamed that this bill would unlock the gates of hell and allow a horde of bigoted devils to deny Hoosier homosexuals a chicken salad sandwich, all while knowing that, because sexual orientation isn’t a protected class in Indiana, these beasts have already been free to do so this entire time and yet, annoyingly, chose not to. But we had already laced up our boots for the march on New Selma and we’re weren’t going to take them off just because the modern-day segregationists wouldn’t do us the courtesy of existing.

Just as our desire to believe that we really were as holy as the civil-rights saints was so strong that we willingly slandered the opposition and lied about the legislation, so we made ourselves impervious to shame and irony in defense of our newfound righteousness. We looked to the icon of racial equality, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose greatest accomplishments included spearheading nationwide non-violent protests, preaching peace, giving speeches, and writing letters that will live forever in the annals of American history, and we felt not an ounce of humiliation when the best prophet we could place beside him was George Takei, a man whose greatest accomplishments include pretending to fly a spaceship on TV and sharing funny pictures of cats on the Internet.

And what form of protest did Takei threaten as Pence prepared to sign the accursed bill into law? Sit-ins? Bus boycotts? No, he threatened that a gaming convention would move out of Indianapolis. Our leader didn’t say, “I have a dream,” he said, “If you sign this bill that we’re all pretending says something it doesn’t, a bunch of grown men who pretend to be fictional characters will pretend to be fictional characters in another state that we’re pretending won’t almost certainly have an identical law already on the books.” How can any self-respecting person not explode in a ball of humiliation when comparing Selma with Gen Con, you ask? We don’t need self-respect anymore. We sacrificed it to keep the cause and our moral superiority.

Give Us Self-Righteousness Or Else

Once upon a time in social studies class, my generation learned that moral righteousness was found in opposing an injustice that nobody else opposed. And when we found that injustice, nobody was going to take away our long-desired holiness. So as we march on, don’t expect things to change. We will continue misleading, lying, and slandering. We will continue calling people bigots and klansmen, not because we’re actually debating them, but because those are the words of the spiritual songs we sing as we press toward glory and polish our LGBT halos.

Likewise, we will continue linking the civil-rights movement with the push for gay acceptance without pausing for a second to consider the comparison. We will continue diminishing the bravery of Rosa Parks by claiming a seat beside her as our reward for the one time we boycotted Chick-Fil-A for a month. We will trivialize the death of Medgar Evers by praising his blood for freeing gay couples to financially ruin a florist who hurt their feelings instead of walking one more block to find another purveyor of petunias who was happy to take their money.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, countless children of God will embrace the older saints who gave them lives of far greater dignity on earth by following Christ’s example and enduring insults, beatings, imprisonments, and even death for them. We know this and yet we will insist that we’re owed an equal measure of honor because we tweeted our support for every gay kiss on “Glee.”

From the days of our youth, my generation hungered for a cause that would make us as righteous as the saints who marched on Selma. We have found that cause. We have sunk our teeth into that righteousness and, at this point, we couldn’t care less if it’s real. The Lord of Social Justice has finally answered our prayers. And Lord help the bigot who comes between us and our cause.

Rolling Stone Can’t Even Apologize Right


Rolling Stone got taken by a fabulist.

Sunday night, the Columbia Journalism Review released its exhaustive report on what went wrong with the magazine’s blockbuster story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity that turned out to be substantially false. And we learned what Rolling Stone plans to do to prevent such mistakes in the future, which is to say basically nothing.

No one is getting fired. Jann Wenner, the magazine’s owner, expects that Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article in question, will continue to write for them. Her apology, also released last night, says in part: “I allowed my concern for Jackie’s well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts. These are mistakes I will not make again.” So everyone is basically saying the same thing: Their compassion for rape victims allowed them to be taken by a liar. Big oops, won’t do that again! Nothing to see here, so can we all move along?

It’s not that this version is wrong — I think at this point we can stop dancing around the fact that “Jackie” is a fabulist. The Rolling Stone report adds some detail to this, including the suggestion that the two additional alleged victims of gang rapes at Phi Kappa Psi were also creations of Jackie’s imagination. But dealing with fabulists isn’t some kind of rare hazard that journalists can’t be expected to anticipate. People lie to journalists all the time, for fun and profit. They tell self-serving lies designed to get them out of trouble, or self-aggrandizing lies designed to puff themselves up. They tell lies of kindness to shield others from shame or worse, and lies designed to hurt people they hate. They also tell bizarre lies about things that bring them no benefit at all, for reasons that a psychologist might be able to explain but I cannot. And unfortunately, reporters get taken.

But while it is not wrong, it is also not enough. Usually, when a reporter gets taken, you will hear some combination of the following:

The reporter was young and inexperienced and found out the hard way that sources lie.

The reporter was under heavy deadline pressure that did not allow them to check what the source was saying.

The reporter had literally no way to verify what happened — if someone tells you they were the sole survivor of a massacre in a region torn by civil war, who are you going to interview to check it out?

None of these applies to the Rolling Stone story. Erdely spent months working on it, and she delivered 400 pages of notes to Rolling Stone. It turns out that she was in my class at the University of Pennsylvania and has been working as a journalist for most of the time since, so it’s safe to say that she’s no naive spring chicken, unfamiliar with the wicked ways of sources. She had layers of editors and fact checkers who were aware of where she was getting her information. So what happened?

The following is what I gleaned from the report, some of it outright and some of it from inference.

1. It started with the subject matter. Rolling Stone’s defense that it went wrong because it just cared too much about rape victims is wholly inadequate. But their feeling that they needed to tread lightly around rape victims is certainly part of the explanation. It doesn’t seem to have seriously considered the possibility that the story could just be made up. Over and over, in the editorial decisions the magazine made, you can see that it was worried about getting sued but not about printing something that was false. Angry conservatives may paint this as some version of the “noble lie,” but I really don’t think that’s what happened. I just think that it never occurred to anyone there. Why would someone make up such a horrible story?

But again, “Why would someone make that up?” is not an appropriate answer to your reporting deficiencies. People make up stories for no discernable reason at all — I mean, why would you lie about having bought health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges? Yet someone did. After 20 years in the business, Erdely should have known this.

Moreover, Erdely’s reporting suggests at least two reasons Jackie might have made it up: She first told her story to the school when she got in trouble for failing classes, and connecting with anti-rape groups on campus plugged Jackie into a social network that gave her a feeling of purpose and fellowship. Had Erdely tried harder to contact the friends whose behavior she maligned, she would have heard a third reason: Jackie had a crush, not returned, on one of the friends she called for help that night.

This core belief, which I doubt anyone at Rolling Stone ever consciously examined, blinded them to some major problems with the story: the fact that it was very cinematic, in a way that real stories rarely are, and that the whole thing effectively came from a single source. The subject matter also caused them to treat the story with excessive delicacy, lest they “re-traumatize” her. As I’ll discuss below, I think this became an excuse for bad reporting. But I’m sure it also created a real reluctance to ask hard questions.

2. Confirmation bias. The CJR report talks a lot about confirmation bias, and I think that was at work. But I think that how it operated in this case is subtle.

Classic confirmation bias means that you ask questions that would confirm your theory, rather than ones that would disconfirm it. Say I give you a set of numbers in a set: 2, 4, 6, 8. Now, I say, tell me what the rules for inclusion in this set are. You can ask me a number, and I’ll tell you whether it’s in the set. Almost invariably, the next numbers people suggest are “10” and “12,” and when you agree they’re in the set, they proudly announce that the set is “even numbers.”

False: The set is “all positive integers.” Why did they fail? Because they only suggested numbers that would confirm their theory, which also happen to be in the set. What they didn’t do is suggest an odd number to see if it might also qualify.

That’s not a great account of what happened here: Erdely did ask for possibly disconfirming evidence, such as Jackie’s work records. Where I think confirmation bias came in is that when Jackie provided these things, Erdely took them as positive proof, rather than a simple failure to disconfirm.

What do I mean? Jackie said she worked at the campus aquatic center. Erderly asked for, and got, her work records, which is good reporting. But what do those records show? They show that Jackie worked at the aquatic center. Working at the aquatic center is not evidence of rape.

Erdely checked a lot of details — did Jackie talk to the university? Did she work at the aquatic center? Did other people notice her get depressed her freshman year? Now, as disconfirming evidence, some of these are potentially story-killing: If Jackie says she worked at the aquatic center and she didn’t, then you start wondering what else she might be lying about. But as positive evidence, they tell you basically nothing. Nor does “she was depressed and not going to classes,” a condition that afflicts a lot of freshmen who haven’t been raped, including me 25 years ago. She took confirmation of side details as confirmation of the story, when it was not. And presumably, that made her more comfortable not confirming the core details of the rape, by talking to the witnesses: the perpetrators and the friends who saw Jackie after it happened. This should be a warning to all reporters: Piling up confirmations of marginal details can make you feel as if you’re standing on a mountain of evidence, when in fact you’re in a deep hole.

I suspect that confirmation bias also led Erdely to botch the one attempt she did make to get comment from the alleged perpetrators. This is the note she sent to the fraternity’s chapter president: “‘I’ve become aware of allegations of gang rape that have been made against the UVA chapter of Phi Kappa Psi,’ Erdely wrote. ‘Can you comment on those allegations?'” As the CJR review notes, this is extremely vague. Had she provided more detail, and perhaps made it clear that a lengthy account was going to be the centerpiece of her story, then Phi Kappa Psi could have provided a rebuttal and stopped the story in its tracks. But how do you rebut a vague accusation that a gang rape has occurred at your house at some point?

Erdely’s question basically assumes what it wants to prove. If the story’s true, then it is a pro forma elicitation of a pro forma denial, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Of course, if the story isn’t true, and you’re asking questions of a 21-year-old college student who doesn’t have a PR person on staff and doesn’t know enough to elicit details so that he can rebut them specifically, then you’ve added another piece of non-evidence to your mountain.

3. Privacy laws and the norms of survivor support groups created the illusion of institutional verification. Erdely first heard the story from Emily Renda, a rape survivor and alumna who now works on the issue at UVA. Renda mentioned the alleged attack in congressional testimony. Erdely seems to have assumed in some way that this meant the university had confirmed the attack. This impression was heightened by various privacy laws, which make it virtually impossible for the university to discuss specific cases. Erdely was operating under the assumption that the university knew this had happened and was stonewalling. In fact, Renda had the same information Erdely did: the story she heard from Jackie. The university did not have enough information to take action, but it also could not discuss these details with Erdely. The lack of disconfirmation seems to have been taken as positive proof that it happened, rather than what it was: a legal prohibition on sharing information.

4. The fear of losing the story. This needs to be highlighted, because it is the only thing that explains some really inexplicable decisions.

Erdely’s statement focuses on her fear of retraumatizing Jackie, something that also comes up in the CJR report. But something less salutary also appears: the fear of losing a really good story. These things seem to have sort of gotten blended together, so that when problems emerged with the reporting, everyone involved at Rolling Stone was able to convince themselves to go forward anyway on the grounds that Jackie is a trauma victim and it’s dangerous to retraumatize her. Yet they don’t seem to have been worried about retraumatizing her by running her story in a national magazine.

Because most of my readers are not journalists, it seems worth noting that if this story had not fallen apart, it likely would have walked away with a National Magazine Award. It checks all the boxes: important social issue, beautiful writing, a vivid and gruesome event at its core, a heart-rending miscarriage of justice. When Jackie threatened to slip away, she was threatening to torpedo Rolling Stone’s major coup. There were certainly other stories that Erdely could have used instead, but less sensational stories that are more typical of campus rapes would not get the kind of readership or professional recognition that the magazine would earn for uncovering a clear-cut and horrific crime that the university had inexplicably failed to pursue.

I’m not saying Erdely and her editors were willing to print something false, or even something they suspected was possibly false, for professional advancement. There’s no reason to think that this is the case, and there are many reasons not to. Printing a false story did not win Rolling Stone an award. It won it painful months of jeers from peers and the public alike. I can’t say that no one would go ahead and take that risk, because Stephen Glass and Jack Kelley and others have done just that. But there’s a reason that those people did what they did on their own and were fired when it was uncovered: 99.999 percent of journalists would quickly decide that this was a) wrong and b) professional suicide. One person might be amoral and crazy enough to try it, but good luck finding another person amoral and crazy enough to go along with you.

Rather, I think that because they assumed it was true, their primary fear was losing a major story, rather than getting taken by a fabulist. Losing a story is disappointing. But getting taken by a fabulist is shameful — and potentially career-ending. I don’t think that anyone ever made a conscious trade-off between these two things; rather, I think the operating assumption that Jackie was telling the truth was so strong that they started thinking of talking to the other side as an annoying procedural step to elicit a pro-forma comment, rather than an important part of the reporting process. The same extraordinary features that made this story so potent also made it unlikely that anyone was going to be able to offer a convincing defense; you can claim that a one-on-one date rape was actually consensual, but that’s not a plausible explanation for a gang rape that took place on top of a bed of broken glass. So if you start by assuming the story is true, you also assume that you’re not going to get much worth printing from the perpetrators.

Too, by the time the magazine started making the really bad decisions, Erdely was also well into the story-writing process. Erdely did what a lot of journalists do: She handed her editors an early draft while she was still reporting. There’s nothing wrong with this — for one thing, you may want to know approximately what you’re putting in the story before you offer sources a chance to respond, rather than spend a lot of time eliciting comments from people you’re not going to mention. But it meant that by the time they were really grappling with their ability to contact the main witnesses, immense amounts of time and labor had already been invested in Jackie’s story. And as we know from many, many human endeavors, people have a very hard time cutting their losses when they have already invested a lot in something. They’re more likely to double down in an attempt to salvage their investment.

And double down they did. The single most inexplicable decision made by Erdely and her editors was to paper over the reporting gaps by using pseudonyms for the rapist who was known to Jackie — “Drew” — and the three friends she called after the alleged attack. This is seriously disordered thinking on everyone’s part. I’m not entirely opposed to the use of pseudonyms, but they should be used sparingly, and only in cases in which you’re trying to protect people who are taking serious risks in giving you information.

None of the friends had given Rolling Stone information at great personal risk. And one certainly hopes that they were not trying to protect Drew from the consequences of his actions. So why give him a pseudonym? It serves only two purposes: to conceal the fact that Rolling Stone does not know his name, and to protect Rolling Stone from being sued. Using pseudonyms for either of these purposes seems wildly inappropriate.

Both the magazine and the reporter further blurred the reporting gaps by writing the story in a way that suggested Erdely had tried to contact friends when she hadn’t, and apparently didn’t even know their full names; Erdely did note that she didn’t know who Drew was in one draft, but her editor removed the caveat. After the story came out, they muddied the waters even more by answering direct questions from other reporters with what you might call “nonresponsive responses.” When asked about her attempts to contact the perpetrators of this particular attack, Erdely talked about what she had done to contact the fraternity; Sean Woods, her editor,told Paul Farhi of the Washington Post that “we verified their existence [by talking to Jackie’s friends]. … I’m satisfied that these guys exist and are real. We knew who they were.” If they thought they had done all the reporting they needed to, why did they then obscure what they had done?

What I see when I read through the CJR report is the story of journalists who had an incredible story, one that would get them readers and professional acclaim, and, perhaps most important, give them the opportunity to right a great wrong. Their excitement about the story, their determination to tell it, blinded them to the problems, so that the old joke about a story being “too good to check” actually came true, with terrible consequences. And that should be a lesson to every journalist out there: The better your story, the harder you need to work to disconfirm it. Because the odds are, your brain is sending you all the wrong signals.

Of course, it’s not exactly news that our emotions can mislead us. That’s why we have professional rules, such as “always contact the other side for comment,” in the first place. Rolling Stone got taken by a fabulist. But it was not the victim of fraud; it was a co-conspirator in self-deception.

To contact the author on this story:
Megan McArdle at [email protected]

To contact the editor on this story:
Brooke Sample at [email protected]

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 7, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 7, 2015

4:00 – Kresta Comments: Muslim Violence in the Last Week  

We occasionally receive feedback that we spend too much time talking about Islamic violence. Just wait till you hear the list of Islamic terrorist attacks that have happened since the start of Holy Week.

4:20 – Unlocking a Life of Miracles

Jacqueline von Zwehl takes us on an inspirational journey of divine promise, unforeseen life challenges and miracles. She tells us about the secrets of living a life filled with unconditional love and answered prayers.

4:40 – The Meaning of Divine Mercy Sunday

This weekend we will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. What are the origins of this feast? Why is it important? What is Divine Mercy and why do we need it? We’ll examine these questions and more with Fr. Dwight Longenecker.

5:00 – Kresta Comments: Do Catholics Hate Gays?

5:20 – 10 Years Since the Murder of Terri Schiavo 

Last week was the 10th anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death. The issues surrounding her murder are still part of mainstream conversation. Did Terri want a “Death with Dignity?” Did she receive one? Who should determine the fate of a patient who cannot make their own decisions? We look back on the story with Fr. Frank Pavone.

5:40 – Finding God in the Middle of a Genocide

On the night of April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down as it prepared to land, killing all aboard. The assassination was the catalyst for one of the most horrific genocides on the 20th century. Majority Hutus slaughtered the minority Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers. Nearly one million people perished, roughly 20% of the country’s population and 70% of Tutsis in the country. Immaculée Ilibagiza is one of the survivors. She joins us to tell how her Catholic faith saved her life.

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 3, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 3, 2015 

4:00 – The Theology of the Passion of the Christ  

Dr. Monica Miller is here with a detailed breakdown of Mel Gibson’s film. She’ll explain the sources Gibson used, the historical accuracy of the film’s events, the symbolic roles of Mary and Pilate’s wife and much more.

5:00 – Kresta Comments: Good Friday Reflections 

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 2, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 2, 2015 

4:00 – A Virtual Tour of Holy Week 

Steve Ray, Catholicism’s own Indiana Jones, takes us on a tour of the most important sites from the events of Holy Week. From the Upper Room to Gethsemane to Golgotha, we’ll have an insiders look at the last steps of Jesus’ life.

5:00 – Kresta Comments: The Institution of the Priesthood and Eucharist 


Dissent Trumps Faith in New “Catholic” LGBT Film

via Crisismagazine.com

by Rachel Lu

“Human beings procreate male-female, but human sexuality isn’t just about that. It’s about so much more, which is self-evident.”

So says Fr. Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, at the outset of a recently released short film promoting the normalization of LGBT lifestyles within the Catholic Church.

The film is entitled “Owning Our Faith,” which is richly ironic in ways that the director, Michael Tomae, surely did not intend. Except for Catholic writer Eve Tushnet (a complicated case, whose work has been discussed on Crisis in the past), all the featured participants clearly and openly dissent from Catholic teachings on sexuality. They are indeed interested in “owning” their faith. But the ownership they seek is of a distinctly proprietary nature.

There’s little point in trying to refute the film’s arguments as such, because there really are none. If the word “Catholic” were omitted from the audio track, almost nothing would suggest to a listener that the content of the film had anything to do with the Catholic tradition. There is no serious discussion of theology or doctrine. The quote from Fr. Conroy above is the closest it ever comes to “engaging” the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics. It’s clear throughout that the individuals featured are not interested in learning what their faith might have to teach them. As they see it, they are the teachers, appointed to remake the Church in their own image.

Thus we see Fr. Conroy lamenting that gay and lesbian Catholics cannot be “fully participating in the sacramental life of our Church.” In case anyone is unclear as to what he means (because of course, experiences of same-sex attraction do not exclude anyone from full participation in the Church’s sacramental life), this is juxtaposed against “married couple” Matt and Rick Vidal discussing why they choose to remain “faithful Catholics,” despite criticism from their LGBT friends. “We are the Church,” declares Rick, “and if we leave it, if we abandon the Church, then it’s never going to change, so we have to continue living here, being an example, and encouraging other people to be that example, because that’s what’s going to change the Church.”

Is there anything these men like about Catholicism as it is? Any reason not to seek out one of the (numerous) other communities and churches that would be happy to affirm them in whatever sexual lifestyle they might choose? They don’t say, and neither do any of the other featured speakers. Here and elsewhere, we are left with the distinct impression that most of them remain in Catholic communities primarily as a favor to the rest of us, so that we can benefit from their gifts and unique insight. A review of the film at National Catholic Reporter stated that, “Not every viewer will agree with every opinion expressed in ‘Owning Our Faith,’ but only the most rigid of believers would question the love these Catholics have for their church.” At the risk of joining the ranks of the rigid, I do indeed feel moved to ask: what do these Catholics love about their church? They don’t tell us. We only hear about what needs to change.

It’s difficult to argue with a film that isn’t working on the level of rational argument. Nevertheless, it’s worth responding to the general thrust and ethos of the film with three important points.

The first relates to the claim, made on the film’s website and in other promotional materials, that productions of this sort are created as part of an effort to “promote open dialogue” about same-sex attraction and related issues. This is exactly the opposite of their intent, and it’s important to be clear on this point. Propagandistic videos of this sort are intended to bypass, or even to shut down, any real or serious discussion of the moral dimensions of same-sex attraction.

In a dialogue, morally relevant issues are stated clearly so that they can be analyzed and considered. What we have here is a long string of emotional appeals. “My gender transition was immensely spiritual to me,” says Mateo Williamson, who self-identifies as a transgendered man. “Sexuality is how we express our inner soul, our inner energy,” enthuses Mike Roper who self-identifies as gay. In a particularly shameful piece of emotional blackmail, grandmother Nana Fotsch urges parents of same-sex attracted Catholics to accept their children’s declared sexual identity and related lifestyle choices or “you’re going to lose them.” (Don’t all of Christianity’s hard teachings have the potential to alienate us from loved ones? Shall we just jettison the whole Catechism right now? Our Lord has some rather stern words about those who prioritize family relationships above the truths of the Gospel.)

Though there’s nothing Catholic about its message, Owning Our Faith pursues a strategy that is entirely consonant with a larger (and thus far, remarkably successful) progressive project. Don’t try to win the argument about sexuality and marriage. Play for sympathy. Appeal to emotion. People today are so thoroughly confused about sex and marriage that they have few defenses against an onslaught of politically loaded sentimentalism. And you can’t lose an argument that you never have.

This leads us to the second important point. Uncomfortable as it may sometimes be, loving people just doesn’t entail approving everything they do. Neither should we accept anyone “exactly as he is,” because of course all of us are sinful, fallen and in need of transformation by grace.

This is not a message that these “owners of faith” want to hear. Katie Chiarantona, one of the film’s representative “straight” contributors, sums up the film’s prevailing view even more neatly by declaring that she cares enormously about the place of homosexuals in the Church because she has many LGBT friends and, “it is unconscionable and unthinkable for me to support an institution that doesn’t celebrate them and encourage them to live fully as who they are.”

Who among us can really say with any confidence that we know who our friends (or we ourselves) really are? This is a dangerous conceit. None of us here below have yet realized our perfected state. Most of us, I expect, still have a significant way to go. But progression towards supernatural fulfillment is not possible if we begin by issuing ultimatums to God about the conditions under which we will accept divine grace.

Such an effort brings to mind the parable of the wedding banquet, in which a king invites all and sundry (including the poor and commoners) to his son’s wedding, but ends up evicting one guest owing to a lack of appropriate wedding attire. Quite obviously, the king in the story is not a philistine when it comes to standing on ceremony; he’s just ushered the local riff-raff into the most formal of state affairs. Nevertheless, the guest who refuses to dress properly is forcibly removed. Clearly there is a lesson about the importance of accepting grace on God’s terms, and not our own. All of us are welcome at the Lord’s table, but we may not simply come as we are. Being Christian means looking for faith to change us, not the other way around.

This leads to the final point. While there is some space for discussing the appropriatepastoral response to deep-seated same-sex attraction, the Church’s broader position on same-sex attraction is perfectly clear. It is intrinsically disordered, and homoerotic relationships are immoral. There is no reason to think that this teaching can, should, or ever will change. Quite the contrary, once one understands the Catholic position on sexuality, it becomes clear that it cannot possibly be tweaked in such a way as to allow disgruntled LGBT activists the affirmation they seek.

Fr. Conroy’s position, as stated in the opening quote, is a straw man. Of course no reasonable person supposes that sexuality is “only about” procreation, if by that we mean that sex should be viewed in a coldly clinical light as a utilitarian means to achieving pregnancy. Clearly, erotic love involves far more than that, and how could it not, given the magnitude of what procreation really is? To even begin to do justice to that tremendous good (the begetting of immortal souls and perpetuation of the human race) erotic love must be a noteworthy thing indeed.

However, the Church has consistently maintained that erotic love, at least among mere humans, must be ordered towards procreation. Every effort to slice and dice the relevant pieces of the conjugal package into more-palatable portions (by sanctioning sex without marriage or marriage without permanence or erotic relationships of multiple sorts that are intrinsically closed to life) has been rejected by the Church, and for good reason. Embracing the life-giving nature of sex is the key that enables Catholics to articulate a noble, elevated and meaningful portrait of erotic love, which makes sex into something more than a tangled mash-up of bodies and emotions.

The conversation that dissenting LGBT Catholics (and their “straight allies”) want to have is already over. On some level they know this, which is why they seek sympathy instead of engagement. But there is some good news. For those who really do love their Church, full participation in its sacramental life is always available. They need do only what all Catholics are expected to do: stop trying to fix our faith, and pray instead for it to fix us.


Kresta in the Afternoon – April 1, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 1, 2015


4:00 – Media Bias and the Indiana RIFRA Case: A Firsthand Account

Ave Maria Radio’s Teresa Tomeo was interviewed by a local TV station last night about Indiana’s Religious Freedom law. She presented her view reasonably and logically; the excerpts of the interview that aired made her sound confused, stubborn and close-minded. Teresa joins us to talk about her side of the story and how the media is once again warping the facts.

4:20 – How I became Putin’s #1 Enemy

Bill Bowder’s life story sounds like something out of a Tom Clancy novel. He began on the South Side of Chicago and ended up in Moscow, making his fortune in investment funds after the Soviet Union collapsed. He exposed corrupt officials who were robbing from his companies and Vladimir Putin had him expelled from the country. And that’s only the beginning of the story. Bill joins us today.

5:00 – An Abortion Activist Threw a Molotov Cocktail at Me  

Late last month a pro-abortion activist threw a Molotov Cocktail at a group of pro-lifers outside a Planned Parenthood. The event has received almost no coverage from the mainstream media. Today we’re talking to Ruth Allwein, who was in the group that day.

5:20 – Narcissism Kills: A Lesson from the Germanwings Disaster

News outlets have been reporting for several days that Andres Lubitz suffered from clinical depression and had received treatment for it several times. They speculate that his depression is what drove him to commit mass murder. But is that a reasonable conclusion? Does depression really lead a person to fly a plane into the side of a mountain? Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons joins us with another theory.

5:40 – Dissent Trumps Faith in New “Catholic” LGBT Film

We’ve previously discussed “Owning Our Faith,” a highly sentimental expose of gay Catholics intended to shift perceptions of Church teaching on sexuality. Today we’re joined by Rachel Lu to talk about the views presented in the video.


St. Teresa of Avila Continues to Teach Us Today, 500 Years Later

by ANN SCHNEIBLE Via National Catholic Register

VATICAN CITY — On the 500th anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila’s birth, Pope Francis praised the Spanish mystic and reformer for her witness of self-gift to God, as well as her particular relevance during this Year for Consecrated Life.

The worldwide Year for Consecrated life began Nov. 30, 2014, and will continue until the World Day of Consecrated Life on Feb. 2, 2016.

“How much goodness does the testimony of her consecration — born directly from the encounter with Christ, her experience of prayer as continuous dialogue with God and her community life, rooted in the motherhood of the Church — do for us!” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio’s translation.

In a March 28 letter addressed to Father Xavier Cannistrà, superior general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, the Holy Father wrote that it is providential that the anniversary of the saint’s birth should coincide with the Year for Consecrated Life.

St. Teresa of Avila, the Holy Father said, “shines as a sure and attractive model of total self-giving to God.”

Born March 28, 1515, in Avila, Spain, St. Teresa is known as a mystic and reformer. Entering the Carmelite order in 1535, she became disillusioned by the laxity of monastic life within the cloister and committed herself to reforming the order. She is considered one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites.

During her lifetime, St. Teresa wrote several important works on the spiritual life, such as Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection. Canonized 40 years after her death, in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, she was declared as one of the first female doctors of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

St. Teresa of Avila remains relevant for consecrated men and women, Pope Francis wrote, as demonstrated by her prayer life, her proclamation of the Gospel and her understanding of the importance of community life.

Describing her as “primarily a teacher of prayer,” the Holy Father said that “the discovery of Christ’s humanity was central to her experience.”

For St. Teresa, prayer arose in all occasions, not simply in times and places of seclusion, the Pope said. Moreover, she believed that “continuous prayer” — even when it was imperfect — had value.

“The saint asks us to be steadfast, faithful, even in times of dryness, personal difficulties or urgent needs that call us.”

The “concrete proposals” and methods of prayer left by St. Teresa offer “us a great treasure to renew consecrated life today,” the Pope said.

“Far from closing us in on ourselves or leading us only to inner balance, (they) always make us start again from Jesus and constitute a genuine school to grow in love for God and neighbor.”

Pope Francis went on to describe St. Teresa as a “tireless communicator of the Gospel” at a time when the Church was in the midst of difficulties. Instigator of the “Teresian reform” of the laxities demonstrated by the Carmelite cloister in which she lived, she demonstrated a “missionary and ecclesial dimension has always marked the Carmelites and Discalced Carmelites,” he said.

“Even today, the saint opens new horizons for us, she calls us to a great undertaking, to see the world with the eyes of Christ, to seek what he seeks and to love what he loves.”

Finally, St. Teresa recognized the importance of “authentic community life” in sustaining both prayer and the evangelical mission, the Pope said.

Warning against “the danger of individualism in fraternal life,” he added, the saint commends those living in community to place themselves “at the service of others,” with a humility consisting “of self-acceptance, awareness of one’s own dignity, missionary courage, gratitude and trust in God.”

“Teresian communities are called to become houses of communion, capable of witnessing to fraternal love and to the motherhood of the Church, presenting to the Lord the needs of the world, torn by divisions and wars.”

Pope Francis concluded by imparting his apostolic blessing, praying that the Carmelite community’s “witness to life” would allow “the joy and beauty of living the Gospel to shine and attract many young people to follow Christ closely.

Kresta in the Afternoon – March 30, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on March 30, 2015


4:00 – Why Won’t Governor Pence Say Yes or No?

We’re continuing our discussion on Indiana’s religious freedom bill. Is this bill similar to existing federal and state laws regarding religious freedom? Can we be sure it won’t allow for outright discrimination? And why isn’t Governor Pence doing more to publicly support it? Al examines the issue with Kellie Fiedorek.

4:20 – Never Enough: One Lawyer’s True Story of how he Gambled his Career Away

Gambling addicts often say it’s the thrill of winning, not the money, that keeps them addicted. We ask Michael Burke if he agrees. Michael was a successful lawyer who spent over $1.6 million of his client’s trust account funds on gambling. He was eventually jailed for his actions. He joins us today to talk about how to identify and help people afflicted with gambling addiction.

5:00 – Protecting the Unborn in Colorado

Earlier this month a pregnant woman was brutally attacked when she answered a Craigslist ad for baby clothes. Her attacker cut open her womb and removed her baby, who did not survive. The attacker will not be charged with murder under Colorado law. Attempts to pass a personhood law to protect the unborn from violent death, even death resulting from an attack on the mother, have been successfully defeated by the pro-abortion movement. What can pro-lifers do to protect the unborn in cases like this?

5:20 – The True Story of Egypt’s Mother Teresa

For almost 20 years, Maggie Gobran has devoted her life to helping the poorest of the poor in Cairo’s garbage slums. Her innovative, transformational work has garnered worldwide fame and multiple Nobel Prize nominations, but her full story has remained untold – until now. Marty Makary, author of Maggie’s biography, joins us with her incredible story.

5:40 – What Mental Condition Caused the Germanwings Disaster?

Investigators have discovered mountains of information that show Andres Lubitz had a troubled mental history. But what exactly was wrong with him? Would depression really drive a person to commit mass murder or are there other issues at play?

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