writing for a “dissident” catholic publication

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mark 3:25

More and more issues continue to highlight the divisiveness in our church. Yesterday, discussion boards were hopping over an article by Bishop Robert W. Finn for the online version of his diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Key. In The Bishop’s Role in Fostering the Mission of the Catholic Media, Bishop Finn takes on the National Catholic Reporter, whose offices are located in his diocese. He writes,

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.

Thomas C. Fox, NCR Publisher, responded with an article titled Kansas City bishop says NCR undermines the faith,

NCR is proud to call itself a Catholic publication. We report and comment on church matters, including official teachings. We also report and comment on those who call into question some of these official teachings. Meanwhile, we belong to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ sanctioned Catholic Press Association. CPA judges have repeatedly cited us with awards for our coverage of the church.

As NCR editor-at-large (and former NCR editor) Tom Roberts recently wrote: “NCR’s bona fides rests on its nearly 50 years of professional journalism in service to the church … That both hierarchy and laity would find us, variously, a boon to faith and an annoyance, is to us a certain confirmation that we are fulfilling our intent to report the activity of the church as widely and deeply as possible.”

Not surprisingly, voices from both spectrums of the trad-lib scale were quick to either defend or denounce Bishop Finn’s judgment. Here are some of the more colorful descriptors given to the NCR by some of his supporters,

  • The NCR is contemptible
  • NCR is a scourge on the Holy Roman Catholic Church
  • This sorry rag is a nest of vicious ignoramuses who abuse the adjective “Catholic” while assiduously working toward the destruction of our Holy Mother Church
  • If Satan had started this paper himself, he couldn’t do a better job of destroying the faith of Catholics in the Catholic Church and God

Nasty? Yes. But I do give them points for creative use of the English language. One of my favorites, “this fishwrap of an excuse for a Catholic newspaper”, got my mouth watering with visions of fish and chips. Pass the salt and vinegar! 😉

Many Catholic women and men struggle with the ongoing abuse crisis, examples of dysfunctional leadership, and official church teachings on issues like women’s ordination, contraception, and same-sex marriage. The struggles and questions are not going to go away by stifling dialogue. Minds and hearts will not be changed with shouting matches, name calling and denouncements.

Many diocesan newspapers are replete with articles that revolve around the activities of the bishop. The only opinion pieces are those that come from the bishop’s desk, or are approved by him. The National Catholic Reporter, as an independent newspaper, presents national and international news both within and outside of the Catholic Church. Not beholden to diocesan public relations offices, they do not avoid the difficult news stories. And, they allow a dialogue to take place around the current head-lines.

This humble scribe is proud to be a wee voice within the NCR community.

11 thoughts on “writing for a “dissident” catholic publication

  1. Saddened, outraged…
    Where will it end? With an Inquisition?
    Same hatred, same ignorant dogmatism, same vehemence…

    Prairie Messenger next??

    1. Hi Gilles,
      Sadly, the Prairie Messenger has its share of critics, too. I hope and pray that both the PM and NCR have a long and fruitful life ahead of them. They both provide a much needed voice in our church.

      By the way….yours is the 1000th comment on this blog! Consider yourself showered with balloons, streamers, and happy music. Sorry, there’s no big prize with the honour…just my gratitude for you and all who make dialogue a reality on this blog. 🙂


  2. Isabella,
    I was reading about this yesterday. It appears that NCR must be on the right track if the “establishment” is getting all hot and bothered now. Many leaders of the institutional church seem to believe that oppression of the people in the pews, threats against priests, nuns and other religious who dare to speak out, silencing those voices that make them uncomfortable, will somehow keep God’s people “at bay”, submissive to the hierarchy.

    We are fortunate that NCR and writers like you exist. Not afraid to ask questions, not afraid to challenge, not afraid to dream what could be. And offering hope to many, many people in the church.

    1. Thanks, Anthony! It’s not always easy. Positive comments and letters, like yours, are a great affirmation and source of energy. Of course, there are the negative ones, too….and I’m having to learn how to thicken my writer’s skin. I keep telling myself that good or bad, a response is a sign that your words are being read and thought about.

      As to the NCR, there was a great comment on their discussion boards yesterday stating that the editors couldn’t have asked for better praise for their work then a condemnation from Bishop Finn! 😉

  3. I thank God that NCR is independent and can therefore shed light on issues that “The Powers That Be” wish to keep in the dark.
    “In the beginning God said let there be light.”

    1. Being independent is, indeed, a plus. One of the issues being discussed is whether the NCR has the right to use ‘Catholic’ in its name…with a big C. This is a major issue to consider. Who has the right to the Catholic name? Do you need permission from the hierarchy? Does the use of ‘Catholic’ come with the duty to never question or challenge? (notice the name on my blog uses a small ‘c’…so I hopefully avoided the problem.)

      1. Perhaps a copy rights lawyer will have to decide. I am beginning to wonder if the term has positive value

  4. Why does the Catholic Church not allow freedom of speech and expression of opinion? It is sad that we are expected to follow the rules and keep quiet even though the church has been wrong so many times in the past and they still want absolute obedience! Thanks Isabella for putting into words the thoughts of so many.

    1. Well said, Kathy! I keep coming back to the inconsistency of promoting dialogue with those outside the church, while stifling that same dialogue among her present members. Sigh…

  5. Oh how familiar I am with this controversy. Finn is my bishop. I canceled my subscription the the diocesan “Key” about a year after Finn arrived. Thank goodness for NCR and the many fine people from this publication. Our Kansas City Star ran an article in the religion section of Saturday’s paper abut a Lutheran church purchased and renovated by the Kansas City, Kansas diocese for 2 million dollars. It is a full regalia Latin church – just blocks from the Catholic Church serving the area for as long as I can remember. Our diocesan papers are full of steps to take to gain plenary indulgences and even the fact that they can be transferred to dead people. My friend returned from a visit to the Vatican and said she was embarrassed to be Catholic for all the gold covering everything there. Where is the example of Jesus in all of this.

  6. Sad indeed, Mary. I still hold on to the belief that our church is big enough to embrace a diversity of liturgical and worship styles, but so much about the promotion of the ‘full regalia Latin church’ just screams of regression. Expensive vestments and vessels, the emphasis on the hierarchical separation of ordained and laity, plenary indulgences….if it makes so many of us Catholics feel uncomfortable, what message does it give to others?

    Blessings to you and all the good people of the Kansas diocese. I know the hurt and anger that a dysfunctional bishop can bring to a diocese. It’s hard to ‘let it go’ or ‘rise above it’ when reminders of the dysfunction continue to surface all around you. In my case, the bishop is dead and gone. But, the hurt he caused remains.

Comments are closed.