Are You Kidding Me John Allen?

John L. Allen Jr., otherwise referred to in most circles as John Allen, is the prolific writer for the dissident Catholic newspaper National Catholic Reporter has come out defending L’Osservatore Romano in the recent Pope Condom Comments controversy.

John Allen laid the blame clearly on orthodox/conservative Catholic bloggers for “jealousy, politics, and dated expectations of how the Vatican paper ought to behave.” referring to critics of L’Osservatore Romano and its editor Gian Maria Vian, of which I am one of those critics.

Mr. Allen, by “dated expectations of how the Vatican paper ought to behave”, do you mean as in defending Church teaching and not embarrassing the pope at all costs?

Are you kidding me?

No, really, are you kidding me Mr. John “anyone who practices their Catholic faith is equivalent to the Taliban” Allen?

Mr. Allen’s credibility has always been held in high esteem by both sides of the Catholic aisle, ie, orthodox and dissident Catholics.  After reading his book on Opus Dei, I came away impressed by his even handedness.

But with the recent AP article referencing John Allen’s “Taliban Catholicism” comment in which Mr. Allen paints all practicing Catholics as the Taliban [using the word Taliban did a grave disservice to Catholics everywhere] and now his defense of L’Osservatore Romano’s major league gaffe in which mass swaths of humanity now think that Catholic teaching on contraception has changed, he has the appalling gall to smear orthodox/conservative Catholic bloggers?

Maybe it’s time to question John Allen’s journalistic credentials as a balanced journalist with this latest travail in journalistic adventurism.

This just befuddles the mind.

(Cross-posted at CVSTOS FIDEI)

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  1. I would call this post outrageous, but it is so over-the-top that it seems just plain silly instead. John Allen is generally respected by Catholic commentators of all stripes, and his comments about “Taliban Catholicism” did not refer to “practicing Catholics” but to Catholics who direct inflammatory nonsense like this at their fellow Christians.

  2. Why heterodoxy failed . . .

    By even-handed, do you mean Mr. John listed a positive for every detraction of Opus Taliban?

    I wouldn’t waste my eyesight or time . . .

  3. Use of the phrase “Taliban Catholics”, a common enough phrase on the Catholic Left, indicates that Mr. Allen knows little about the Taliban, and that his prejudices are what one might expect from someone who writes for the birdcage liner called the National Catholic Reporter. Of course what truly upsets him I think is that Catholic bloggers are eclipsing the readership of rags like the National Catholic Reporter that used to have a virtual monopoly in attempting to shape Catholic opinion in this country. No matter how many unread copies of the National Catholic Reporter are ordered by leftists priests, and the chancery staffs of leftist bishops, they simply cannot compete in aggregate readership with the Catholic blogs, most of which are orthodox. Allen’s comment is the lament of the buggy whip manufacturer as more of those horseless carriages are clogging the roads.

  4. For the record, I consider myself orthodox and do not think I would fall under Mr. Allen’s “Taliban Catholicism.” Now, there may be a few on the distant right who think I’m a heretic, but they’re pretty rare birds. It seems he’s referring to more than just orthodoxy here.

    Whether using a loaded term like “Taliban” to make his point was a good move is, however, another debate.

  5. Allen is usually good when writing about the Vatican, but when it comes to writing about the American scene in Catholicism he has a tendency to get all tribal in defense of his fellow National Catholic Reporter writers. How one gets off seeing the Mark Sheas and Fr Zs of the world as “Taliban” while having not beef with his fellow columnists like Chittister, McBrian and Winters (who are prone to far more frequent accusations that their fellow Catholics aren’t real Catholics and do so from a dissident psotion to boot) escapes me.

    In this case, that’s compounded with Allen being of the brand of Catholic which while not dissident would clearly like to see Church teaching on birth control be more “open” — and some such seem to have deceived themselves that this particular blunder by LOS indicates this is coming.

    Honestly, though, that site is just hard to read. I’d read Allen’s first piece on the issue, which was good, and the comment boxes were 90% 60s bitter Enders lashing out at the pope, with many of them accusing him of being “clearly obsessed” with male prostitutes. I think beyond a certain point, one’s readership is indicative. If you’re mostly read by people who hate the Church, there’s something wrong with what you’re doing.

  6. Brett,

    I wouldn’t sweat it about where you fall in this category.

    The bottom line is that Mr. Allen should have never even uttered the world “Taliban Catholicism” for whatever reason.

    The AP picked it up and clearly planted in the camp of Catholics that love Jesus and His Bride.

  7. The term “Taliban” may not be the most fortuitous, but I’d sure like a word other than “conservative” to tell the difference between Michael Voris and Robert Barron, between Steve Kellmeyer and Matthew Kelly. Any suggestions?

  8. Donald,
    I also find the comboxes under Allen a little frustrating, but I think he’s managed to pull off something important; namely, not always preaching to the choir. Sometimes insisting on only writing for audiences that already agree with us is a little like putting the lamp under the bushel basket.
    A lot of the time high ratings for a blog indicate its tribal nature, not its evangelical possibilities.

  9. “The term “Taliban” may not be the most fortuitous”

    That will do as the understatement of the day on this blog until something better comes along.

    As to what to call one’s adversaries, I always prefer something that actually fits them. “Taliban Catholics” is purely insulting, since no Catholics on the blogosphere that I am aware of have embraced suicide bombing or any of the other charming manifestations of that Afghanistani political/religious movement. School yard insults against one’s opponents are good for venting purposes, but for little else.

  10. I’ll take understatement over overstatement when I can help it. 😉

    I’m not sure it’s much to do with adversaries. The thing about Catholics like Barron and Kelly is that they don’t frame their Catholicism in terms of how wrong everyone else is. They’re precisely non-adversarial and they’re perfectly orthodox, I daresay moreso than Voris or Kellmeyer. Not that Voris or Kellmeyer consciously dissent, but it is very easy to say something out of step with the tradition when you are more intent on pursuing your enemy than seeking understanding.

    Hmm, maybe the word for such Catholics should be “adversarial.” I’m really quite sick of letting them steal “orthodox” out from under the rest of us.

  11. If Allen simply wanted to complain about the approach of folks like Voris (which I would consider legit) a term like Gonzo Catholicism would suffice and be far more accurate it seems to me. What makes “Taliban Catholicism” particularly offensive is that it manages to neatly package a whole set of prejudices (that people are irrational, ignorant, fundamentalist, prone to violence, hate women, likely to commit stonings and beheadings, etc.) in one neat package which gains instant support from an anti-religious stereotype which the New Atheists have been at pains to create about religion in general and traditional religion in particular. That Allen chose to use the term in a secular outlet where he could better harness those anti-religious prejudices strikes me as particularly bad.

    On can hardly blame people for feeling that this represented a nasty case of playing for the other side.

    And, of course, there’s a rather nasty irony to attacking people who you ink are too quick to try to discredit the orthodoxy of others as “Taliban”, since this is, effectively, attacking their own orthodoxy and taking things to a higher level as well.

    On the diversity of opinion point — I certainly don’t think one should try to foster a readership of only those who already agree with you. But at the same time, it strikes me that if a Catholic periodical’s readership is made up almost entirely of those who disagree with at least some of the Church’s teachings to the point of scorn and really hate the pope (so much that the first thing that jumped into many of these commenter’s heads was to imply that the pope frequented male prostitutes) this might suggest that people with these feelings find something about your periodical rather congenial. And if you care about the Church, you might want to consider what those elements might be and change them.

    By analogy: if for some reason my writing seemed to have drawn a huge number of white supremacist readers, I would consider it a moral requirement that I examine my writing and see if I was somehow doing something that appealed to these people’s errors. If I failed to do so, I would be implicitly supporting them.

  12. Also, I don’t think Allen is the one drawing the crazies to read his publication. On the other hand, I know many like me who read his column online each week and don’t have much to do with the rest of the Reporter.

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