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Postscript: An anti-Vatican bias?

When the Roman Catholic Church admonished the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, we got mail. But just who wrote?

May 05, 2012
  • Nuns greet Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
Nuns greet Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. (Pier Paolo Cito / Associated…)

Responding to letters to the editor on the dust-up between the Vatican and a group of American nuns, reader Joseph S. David of Brea wrote:

"Is it liberal bias that The Times had one columnist and four letter writers castigate the Vatican for its recent call to liberal American nuns to reform, but no one to defend it?

"In truth, defense is unnecessary for the offense that is the liberal nuns: flaunting of Roman Catholic doctrines, unfaithfulness to religious vows and a misinterpretation of Vatican II. They forget that when the church's Magisterium (its teaching office) speaks, it is Christ who speaks, as he clearly told his apostles — then, as now to its critics, a 'male-dominated' church."

Letters editor Paul Thornton responds:

I can't speak to the theological issues David raises, but I'm happy to address the imbalance he perceives. The short answer: We didn't receive any pro-Vatican letters in time to be published.

It may be difficult to believe that, of the roughly three dozen readers who responded to Steve Lopez's April 22 column and The Times' earlier news story, not a single one supported the church's actions against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. But having edited the letters page for the better part of two years now, I've noticed a curious pattern: Responses expressing anger tend to come in more quickly and in greater numbers than those that do not. Don't ask me why.

This isn't to say the letters that did run were shrill and thoughtless. They were impassioned, to be sure, but their emotional zeal didn't come at the expense of their depth. One letter drew a historical parallel to a group of Los Angeles-based nuns who broke away from the church in 1970; another writer fondly recalled his childhood experiences with nuns as a Catholic school student.

Eventually, we did receive two responses from readers sympathetic to the church, but after the final batch of letters on the topic ran on April 27. And although the submissions arrived too late for the print page, their points were aired elsewhere. David's letter runs almost completely unedited in this space, and another letter siding with the church was posted on the Opinion blog and can be found at latimes.com/letters.

Whether a letter agrees with a columnist or editorial doesn't affect its chances of being published, and what runs on the page is generally a good reflection of the mix of opinions sent to letters@latimes.com. On some issues, those opinions will tilt decisively in one direction.

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