.- 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 dead end.”
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.”