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.