By Fr. George Rutler

Catholics who do not know their history are accountable for letting it be maligned

January 29, 2019
Column: From the Pastor

This past Thursday was the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, whose intercession we need because he is the patron of journalists and there are those who say, with some claim to cogency, that journalism is dead because it is biased and predictable. Ironically, since he was a journalist himself, G.K. Chesterton said that writing badly is the definition of journalism.    

That was a century ago, but in the thirteenth century B.C., long before we had moveable type, Ramesses the Great used hieroglyphics to tout his heroic victory at the Battle of Kadesh, even though he had been defeated. In 1475 A.D., Pope Sixtus IV tried unsuccessfully to expose the “blood libel” fake news of the people of Trent against Jews. Benjamin Franklin misused his printing press to accuse King George III of inciting the “Indian Savages” against the white colonists. Samuel Adams falsely claimed in print that Thomas Hutchinson supported the Stamp Tax, with the result that the beleaguered man’s house was burned to the ground in 1765. George Washington quit public life because of “a disinclination to be longer buffetted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers.”

The other day, intemperate journalists accused youths from a Catholic high school in Covington, Kentucky, of making racial threats against an elderly Native American during the March for Life. Videos proved that there was no truth to it, but a flurry of “virtue signaling” berated the boys without giving them a chance to testify. One might expect that from secular bigots, but not from their own diocese with its knee-jerk condemnation of the youths. Apologies have been coming in, but probably the last to correct themselves will be the epicene Church bureaucrats. 

Quickly, The Washington Post published a screed against “the shameful exploitation” of Native Americans by the Catholic Church. No mention was made of the Jesuit Martyrs who endured torture and death to bring the Gospel to the native peoples, or of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha who was exiled by her own Mohawks for her love of Christ, or Saint Junipero Serra who transformed the fortunes of the indigenous California “gatherer” culture, or Saint Katherine Drexel who donated her vast inheritance to establish 50 missions among the native peoples, or heroic Bishop Martin Marty of the Dakota Territory, or Father Pierre De Smet who enabled the Fort Laramie Sioux Treaty of 1868 and so befriended Chief Tatanka Iyotake (“Sitting Bull”) that the chief wore a crucifix to his dying day and encouraged his friend Buffalo Bill Cody to be baptized the day before he died. Defamation by journalists is sinful, but to detract from saints is blasphemous.

The mental image of Pope Leo XIII applauding the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill and Chief Sitting Bull on tour in Rome would confound The Washington Post. But that is a fact, and Catholics who do not know their history are accountable for letting it be maligned.



Fr. George W. Rutler, S.T.D., is a brilliant scholar, author, convert, former pastor of Our Saviour in Midtown Manhattan, the closest Catholic parish near the site of 9-11, and now pastor of St Michael’s parish in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. A donation of any amount may be made to the parish at:

View Articles Father Rutler was ordained to the diaconate in Rome by His Eminence William Cardinal Baum in 1980 and received priestly ordination in St. Patrick's... MORE »

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