Killing the Mockingbird

The framers of our Constitution realized that the success of the new republic could only be insured by a free and independent press. But looking at the latest media circus one has to question just how independent our mainstream news outlets really are when a possibly malicious rumor carries far more weight than serious allegations. For instance, the disparity of coverage and editorial opinion related to the charges made August 25 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano against high ranking Catholic Church officials versus those made by Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is positively astounding. Since the initial revelations of Archbishop Vigano we have been treated to a virtual news blackout in the mainstream press, even as the Ford allegations have fostered a non-stop media firestorm. Yet ask yourself, which story, and actor, is the more credible?

Ms. Ford claims, with no corroborative evidence, that an attempted assault on her person was made as a teenager by a 17 year old Kavanaugh. The alleged incident took place 35 or 36 years ago, no one knows for sure, in a house no one can exactly recall. None of the four individuals she has named in her story recalls such an event, place, or time. Two have vouched for the upstanding character of Kavanaugh while the other one has no clear recollection of him at all. Yet based upon this appalling lack of any substantive evidence, the bulk of our national news media and a good half of the U.S. Senate has rushed to the judgment that Ms. Ford was both traumatized and victimized by a future member of the Supreme Court.

Her defenders typically identify themselves as liberal, and yet it is a very strange sort of liberalism that forms judgments on the verity of a serious criminal accusation based solely on a person’s political persuasion. The present case is nearly identical to an ugly incident found in the classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The only things one needs to change are a few names and the skin color.

In that story, a Depression era lawyer named Atticus Finch is given the unenviable task of defending a black man, Tom Robinson, against the charge of a poor, ignorant Southern white woman, Mayella Violet Ewell, who has accused Tom of making unwanted sexual advances towards her. The case is tried in an Alabama courtroom by an all-white jury, meaning that the deck is already stacked against the defendant. In the end, it is not the facts of the case, nor even evidence that points to another perpetrator for the choke marks on Mayella’s throat, but her impassioned outburst appealing to the well known prejudices of the jury that convicts Tom of a crime he never committed.

As human beings, whether conservative or liberal, we are rightly outraged by this gross miscarriage of justice which is then further exacerbated when Tom is killed “trying to escape.” We realize that his fate from the beginning hung on the whims of a mob, not the careful application of jurisprudence. But if liberals today are rightly horrified by a fictional account of prejudice and mass hysteria in 1930s Alabama, how is it they cannot seem to notice any parallel between that incident (and hundreds like it that occurred in real life) and the kangaroo court attitude that senators and major news outlets are presently taking towards Judge Kavanaugh?

Apparently the standard of “presumption of innocence” is not considered relevant in many of these liberal minds for no better reason than Kavanaugh wears the “conservative” label. As far as the accusation itself, there is not even the low “preponderance of evidence” standard being applied by his liberal interrogators, rather they seem to have assumed that a “no-evidence” standard is satisfactory to their ends. This means that any accusation by a liberal female against a conservative male must translate into de facto guilt.

During the French Revolution, the infamous “Committee of Public Safety” was likewise content that any citizen’s denouncement of another was all the evidence it needed to send a new victim to the guillotine. What an easy way for individuals to settle personal scores or gain advancement for one’s self! Every reign of terror begins with just one victim and then snowballs effortlessly from there. This is a dangerous precedent, and one that it would be wise to avoid following in our own chambers of government.

In stark contrast to the three ring circus being staged over a single, uncorroborated complaint by Ms. Ford, one has to be amazed by the eerie silence over another story whose explosive allegations, made by a high ranking official of the Roman Curia about corruption at the highest Church levels, would normally be making. When the story broke on August 25, the initial reaction of journals such as the New York Times was to cast Archbishop Vigano as unreliable and politically motivated. A high level of clerical abuse being covered up would normally be big news, but where is the same media that danced over the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and named one of the same key players (Cardinal Donald Wuerl) whom Archbishop Vigano also accuses of covering up scandals, but at a much higher level than in Pennsylvania? Those dots shouldn’t be too hard to connect for any cub reporter. Yet the silence regarding Vigano’s charges has been positively deafening.

There seems to be a great reluctance by the mainstream media to follow any threads of evidence, reports, etc. that Vigano has pointed to, both in Rome and the United States, which would either corroborate or demolish his claims. Suddenly a media establishment that loves to paint the Church in the dimmest possible light and chortle over diocesan sex abuse payouts finds itself in the position of closing ranks to protect certain Vatican bureaucrats. This is a strange journalistic approach indeed! What a contrast with the thin and rather flimsy allegations being made against Judge Kavanaugh by someone we had never heard of, yet we are solemnly assured by the press must being taken at face value.

I suspect that the disparity in news coverage and editorial output between the two stories has something to do with where Archbishop Vigano’s line of investigation could potentially lead. It hints at a sordid tale of intrigue and infiltration in American seminaries, chanceries, and even the Vatican itself by homosexual sympathizers and activists going back 50 years or more. Such inconvenient revelations would bring discredit to the “gay pride” movement as well as to countless liberal allies of the secular Left who have been laboring mightily to bring the Church into the “modern age.” If many of those past efforts were shown to be the work of deception and intrigue, how would everyday faithful Catholics or righteous priests and bishops react to such startling revelations?

Now it seems that, even at the expense of a good story, it is better for the media to let sleeping dogs lie and keep a lid on this whole Vatican thing. The best way to do that is to portray Archbishop Vigano as if he were an unreliable lunatic (who just happened to serve as the third ranking official in the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI) or, at the very least, a disappointed bureaucrat with a personal ax to grind. Meanwhile Donald Wuerl, Pope Francis, and their allies dissemble and use stall tactics hoping to keep kicking a very dirty can down the road.

So the score for today is this. Archbishop Vigano, a career Church diplomat with a vast reservoir of knowledge and experience must be silenced and discredited while Ms. Christine Ford is elevated to the media’s “darling of the moment” in the mainstream press. And when all the dust has settled she can comfortably retire, like her mentor Anita Hill, to a lucrative career writing best-selling books about her experiences as a teenage victim. In 1930s Alabama it was all about the color of your skin. Today it’s all about the color of your politics. Nothing much changes, but rest assured liberalism has never been so illiberal in this country. In fact it has become an ill-liberalism, sickened to the very point of madness. But if the press so willingly subscribes to this same illness, what does that portend for the future of our American democracy?

Francis J. Pierson +a.m.d.g.

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