Sin of omission in a Catholic press story?
Catholic News Service just picked up an interesting story from the Rockford, Illinois diocesan newspaper about the efforts of alums of a local Catholic high school to connect with Philomena Lee, the Irish woman on whose heartbreaking story the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena was based.
According to the CNS article, the alums of Boylan Central Catholic High School are seeking "to help a mom know her son" by sharing their memories of him. For that purpose they have created a new website, photosforphilomena.com.
As viewers of the popular movie know, when she was a teenager, Lee became pregnant and was sent to a convent, where she gave birth and then spent three years working in the laundry room. Lee’s son, Anthony, at age 3, was torn from her and, against her will, given up for adoption to an American family.
Anthony became Michael Hess and grew up in the Midwest, eventually attending Catholic grade school and Boylan High in Rockford. He would later go on to graduate from the University of Notre Dame, and he eventually became chief legal counsel to the Republican National Committee. His birth mother, Philomena, never saw him again.
What strikes me as pretty strange about the account in the CNS story—and the original article in The Observer, the newspaper of the Diocese of Rockford—is that it never even mentions a very poignant part of the story that figures prominently both in the movie and in the book on which it is based: namely that Hess was gay (although he didn’t publicly acknowledge the fact), and that he died of complications of AIDS at age 43.
Admittedly, the article was not a biographical profile of Michael Hess, but one really has to wonder if that omission was just an innocent “oversight” or if, in this day and age, it is still too much to ask of a diocesan newspaper—and Catholic News Service—editors to report such very basic and important facts?
As both the movie and the book recounted, Philomena “didn’t bat an eyelid” at the fact that her son was gay, but it seems that some Catholic editors still feel that’s too much for their readers to handle.