After CNA published a report on remarks Cardinal Francis George made about the disagreement between the Catholic Health Association and the U.S. bishops, Ms. Helen Osman, the Secretary of Communications for the bishops' conference denied the accuracy of the article. Nevertheless, the news agency stands by its report and maintains that it was corroborated by several bishops.
On June 16, CNA reported that Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), spoke about the fallout from the debate over the passage of the health care overhaul at an executive session of the bishops' spring assembly in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Cardinal George recounted the events that took place prior to President Obama's signing of the health care reform bill and then wrapped up his remarks by criticizing the Catholic Health Association (CHA) and its president and CEO Sr. Carol Keehan for creating a dangerous precedent of a parallel magisterium to the bishops.
Reiterating the bishops' opposition to the health care overhaul for failing to protect the unborn, offer access to immigrants and protect consciences sufficiently, the Chicago cardinal said that “Sr. Carol is mistaken in thinking that this is pro-life legislation.”
He also expressed his disappointment that CHA and other “so-called Catholic groups” had “weakened the moral voice of the bishops in the U.S.”
Cardinal George's comments were corroborated by several bishops who told CNA that they believed the remarks should be made known, given the concurrent CHA meeting being held in Denver, Colo.
However, on June 21, the Secretary for Communications of the bishops' conference, Ms. Helen Osman, wrote on the USCCB Media Relations blog accusing CNA of inaccurately reporting on the event, fabricating quotations and breaking confidentiality.
John Allen, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, published a story on the same day as CNA's report, in which he spoke with Cardinal George about the meeting he had just held with the bishops and the disagreement with CHA.
Cardinal George told Allen, “the dispute with the CHA involves a core ecclesiological principle 'about the nature of the church itself, one that has to concern the bishops' – namely, who speaks for the church on faith and morals?”
“The bishops have to protect their role in governing the church,”' the cardinal said.
Alejandro Bermudez, the executive director of Catholic News Agency, stated that “Allen's report validates CNA's reporting of the remarks made by Cardinal George at the executive meeting.”
“Most of the religious outlets who covered the disagreement between the bishops and CHA, such as Commonweal, America Magazine and the National Catholic Reporter, did not support the bishops decision to oppose the health care bill and criticized the USCCB, not based on our report, but on Allen's."
“What then is the reason for the outcry from Ms. Osman over their decision? Her post denying our reporting is disturbing, dishonest and unfairly selective, ” Bermudez stated, adding, “We stand by our report.”
“It is easy for Ms. Osman to claim she has proof of CNA's alleged dishonesty, and then say that she will not release the audio recording that would corroborate her claims. We support the release of the audio to see who is right."