For some time now I have been getting emails and phone calls from friends with reports that someone who writes for the National Catholic Reporter aka Fishwrap, Phyllis Zagano, has been sniffing around looking for dirt about me. Zagano hasn’t always represented herself to them as a writer for the Fishwrap, of course. She also called my mobile phone, and a land line I check. She has sent me emails with lists of questions, but without any adequate explanation of why she is asking them. Even on Sunday afternoon, yesterday, she left me a threatening voicemail.
Phyllis Zagano, when she isn’t promoting the ordination of women deacons, spends her energy on smearing Catholic bishops and undermining the Church’s hierarchy.
You might recall that in June on the site of the NCFishwrap she drew a moral equivalence between Arnold Schwarzeneger (unfaithful husband), Anthony Wiener (odd-ball misuser of Twitter), Dominque Strauss-Kahn (accused, possibly falsely, of attempted sexual abuse) and Egyptian businessman Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar (accused of sexually abusing a hotel maid) and, wait for it, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. Obvious connection, no? NO?
What is obvious is that
- the Fishwrap‘s offices are in Kansas City and
- I stood up to defend Bishop Finn. Here.
When Phyllis wrote her smear of Bp. Finn, I called for an apology from the NCR – which may or may not have paid her for that piece. I wasn’t alone in calling for an apology either. Here are pieces on Catholic Exchange, Catholic News Agency and the Catholic League.
Look, we can bicker about issues and argue positions back and forth. She smeared Bp. Finn with a personal attack.
Zagano didn’t like my call for an apology to her yellow smear of Bp. Finn. So now it is my turn. It’s payback. She is going to write a piece to smear me, because I called her on her smear of Bp. Finn.
Furthermore, Zagano also wrote a piece elsewhere against Bp. Robert Morlino of Madison, WI, whom I have also defended and praised. Here. It appeared in – I am not making this up The Presbyterian Outlook, though it also says Religion News Service.
And now that I think of it, she wrote against Bp. Olmsted of Phoenix too… hmmm.
Think about it. If that is the company she is placing me in, with Finn and Morlino and Olmsted, then I’m damn proud to stand with them.
That is the context.
“But Father! But Father!”, you are now asking. “What dirt is Phyllis digging for?”
She has been calling everyone under the sun asking mainly, it seems, about my canonical status. Am I really a priest? Am I in good standing? Why do I live where I live?
She has been threatening in her phone calls to people I know that she is going to write about me.
Oooooo! That should increase my blog’s traffic for a few days! Perhaps I can sell more Mystic Monk Coffee for the Wyoming Carmelites?
To be fair, as I said, she wrote emails also to me with these questions.
I haven’t responded. What good would that do, given her view on things? I should expect anything other than malice from her after her treatment of Bp. Finn? She and her employer – does the Fishwrap pay her or is this her hobby? – are dissenters from the Church’s teachings. They attack bishops. They distort.
But Zagano has now been using either her mobile minutes – or perhaps the resources of her employer – to try to dig up dirt on a Catholic priest who asked her for an apology when she smeared a Catholic bishop.
I will now help her out a little.
Actually, let’s do this in the form of “Priests 101”, a topic not well-understood by NCFishwrap and promoters of women’s ordination.
I am a priest in good standing in the Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri-Segni in Italy. This is one of the little ancient dioceses encircling Rome, thus “Suburbicarian”. My name appears on my diocese’s website in the list of diocesan priests. Unlike poor Roger Maris, I have no asterisk by my name. I have faculties to say Holy Mass (can. 903), to preach (can. 764), and to receive sacramental confessions (can. 969.1).
I am living, with the knowledge and consent of my bishop and his predecessor, outside my diocese and in the United States. I am working on my doctoral thesis, working on the internet, writing as a columnist for different publications, and giving talks at conferences and other events.
I am not engaged in any official external apostolate where I live. I have no assignment. I haven’t sought anything on top of what I now do. I can barely make headway on my thesis as it is! (It’s about the figure of David as an exemplum of civic virtues between Augustine and Ambrose, by the way, for the Augustinianum.) Since I am not functioning publicly in any way as a priest within the diocese where I live, I do not need the faculties of the diocese and therefore I have not sought them. I have been in the diocese with the knowledge of the last two bishops of the place. I don’t know what the present bishop knows. I haven’t been in touch. [UPDATE: Since I originally posted this, the situation is changed. I have full faculties of the Diocese of Madison and I am publicly functioning in various capacities.]
Think about it this way. If a priest goes fishing in another diocese or, say, goes to a condo he buys for retirement in Florida and never functions publicly as a priest there, he doesn’t need the faculties of the local diocese. If he travels to another place and stays there, even for some time, and yet never functions as a priest there, he doesn’t need to inform the diocese or obtain anything from them. He can say Mass privately and go about his business as it pleases him and his own bishop back home. This is something that Ms. Zagano doesn’t seem to understand, and she has apparently allowed her less-than-well-informed imagination run wildly down a steep path.
She has also been asking if I have obtained “temporary faculties” in places where I have visited. For example, because I have gone to place X for a few days, she thinks I needed faculties from place X. Back to “Priests 101”. The Church’s law on this matter says that, when the rector or parish priest of a place does not know the visiting priest, then he is to look at his celebret, etc. If the priest is known to the pastor or rector, this move is not required. I am pretty well known to my friends where I have visited, and when necessary, because of diocesan concerns or restrictions, I have provided my most recent correspondence from my bishop confirming that I am a priest in good standing and that I have faculties. And, for Phyllis’ edification, there really isn’t such a thing as “temporary faculties” when it comes to a brief visit to a place.
As far as my “celebret” is concerned, I can say this. I had for a while a page of my bona fides linked on the blog. When I had to entirely rebuild the blog because the software couldn’t support my theme, I lost some things and didn’t get around to replacing them. One of them was the bona fides page. However, on that page was a scan of my celebret (with a photo of skinnier me), which was signed for a three year period expiring in 2008. The celebrets of my Italian diocese stated – at least in that old format I originally received and renewed from 1991 onward – that the priest has faculties to say Mass, preach and receive confessions. Not all celebrets state that. Some just ask the reader to let the priest say Mass… thus, Latin subjunctive “celebret… let him celebrate”. Subsequent to that I have correspondence from my bishop from 2009 and 2011 confirming that I have faculties. I have shared that with priests when I have traveled and have been asked for it. What Phyllis and others don’t understand is that the “celebret” is the NOT same thing as the faculties. If a celebret expires that means that the celebret is expired, not the faculties. It is not like a driver’s license. It is more like a diploma than a driver’s license. Faculties are demonstrated in various ways and the celebret is just one of those ways. Priests who never travel outside their diocese often don’t even have a celebret. That’s why I have other recent correspondence from my bishop. I have actually asked for a new celebret, but that’s the way my bishop is working right now for whatever reason. Maybe they ran out of the forms. It’s Italy, after all. Anyway, I will share the other correspondence and even my old celebret with priests who invite me and with bishops if they want.
As far as my lack of desire to put out there exactly where I live is concerned, let me put it this way. Sometimes what I have written on the blog has drawn some pretty threatening email, including on one occasion someone sending me a photo of my house with very uncomplimentary comments. A priest of my acquaintance was murdered. I have had concerns about my safety. I take threats seriously and do something about them.
That said, diocesan priests don’t have to report to the National Catholic Fishwrap about who they are, what they do and where they go. The Fishwrap demonstrates time and time again that they have no respect for priests and bishops. There can be no good or pure motive for Phyllis Zagano to be harassing my friends and leaving me threatening voice mail.
Ironically, while liberals promote heresy and disrespect for the Church’s laws, they invoke those laws when they think they can use them to hurt someone they hate.
I stood up to defend a fine bishop in his time of need. NCR‘s Zagano now attacks me. Coincidence?
But I am willing to stand and take bullets for any American bishop I respect.
Another point. One of the people who wrote to me about a phone call from Zagano said she brought up the issue of Fr. John Corapi. Get it? Huh? Get it? Get it? The insinuation is that because Corapi and I were ordained together, and because he well… you know… then maybe Fr. Z…. well … you know. Piffle. Corapi and I were ordained together along with 60 other men – no women – and, at the time, I didn’t know him. But the fertile imagination of Phyllis makes a connection.
Anyway, dear readers, while I have been happy to write about many of the things I do and many aspects of my life, I haven’t wanted to make my blog all about me or my personal journey or concerns. I, like you, have a path to walk and choices to make from time to time, and some of them are hard and take time and care. Sometimes I ask for prayers, as a fellow Christian will dare to do. But I leave many things I am doing or going through aside, so as to focus on the really serious questions, such as whether we can use pine nuts or walnuts in making pesto. A serious question? Of course! But it is a question that doesn’t involve deeper issues of my life or future plans.
Zagano, however, in a break from attacking a bishop for a change, has decided to harass me, my friends and many others, looking for dirt on me. Alas, I am not very interesting.
If she wants dirt, I have a garden that needs some weeding. She is not invited to stay for supper.
So, friends. I don’t know when this dishy article will be unleashed to my chagrin and embarrassment. She has been saying “sooooon!” One of my friends told me that she said she was just waiting to click the key! Not true, as it turns out, but … well… she’s consistent.
Perhaps we should have a pool? Guess the date of publication and win, say, a pound of Mystic Monk Coffee? The problem is, I have so many readers that that could get a little spendy for me. And I can’t track who uses my voting app.
Oh, yes, that’s another thing. Since I am living outside my diocese, I have been living solely by what I earn by writing, by what I gain from your kind donations, and by the kindness of an important benefactor. I am, in short, a working beggar, and have been happy to be one. Being involved as I am pioneering a new form of ministry, and being outside my diocese, I have no support and I haven’t asked any from my bishop. I pay my own insurance, groceries, etc., cook for myself, clean for myself, do my own laundry. I keep it pretty simple. [Since I originally posted this, this is all still true! Pioneers make their way!] I, like you, am rather alarmed about our future, given what is going on, too. The main difference between me and most of you is that I am also a Roman Catholic priest in good standing and, therefore, I say Mass every day, and my office, and I do everything I can with my meager powers to uphold the Church’s Faith and teach it without error. If I say anything by mistake that strays from the Church’s teaching, I hope to be corrected charitably.
Unlike the Fishwrap and Phyllis Zagano. They don’t accept correction.
But back to the point. What should we do to celebrate my lynching by Zagano and the Fishwrap? I think a poll is in order, if not a pool. Perhaps your “protest the Fishwrap” donations could provide enough for me to send the winner who emails me with the closest date and verifiable time of the appearance of her exposé, and the runners up, some WDTPRS swag, Mystic Monk Coffee, and perhaps a subscription to The Wanderer or The Catholic Herald. The grand prize could be a case of Zagnut candy bars! Remember them? (Buy through my link now and I’ll get a percentage.) I am not sure how to determine a winner. Lemme think about the pool. Send me email suggestions, perhaps?
But we can have a poll right away!
Friends, there is going to be a lot more of this sort of thing in the future. Liberals, dissenters and secularists hate the Church’s teachings, and so they attack those who defend the Church’s teachings. They try to intimidate people into silence, much as attackers do to the victims of rape or of assaults. This is a common tactic of the left in politics as well. Attack the person not the position. Intimidate.
I don’t think we should lie down and let them trample us and our Faith.
If you defend the defenders of the Church, her enemies will seek to smear you too. Pray for our bishops and priests, especially me. And please, I ask in sincerity, pray for Phyllis Zagano.
I’ll keep the combox open on this one, for now at least. However, I really don’t want to see any personal bashing of Ms. Zagano. No personal, ad mulierem, attacks on her. Period. We won’t use their tactics. If you post something mean, I will delete the comment and suspend your posting ability and perhaps even pray that your guardian angels read NCR articles to you in your dreams for the sake of penance. Let’s keep this nice and clean.
Also, I’ll probably close the combox if I am going to be away from my computer for a longish period. I am sure you can empathize.
I’ll leave the donation box open, too! The last time, you were really helpful and I remember donors in my prayers and at Mass.