Let me do something that Panagiotis “Taki” Theodoracopulos can’t be expected to do, at least not graciously: namely, acknowledge his lapses, both factual and moral.
I’m speaking of his column in the Herald’s Christmas issue, published to the chagrin of many of the magazine’s friends. In it, Taki attempted to mount a defence of the Catholic Church against the forces allegedly arrayed against her, including Pope Francis but especially the New York Times, with its “malignant” and “subversive” sway over the “rich New Yorkers” who read it.
The Church’s sexual abuse crisis, Taki claimed, was “manna from heaven for the Times”. (Get it? The Times takes a Mosaic relish in Rome’s travails.) And meanwhile, the anti-police, anti-military editors play down “child molestation which has been rife among the Hasidic community, in view of the fact that a sizeable part of its readership is Jewish”.
That slushing sound you hear is Taki wading through the fever swamps of his own mind.
Some cursory research would have revealed that the Times has, in fact, devoted plenty of column inches to abuse among the Hasidim. Just last month, it ran an extensive news story about a Latin American-based ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect alleged to have kidnapped two New York children. As the Times noted, quoting a criminal complaint, children in the sect “have often been subjected to ‘physical, sexual and emotional abuse.’”
Other Times articles from the past few years that did no favours to the ultra-Orthodox included: “Hasidic Man Convicted of Beating Black Student Gets Verdict Overturned”; “When Living Your Truth Can Mean Losing Your Children” (about a divorce court’s decision to take away a woman’s custody over her children because she had stopped raising them according to Hasidic norms); “Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse”; “The High Price of Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Life”; “Abuse Verdict Topples a Hasidic Wall of Secrecy”; and on and on.
It takes egregious ignorance of New York’s cultural and media landscape to suppose that the Grey Lady shows special solicitude for the Hasidim. Yes, the Times has a worldview, and that worldview is universalistic liberalism, lately tinged by “woke” progressivism. Orthodox Catholicism isn’t popular in the newsroom, to put it mildly. But anyone who thinks Times reporting reflects Jewish chauvinism hasn’t been reading the paper’s coverage of Israel, which is unremittingly and often unfairly critical.
Then, too, Taki acknowledges in his own column that “my friend” Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, a conservative Catholic philanthropist, was the subject of “a surprisingly” positive write-up in the Times recently, “written by one Jason Horowitz”. That smirking “one” might be the most intolerable aspect of the whole column. Then again, this is a writer who routinely refers to Big Apple as the “Big Bagel” and who doesn’t bother to disguise his anti-Gospel bigotry when it comes to other groups.
And even if the Times pays disproportionate attention to Catholic scandals – a premise I reject, given that Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination – we Catholics should welcome the light that secular outlets shed on the Church’s dark corners. And by all means, Catholic reporters and editors should try to surpass the Times and similar outlets for fair, rigorous, deeply reported journalism that examines goings-on inside the Church (while examining the secular world with the eyes of the Church).
There is a venerable tradition in English journalism of indulging interesting weirdos, who, their crankery notwithstanding, offer fresh angles and sparkling prose. But Taki offers neither. He isn’t even an interesting weirdo, and I look forward to not seeing his byline in the Herald’s pages again.
Sohrab Ahmari is op-ed editor of the New York Post, a contributing editor of the Catholic Herald and author of the forthcoming memoir, From Fire, by Water (Ignatius Press)
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