A sometimes overlooked minefield for media bias in print can be the obituary page, where the obit writer's labeling of social activists, politicians, and other persons who had a notable impact on society, can betray the liberal biases of the writer. A case in point is the Washington Post obituary yesterday of Catholic theologian Monika Hellwig, a former nun and Georgetown theologian who, we learn in the lead paragraph, "defended Catholic intellectualism against a Vatican crackdown."
Staff writer Patricia Sullivan bookended her obituary with a similar glowing assessment from colleague Chester Gillis, Georgetown University's Theology Chairman, who said that "she understood the people in the pews are the people who maintain the faith. She wanted an intelligent Catholic faith and educated Catholic faith."
But what was the hallmark of her intellectual crusade exactly? Apparently it was defending a dissenting liberal theologian who bucked orthodox Catholic teachings:
In 1986, while president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, she signed a letter on the group's behalf in support of the Rev. Charles E. Curran, a Catholic University professor. Curran had been stripped of his authority to teach in Catholic universities because of his dissent from the church's teachings on contraception, abortion and homosexuality. The statement, which caused a considerable stir, called Curran's punishment dangerous, professionally incomprehensible, unjust and indefensible. It "put [scholars] heads on the block" for possible retribution, Dr. Hellwig acknowledged at the time.
But setting aside religion for a moment, neither the previous pontiff, John Paul II, nor his chief defender of Catholic doctrine, then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, were intellectual lightweights, and it's hardly asking much for a Catholic theologian at a Catholic university to believe and to teach core doctrines of the Church on faith and morals as revealed truth, not disputable or changeable policies.
The Post would do well not to insult the faith and intelligence of its orthodox Catholic readers specifically, nor conservative Christians of all denominations generally, by implying fidelity to historic Christian teachings on morality are anti-intellectual nonsense.