Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

5/6/2010 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Nicholas Kristoff in an editorial entitled "Who Can Mock This Church" does just that - he mocks the Catholic Church. While I am always happy to see the little ones who serve so faithfully in the Body of Christ called into the public eye by any commentator, woven throughout this backhanded compliment are derogatory caricatures of Catholicism. His true intent needs to be exposed. He continues the anti-Catholic agenda of the New York Times.  

Nicholas D. Kristof.

Nicholas D. Kristof.


By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (

5/6/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in U.S.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On May 1, 2010, Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof, penned another opinion piece on the Catholic Church. It was entitled "Who Can Mock This Church?" Ostensibly, he wanted to call attention to some of the wonderful faithful Catholics serving selflessly in the world. Writing from Sudan where he met some of the many such servants of the Lord, he purported to be responding to his own rhetorical question. In fact, his editorial mocks the Church.

Was it irony?  Was it ignorance? I propose it was something more. It was a "backhanded compliment". It was also an example of subtle Anti-Catholicism, the kind that is sometimes even more dangerous than the run of the mill kind which the New York Times now regularly spews forth.

A "backhanded compliment" comes disguised as a compliment but is actually a way of expressing disdain or demonstrating condescension. We are all aware of the more obvious kind of such verbal darts: "That dress is lovely; it does wonders for your figure", "You're smarter than you look", "You drive very well, for a woman". . Kristoff began his editorial with these words: "Maybe the Catholic Church should be turned upside down. Jesus wasn't known for pontificating from palaces, covering up scandals, or issuing Paleolithic edicts on social issues. Does anyone think he would have protected clergymen who raped children?"

It's like asking your colleague at work in front of the entire staff, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Even though the poor fellow never laid a hand on her and loves her deeply - no matter how he answers he is destined to have his reputation and standing in the community impugned. In fact, the question is designed to do just that! So was this awful introduction, written for the whole world to read!

He continues: "Yet if the top of the church has strayed from its roots, (It hasn't) much of its base is still deeply inspiring. I came here to impoverished southern Sudan to write about Sudanese problems, not the Catholic Church's. Yet once again, I am awed that so many of the selfless people serving the world's neediest are lowly nuns and priests - notable not for the grandeur of their vestments but for the grandness of their compassion. As I've noted before, there seem to be two Catholic Churches, the old boys' club of the Vatican and the grass-roots network of humble priests, nuns and laity in places like Sudan."

He is using his words as weapons. He appears intent on turning the faithful of the Church against her. He also seeks to denigrate the Church in the eyes of the world. He contrasts the vestments of those who serve at the Liturgy (by the way Mr. Kristoff, every priest wears vestments including those who work directly with the poor) with compassion. Some of the most compassionate ordained members of the Church I know also have some of the most beautiful vestments. The two are actually connected.

These Bishops, Priests, and Deacons love the Lord Jesus Christ and honor him in many ways; by recognizing Him in the face of the poor and by dressing in a manner which befits worship of the only true and eternal King of Kings and Lord of Lords when they serve at the Altar. This dig at Church vestments is one of the oldest slurs used by anti-Catholics.

It's just another version of the biblical story of the disciples who rebuked the woman who poured expensive perfume on the Lord at the house of Simon the Leper because the money could have been sold and given to the poor. (Matt. 26:7) One of the leading voices of objection was a man named Judas. Even St. John Vianney, the poor Cure d' Ars, and the Little Poor Man of Assisi, St. Francis insisted on proper vestments to honor the Lord at the Altar.

Kristof's suggestion that the Church be "turned upside down" reveals his true intent. He views the Church through a power matrix as some sort of corporation with misguided CEO's at the top. He wants to restructure it. However, the Church is a communion of all who have been baptized into Christ and are joined in Him with one another - for the sake of the world. This caricature of top down/oppressive institutionalism is an old canard of anti-Catholicism.

It also strikes at the heart of what Catholics believe about the purpose of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. We believe the Lord came to establish the Church, founding it upon His Apostles.  The Church is His Body. He structured it. He continues His redemptive work through the Church until He returns. The Church is not some-thing- an organization which we made up and can refashion as we see fit. Rather, it is "Some-One", the Same One who was raised from the Dead and is with us now in his Body until he returns.

The Church is the "new world" and is meant to become the home of the whole human race. The Church is the seed of the kingdom to come. The Church is sacramentally present in the world, mediating the continued grace of Her head for all who hunger to be set free from sin and death.

While I am always happy to see the little ones who serve so faithfully in the Body of Christ called into the public eye by any commentator, woven throughout this backhanded compliment are derogatory caricatures of Catholicism. Here some more examples: "Paleolithic edicts on social issues..."  Read, Mr. Kristof does not agree with the Catholic Church's unwavering and uncompromising positions on life, marriage, family, freedom, human sexuality, ....and her insistence on the existence of objective truths to guide human behavior which can beknown by reason and are revealed in the Natural Law.

Yet, it is the position the Church holds on the dignity of all human life, including the child in the womb, which puts her at the forefront of caring for all the poor. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta reminded us that children in the womb are the "poorest of the poor". This is not "paleolithic" but prophetic. This author simply does not like the Catholic Church. He tries to hide his disdain for her structure and teachings by pointing out the heroes. However, they exist precisely because of what the Church teaches.

After telling us that those "at the top" have "strayed from their roots" he tells us "Sister Cathy would like to see more decentralization in the church, a greater role for women, and more emphasis on public service. She says she worries sometimes that if Jesus returned he would say, "Oh, they got it all wrong!"...She would make a great pope, too."It's because of brave souls like these that I honor the Catholic Church. I understand why many Americans disdain a church whose leaders are linked to cover-ups and antediluvian stances on women, gays and condoms - but the Catholic Church is far larger than the Vatican."

The Church "at the top" has NOT strayed from its roots. In fact, one of the Pope's titles is "servant of the servants of God". His witness, words and example are inspiring and humble. The "Vatican" Kristof derides refers to the "magisterium", the teaching office of the Church; the Pope and the Bishops in union with Him. For the faithful Catholic, they are a gift, an answer to the promise of the Lord that He would not leave us orphans!

The writer should come clean; he does not like the Pope. Efforts to attach the Pope personally to the egregious sin and evil committed by some clergy are not new and will not succeed. The Pope is the successor of Peter, and a gift from the Lord for those who can receive him. He is not some CEO in some power matrix as this kind of loaded language portrays.

Sister Cathy's alleged longing for "decentralization" may actually depict her poor grasp of "ecclesiology", the area of theology concerning the nature of the Church. The Church is not, in the first instance, organizational; it is organic. It is the Body of Christ. It is Christ who established its structure and Christ who continues His redemptive mission through her. 

Sister Cathy will never be Pope because she has a unique and important role, as Mother Teresa so clearly demonstrated, as a member of the Body placed in a particular relationship of love. Her role is irreplaceable. Mary, the Mother of the Lord, was not Pope. Clearly, no-one among the sons and daughters of Adam has ever played a more significant role. Mr. Kristof should read St. Paul's wonderful instruction on the structure of the Body of Christ and the importance of every member in the twelfth chapter of his first Letter to the Christians in Corinth.

His use of one particular phrase at the end of this back handed compliment is particularly offensive. He writes that the Church has "antediluvian stances on women, gays and condoms." The disparaging term antediluvian means "before the flood". He is using the word to demean the stances of the Catholic Church on such vital truths like the dignity of women; the dignity of human sexuality as properly reserved for the total gift of conjugal love between a man and wife in the marital embrace (not the disordered use of a man- or a woman - for sexual release); and on the marital act always being open to life and to the complete gift of the spouses in the marital embrace, unimpeded by a condom.

However, these positions are anything but "old fashioned". They unfold a vision of the human person, human love and sexuality, marriage and the human family and a truly free and just society which paves the path to human flourishing, authentic human freedom and a future of authentic freedom.

So, while I am glad Mr. Kristof found some of the many truly sacrificial servants of the Catholic Church in the Sudan, his comments reveal a dreadful lack of understanding of what the Catholic Church proclaims, has always proclaimed and will always proclaim. Some of what he characterizes as "top down" structures and "antediluvian" positions are truly liberating gifts when embraced within the new way of life offered to all through the waters of baptism and entry into the communion of the Church. We live in an age characterized by what Pope Benedict XVI properly called a "Dictatorship of Relativism". Our Church proclaims the existence of objective truths which can be known and which should order our life together.

For some like Nicholas D. Kristof that will continue to be a problem. We should pray for him. However, he should stop his backhanded compliments of the Catholic Church and we should do all we can to expose them and their real intent.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More U.S.

'No more baby parts': How will Congress deal with the alarming Planned Parenthood shooting? Watch

Image of


A shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado that left three people dead last week is only expected to inflame passions of both sides of the political spectrum - as well as giving lawmakers, returning from their holiday break, ... continue reading

EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE IN UTAH? You won't believe what happened to the Body of Christ when it was placed in water (PHOTOS) Watch

Image of


A miraculous bleeding communion wafer has presented itself at a Utah Church. Followers from the St. Francis Xavier Church in Kearns, Salt Lake City have claimed the sacrament bled for three days after it was placed in water following communion. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

The shocking amount of control El Chapo's drug cartel has across the United States Watch

Image of Mexican drug lord,


Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán leads the Sinaloa drug cartel, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports has the most influence of all gangs in the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The DEA released an unclassified report that indicates the ... continue reading

MIRACLES DO HAPPEN: Days-old baby girl buried alive pulled to safety in California Watch

Image of Following the child's muffled cries, police eventually found the girl in a crevice along the biking path. Wrapped in a blanket, covered with a layer of rocks and rubble, the girl was cold - but alive.


While much still needs to be learned - authorities here in Compton, California are gratified to learn that miracles still happen. A days-old baby girl, estimated to be only two to three days old, has been pulled to safety from a riverbed after a passerby heard ... continue reading

Who Needs Advent? I do! Watch

Image of The candle is a symbol of Advent because it is a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who is always coming to those with the eyes of living faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Jesus Christ is not just a memory to the Christian with living faith. He is alive in our midst and living His Life in and through His Body, the Church, of which we are members. The redemptive mission of the Lord Jesus continues until He returns. As Christians, we ... continue reading

BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big and so powerful, you won't believe this MASSIVE SHOCKING fact about it! Watch

Image of Obama is the titular head of the world's most nefarious terrorist organization, a title he may have inherited from his predecessor, and that will be passed to his successor.


If you were asked, what is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in human history, how would you answer? Global warming? Vaccines? The Moon Landing? Entire religions?  (Not that we agree with these). But what would you say? In a moment, we're going to offer an answer ... continue reading

'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for best deals Watch

Image of Sales for pricey items such as electronic devices erupt into violence on


Everyone has had their turkey leftovers from the previous day's Thanksgiving Feast - and now it's out the door to the nearest "big box" store in a mad scavenger hunt called "Black Friday," where shoppers trample each other for the best deals then can get just before ... continue reading

President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in Thanksgiving address Watch

Image of The president then went on to say that, all Americans must open their neighborhoods, their homes, and hearts to Syrian refugees.


United States President Barack Obama called on Americans to welcome Syrian refugees this Thanksgiving season, who - like the pilgrims that set sail on the Mayflower, were likewise fleeing persecution in their native land. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - ... continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart Watch

Image of Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy, the love of the God who gave us life and liberty.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Happy Thanksgiving Day. May it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face as a Nation, we have much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we will find the strength we need to love even more fully. As we practice regularly ... continue reading

New ISIS video taunts United States to 'bring it on' Watch

Image of While the video is pumping up Islamist State, the fact of the matter is is the group is suffering heavy losses on the ground form allied bombardment, especially since Russia began bombing the group


A new video from the Islamic State is highlighting the high number of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide, in effect to tell the world's last remaining superpower to "bring it on." U.S. President Barack Obama has since dismissed ISIS as "a bunch of killers with ... continue reading

All U.S. News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Prayer For Faith HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Tuesday, December 01, 2015
  • St. Eligius: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, December 01, 2015
  • 'Body lifted from the ground': Young Central American woman dies ...
  • Opium, heroin or cocaine: What drug is YOUR country known for?
  • Parents' Prayer For Their Children HD Video
  • Pope Francis does the unthinkable following emotional tragedy in ...

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 10:9-18
9 that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands on the ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 4:18-22
18 As he was walking by the Lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 30th, 2015 Image

St. Andrew
November 30: Andrew, like his brother Simon Peter, was a ... Read More