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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 14. 1966.

Reply to Catholic press

Reply to Catholic press

Sir-It is regret table that the Editor of the New Zealand Tablet has had to resort to misstatement and distortion in his mammoth effort to justify the exclusion of a news item from his paper.

He has continued the debate in the worthy medieval tradition of calculating the maximum number of angels able to stand on the head of a pin. Obsessed with "minutiae." he has ignored the wider issue that the omission of the news item raised. namely. is the Catholic press to carry one or both sides of a major controversy within the Church?

In his letter published in the last issue of Salient. he claimed that "the burden of his original editorial was that the Catholic press had failed to publish a statement made by Cardinal Doepfner as vicechairman of the Papal Commission."

This is erroneous on two points.

Firstly, the burden of the editorial was that the religious press was discouraging informed decision-making by individual Christians by refusing to publish opposing views on the birth control issue The statement attributed to Cardinal Doepfner was merely an illustration. Scores of other authorities disagreeing with their Church could have been cited, from gynaecologist Dr. John Rock, to Jesuit Archbishop Roberts.

Secondly the editorial nowhere states, though Fr. O'Dea claims it does, that the Cardinal issued the statement "as vice-chairman of the Papal Commission." In fact, the editorial points out that the statement "was originally issued as a directive to the priests under Cardinal Doepfner's immediate judisdiction."

To claim that I have shifted my ground on this point, and because of the three points emphasised in my last letter to Salient, is to distort what I originally wrote, and ignores the fact that my letter was devoted, solely to answering Fr. O'Dea's contention that the statement was a "discredited" news item.

Fr. O'Dea claims further that it is "wishful thinking" to suggest that the statement was issued with Cardinal Doepfner's approval. Here he is at variance with a report in the London Tablet (April 16, page 457), and his colleague the Editor of Zealandia, who wrote in the July 28 issue of his paper that the statement was "part of a set of guidelines prepared by a group of theologians for priests and lay people giving marriage courses in Munich in 1964. It received the routine approval of the Cardinal."

The Editor of Zealandia agrees with my understanding of the same source material, but only raised the issue after the Salient editorial had appeared.

Finally, an accusation is made of "dishonest quotation for one's own purposes" because dots were not used in my last letter to indicate that a portion of a quotation was omitted. I would make two observations.

Firstly, as far as I am aware, I used a hyphen in my handwritten draft to show an omission had been made, and it was purely accidental that the typist did not transfer this to the copy paper from which the newspaper type was set. Therefore. this was a purely typographical error without the insidious intent implied by the editor of Tablet.

Secondly, while the omitted section of the quotation expresses the Cardinal's regret that the partisan views were published at the time of his appointment to the Papal Commission. Fr. O'Dea cannot deny that the quotation does reaffirm the import of the original statement.

Fr. O'Dea's contention that "in the Catholic press world we prefer to stand on facts and solid ground" is general, emotional, and virtually meaningless. However, it does indicate an unwillingness to carry both sides of a debate within the Church of vital importance to its individual members.

This involves greater loss of face than would the occasional clarification of a news source. I strongly support the editorial policies of the English, American. European and Australian Catholic papers who endeavour to approach this debate with an open mind.

M. King.

Salient Religious Editor.

The correspondence is now ended.—Ed.