A Sentinel reporter is chastised by his own newspaper in this unsigned 1995 editorial.
A Sentinel reporter is chastised by his own newspaper in this unsigned 1995 editorial.
From the Catholic Sentinel of Jan. 9, 2004:


Because of an editing error in the Dec. 12 issue, a letter to the editor from Rita Fox of Lebanon gave the name of a Portland FBI official as “Mrs. Robert Jordan.” Mr. Jordan, we are advised, is a male.

From the Jan. 1, 1922, issue:


To the Editor: In last week’s issue you printed that I was married. The report is “very much exaggerated.” Please print a correction in this week’s issue.


Sigh. For 152 years, we mostly got things right, but it’s the blunders that we remember and that make us laugh.

In January 1965, reader Arnold Sharp wrote an entertaining and pointed correction to the editorial page editor, Father Edmond Bliven, regarding the use of “Xmas”:

“Dear X Bliven: Our committee wishes to congratulate and thank you for the use of Xmas on the front page of your paper on Dec. 18. We are gradually winning our fight to make Xmas the completely secular holiday and this issue of the X Sentinel will be most helpful, as up till now we have experienced some resistance from your people.”

Earl Zak of Milwaukie piled on: “Of course you will defend your actions with the ‘tired old story’ that X is the Greek letter for Christ. May I respectfully point out that your paper is not written in Greek.”

You’d think we’d get the point. But in the Dec. 19, 2003, issue, an editorial read, “‘We got him’ a fine Xmas gift,” about American troops’ capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. An angry reader called to tell then-editor Bob Pfohman that the use of “X” in Xmas was a Satanic ploy to cross out Christ from Christmas. Pfohman, who himself had written the headline, replied that he would discover who on staff was responsible. “Heads will roll, Madam,” he assured.

The nonplussed caller said she didn’t want anyone to lose their jobs over the mistake.

“Too late!” Pfohman thundered. “Heads will roll!”

In 2000, it was Latin, not Greek, that snared the newsroom. Then-reporter Ed Langlois was writing a piece on the archbishop’s vocation camp, Quo Vadis. “Quo Vadis is Latin for ‘something in return,’” he helpfully explained to readers.


Reader Jim Shand later wrote, “Certainly Ed Langlois knows what Quo vadis really means ... .”


“I was thinking of ‘quid pro quo,’” Langlois explains now. “The men who have vocations give something in return. But golly, I was lazy not to check.”

Langlois clearly missed the famous book and the movies. It means “Where are you going?” and comes from the legend of a fleeing St. Peter meeting the risen Christ, who asks, “Quo vadis?”

Another language mistake that still irks Langlois came the following year. His 2001 article about the Baker Diocese’s new bishop had this lede: “Alt-hough he has served as a prince of the church for almost a year, Bishop Robert Vasa still has the hands and temperament of a farm boy.” After publication, Langlois quickly learned from many directions that “princes of the church” are cardinals, not bishops.

Overconfidence had tripped up Langlois early in his Sentinel career. In spring 1995, he reviewed the movie “Priest,” which concerns two Catholic clergymen who are decent ministers but unfaithful to their vows, one homosexual, the other heterosexual. No children were involved. Langlois interviewed several local priests who were at the showing and wrote what he thought was a balanced and nuanced piece suggesting that the film indeed had theological problems but did succeed in portraying priests as genuine human beings, a step forward. When archdiocesan administrators read the review, the roof almost blew off the chancery. It turns out that officials, none of whom had seen the film, would have preferred a more clearly condemnatory review, or no review at all. An unsigned editorial in the April 7 issue criticized Langlois by name, declaring, “Those who read the Catholic Sentinel have a right to expect a more critical appraisal of a film that attacks the very icons of the Catholic faith.”

Misreading — or mishearing — bishops’ thinking was the cause of two more well-remembered goofs.

On Sept. 9, 1994, the Sentinel reported that Oregon’s Catholic bishops op-posed Measure 13, which would have blocked state minority status for homosexuals. The problem is the bishops had withheld comment on Measure 13 — intentionally. The confusion came because two years earlier, the bishops had opposed a different but similar measure that was more strongly worded. A correction ran in the issue of Sept. 16, 1994, and the staffer who wrote the piece was so distraught over his mistake that he resigned.

The next blooper was comparatively harmless. When Archbishop Francis George gave his installation speech in 1996, reporter Langlois thought he heard the new prelate say he felt welcomed in Portland, “the greatest of cities.” The archbishop actually had been just as kind but not so superlative. He really had said “the most gracious of cities.” The archbishop, while miffed, was himself gracious about the mistake. Langlois, apparently a little too proud of his town, went in for hearing tests.

Sound-alike words had gotten the Sentinel before, on Sept. 10, 1976. The paper used the headline “Anti-Jewish Programs began long time ago.” But the story was about pogroms, not programs. Yikes.

Peeved pastors, not just bishops, have long been a good source of corrections for the Sentinel. The issue of March 6, 1924, omitted the contribution from Visitation Parish to the German Children’s Fund. Monsignor Anthony Hillebrand hurried to correct the omission, noting his parish’s donation of $172.97, about $1,700 in today’s dollars.

On April 6, 1990, the Sentinel ran “Blessed Sacrament Parish: A place to call home,” about the vibrant Ontario faith community, nearly on the Idaho border. The story began well enough, but in the fifth paragraph the reporter started calling the parish Sacred Heart. Proofreaders somehow failed to catch the error. The mistake was pointed out by the pastor, likely with a roll of the eyes.

Even photos can be landmines. Throughout the 1990s, Pfohman had the newest staff writer compile “parish notes,” calling every parish in the state and producing a page of briefs. This allowed the new staffer to become familiar with the entire archdiocese, plus the Diocese of Baker. It also meant that the page was put together by a newbie — which was how in November 1993 we ran a piece about Father Scott Vandehey, then pastor of St. Mary Parish in Eugene, leading a delegation to visit Mexico City. We ran the brief with a photo of Father Kelly Vandehey, then a seminarian. The paper heard about the error from Father Scott’s mother.

On Jan. 24, 2003, the Sentinel identified a man in a photo of an anti-war protest as Nicholas Mariana, co-founder of Portland’s Catholic radio station. The problem is, Mariana had died in 1999. The man in the photo actually was Mariana family friend Nurmi Husa.

Journalists often have trouble with numbers, as this 1984 Sentinel correction proves: “Boston's Archbishop-designate Bernard Law's new see has a lot of priests, but not 24,000 as stated in a Feb. 3 Sentinel editorial. A typo-graphical error swelled the figure from the correct number — 2,400 priests in the Massachusetts Archdiocese.

In the June 15 issue of 2018, staff reported that Father James Dieringer’s five sisters were women religious. That came as a surprise to the three who were long married.

— Kristen Hannum and Ed Langlois