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Friday, April 17, 2015

Shilling for Donors

Case 1

Let's say you encountered a petition from a Catholic organization that purported to petition the Pope to support traditional marriage.

What would be the point of the petition, exactly?
  1. Do you actually think the organization will send the petition to the Pope?
  2. If the petition is sent to the Pope, do you seriously think he is going to change what he will do based on the petition? 
  3. Do you seriously think the Pope holds a position other than the position the petition begs support for?
  4. If so, what would this other position be, that we have to beg the Pope to change his mind?
There are several possibilities. None of them seem good. If the Catholic organization doesn't:
  1. Intend to send the petition to the Pope, then why pretend, by putting in the premise, that it will be sent? Isn't the pretence that they WILL send it to the Pope then actually a lie?
  2. Think it will change the Pope's mind because the Pope already agrees with the premise stated in the petition, then why gather the signatures to present to the Pope?
  3. Think it will change the Pope's mind because the Pope already firmly disagrees with the premise stated in the petition, then are we trying to make the Pope Catholic? Doesn't the existence of the petition mean that we don't really think he is?
I asked Lifesite News this. This was the answer I received:
Steve Jalsevac The petitions that we undertake have the primary purpose of building movements around the issues that each petition addresses. That is the most powerful result of these petitions. it has been wonderfully effective. The petitions also allow us to increase our email list but we carefully ensure that signers receive additional information emails on the petition subject only if they wish to receive such follow up information. We follow a very ethical procedure on this. And yes, hopefully, after a time, some of those petition signers will donate to LifeSite. (emphasis added)
Alright. At no point during the response did Jalsevac reference the Pope or even Catholic teaching. We don't know if the petition is going to the Pope, nor if LifeSiteNews expects the petition to change (or not change) the Pope's mind. All we know is that one of the big reasons LifeSiteNews created the petition is to build a LifeSiteNews-centered movement with a strong subset of donors. In short, it looks for all the world as if Steve Jalsevac just admitted the whole thing was a marketing ploy.

A marketing ploy made at the expense of the Catholic Church.
LifeSiteNews was apparently willing to sow division among Catholics and imply the Pope needed begging in order to uphold Catholic teaching if that's what it took to fill a donor list and make some cash.

Case 2

Don't believe me?
Then what about this petition to the Pope about Archbishop Cardileone.

Now, why is this petition being sent to the Pope?
  1. Does the Pope NOT support the archbishop? 
  2. Do we suspect that the Pope may not support the archbishop?
  3. Does the Pope need evidence from us that we support the archbishop?
  4. Will the Pope remove or keep the archbishop based on this or any other petitions?
The people who are unhappy with the archbishop published a newspaper ad petitioning the Pope for removal of the archbishop. LifeSiteNews created this petition in response. At least one person who signed the LifeSiteNews petition expressed amazement that anyone thought the Pope read San Francisco papers, or, even if he did, that anyone would really believe the Pope would act on a newspaper ad petition in a San Francisco newspaper if he were to encounter one.

But how is LifeSiteNews and its petitioners different from the newspaper petitioners? After all, LifeSiteNews isn't sending its pro-archbishop petition to the newspaper, or to the people who signed the newspaper ad, or to the city government where the newspaper is published, or even to the archbishop. No, they invoke the Pope, as if they were going to send it to him. But as one of the people who signed the ad pointed out, they aren't even asking the Pope to take any action in regards to the archbishop. So what's the purpose of the "petition?"

If you're going to collect signatures to send to someone, shouldn't you send it to someone who disagrees with you or has power over the situation that you think may be exercised in the wrong way?

Why would you send a "petition" to someone who agrees with you and who you know will exercise power in the correct way? And if you aren't even going to send it to him, then in what sense is it a petition, since the document will never actually be used to petition anyone?

When I posed these questions, I was told by one of the signers (someone who self-identified as an individual involved in the governance of several non-profits) that a substantial number of signers  know the petition won't be sent to the Pope or to anyone else involved in the situation. I was also told, by the same person, that I was very uncharitable to use these facts to argue that the entire exercise was a lie on the part of the people who created the petition and a self-deception on the part of the signers.

Case 3

LifeSiteNews quotes janitor about cardinal-priest dispute. 

Actually, LifeSiteNews quoted a canon lawyer in a cardinal-priest dispute, but it amounts to the same thing. Disputes between a bishop (who may or may not be a cardinal) and his priests are the business of that group. Unless a canon lawyer is specifically invited in by one or both, or is at least a member of the diocese where the dispute is taking place, that canon lawyer has no business expressing a public opinion on the dispute.

Canon lawyer opinions are not binding on anyone. If the opinion is negative towards the cardinal, it can undermine the cardinal's authority. If it is negative towards the priests, it can undermine the priests' standing in their communities. Why would an American canon lawyer weigh in on a dispute in an English diocese with an uninvited opinion? Why would anyone care what he says?

This is especially true when the canon lawyer is employed by a diocese. Employees of dioceses are hired to be shills, ahem, paid spokesman, for the local bishop. They cannot weigh in publicly like this unless their own bishop wants to make somebody look bad. Normally, bishops are chary of making each other look bad.

The bishop will allow one of his minions to publicly attack whatever enemy the bishop has targeted. A fine example of this is how Dr. Edward Peters, canon lawyer, both misrepresented the facts and acted as his bishop's shill in the controversy with Michael Voris. And here we have the exact SAME shill attacking a cardinal. Looks like Ed got his bishop's directive to go attack a cardinal, for reasons known only to his own bishop. Remember, nothing happens in a diocese unless the bishop is willing to let it happen. If Ed is very publicly putting an oar in where his bishop doesn't want it, Ed would be looking for a new job right now. He isn't, so his bishop is good with the attack.

When I pointed out that Ed was just a shill, used by LifeSiteNews for their own income revenue generation, this was Karl Keating's Facebook response:
Karl Keating Steve Kellmeyer: if you keep making such comments, people will think it's you who has problems. (By the way, you don't seem to understand the definition of "shill.")
Steve Kellmeyer: Karl Keating, if you think Ed acquitted himself well in the whole "Mr. Voris, you should stop calling your organization Catholic" discussion, then you aren't as clear a thinker as I always considered you to be.
As the Voris discussion showed, Ed mostly spouts his cardinals opinion. That's what he's paid to do. He's a paid shill. 
Karl Keating: Steve Kellmeyer: Why did you bring up Voris? He's irrelevant to this discussion. Besides, I don't know what happened between him and Ed Peters, and I don't care.

As for Ed, it's no surprise that he "mostly spouts his cardinal's opinion" (even though Archbishop Vigneron isn't a cardinal).

Ed, like the rest of the faculty at Sacred Heart Major Seminary (among whom I have friends, including Ed Echeverria, Bob Fastiggi, Ralph Martin, and Janet Smith), is a believing Catholic, as is the archbishop, so of course Ed's opinion normally will match his boss's.

That isn't because Ed's paid to be a yes-man (which he isn't: otherwise he wouldn't have written against a cardinal [Nichols], cardinals tending to be friends with archbishops) but because he and Vigneron are in agreement on nearly everything.

That's how it should be, among the orthodox, whose religious opinions should be so in tune with the Church's teaching that these people seem to be echoing one another.
Steve Kellmeyer:Mr. Keating,
1) it isn't Ed's business to get between a priest and his bishop - which is exactly what Ed is publicly doing here. You would think a canon lawyer would have more sense. And since, in Christian charity, I can't imagine Ed is stupid enough to think otherwise, he must have another reason to put his oar in the water.
2) Ed's bishop may very well have reasons of his own for getting Ed to start a public campaign against another bishop. But it is certainly the case that Ed is the bishop's paid shill, which you haven't denied.
3) Having someone as a personal friend doesn't make them right. I find it remarkable that you would even raise that as a point. It's completely irrelevant.
4) Ed's past bad judgement and paid shill behaviour is relevant to his paid shill behaviour here
At which point, oddly, Mr. Keating disappeared from the discussion.

Now, I have been accused of being uncharitable. The accusation is perfectly accurate in the sense that I am not yet a saint, so I certainly lack charity.

But is it uncharitable to ask LifeSiteNews to stop invoking the Pope when they want to raise money for themselves?

Is it uncharitable to point out that a canon lawyer employed by a diocese is very publicly putting his oar into disputes that do not concern his bishop or his diocese, yet remains unrebuked by his boss? Why would a bishop allow his canon lawyer to stir up bad blood with another bishop? A cardinal? Nothing happens in a chancery office, nothing happens in a seminary, without the bishop's approval. Is it uncharitable to point this out? Or is it merely factual? 

In any case, LifeSiteNews seems to have pulled Pope Francis' name off the last petition, for which I applaud them. Perhaps they will take more care in the future. I certainly have high hopes that they will. 

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