Long ago, reader Tom Kreitzberg devised a simple metric for describing Catholic (and, in fact, pan-human) reactions to suspicion (and more than suspicion) of scandal.
The idea of finding out what happened and dealing with it justly doesn’t enter into it for lots and lots of people.
“We believe in the mission and the principles of Word on Fire, but not at all costs, and definitely not at the expense of our mental health,” wrote Jackie and Bobby Angel, in a May 9 resignation letter obtained by The Pillar.
“Any ministry that speaks truth with love will receive spiritual attack, but it is poor leadership, communication, and organizational principles that brought us here.”
The married couple, well-known Catholic authors and speakers, were appointed fellows of the Word on Fire Institute, a branch of Word on Fire, in early 2020: Jackie Angel as the fellow of family life and Bobby Angel as the fellow of parish life.
Their resignation came after public controversy over Word on Fire’s handling of an investigation into alleged sexual assault on the part of former senior producer Joseph Gloor, who was fired in October 2021.
Employees and former employees have charged that Word on Fire, a media organization founded by Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, inappropriately identified an alleged victim of sexual assault, did not provide sufficient communication to employees about an investigation surrounding the incident, and that Word on Fire leaders favored Gloor during the probe into his conduct, only eventually firing him only as a public relations measure.
The allegations came to light in late April, in a blog post from Catholic writer Chris Damian.
Since then, others have departed. And the whole thing has been handled with all the typical institutional ass-covering without regard for victims that has been a tragic feature of Company Men in the Church for decades after this kind of crap has had the full light of the sun shone on it. They are supposed to have learned something by now. But instead, the New Guy Hired to Replace the Suddenly and Mysteriously Deep-Sixed Old Guy at WoF, is tweeting out messages like “Grow Up!” to scandalized people looking for answers.
I wish that were the only thing amiss at WoF, but the reality is that, having set out claiming to “engage the culture” Word on Fire has, with disturbing speed, shown that it is willing to run the cultural gamut from A to B, focusing almost exclusively on platforming far right nuts and steadfastly ignoring, exploiting or silencing any voice that might offend the moneybags at the Napa Institute and other far right Catholic funding sources. So much time and energy has been spent on sympathetic dialogue with the likes of Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin, and Jordan Peterson, but none on people like the folks who publish the Black Catholic Messenger, which published a very respectful plea to Bishop Barron (in response to his denunciation of “vile wokism”) not to remain silent about the long history of racist oppression in the US and, yes, in the US Church. In response to this call for dialogue, there was no invitation to converse, but a only the sort of double-down that Koch/EWTN/Napa Institute money loves:
Not that there has been nothing at all from WoF. After George Floyd, there was a lone Pentecost 2020 sermon and a much-ballyhooed acquisition of the excellent Gloria Purvis to do a series on race for their video ministry–followed by two years of nothing at all (except the occasional bragging that Gloria had been acquired to do a video series, in order to shut down complaints about the silence).
Naturally, defenders say “These things take time!”
Uh huh. Here’s what did not take any time at all: a deeply empathetic interview platforming a couple of absolute kooks who have been running around spreading deadly garbage about vaccines and hawking ivermectin as they whinge about being “cancelled”:
This deadly contribution to the MAGA Lie Machine’s Propaganda campaign was rushed into production and released just in time to celebrate the Right Wing Lie Machine successful effort to kill a million Americans by May 2022: more Americans killed than in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq Wars I and II, and Afghanistan–all in 2 1/2 years.
Why platform such people? What have they to do with the Faith? Nothing. But they and Peterson and Rubin, and, no doubt, future guests will have everything to do with selling Right Wing Culture War BS to a certain flavor of Catholic, which is increasingly what WoF is about, instead of proclaiming the Faith.
Which breaks my heart, as so much of The Thing That Used to be Conservative Catholicism now does constantly.