By DEXTER DUGGAN
PAYSON, Ariz. — The host for my overnight stay in this mile-high Arizona mountain town asked if I wanted to read the Phoenix New Times cover story about the Phoenix Catholic Diocese’s Bishop Thomas Olmsted. The October 24 issue of the free weekly was on the dinner table.
The article was typical of a liberal war against the Church, despite the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ compliantly liberal political stands. Only total surrender by the Church on morality, too, will win a ceasefire.
The weekly’s illustration rendered Olmsted in bright red vestments, clutching a crosier that had been rammed through a Star of David, impaling it. Atop Olmsted’s crosier was the depiction of an unborn baby. The story title: “Jews Against Hate? That’s So Gay!”
Although my newspaper-savvy host had begun his retirement in the mountains after doing media-relations work for municipal government, he said he didn’t find the point to the story and didn’t try to finish reading it. He said he occasionally picks up New Times when he drives down to Phoenix.
I used to be an avid reader of the libertarian-liberal New Times for its coverage of Arizona political corruption, but I lost interest in the tabloid after a new editor arrived some time ago.
This early November evening in Payson, we’d be cooking up a dinner of cubed chicken, rice, and apple turnovers after a green salad. It was a meal with a theme. Unlike the New Times on the dinner table, whose attack was a farrago topped by a mishmash, ladled with bile.
Just because an indigestible story idea may have sounded yummy to the writer’s Catholic-averse buddies one night didn’t mean it would be nourishing in the light of day.
If the article wanted to take bigotry off the menu, it set a strange plate. You are what you eat.
Asserting widespread prejudices held by young students, the article said one Phoenix first-grade girl “is one of many in our schools who hold unsettling thoughts.”
And who’s better than liberals to get into people’s thoughts, to correct them.
But when did Olmsted try to smash the Star of David? Don’t try to get ahead of the story.
The Anti-Defamation League, New Times said, has a program called “World of Difference” that trains “willing students as ambassadors against hate.”
“Hate” seems to encompass whatever the liberals define it as. Including the indisputable but also the politically incorrect.
We meet “Carmen,” who is quoted: “As a freshman, I was ignorant of so many things. One of these was bigotry. I never, before ADL, realized the amount of bigotry in my home, my school, my extracurricula [sic] — in short, I was blind. ADL opened my eyes.”
She gives examples of insulting word usage, like “Jew” and “faggot” and “retard,” and how she tried to remove these from a few people’s speech.
Although we’re told that harsh personal terms need to be banished, the article went right ahead to say the ADL program “aims to instill civility in juvenile savages” who are “mired in a teen-age wasteland.” Savages? Wasteland?
Moreover, the article indicated that definitions of prejudice were pliable: “Molly Brown remembered her eyes being opened when an exercise asked: ‘Is it okay having two gay parents?’”
Julie Smith, clerk of the public school board in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, told The Wanderer that “I would say yes,” that some of the “World of Difference” training promoted homosexuality.
“To me, this is not the acceptable role” for the liberal ADL to pursue with students, Smith said during a November 12 interview. Also, it’s “contrary to what we believe as Catholics.”
But when did Olmsted try to smash the Star of David? Be patient.
Smith was named in the New Times story as opposing the ADL’s political positions, although Smith told The Wanderer that the New Times writer didn’t speak with her. She suggested he’d watched live-streaming of school board meetings.
She said the article incorrectly said she opposes the ADL’s stand on separation of church and state. “Where he got the separation of church and state [claim] from, I find to be very odd.”
Earlier this year, Smith told The Wanderer, she was performing her job as clerk of the board by looking over vouchers for money allocated or spent. One line item was for $10,000 to the ADL.
This wasn’t an expense the current or previous Gilbert school board had authorized, she said.
“I was beyond surprised” that Gilbert would use taxpayer dollars for such a “highly political” group as the ADL, she said, adding later in the interview that ADL provides funds to groups advocating abortion, “gay marriage,” open borders, and gun control — stands contrary to the majority of people in Gilbert.
The $10,000 was to train the peer-counselor students, she said.
The New Times article said World of Difference-trained students said they don’t “teach liberal opinions.”
To her knowledge, Smith said, no program like World of Difference is offered in the Gilbert public schools now.
In her own life, Smith said, “I don’t separate people based on their sexual orientation . . . or their girth or the color of their eyes” or such factors, she said. However, she added, what the ADL training labels as “tolerance” “is probably contrary to my beliefs as a Catholic.”
For decades, liberal activists have been removing the influence of religion from public schools — schools that now, if one is to believe New Times, are seething with hatred and bigotry.
Asked about this image of widespread prejudice, Smith laughed at the overdrawn story. “I didn’t realize it was that bad out there,” she said ironically. Although “it’s not as if I go out walking around” looking for this, “I absolutely do not see that kind of thing,” she said.
But when did Olmsted try to smash the Star of David? Actually, he didn’t. The artist’s illustration just meant the Phoenix bishop is an anti-Semite. The article about banishing harsh terms portrays the bishop as anti-Jewish. And the reason for that?
New Times said that when the ADL decided to honor the Catholic diocese’s superintendent of education in 2009 at its fund-raising banquet, for her assistance with its peer-training program, Olmsted wrote a message for a free ad he was offered for the dinner program.
Olmsted’s message, New Times said, saluted the superintendent for her defense of “the dignity of all human life from conception until natural death.”
That sounds like mild enough words about human dignity. But New Times hit the ceiling. This is “a salvo,” “inappropriate,” “his provocation,” something that Olmsted needed to be talked out of. Instead, “the bishop retaliated” by canceling Catholic teachers’ participation in “Bearing Witness,” a program about what Jews believe and an examination of the Holocaust, the article claimed. The diocese also replaced “World of Difference” in Catholic schools with another program.
Asked by The Wanderer to comment, Phoenix diocesan spokesman Rob DeFrancesco said:
“The Diocese of Phoenix is grateful for the Anti-Defamation League’s work to educate students, educators, and parents on the harmful effects of bullying, and for the resources they provide aimed at preventing discrimination. More than 150 Catholic schoolteachers throughout the Diocese of Phoenix have been trained in the ‘A World of Difference’ and ‘Bearing Witness’ programs.
“In recent years, though,” DeFrancesco continued, “our Catholic schools have moved to a different model of training, utilizing the Discipline with Purpose program, which provides similar instruction that is more in line with the teachings and traditions of our Catholic faith.”
DeFrancesco didn’t reply to other questions The Wanderer raised, such as concerning New Times’ portrayal of Olmsted as an anti-Semite — even while New Times castigated judgmentalism.
The open season on Catholics couldn’t be plainer. Could a person even imagine such a horrible portrayal as, say, a rabbi stomping on a Catholic Eucharist to illustrate an article? That, properly, wouldn’t get beyond a story-planning meeting.
However, a large image of Olmsted impaling the Star of David not only is acceptable, but also published twice in color, on the cover page and on the first page of the article inside the tabloid.
What actually may have angered New Times the most is the bishop’s opposition to abortion. Recall the unborn baby depicted atop his crosier in the illustration.
Having spent pages fuming over prejudice, the article recalled that Olmsted leads recitation of the rosary outside a local Planned Parenthood abortuary. The article then misrepresented the situation that led Olmsted to remove the Catholic accreditation of the local St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center after it performed an abortion in 2009 — the article mistakenly said 2010 — on a mother suffering pulmonary hypertension.
St. Joseph’s didn’t lose its status for saving the mother’s life, as New Times apparently would like readers to believe. Instead, staff performed a direct abortion, without making any effort to save the baby as well as the mother.
At a 2010 news conference announcing his decision, Olmsted said the baby “was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy; rather, the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy 11-week-old baby should be directly killed.”
When news of the abortion broke, an official at the hospital said it wouldn’t rule out performing more abortions in the future.
At his 2010 news conference, Olmsted also announced that a lengthy review revealed that St. Joseph’s also was involved in other violations of Catholic medical ethics.
The October 24 New Times mentioned none of this while denouncing prejudice and bigotry.
Killing unborn babies is nowhere near as harsh as words.
Against Common Decency
In a November 7 interview with The Wanderer, Phoenix Catholic Larry Hillmert said he has read New Times for 25 years and it occasionally carries a story that no one else has, so “rarely you get a story with some value. It gives you the anti-Establishment view.”
However, he said the October 24 attack on Olmsted was hard to follow.
“You have this paper with philistine values writing for low-information younger readers, so anything they write doesn’t necessarily have to fit factual evidence, as long as it appeals to the emotional leanings of the readers,” Hillmert said.
The article “not only goes against common decency but against common sense as well,” he said.