Michael Sean Winters, Snakebit Scribe

By Nicholas G. Hahn III

When the Catholic Press Association named Michael Sean Winters's National Catholic Reporter blog as last year's "Best Online Blog," it gushed that the author's writing is "impressive," "very lively," and "demonstrates consideration for a broad range of opinions."

Has the Association actually read anything by Michael Sean Winters? I'm skeptical.

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A cursory review of Mr. Winters's posts reveals him to be a habitual name-caller. Papal biographer and theologian George Weigel is "noxious." Bishop Thomas Paprocki is "pathetic." The National Rifle Association is "poisonous." Canon lawyer Ed Peters is "pernicious." Catholics who opposed Pope Francis's washing of female feet on Holy Thursday were "insane" and "crazy." (Although, he may have a point there, as this website's editor Jeremy Lott also ridiculed fears of this "dangerous bisexual foot-washing anarchy.")

Winters's trademark retort to conservatives is to denounce them as "venomous." Winters's favorite foe is George Weigel, who he claimed had "special venom" for former Democratic congressman Fr. Robert Drinan. Then, there are the predictable culprits: Vice President Dick Cheney, venomous. The Tea Party, venomous. The Thomas More Law Center, venomous. Audit the Catholic Campaign for Human Development? Venomous. Winters again used the moniker, "venom," for National Review editors who opined against comprehensive immigration reform. Archbishop Charles Chaput, and others, spat "venom" when they criticized Notre Dame University's decision to bestow an honorary degree on President Barack Obama. Almost any criticism, for that matter, was "venomous."

It is hard to find an instance where Winters engages critics of President Obama without mentioning their "venom." Not even Richard Nixon endured "more venom, more irrational hatred." Winters's heart bleeds for black Catholics, who he knows feel the "pain" of the "venom" directed at Obama. In a single post where Winters attacks allegedly xenophobic and racist Obama critics, the word "venom" appears not once, not twice, but four times!

Perhaps no one has spewed more venom, according to Winters, than author and frequent RealClearReligion contributor George Neumayr. When Donald Cardinal Wuerl reprimanded a parish priest for denying Communion to lesbians, Neumayr took the Cardinal to task over it and threw Winters into a tizzy. Winters devoted a post to each item Neumayr wrote about the affair and each time condemned Neumayr's "anti-Bishop," "disturbing," and "shocking" venom.

When Neumayr recently challenged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' immigration activism as too political, Winters asked "What planet is Mr. Neumayr living on?" Neumayr is deeply "confused," Winters complained; and no, he didn't forget to again remind readers of Neumayr's "venom."

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of my own run-ins with the venom vanquisher. Winters once recommended I be "deported" for, like Neumayr, opposing the clericalism of some Bishops. He railed against the "bile" in my piece, but surprisingly didn't label any of it as venomous. I've been accused of "inquisitorial venom" before, but it's just not the same if it doesn't come from Michael Sean Winters.

So, what gives? Is Winters trying to prove he's an insufferable incarnation of Saint Patrick, banishing snakes and their venom from the land? One explanation may lie in Winters's revealing suggestion that Neumayr "go back to school." Ah, yes. The antidote to stupid conservatives and their venom is re-education.

Read Winters's blog regularly, as I do (and yes, I'm putting in requests for hazard pay), and you'll notice certain things. The omitted words, amusing typos, yawn-inducing titles, the prayer requests for his St. Bernard; it is all too disappointing for a purported public intellectual.

The bottom line is that this is a man with a truly limited range of expression.

Nicholas G. Hahn III is the Editor of RealClearReligion. Follow him on Twitter @NGHahn3.

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