Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph announced his discouragement that the National Catholic Reporter has failed to live up to the “Catholic” portion of its name.
“In light of the number of recent expressions of concern, I have a
responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the
problematic nature of this media source which bears the name
'Catholic,'” he wrote in his Jan. 25 column for his diocesan paper, “The Catholic Key”.
His comments on the National Catholic Reporter came in the context of
World Communications Day, held on Jan. 24. He noted that the day is
celebrated then as it is the the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, patron
of journalists and the Catholic press.
Bishop Finn reflected on the role bishops play in fostering Catholic
media, and their responsibility over local media for the promotion and
protection of the faith.
The bishop noted that he is well-pleased with The Catholic Key and its
staff, who “use the paper to teach Catholic doctrine, to provide
trustworthy reflections on issues that take place in our culture, and to
provide stories of apostolic life and work – particularly from our
local diocese – that inspire us to live our Catholic faith more fully.”
Bishop Finn said he is similarly happy with the Catholic radio station
located in the diocese, KEXS 1090, for helping Catholics to “know and
live their faith.”
In contrast to these positive, faithful Catholic media outlets located
in the Kansas City-Saint Joseph diocese, Bishop Finn examined the
National Catholic Reporter.
“I have received letters and other complaints about NCR from the
beginning of my time here,” saod Bishop Finn, who was consecrated the
diocese's coadjutor in May, 2004.
He continued, “In the last months I have been deluged with emails and
other correspondence from Catholics concerned about the editorial
stances of the Reporter: officially condemning Church teaching on the
ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on
artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing
dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching,
and a litany of other issues.”
He noted that the problems associated with the National Catholic Reporter did not start under his time as bishop.
“Bishop Charles Helmsing in October of 1968 issued a condemnation of
the National Catholic Reporter and asked the publishers to remove the
name 'Catholic' from their title – to no avail. From my perspective,
NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have
not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.”
He noted that early on in his time as bishop he asked that the Reporter
“submit their bona fides as a Catholic media outlet in accord with the
expectations of Church law.”
“They declined to participate,” he wrote, “indicating that they
considered themselves an 'independent newspaper which commented on
'things Catholic.'' At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a
Bishop Finn wrote that “While I remain open to substantive and
respectful discussion with the legitimate representatives of NCR, I find
that my ability to influence the National Catholic Reporter toward
fidelity to the Church seems limited to the supernatural level.”
Noting Bishop Finn's column, Edward Peters, professor of canon law at
Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, posited that National Catholic
Reporter's use of “Catholic” in their title is canonically illicit.
“There is simply zero question about this assertion, for they 'claim
the name Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical
authority.' Second, once one is shown to be acting illegally under canon
law, a number of canonical responses to illicit activity come into play
including precepts, the invocation of penal law, and certain
sacramental consequences for organizational leadership,” Peters wrote
Jan. 25 at “In the Light of the Law.”
Bishop Finn's column concluded as it began, with an appeal to St. Francis de Sales.
Realizing that by natural means he has been unable to bring the
Reporter to fidelity to the Church, he wrote: “For this we pray: St.
Francis DeSales, intercede for us.”