The mystery of Manuel Roig-Franzia’s anti-Catholic bias

A key to unlocking the mystery of Washington Post writer Manuel Roig-Franzia and his animus towards Catholicism is the fact that he once called Henry Allen a c*cksucker. If we could solve the puzzle of the name-calling, which resulted in a fist fight, we may be able to pin down the reasons for Roig-Franzia’s liberal bias against the Catholic Church.

The incident happened in November 2009. Henry Allen, then a 68-year-old Style section editor and veteran journalist at The Post, was given a story by writer Monica Hesse. Allen called the piece “the second-worst piece I have seen in Style in 43 years.” Hesse allegedly asked for the story back and began to tear up, at which point Roig-Franzia, a veteran foreign correspondent who was born in Spain, wandered by. “Oh Henry,” he said, “don’t be such a c*cksucker.” At this point Allen, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, lunged at Roig-Franzia. Allen landed a punch to the face before the fight was broken up by Post editor Marcus Brauchli.

This is relevant because Roig-Franzia specializes in writing long, loving profiles of liberal dissenters in, and secular critics of, the Catholic Church. The latest, on September 21, was about Jason Berry, author of “Render unto Rome: the Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church.” Berry, writes Roig-Franzia, “chisels an image of his church that reads like an ecclesiastical version of recent Wall Street scandals.” This hosanna was only outdone last June, when Roig-Franzia offered a wet kiss in The Post to communist priest Ernesto Cardinal.

After the mash note to Jason Berry was published, I had three questions for Roig-Franzia. I called and emailed him wanting to know: 1) if he considers himself a liberal, 2) if he’s a Catholic and 3) what his views are on homosexuality.

These questions are relevant for several reasons. For one, it’s 2011. The era of reporters claiming objectivity is over. We are now in the age of disclosure. People recognize that a writer revealing his prejudices makes him more, not less, trustworthy. Doing so allows the writer to make sure he uses sources and presents arguments he may not agree with, and allows the reader to keep track of him doing so. It should not be an issue for Roig-Franzia to come clean on his politics. Seeing as he writes for the Style section of The Post, it’s not like readers don’t already know.

If Roig-Franzia is a liberal Catholic, it would account for his sponge-bath treatment of certain dissenters; indeed, it would explain his coverage of them to the exclusion of other Catholics. A week before Jason Berry spoke at Georgetown University, where Roig-Franzia interviewed him, Fr. Robert Barron, a popular orthodox Catholic priest, had a book signing at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. Fr. Barron has just completed a 10-part documentary on Catholicism. He is the author of several books, including the companion volume to the documentary, and is a popular personality on YouTube. The Washington Post was not at Fr. Barron’s book signing. Why not? It’s as if The Post still thinks that it’s 1980, that we can’t get information anywhere else and will therefore never get tired of reading it. The paper’s financial health, or lack thereof, should convince its management otherwise.