Remembering Mary Richardson

This article is about a Boston journalist who died on December 30 of 2021. Our purpose in publishing it is not to speak gratuitously ill of the dead (we hope she rests in peace), but to take the occasion of her death and the accolades it has occasioned to draw the attention of our readers to a certain type of public Catholic. As an embodiment of that type, Mary Richardson was and is, sadly, far from alone. –Editor

I. A Secularized Catholic Journalist Mary Richardson, the New England television personality who hosted, for twenty-six years, the news magazine Chronicle, on Boston’s WCVB-TV, has died. She was 76 years old and had been suffering, for some time, from dementia.

Her passing ought to be a moment of reflection for the faithful, not only on the degraded standards of American journalism, but on the infidelity, careerist instincts and assimilationist ambitions of so-called progressive Catholics.

As Richardson, in a media career that lasted more than 37 years, never voiced a word of dissent from the fashionable prejudices and the neo-pagan orthodoxies of her professional class, she was showered with accolades at the time of her death.

The Boston Globe described her as “pioneering,” “groundbreaking,” and “award winning…” Co-host Peter Mehegan called her “fearless.” The headline on her death in led with the word “Beloved,” while WCVB characterized her, of course, as “legendary.” Such are the rewards of obedience.

Richardson was an archetype of a secularized, culturally conforming Catholic, who maligned the Faith in public, while maintaining a respectable standing in the Catholic community, and even enjoying comfortable relationships with mainstream Catholic institutions.

Mary Richardson received an Honorary Doctorate from Regis College, founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. She hosted the annual fundraising dinners for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus. The homosexualist Father James Martin was among those who lamented her passing:

Richardson was active with the Catholic Schools Foundation in Boston. After her retirement from WCVB, Caritas Christi, the Catholic hospital network in the Archdiocese of Boston, hired her as a community liaison.

All of this masked a television career marked by corrupt ethics, dishonest reporting and an ugly rancor directed against those who upheld the traditional Faith and morals of the Catholic Church.

II. Maligning The Faith In the early 1990’s, when media attacks on the Church in were reaching a crescendo, and when homosexual militants were targeting Catholic Masses for disruption and Saint Patrick’s Day parades for invasion, Richardson’s program Chronicle aired an episode dismissive of the claim that anti-Catholicism was increasing in American society.

With shameless, utterly breathtaking audacity, Richardson brought onto the program, as an expert talking head, the excommunicated ex-priest and venomous apostate, James Carroll, to discuss bigotry against Catholics. The author of The Deputy, Rolf Hochhuth, apparently, was not available.

By that time, Carroll had already authored a number of books excoriating the Faith, and had been writing, for a number of years, a weekly column in The Boston Globe, in which he would routinely savage Catholicism. His methods included reckless lies, unsourced quotes, and revisionist history that was more invention than scholarship.

Even Globe Editor Marty Baron, who directed the destruction of Cardinal Law, would later admit that hiring Carroll to write about religion was a mistake. Richardson however, carried on with the farce of interviewing the Catholic-hating Carroll, who explained, naturally, that anti-Catholicism did not exist in America.

When, in 2006, under pressure from Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts instructed diocesan Catholic Charities to stop facilitating the adoption of children by homosexual couples, another unethical journalist, Mike Barnicle, who had been fired by the Globe for plagiarism, came on Richardson’s program to call the Papal inspired defense of Christian morality “stupid, moronic, ignorant and bigoted.”

Richardson failed to disclose to her viewers, however, that a prominent member of the so-called WCVB family had a personal interest in this controversy. Former WCVB TV News Anchor Brian Leary was one of seven members of the board of Catholic Charities of Boston who resigned in protest over the Bishops’ decision. Leary called the ban on homosexual adoptions “morally repugnant and intellectually dishonest.”

Richardson’s most vituperative attacks however, were directed against the Saint Benedict Center and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and their founder, the late Reverend Leonard Feeney.

III. Targeting Father Feeney In the first of two Chronicle episodes slandering the reputation of Father Feeney, Richardson brought on to her program a vehement critic of Feeney from Boston College, who performed a grotesque caricature of the priest, mimicking his voice, while shouting anti-Semitic epithets.

No independent verification of the impersonator’s claims was either offered or sought, nor was any date or details of the alleged incident provided. No one who knew Father Feeney ever heard him utter such slurs, and Richardson did not bother to interview any still living witnesses to Feeney’s preaching who might rebut these defamatory charges.

In a second episode on Father Feeney, whom Richardson now called “The Hate Priest,” which aired in October of 2007, Chronicle broadcast an audio visual collage, presenting an unflattering image of Feeney, with a voiceover from the impersonator.

A viewer watching the program would would assume, naturally, that it was Father Feeney’s actual voice, and would, accordingly, conclude that the priest was a noxious bigot.

No broadcaster, with any integrity, would perpetrate such an unscrupulous deception, for such a malevolent purpose, on their own audience. What Richardson did was unjust, unethical and unprofessional. In any other circumstance, it would have been a firing offense.

For the American media oligarchy however, Father Feeney was beyond the boundaries of respectability, so even minimal norms of decency did not apply.

IV. Conforming Catholics in the Media It would be mistake, for the orthodox, to regard nominal Catholics in the media as philosophical adversaries, or to take seriously the strictly conventional views of their elite class on moral issues.

They are not ideologues or fanatics, just timeservers and social climbers. Conformity, not conviction, is what drives them. They do not have passion in their hearts, just a well placed finger in the wind. Talleyrand, not Robespierre, is their model.

It is not that they set out to reject Catholic beliefs, they just find it necessary to comply with the value system of their profession. They are less interested in saving their souls, as they are in keeping their pensions.

One of the mythologies of the media is that journalists comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are bullies to the weak and sycophants to the strong.

Pro-life advocates, pro-family activists and a priest who has been dead for four decades, can be insulted and derided with impunity. The Father Feeney treatment would never be extended, however, to a fellow media celebrity, to an attorney from a white shoe law firm, or to the Chairman of the State Street Bank and Trust Company.

It is easy to dismiss media personalities as combative people of modest intelligence. They are, however, careful calculators of power. They know who they can libel or slander without consequence, and they know who can injure their careers. They are judicious in their choice of targets.

Born Mary Claire Creehan, Mary Richardson was married to her third husband at the time of her death. Born in 1945, Mary Richardson was, like Jimmy Breslin, Martin Nolan and David Nyhan, pre-conciliar in her formation as a Catholic.

C. Joseph Doyle is the Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, and the Director of Communications for the Friends of Saint Benedict Center.