San Francisco Archdiocese Responds to Column -- Well, Sort Of; Sixth Priest in Five Months Kidnapped in Baghdad

By Matt C. Abbott
Renew America [San Francisco CA]
December 5, 2006

Gotta love spokespersons for a diocese. They have to make their bosses look good, no matter the situation or scandal. Good public relations, you see.

So it is with Maurice Healy, a spokesman for the San Francisco archdiocese. Healy didn't appreciate my Dec. 1, 2006 column, "Abuse survivor furious at San Francisco archdiocese."

He sent me an e-mail, dated Dec. 4, 2006, saying: "There are many errors of fact in the column regarding claims about what the Archdiocese of San Francisco said, did or didn't do. It would have been good if you had contacted the archdiocese for its perspective. The lack of Salesian comment contributes to an unbalanced piece."

I responded: "If you would like to respond to the column, I will gladly print your response unedited. But, being that it's my column, I will also give Mr. Piscitelli the opportunity to respond to your response."

Healy's response?

"You miss the point in the first place. You did not allow the archdiocese an opportunity to comment on accusations before printing them. This doesn't provide a recommendation for balance/fairness. At this point, I'll leave your column in its state of error."

So this was my response to his response:

"No, I didn't miss the point. I don't pretend to be an 'objective' reporter; I'm a columnist, and I don't operate on someone else's idea of 'fairness.' Also, I'm always amused when I give someone the opportunity to respond, and he or she comes up with some excuse for not wanting to do so.

"You contacted me to say that I was being unfair for not getting the archdiocese's response to 'accusations before printing them.' So I gave you the opportunity to respond, and then you say I 'miss the point in the first place,' and that you will leave my column 'in its state of error.'

"Um, okay.

"I think you fear more bad publicity. I also think if you were truly interested in setting the proverbial record straight (and this is becoming a broken record at that), you would have issued a factual response (which, as indicated in my previous e-mail, I would have printed unedited), instead of just taking me to task for not being 'fair.'"

My offer still stands, Maurice.

Another priest kidnapped in Baghdad

From a source in Iraq (e-mail dated Dec. 4, 2006):

    Just before noon this morning, I was called by [name deleted], who told me that a fifth priest has been kidnapped. The other four were taken and repeatedly assaulted, but were later released after being ransomed.

    Clearly, criminal elements are operating either with impunity from or complicity with Iraqi Security Forces and are targeting the remaining religious minorities' visible figures.

    • Father Paulos Eskandar, of Mor Afrem Syriac Orthodox Church, was kidnapped on Oct. 9, 2006, by Islamic extremists. Two days later, they decapitated the priest. They did this even though the Christians fulfilled their demands by posting a text on the church doors that had condemned the pope's statement about Islam.

    • A 14-year-old boy was murdered in a barbaric manner in Albasra. He was crucified and after that the barbarians stabbed the boy in the stomach, just as it was done to Jesus.

    There are also numerous reports of churches being bombed and Christian women and girls being kidnapped and sexually assaulted.

Update as of Dec. 5, 2006: I have been informed that this is actually the sixth priest to be kidnapped in five months.

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist. He can be reached at


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