Friday, February 13, 2009

Beware the Google scholar!

[Note: Please see the comments below. This posting will be removed when the St. Benedict Center actually apologizes to the Holy Father and their readers for this incident.]

The St. Benedict Center, a religious order dedicated to promoting the teachings of the late Fr. Leonard Feeney, posted a blurb on their Web site last week proclaiming:

This Just in: Pope Says ‘Feeneyites’ OK

Wow, that's pretty big news for such a group. The "citation" given runs as follows:

With regards to those who hold strictly the absolute necessity of water baptism, it would be quite wrong to charge them with heretical constructs. As they merely assert that which was the near-universal consensus of the Patristic era, such a charge would be proximate to condemning all but a few of the Fathers as heterodox. (Der Glaube das Pimmelkopfgelauben, Communio April 1997 p 13. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.)

The quote has made its rounds. It appears at Fish Eaters, A Fearful Master, and miscellaneous other venues. That's how things make the rounds in the Internet. The quote was also picked up in a discussion thread over on the Catholic Answers Forum, where at least one individual who is well acquainted with the Holy Father's writings in Communio seemed to establish pretty conclusively that it never appeared in that journal. In addition, another poster on Catholic Answers had a German friend translate the "article" title; it turns out to be a rather crude swipe at the Cardinal.

So I did a little Google searching myself and found out—wow, what a surprise!—that this "article" is a hoax. A certain "Deacon Augustine" posting at the Angel Queen forum admitted that he had made it all up (and should indeed be well and truly ashamed of himself not only for the hoax but for his gross disrespect):

Johannus, pascendi and everyone else, I really must apologise to you all for the above "quote" I cited - please do not rely on it or cite it elsewhere.

It is entirely a spoof and my own invention, and was meant to be a satirical comment on what he might have said based on the "Razing the Bastions" type theology.

I was hoping the spoof source would have given it away, but I guess it looked too realistic and I should have put something like: (sarcasm).

Once again, my sincere apologies to anybody who took this seriously.
But notice: the lid on this hoax was lifted back in 2006. The St. Benedict Center is crowing about it in early 2009. Obviously, the writer there did not bother to try and validate the quote, since the same five minutes of effort on his part would have netted him the same information I found. Indeed, even worse, I alerted them to this hoax last week and, as of today, it's still up on their site. Pitiful.

And such are the dangers of the Google scholar. Lesson: always, always, always check your sources for accuracy, but especially if you got the information from the Internet.


thepalmhq said...

Looks like they took this article down over at the St. Benedict Center. That was the right thing to do.

Site Administrator said...

Perhaps you should correct your site as they did, Mr. Reluctant. They posted comments challenging the piece, said they were looking into it, and then removed the comments.

Isn't it fair for you to remove your defamatory comments, too?

thepalmhq said...

You know, I had noted that they took the piece down and I stated above that, "That was the right thing to do." It was right to take it down, but in truth the simple erasure still didn't set that well with me. When even secular newspapers get things wrong they print retractions. But it happens too often that when Catholic web sites get things wrong, they just quietly remove the material and pretend that nothing happened.

The St. Benedict Center printed false and defamatory information about the Holy Father, which action ended up getting it spread all over the Internet. They need to issue an actual retraction and apology.

If that happens then let me know; I'll be happy to revise the text above to reflect that.

Anonymous said...

What?! You're just going to believe "Deacon Augustine" that he made it up? Have you verified that?

BTW, I apologize for VII. I made it up. I'm really, really sorry. I thought it would be clear from the texts that it was sarcasm. I didn't realize it would get so far out of hand. Please don't quote VII anymore.

shane said...

Another example of this is the grossly mistranslated 'quote' given by many traditionalist critics of Bugnini: "We must strip from our … Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants."