"The statue of St. Peter is seen as Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 14. (CNS/Paul Haring)
But I come to bury Douthat not to praise him, for his facts are nonsense, his arguments tendentious, and his thesis so absurd it is shocking, absolutely shocking, that no one over at Simon & Schuster thought to ask if what he writes is completely or only partially unhinged. I incline to the former adverb.
You would think that someone who works for a newspaper would be able to distinguish fact from fancy, to feel some sense of authorly responsibility for getting the story correct, have a nose for propaganda and insanity. In the case of Douthat's book, these attributes are missing. As I read my review copy, a paperback with no footnotes, I kept noting in the margins, "Source?" and "How would he know this?" and "That is not how bishops talk about one another." When the hardback arrived with the footnotes, I realized in the first instance that the sources were few, or a paragraph full of assertions would have a footnote that only referenced the last of those assertions. And among the sources were Life Site News, and Catholic World Report, an essay by John Zmirak and articles mostly from Edward Pentin, Sandro Magister and John Allen. If you are unfamiliar with these "sources," check them out. The first three are lunatic fringe, and the latter three display varying degrees of anti-Francis bias.