Bishop Listecki praised for ‘Policy of Prudence’ regarding speakers in Catholic churches

In accordance with a 2004 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Lacrosse Wisconsin’s Bishop Jerome Listecki has instituted what his diocese calls a “policy of prudence” for speakers in Catholic churches--a move that is earning praise from some Catholic leaders.

According to the Diocese of LaCrosse, the new policy requires a potential speaker to submit a curriculum vitae to the bishop showing that he or she is in good standing with the Church. This would include, if applicable, a mandate for college and university professors and permission from their bishop, if a cleric, to celebrate the sacraments outside their diocese.

Bishop Listecki will review the documentation of all potential speakers on diocesan property.

“When we provide a forum for a speaker within our parishes or schools,” he said in a letter to the diocese, “the faithful have the right to expect that what they hear will be consonant with the teaching of the Church, and with the pastoral direction of the Diocese.”

In an interview with CNA, Diocesan Chancellor Benedict Nguyen said that “the idea behind the policy was to avoid difficult or embarrassing situations with speakers.”

Often, he said, “if something were to go wrong with a speaker, we’d usually find out after the person was already booked.”

He also pointed out that the policy is not one of censorship, but one that “allows the Bishop to exercise his canonical authority.” Asking speakers in Catholic churches to be in line with Catholic teaching, he said, “is not unusual.” 

Fr. Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life said Wednesday that he “thanks Bishop Listecki for exercising vigilance in the matter of the positions of speakers at Catholic events. When this relates to abortion, it is about more than defending the integrity of Catholic teaching. It's about opposing an act of violence that cuts across and transcends all religious beliefs.”

Bishop Listecki added that “As the Chief Shepherd of souls within the Diocese of La Crosse, the law of the Church obliges me ‘firmly to defend the integrity and unity of the faith to be believed’… As part of the fulfillment of this duty, it is important that I assist the pastors and those with pastoral authority in the Diocese to insure that guest speakers who come to teach the Catholic faithful do so with fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church.”

Recently, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix instituted a similar policy which disallows certain speakers from Catholic churches who publicly oppose fundamental Catholic teaching on issues like abortion and sexuality.

Nguyen commended Bishop Olmsted on his stance and said that similar policies are arising in dioceses across the country. He noted that LaCrosse’s is based largely on a similar policy in the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.

Bishop Olmsted in a recent editorial in the Arizona Republic said: “Why would we honor or give a platform to someone who radically disagrees with our fundamental teachings? We should instead be criticized if we allowed such things to happen.”

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