Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Clarification on the Bishops, 'Monologues', and Notre Dame

Dear Readers,

I would like to take this opportunity to remark upon a comment left on the post below concerning an article on the “Vagina Monologues” and the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine which appeared in the Feb. 7 edition of the Irish Rover.

The comment reproduced in-part a statement by Vince LaBarbera, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and spokesperson for Bishop John D’Arcy. LaBarbera's statement was received by the Rover secondhand from the author of the comment.

LaBarbera has, as of this writing, made no discernable effort to contact the Irish Rover directly, nor has any employee of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Rather, an email message was sent by LaBarbera to a Notre Dame student with no connection to the Rover staff. That student then forwarded to the Rover LaBarbera’s message, which is reproduced in full below:

Bishop D’Arcy has reviewed the quotes reportedly attributed to him “in an email message leaked to the Rover” and said the remarks are not accurate. Bishop is not saying the publication should not be distributed; however, he is saying the remarks do not represent what he may or may not have said.

Bishop’s Office attempted to return the phone calls made by the Irish Rover on Wednesday, Feb. 6, but apparently the cell phone number left for a return call did not include the area code.

Vince LaBarbera, director

Catholic Communications Office

Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

Now, this message raises a number of questions when considered along with the fact that I spoke with LaBarbara Wednesday afternoon, having contacted him on his cell phone in an effort to seek comment on the timeline of events which I assembled after speaking with various sources both inside and outside the University. This, incidentally, would indicate that LaBarbera did in fact have a phone number with area code by which to contact the Rover – in his cell phone's call log (in addition, that is, to the number left for him at the chancery office). But the point is moot, since in my conversation with him LaBarbara stated point-blank and without equivocation that he had no knowledge of the ongoing situation involving the Bishop’s Committee on Doctrine, the University, and Bishop D’Arcy himself. This compels one to conclude either that LaBarbera was dishonest during his telephone conversation with me; that he has no recollection of that conversation; that he was dishonest in the statement which was forwarded to the Rover; or that he as Director of Communications for the diocese had no knowledge whatsoever of a sensitive matter ongoing within the chancery office – a proposition that I find incredible.

In any case, the leaked email stated that while the source was not writing “on ‘behalf’ of Bishop D’Arcy,” the source was nevertheless “writing at his request.” The leaked email then went on to state the following:

“He [Bishop D’Arcy] has asked me to circulate this information to those who should know it, so that people are aware of a situation on campus.”
It later reiterated:
“Bishop D’Arcy has asked that this information be circulated on campus, so that people are made aware of this situation. It cannot be brushed aside as unimportant. He feels that it is scandalous and very sad that the University (Fr. Jenkins) has decided not to stand in solidarity with the bishops.”
So, the statement which was received secondhand from Mr. LaBarbera on Thursday evening is inconsistent with both the original email leaked to the Rover and with information derived from several sources both inside and outside the administration, all of whom corroborated the story as reported in the Irish Rover. While the credibility of the leaked email’s author may indeed be called into question, it is unlikely that the email itself was intended to mislead anyone, its initial recipients most of all.

The loyalty of the Irish Rover – a Catholic, independent student publication – to Bishop D’Arcy has never before been questioned, to my knowledge, by any party in any forum. Indeed, we have in the five years since the paper’s founding been Bishop D’Arcy’s most ardent supporters, and have steadfastly sought to advance the positions of the Church, both local and universal, on a myriad array of issues pertaining to Our Lady’s University. That has not changed. It will not change.

The procedures implemented in writing the article in question were well within the mainstream of journalistic standards, and bore a preferential option for prudence and discretion. Every one of the many sources contacted on background for the article corroborated the facts as they were reported, and as of yet none have been credibly called into question.

Thus, as editor-in-chief of the Irish Rover, I stand by the story as reported one-hundred per-cent. Should any new developments come to the fore, they will be reported on this website or in print as editorial discretion will allow.

In Notre Dame,

Matthew V. Smith

7 February, 2008


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Matt, for reporting on this story. I'm glad that someone at Notre Dame is immune to the turf battles surrounding the administration and is willing to report the facts. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it might be better to contact the bishop's office yourself as opposed to waiting for them to contact you. Afterall, there is obviously some misunderstanding and it seems to be your responsibility to clear it up.

sblawyer said...

Sounds like the communications director is being pretty disingenuous to me. If he has already gone on record as knowing nothing about the bishops, what more can there be to say? At the least, there is something fishy about the guy's claim that he was unable to return calls from the rover, since he apparently talked to someone (matt?) directly on wednesday.

Interesting story. Waiting to see how this all pans out.

Anonymous said...

Given the fact that the Communications Director has spoken on behalf of the bishop and his office, it seems that the e-mail that was sent around is now a moot point. It cannot be seen as credible, nor accurate.

Suzy said...

Seems pretty darned accurate to me -- that it was backed up by other sources and that the communications director is now running around doing damage control tells me that the email must have been on the mark.

Gotta love how people are out there trying to undermine what appears to be a well-sourced article by leaving anonymous comments here. The post explains everything that's occurred up to this point in simple chapter and verse, and yet they would like to end all debate based on the fact that "the communications director has spoken." Hadn't he "spoken" when the Rover people contacted him on Wednesday? Oh, wait... he doesn't remember that conversation.