Rod Dreher and a few on the Catholic Right are waxing outraged over this piece of the Fr Benedict Groeschel fallout: firing NCReg interviewer John Burger.
I’ve known a lot of colleagues in ministry get fired in far pettier circumstances. Often
orthodox conservative Catholics crow when someone they dislike loses a job. Deal Hudson was famous for engineering it. And getting cheered on about it. If this latest episode is poignant for some of my brother and sister believers, then good for them.
I’m more sympathetic to John Burger than you might expect. But still: I hesitate getting fully onboard Rod’s train on this one.
That Fr Groeschel interview was an in-house puff-piece. It was conceived, it seems, as a feel-good feature about a popular guy who worked for the same outfit as the interviewer/editor. It wasn’t serious journalism as portrayed by the Sally Field character getting grilled by her newsroom colleague here. NCReg and EWTN and their followers were supposed to all read it, and feel a little bit better about themselves. There’s nothing wrong with good news, mind you. Until it ran off the rails of good public relations and became a wedge among those on the Catholic Right, and an occasion of shock elsewhere. In that light, Mr Burger didn’t do his job. His mistake was that he didn’t seem to recognize when the interview morphed from a friendly chat into a minor blockbuster hitched to Jerry Sandusky and the disgraced Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.
Let’s say a food reporter visits a restaurant and sees a fly land in the soup. Maybe that’s news if the whole room is having an Amityville moment. Maybe not if a single wayward insect found its way onto the outdoor terrace. There’s a judgment to be made about what is essential to the story. With a feature that focuses on local restaurants as good places to eat, maybe the journalist just asks for another bowl, please, and reports on the blend of meat, veggies, and spices. The entomology not so much. Unless, of course, the newspaper is part of a conglomerate that owns a rival local restaurant chain. Then the whole story would be journalistic fodder. Maybe the same is true of NCReg and their handling of John Burger.
I’m usually not happy to hear of a person getting fired. A solid, experienced, qualified person is hard to replace, and involves its own costs: search committees, temporary work loads for colleagues, orienting a new employee. Not to mention moving vans, home sales, and change-of-address forms.
I’m sure the employees at the NCReg have gotten a message loud and clear: don’t screw up or you’re next. The only problem from a Christian viewpoint is that the message is to protect the organization at all costs. That doesn’t seem to be very different from the US bishops, the Legion of Christ, or Big Time College Football.