The stupidest question ever asked a bishop by a newsie?

If this isn’t the stupidest question I have ever heard a newsie ask a bishop, it is near the top of the lift.

CNN’s Kyra Phillips asks:

Phillips: So, Bishop, times are changing. Views are changing. You’re changing your tactics even. Or your – I guess you say your strategy. So, why not get on board with the 43 percent of Catholics?

Bishop Malone: The 43 percent who –

Phillips: Who have no problem with gay marriage.

[This is the point at which, were I being interviewed, a viewer might actually see the animated cartoon question marks shooting out of my head.]

Bishop Malone: Well their thinking is outside the realm of Catholic teaching for 2,000 years. And those are the folks that we want to focus on so they’ll perhaps be able to have what I would call an intellectual conversion about a very key building-block of society, that is the nature of marriage as the union of one man, one woman.

(I am not making this up):

43%! Not 86% or even 50%!

(It would still be wrong even if dead people in Chicago made it 105%)

Biretta tip to Peters fils.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Clinton says:

    Last year, in a Gallup poll, 42% of those polled described themselves as “conservative or very
    conservative”. My question to Kyra Phillips and her bosses at CNN: why not get on board with
    the 42% of Americans?

  2. Faith says:

    ….(sigh) The question doesn’t surprise me in the least. In fact, I think 43% is a conservative estimate. The Catholics that I work with, recreate with, live with, and even are related to, haven’t been educated enough in Catholic social doctrine to see anything wrong in the world around them. They get their news from NY times or Boston Globe, their TV news from NBC, ABC or CNN. The issues that touch people directly: “death with dignity,” “gay marriage,” “choice,” “co-habitation,” etc. are portrayed on TV as common place and not only acceptable, but desirable.
    I use to blame the parish priest for not explaining the Catholic view point to the current social issues. But I guess, they get their news from the above sources also, or they don’t feel competent enough to speak on current issues.
    I did once listen to a priest explain why the church is against stem cell research. Fine! except that he was wrong. The church is not against stem cell research–only embryonic stem cell research. That’s why I don’t blame the parish priest anymore. They’re human, and probably aren’t inclined, or don’t have the time, or personality, or temperament, or whatever it takes, to teach Catholic social doctrine.
    That leaves the question, where are Catholics to hear and learn the Catholic take on current events? Not every one has cable. …and that’s why I think 43% is too conservative a number.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    The dead people in Chicago would not support gay marriage. Unless they are in a place where they can vote against the Catholic Church…

  4. Joe in Canada says:

    Is it possible the question was a ‘set-up’, that she actually wanted to give the Bishop an opportunity to explain his view? [Sometimes a stupid question is just a stupid question.]

  5. Andrew says:

    “… quasi culpam numerus peccantium minuat, et in personis, non in rebus sit accusatio.” (S. Hieronymus, Apol. adv. lib. Rufini).

  6. ContraMundum says:

    Hey, if 43% think that a return to lynching is a good idea, can we do that again? After all, there certainly were communities were 43% and more had no problem with it.

    If 43% of Americans want tailfins back on automobiles, then Detroit should respond with models with tailfins. For anything more important than tailfins, people should have something more serious than mere popularity to justify their decisions.

  7. aspiringpoet says:

    LOL. Tyranny of the majority was bad enough; now we’ve got tyranny of the minority?

  8. Traductora says:

    I thought the bishop handled this interview very well. I’m sure he had the impulse to laugh incredulously when she asked this question, but he restrained himself. However, he was good throughout it and didn’t let himself get maneuvered into giving her any soundbites, which was clearly what she was angling for by repeatedly saying that he was “changing his strategy.”

  9. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    A reporter from the Roman Times once asked St. Peter: “C’mon, Apostle Peter, 99% of Romans have never heard of your guy, and 43% of those who have heard of him, think he’s a joke, with the rest being evenly divided between those who thinks he’s a fraud and those who confuse him with a famous gladiator of that name. So why don’t you get with it, and drop the whole Jesus-is-Lord thing, eh?”

  10. pcstokell says:

    This does refer to the same Kyra Phillips who left her wireless mike on and “open” – as she took a potty break and vented about how dumb her in-laws were, right? And then did it again soon afterward? That Kyra Phillips?


  11. Maltese says:

    43% favor sacramental marriage, but 71% support civil marriage (source)

  12. teomatteo says:

    She’ll be promoted.

  13. Denita says:

    Which is why I don’t like CNN.

  14. wmeyer says:

    She may, indeed, be promoted. But if you hold CNN up to your ear, can you hear the ocean? Their ratings are even worse than those of MSNBC, and have been in decline for years. Viewers are not idiots, though there is room for doubt about the most liberal among them. It would be interesting to see the viewer numbers between CNN and a local Atlanta station. I would suspect that CNN is not doing any better than a single metropolitan station at this point.

  15. Dr. K says:

    We are the 57%!

  16. SimonDodd says:

    I’m always skeptical of polls that say x% of Catholics believe this, that, or the other. How do they know? Do they call a few thousand people and accept the identification of people who call themselves Catholics? Remember, Nancy Pelosi calls herself a Catholic; she isn’t. There’s a large block of people for whom it would appear that “catholic” is a cultural term of identification, and they skew the results if they aren’t controlled for with a criterion such as Mass attendance. When polls found that significant percentages of catholics, undifferentiated, don’t believe in the real presence (the headline), one didn’t have to drill too far down into the data to realize that no significant number of Catholics were in dissent: Well north of 90% of those who attend Mass regularly believed in the real presence. The headline figure was entirely a distortion created by the inclusion of self-identified catholics who rarely attend Mass if ever—i.e. former Catholics. So, you know, 43% of what say that they agree with a carefully-constructed question?

    Never trust a poll that purports to survey Catholic attitudes if it doesn’t include some kind of filter, preferably one that can be double-checked. And let’s not even start on the “98% use contradiction” claim, which is a great example of how a survey can itself be potentially accurate yet be entirely false insofar as its actual scope (x% of what) is misrepresented.

    If you want to know what Catholics believe, ask the bishop.

  17. Mdepie says:

    “If you want to know what Catholics believe, ask the bishop.”

    I am not sure asking the Bishops would tell us anything, because what is done is more powerful than what is said. Just recently Francis Cardinal George issued at statement that points voters back to “Faithful Citizenship” as a useful tool in helping Catholics vote and while mentioning the importance of abortion and the “integrity of marriage” gives the usual comments regarding the importance of other issues like a just immigration policy and concern for a proper safety net for the poor. Then his Eminence tells folks to pray over it… I am not sure how this makes sense, Prayer is of course always a good thing, but really….. One side advocates abortion, murder, unspeakable crime, and has issued a mandate that the Bishops called an assault on religious freedom etc. etc.. and the other side has not. Do I really need a lot of prayer to help me figure out which side I need to support? Maybe he means prayer to decide which Republican candidate is most likely to dethrone the tyrant currently in office. I could buy that, but he should just say it then.

    I do not wish to be too hard on the Bishops, but I will make a observation and a prediction. There is no evidence there has been a major drop in Obama’s approval ratings secondary to all of the blatantly anti-Catholic things he has done. Indeed he thinks that he can make political gains by emphasizing the contraception issue and the fact that most Catholics are with him on this… He can always say the Bishops can not take half a loaf, after all he agrees with them on “comprehensive immigration reform”. The technique of calling voters to look at the USCCB guide to voting resulted in 54% of Catholics voting for the pro-abortion, pro- gay marriage, pr0-c-contraceptive mandate candidate in 2008. By a repeat endorsement of the same strategy should I infer that the Bishops think that this outcome is acceptable or should I infer that the Bishops are so foolish as to somehow think the identical strategy of 2008 will yield a different result. I do not think the Bishops are fools, so I am forced to the conclusion either that 1) Bishops rhetoric aside, think they can not influence the result ( and all these statements are really made halfheartedly ) or they simply do not think uniformly that the desirable result is that the pro-abortion, pro-mandate, pro- gay marriage candidate be beaten. Where is my logic wrong? Surely at the very least if they really were serious they would revise the guide to focus on the seriousness of the contraceptive mandate as a fundamentally different escalation in the culture war, which it is.

    There is really a simple political lesson here, we know that negative ads work… If some group of loyal Catholics were to spend a lot of time relentlessly criticizing Obama for all the truly anti- Catholic things he has done they might make a dent… (negative ads work). Perhaps there is a group of wealthy orthodox Catholic business men who could make the point that Obama detests the Catholic Church. If I was a Bishop, some friend of an aide would be making discreet phone calls to organize something like this. I would run these ads relentlessly. IF we are serious about winning that’s the sort of hardball that needs to be played.

    If all we have is “Faithful Citizenship”, we will lose. If all we have is “Faithful Citizenship” then it suggests regardless of the recent dust up over the contraceptive mandate, interest and resolve have faded, and Catholics are not fundamentally opposed to these things, and rhetoric aside its not clear the Bishops are willing to go to the mat over this stuff either.

  18. ContraMundum says:


    The Democratic party has an evil platform, and the Democratic incumbent runs an evil administration, but NOT ONLY does this imply that in any given race a Republican is an acceptable alternative, it is also the case that in specific situations the Democrat may be better. Joe Manchin, the Democrat who was elected to fill the vacancy left at the death of Robert Byrd, has so far been much more pro-family and pro-life than many Republicans I could point to. When I hear of him making such a vote against his party’s leadership and platform, I always make sure to send him a letter thanking him for it. I feel confident that letters of thanks for good votes are more likely to be effective than angry or offended letters following bad votes. If he keeps this up, I will certainly vote for him in November.

    As for the Republican presidential nominee … well, it looks like Romney has the nomination sewed up, and he has given me no reason to believe he’s anything but a watered-down Obama. I won’t vote for the lesser evil, not that it will matter: like McCain, he’s setting himself up to be “a good loser”, and above all, a loser. I’ll find a palatable 3rd-party candidate and hope no one else votes.

  19. ContraMundum says:

    Urrgh…. “NOT ONLY does this *not* imply”

  20. acricketchirps says:


    The dead people in Chicago would not support gay marriage. Unless they are in a place where they can vote against the Catholic Church…

    Well after all, dead people in Chicago do vote Democrat.

  21. Mdepie says:

    Contra Mundum:
    You said ” Joe Manchin, the Democrat who was elected to fill the vacancy left at the death of Robert Byrd, has so far been much more pro-family and pro-life than many Republicans ”

    This is very badly misguided and let me explain why. You see Mr. Manchin regardless of how he votes on any given individual bill will caucus with the Democrats. That means he helps keep Democrats in power. You see if the Democrats have a majority they control the committee chairmanships. They therefore control the legislative and hearing agenda. It is an enormous tool of power. Anyone truly “pro-life” will not vote to caucus with the Democrats. It is the difference between having the chairman of the Judiciary committee in the Senate be the vehemently pro-abortion Sen Pat Leahy or the Pro-life Chuck Grassley. Under whose leadership will pro-life justices get a fairer hearing? Let me make it clear, it is almost always better for the pro-life movement to blindly pull the Republican lever than vote for a Democrat period, because we are much better off when the Republicans are in control. Anyone sincerely pro-life will no longer find it possible to be a member of the Democratic party. The above dynamic is the reason why. It might be that Manchin was better than the average Democrat but because of this caucusing with the Democrats he does severe damage. You must stop voting to keep Democrats in power. Even a vote for a “pro-life Democrat” does this, you are in essence voting pro-abortion. A harsh reality but a reality nonetheless.

    That said I have no doubt that the best Presidential Candidate from a Catholic view point is former PA . Senator Santorum. If I had my preference he would be the nominee. Suffice it to say he was a vigorously pro-life Senator, who was very effective on a number of issues and clearly tries to approach issues from a Catholic political philosophy. I think it is an indictment of us as Catholics that he is not clearly winning the Catholic vote. I suppose some leeway can be given for those who make an honest assessment that while he is clearly preferable in terms of policy he may be less likely to defeat Obama than Romney. This is not my assessment but I could see someone making this call….. Again we must remove the current tyrant from office.

    But my central point is really that the Bishops do not seem to be thinking about any of this. At least they are not articulating it. They still seem to be giving us a vague the two sides are kind of equal and use your best judgement after prayerful consideration kind of thing. I promise you this will result in the Catholic vote splitting 50/50 and may even lead it to again supporting Obama. Leaving morals aside, what would Obama’s incentive to heed anything the Bishops say be? It costs him nothing to step on the Church.

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  23. ContraMundum says:

    I see. So by voting for a pro-life Democrat, I am “in essence voting pro-abortion. ”

    We’re not going to win the struggle for the soul of America by politics, but we won’t be able to do anything at all by stupid politics — the kind that says that our votes are the sole property of the Republican Party to do with as they see fit. Once our votes are not our own to use strategically, we become a political cypher. The Republicans will push “moderates” like Romney down our throats. After all, if he’s better than Obama by ever so small an amount — for instance, by keeping Obama’s existing policies and just not expanding them as Obama would like to do — we’re MORALLY OBLIGATED to vote for him. On the other hand, there are people who belong to the middle whose votes he might lose if he “swings to right” in the general election or afterwards. It’s because of people who vote the way you want that a Republican presidential candidate would have to be (politically speaking) a fool to do anything against abortion; it would be all political cost, and no political gain.

    If we want to make Republican officeholders do anything useful about abortion, gay marriage, etc., we have to make it clear that they cannot take our votes for granted. Likewise, if we have any chance at all at pushing the Democratic Party back to a moral position, we have to be willing to support those who do the right thing. Make no mistake about it, the Democrats are going to be in control of West Virginia for the rest of your life, but you would want me to help the national party offices push out all the pro-life, pro-family office holders. Nice try. Get thee behind me.

    I will continue to monitor Manchin and see how he votes. So far I like him vastly better than Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was one of my senators when I was in Texas and who was an ardent supporter of human embryonic stem cell research — but she was a Republican, so that’s OK, right? He has also proven more reliable than Bush’s VP, who made his moral beliefs subject to the sexual whims of his offspring — or for that matter, George W. himself, who promised in the election not to consider a potential justice’s positions on Roe v. Wade. (I was told that I was still morally obligated to vote for him, because he was a liar and would really put pro-life justices on the bench. Great argument there.) If Manchin starts voting for the same kind of immorality as Olympia Snowe (R), of course, I’ll drop my support for him.

  24. ipadre says:

    We may be the 57% or the 1%, but we hold to the Truth revealed by Jesus Christ and will never suppress our conscience. Just love the New Hampshire license plate “Live free or die”. How many thousands, maybe millions have given their lives for these same, immutable and infallible TRUTHS!

  25. Mdepie says:

    I don’t want to keep going back and forth over this but will make point out a few things. Lets first stipulate that in essence we are allies we are both pro-life and on the same side, so we have an argument over tactics and strategy. SO while I may sound harsh, I do not mean this personally. I merely wish to point out unpleasant facts, much like a Doctor would tell a patient they have a cancer that needs unpleasant but life saving chemotherapy . I would just make the following points:

    1) It does matter what party controls the houses of Congress, you do not seem to dispute this. So it is more than about how they vote on individual issues. As you know few laws are passed by a single vote. The Democratic party leadership will often allow a Democrat in a conservative district or state to vote against a pro-abortion measure, or for a pro-life measure if the vote does not alter the outcome. Obama Care went down like that. So looking at the pure voting record can be misleading. It is vitally important which party controls Congress. I think we can agree that this is true, and that it is much better that Harry Reid not be the Senate majority leader. Given the Senate rules having a Democrat run Senate is a disaster for the pro-life movement. Manchin’s votes are irrelevant in the sense that Harry Reid is not going to let any piece of pro-life legislation with any chance of passage get to a vote. In any case a Republican from WV is very likely to be just as pro-life if not more so. The WV Senate race proves that. If you voted for Manchin in Virgina, you voted against John Raese, his Republican opponent. Raese was not only pro-life but was endorsed by the Susan B Anthony List ( a non partisan pro-life organization) . So you got someone no more Pro-life and in essence more favorable to the pro-abortion side as Manchin is voting to make pro-abortion, pro- mandate, Henry Reid the Senate majority leader. As a Democrat he is keeping vehemently pro-abortion Pat Leahy the Chair of the Judiciary Commitee. By voting for Manchin you helped the pro-abortion side. This may not be your intent but it is the result of your vote. I am sure the head of NARAL, or Planned Parenthood, given a choice between Raese and Manchin would have voted identically to you in the WV Senate Race.

    2) There is no chance, none, zero of moving the Pro-abortion Party of Death Democrats to a pro-life position. See Ramesh Ponnuro’ s book on the Democrats, “The Party of Death”. The fact is the Democrats have been moving steadily in the direction of the Pro-abortion party for decades. The capitulation of the ” pro-life, Stupak Democrats” are the reason we have Obama Care and the HHS mandate, which was possible because of Obama Care. Moving the Democratic party to the pro-life side is a fine long term goal. It will only happen after they have been brutally defeated at the polls for the next several years.

    3) You are correct in seeing that the Republicans are hardly perfect, not even close! The time to fix this is the primary election. In the primary a pro-life Catholic should be pushing to have the most viable pro-life candidate as the nominee. It is not that it is fine to be “pr0 choice” as long as you are a Republican. It is that right now, most Republicans will move things in a pro- life direction, in terms of judicial nominees, control of the congressional agenda and committees etc.

    If you vote Democrat by and large you are helping NARAL.

  26. Centristian says:

    If only she were Canadian, she could expect to be appointed Governor General someday.

    Only Canadians will get that.

  27. Hieronymus in Canada says:

    I’m an American (in spite of the screen name) and I get it (of course, I have spent 18 of the last 20 years in Ontario).

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