Thursday, 16 February 2012

Still The Southern Cross Disappoints - Part II

Yesterday I blogged about the fact that I believed the Southern Cross had again failed its readers, because of its repeated failure to publish anything about the issues surrounding the Obama Healthcare Bill in the USA and the challenges that Catholics are facing. My post was titled “Still Southern Cross Disappoints”.

In addition to my Blog, I also posted an online comment on the editorial of The Southern Cross, which you can also read in my previously mentioned Blog post. You cannot read it on the website of The Southern Cross because the editor has reacted to the comment by removing it from The Southern Cross website. I have been censored.

When the editor was asked by some readers to explain why he had done so, he responded:

Mark Nel’s comment has been removed pending further review. The comment was an unreasonable attack on the integrity of The Southern Cross, suggesting an agenda on our part which simply does not exist. He did not engage in an argument, and pronounced the editorial, which was reviewed by a qualified theologian (which Mr Nel is not) before publication, to be in error. This is a very serious allegation, which should not be made lightly. While we are happy to accept (and, if necessary, defend) robust criticism, we will not provide on our website a forum for people who abuse it for purposes of personal potentially slanderous attacks against The Southern Cross or its writers.[1]

Allow me to first address the comment by Mr Simmermacher, that I “pronounced the editorial, which was reviewed by a qualified theologian… , to be in error.” Mr Simmermacher should be aware that, just because a qualified theologian has reviewed the content of his editorial, it does not necessarily mean that the content reviewed is correct. It may be correct in the view of that particular theologian, but that is certainly no guarantee that it is correct in the eyes of the Church.

There are sufficient examples of leading theologians, all around the world, who have been censored by various bishops, because their works contained error. A very recent example of this is Elizabeth Johnson, a professor of theology at the Fordham University in New York. Her book, which for obvious reasons I will not name, was banned from being used in Catholic Schools, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, because its content contradicted Church teaching.

What is amusing is that the editor on numerous previous occasions failed to moderate or censor very controversial comments, from other sources, which stated that the Church, and/or the Church’s teaching, was in error. Yet, my alleged pronouncement, that I thought his editorial contains errors, is deemed sufficient grounds to warrant removal of my comment. It seems to me that it is okay to challenge the Church and Church’s teaching, it is just not acceptable to challenge Mr Simmermacher’s editorial.

Consider also that Mr Simmermacher has on occasions even tolerated comments that some readers specifically requested should be removed. Instead of doing so, Mr Simmermacher had this to say, in response to one such request: “I think all Internet users understand that what appears in the comments section of a newspaper’s website is not published by (never mind in!) that newspaper, but reflects the perspective of the person who is commenting. Excessive moderation and censoring of the comments section is not in anybody’s interest”.[2]

The double standards of this editor, is plain for all to see. 

Let me get back to the real issue regarding my comment on the editorial, which the editor clearly wishes to avoid.

The Southern Cross newspaper has not once published anything about the Obama Healthcare Bill, a controversial story that has been developing since 2011. Catholics in the USA are facing some serious challenges to their religious freedom. 170 US Catholic Bishops have spoken out against this bill. Every single Catholic online publication that I have read contains some report regarding this issue. The Catholic News Agency contains many articles on the subject and the Southern Cross frequently carries articles directly from that source. So, it would be a simple matter for The Southern Cross, as it did with the corruption allegations, to run a story about this.

So why would The Southern Cross, the only Catholic newspaper in South Africa, choose to remain so silent on this topic? It was quite capable, last week, of running a Catholic News Agency article, about a very new report of corruption allegations in the Vatican, including an entire editorial to round it off. (I wrote about this previously here.) Yet, The Southern Cross has had months to publish an article about the Obama Healthcare Bill and yet has mysteriously chosen to remain deathly silent on this matter.

In April 2011, the editor wrote this in an editorial titled “Guarding The Church”:

Some years ago, this newspaper, like many other Catholic media, received much criticism for even reporting on the abuse scandal in the Church. Our response was that Catholics would not receive the whole story from the secular press, which has not always been innocent of manipulating its coverage.
It was the duty of the Catholic media to provide the faithful with the facts and with answers so as to enable them to formulate a reasonable response when confronted by family, friends or colleagues (or, indeed, their own conscience).[3]

Mr Simmermacher seems to have clearly forgotten about the need, in his own words, for the “Catholic media to provide the faithful with the facts and with answers so as to enable them to formulate a reasonable response when confronted by family, friends or colleagues”.

Many Catholics, with whom I interact, have the mistaken notion that the issue in the USA is only about contraception. We all know the diversity of views that this ‘contraception’ subject automatically raises amongst Catholics. So, this is precisely the time when we do in fact need our South African Catholic newspaper to guard the Church and to provide the faithful with facts and answers. What do you think, Mr Simmermacher? Is my expectation of you and the newspaper an unreasonable personal attack, or has The Southern Cross indeed failed its readers regarding this matter?

[1] Gunther Simmermacher; The Southern Cross; The Catholic Conscience – Comments; Recovered Feb 16, 2012
[2] Gunther Simmermacher; The Southern Cross; Time to reassess the doctrine of Original Sin - Comments; Recovered Feb 16, 2012
[3] Gunther Simmermacher; The Southern Cross; Guarding The Church; April 6, 2011


  1. Shame on for the paper’s editor for labelling you with objectionable language, using aggressive words, falsely accusing you with words like: abuse, slanderous attacks, denying your authentic concerns and disappointments, etc.

    Shame on this paper for failing to see your robust constructive criticism about specific issues which surrounds this paper. Shame on it for denying the very raison d’être of your lastest posting.

    Shame, for Obama and his liberal democrats to be crafting and accelerating laws to promote contraception; the murder and slaughter of children in the womb (abortion); manipulating the law thus forcing Catholics to pay hard earned cash for Obama's plans to commit infanticide and genocide; manipulating laws to abolish freedom of religion and religious expression so that there is no freedom of expression anywhere. This action by the US Administration is an enormous travesty, not only for the USA, but for universal Catholic Church and the world.

    Shame on the editor of the Southern Cross for abusing his authority by censuring your reasonable protest, by falsifying your protest to be a personal attack on its writers.

    Really, the Southern Cross and its Editor needs to wake up - to be CATHOLIC this paper must become UNIVERSAL and stop being so insular and petty.

    If the editor denies the universalism of the Church, simply, no matter how many overtures he may concoct, then by applying the simple acid test of universality, neither he nor the paper can be truly identified as being Catholic.

    To deny the American Bishops a supportive gospel platform within the context of a so-called Catholic newspaper, albeit also South African, is to also the deny the universal Catholic Church the platform to proclaim the truth, inside and outside of season, anywhere and everywhere.

    The problem with the Southern Cross is something more than disappointing.

  2. This is something I think few South African Catholics know about:

    Every Single Bishop Has Condemned the Obama/HHS Mandate! (181)