The editor of the National Catholic Reporter responded to Bishop Robert Finn's warning that the publication undermines the faith by saying that paper confidently describes itself as Catholic.
“NCR is proud to call itself a Catholic publication. We report and comment on church matters, including official teachings,” Thomas Fox wrote Jan. 27 on the paper's website.
“We also report and comment on those who call into question some of these official teachings,” he said.
In a Jan. 25 column for his diocesan paper, “The Catholic Key,” Bishop Finn wrote that “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.'”
The National Catholic Reporter is based in Bishop Finn's Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph. As the local bishop, he noted his responsibility to “call the media to fidelity in the use of means of social communications.”
In his column, the bishop did not take issue with the paper's reporting, but with its editorial stances.
“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.”
For example, a Dec. 3, 2012 editorial appeared on the Reporter's site saying that “Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church.”
That editorial noted John Paul II's 1994 apostolic constitution, requiring definitive assent, that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood. The editorial stance noted, and disregarded, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's decision that the teaching requires definitive assent and is part of the deposit of faith.
The Reporter was established in the Kansas City-Saint Joseph diocese in 1964. Bishop Finn noted that four years later, in 1968, “Bishop Charles Helmsing...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.”
Canon 216 of the Church's Code of Canon Law says that while the Christian faithful may promote or sustain their own apostolates, “Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”
The Reporter's refusal to remove “Catholic” from their title contrasts with the attitude of other media organizations. In December 2011 Michael Voris' online network “Real Catholic TV” was requested by the Archdiocese of Detroit to remove “Catholic” from its name.
Shortly thereafter, in June 2012, Voris changed the name to “ChurchMilitant.TV,” complying with the request of the archdiocese where the website's content is produced.
Fox backed up the Reporter's claim to the title “Catholic” by saying that “Meanwhile, we belong to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ sanctioned Catholic Press Association.”
When it was pointed out that Catholic Press Association is not sanctioned by the U.S. bishops' conference, an editor's note was added to Fox's piece explaining that the sentence has been changed to “better reflect” the truth.
“Meanwhile, we are a part of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, an independent membership association comprised of Catholic media organizations and individuals,” it now reads.
The Catholic Press Association's code of fair practices state that the mission of an “authentically Catholic press is to inform and to form public opinion in conformity with the Truth and the pursuit of truth.”
Fox also supported his publication's Catholic status by pointing out that Bishop Finn's predecessor, Bishop Raymond Boland, interacted positively with the paper on two occasions.
“Once, Boland came to our Kansas City, Mo., office and blessed our building as we consulted with him about use of new emerging media technologies. Later, Boland spoke at NCR's 40th anniversary ceremony in Washington, D.C.”
In his Jan. 25 column, Bishop Finn's concluded his concerns with the paper by saying, “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. For this we pray: St. Francis DeSales, intercede for us.”