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Opinion: The holy vigilance of editors

The best editors can be harsh, providing the necessary shock treatment to improve a manuscript, correct egregious errors, or recommend spiking a piece to save the writer from wearing it like a scarlet letter.

(Image: Markus Winkler/Unsplash.com)

Scribes, like the monks during medieval times, copied and preserved biblical manuscripts and other texts. Their work saved the spiritual and intellectual heritage of ancient civilizations. There is little need for scribes today, although we may lament the decline of the art of cursive handwriting. Nevertheless, various scribe-like editors remain essential to maintain literacy and help us retain our sanity and integrity.

Editors are like teachers. Some are honest and reasonably competent, and others have goodwill but have professional deficiencies. The worst of them are very qualified but apply their skills in the service of evil causes.

Honest editors strive for clear thinking and precision. The best editors can be harsh, providing the necessary shock treatment to improve a manuscript, correct egregious errors, or recommend spiking a piece to save the writer from wearing it like a scarlet letter. Someone who has little use for a good editor is usually a poor writer.

Incompetent editors are unable or unwilling to make the necessary corrections. They may be of goodwill but often prefer the affection of their clients to good writing. In her letters, Flannery O’Connor quips, “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

An aspiring editor could learn a lot from the old television show Dragnet. Sergeant Joe Friday’s legendary, “The facts ma’am, just the facts,” is a key to editorial honesty. But editorial integrity could also get an editor fired. Increasingly, the Joseph Goebbels School of mainstream journalism expects its editors to be experts in propaganda.

Malicious writing and dishonest editing are so pervasive in the mainstream media that most of us don’t know where to turn for honest reporting. The flurry of news reports echoing Joe Biden’s press secretary that he is a “devout Catholic” and that his position on abortion has “evolved” reveals widespread media prejudice, incompetence, but mostly malice.

An honest editor would question the “devout Catholic” assertion. What are the criteria? Does the evidence support the description? Hack journalists use “evolved” to signal their none-too-subtle approval of policy changes. It is an effective propaganda rhetorical device. We evolve from an inferior to a superior. So the reporter implies that Biden’s abortion politics have become more mature and enlightened – unlike the pro-life Catholics who are not as devout and open-minded as Biden.

But the evolution gambit is a one-way street. The Democrat Party has evolved from the party of the Ku Klux Klan to the party of abortion rights. The assertion passes the Joe Friday just-the-facts test more readily than Biden’s “evolution” on abortion. But the career of a reporter making the observation would never survive the ensuing media firestorm.

So a careful and fair reader must conclude the NBC report is not news. It is pro-abortion propaganda disguised as news. NBC executives, like most in the mainstream press, do not hire editors with integrity. Indeed, honest editors are in short supply. But until the phrase “As rare as an honest editor” achieves cliché status, in fairness, we should not allow 95% of the mainstream news reporters and editors to give the rest a bad name.

Good editors – and editor-equivalents such as teachers and lawful authorities— keep us honest, logical, and help enshrine truth with the facts. For the same reason, it is generally wise to “trust the science” (although the slogan wearies) subject to the rigorous application of reliable scientific methods. But we must be wary of rash scientific judgments and dishonest scientists.

The experts demand that we comply with the frequently changing COVID directives (double and triple masks and anal swabs are the latest imperatives). Yet, many of the same doctors reject the science affirming the humanity of unborn babies.

The nation’s chief medical officer recently promised revocation of the so-called “Mexico City policy,” which blocks U.S. funding of foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform and promote abortion. He avoided the word “abortion.” Instead, he said the move is part of Biden’s “broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.”

How does killing an unborn baby enhance the health of a mother? But science affirms that abortion never protects the health of a baby targeted by an abortionist’s forceps. The doctor is not using the language of science or scientific methods. He is replacing science with ideology, so it is reasonable to be wary of all the science he professes.

When the left demands that we trust the science, they usually mean we should trust them. Indeed, they frequently suppress the science of those who dissent from their ideology using, most notably, LGBTQ political-correctness as their standard. Twitter editors recently locked the Catholic World Report account for several days because it tweeted the nomination of a “biological man identifying as a transgender woman” as Assistant Secretary for Health. The medical accuracy of the statement is unassailable. But Twitter does not trust the science.

Responsible speech and writing require clear thinking and the courage to speak truth to power, assisted by competent editors. The consequences are eternal. “I tell you, on the day of judgment, men will render account for every careless word they utter” (Mt. 12:36). Loose lips sink ships, as American shipyard signs warned during World War II. But the abuse of language also ruins souls. So when we speak, we should carefully measure our words by the internal editor of our reason. But do not forget to invoke the wisdom of the Divine Editor infused by the Sacraments.

We may have lost the culture, and many members of the hierarchy can’t even bring themselves to denounce the heinous behavior of the politicians who purposely use the Church as cover for their evils. But we haven’t lost our minds. Our faith, if we are intellectually vigilant, fortifies human reason.

So rejoice in the logic and truth of the Catholic faith with gratitude for the diligence of good editors.


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About Father Jerry J. Pokorsky 9 Articles
Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.. He holds a Master of Divinity degree as well as a master’s degree in moral theology.

9 Comments

  1. The courage to speak truth would recognize Unbridled Capitalism, unsustainable borrowing to continue Unjust wars, the US contribution to the Genocide of Millions of humans in Yemen.
    The anarchy of Mexico, Haiti, all of the Americas predominately Catholic countries that endure massive social, economic and social upheaval today.. A great deal of which the US instigated actions as the over throw of Guatemala in 1954, or Haiti in 1991. Venezuela and its people have worked to free themselves, only to be slaughtered.
    What is to the Issue of US wages in the US is a nation of debt and wage slaves itself today, where is the courage to recognize this issue?
    While debt and wage slaves have been the catalyst to massive stock market profits and a small group of supper rich?
    Abortion is not the only issue, when human slavery, sex slave trade in the USA is where babies are going today in the USA.. More humans, Children exist as sex slaves in the USA today, than all Atlantic combined..
    Lets see some “courage” the greatest failures in all of history are Religious leaders in the USA who fail to call the Islamic Brothers, the poor in Mexico, all Brothers. Defiant to every avenue of the Catholic faith.

    • For the 6 millionth time: there is no such thing as unbridled capitalism; there is no genocide in Yemen; the instability of South & Central America is neither our fault nor our problem; and there is no human slavery here; remember that persistently lying is also a denial of the faith.

      Oh, and the world isn’t flat either, in case you were going to include that in your next post.

    • Lyle: I believe you are conflating quality of life issues with right to life issues. Your expressed examples-while important, seem to be assuming a “moral equivalency”” with the basic right to life of the unborn child.

  2. This article expresses what I have been thinking…I applaud good, honest reporting… For excellent secularnews I suggest Epoch Times… One of the top journalists. Joshua Phillips , spoke recently that he would have no job if he reported as most of the people on other popular news programs do !

  3. Very clearly stated.
    Thank you and I am sending this to others who are shaking their heads over the “devout” Catholic spin.

  4. Thank you for the courage to point out the truth. I always believe that Biden cannot be considered a Catholic if he approves of abortion.

  5. Farher Pokorsky is certainly right about editing. One of the interesting experiences I’ve had in producing and editing my own radio programs for my fledgling radio channel is editing them down to exactly 29 minutes and 30 seconds. I’ve found that there is always fat to squeeze out. If one is being honest with his own writing, there’s always room for improvement, and certainly always room for more fact-checking. I’ve often done my own fact-checking before I put an essay on my web site and found that things I was sure are true are just plain wrong, or at least not verifiable.

    The biggest problem today is that facts have been suppressed and mutilated to the point that fact-checking has become a very difficult job. Today we really have few sources of information that can be trusted, which is why I stopped following what most people call news.

  6. On the left we find CBS, ABC, CNN, NBC and – strictly for laughs – MSNBC.

    On the right – Fox news. (Kind of)

    I can live with that, not that I have a choice.

  7. Ancient monastic scribes – like editors – only had to get one word wrong and all hell breaks loose. The original word was celebrate.

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