“Zero Question” – NCReporter’s use of “Catholic” in title is canonically illicit.

Finn was too kind to them.”

That is Prof. Ed Peters, canonist over at his fine blog, In The Light Of The Law.

Peters has written about the Bp. Robert Finn’s column about the National catholic Fishwrap… Reporter.  Bp. Finn, bishop of the place where the Fishwrap is headquartered, has finally called them out.  In effect NCR is not a Catholic paper or web source.

Thus, Peters…

Recognizing the National Catholic Reporter for what it is (actually, for what it isn’t)

Bp. Robert Finn (KC, MO) has a very good column on a local bishop’s responsibility over local media in regard to the promotion and protection of the Catholic Faith. [I wrote on that HERE] Most folks, however, will likely skim the first part of the essay, and go right for Finn’s critique of the National Catholic Reporter in the second.

In my opinion, Finn was too kind to them.

NCRep has carried on a steady tirade against ecclesiastical authority in general, and against numerous Church teachings in particular, for several decades, but the last few years have seen a shrillness that should discomfort even its dwindling number of friends. Besides my own efforts to reply to them (e.g., July 2010, October 2009, March 2009) Fr. Z’s blog has long served as a clearing house for reasonable, Catholic responses to the NCRep (what a thankless task that is). [You are welcome.] I won’t try to summarize his efforts here, but I will recall my own experiences of the unprofessionalism of the NCRep (March 2011, January 2011) and wonder again whether its one-time editor Joe Feuerherd ever retracted his 2008 “bishops be damned” screed in the Washington Post. If he did, I missed it.

Finn’s remarks re the NCRep focus on their use of the name “Catholic” in their title and it is here that he goes too gently, I think, against their continued use of that title. Finn writes: 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.” 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.”

First, I would have expressly argued that NCRep’s use of the word “Catholic” in their title is canonically illicit per Canons 216 and 300. 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. Not to mention, of course, those supernatural tools that a prayerful bishop thinks of first in times of trial. Thus, my opinion that Finn is being too kind; at the very least, there are more arrows in his quiver than a quick read of his essay lets on.

Anyone who follows American Catholic media issues knows that, over the years, some other groups using the name “Catholic” for their operations—groups with, frankly, a better claim to be Catholic than the NCRep could ever assert—have dropped that name when asked or directed to do so by ecclesiastical authority. Such actions speak directly to and well of their sensus Ecclesiae. [A good example is that of Michael Voris’s initiative.  The changed their name after a dustup with the Archd. of Detroit.  Say what you will about that dustup, but in the end Voris and company followed authority.  Fishwrap reviles authority.]

The most notorious and neuralgic refusal to comply, however, remains that of the National Catholic Reporter.

I’m all for the “consequences” phase now.  Forget the dialogue.

The New Evangelization also requires a sweeping of the floors.

Prof. Peters does not have an open combox.  I bet I know why!

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27 Responses to “Zero Question” – NCReporter’s use of “Catholic” in title is canonically illicit.

  1. Supertradmum says:

    I cannot imagine anyone on this blog disagreeing with Dr. Peters here!

  2. disco says:

    I have a great deal of respect for Bishop Finn. He got burned pretty badly a short time ago by the legal system and the Fishwrap called on him to resign. If he were to drop the hammer on them now it would look like payback. [No doubt that was part of their plan. That is why he has to do this.] We here know that the fishwrappers are a bunch of phoneys but the MSM is woefully and willfully ignorant of that fact, so the headlines would read “Bishop accused of protecting pedophile priest silences critics”.

    I don’t think he held back for political reasons or to keep further media scrutiny from himself, though. If that were his aim he’d have said nothing, which is what they wanted. No, Bishop Finn is working toward the day when excommunicating the editorial board of the Fishwrap won’t be necessary since it will have gone out of business.

  3. al007italia says:

    I’d honestly love to see consequences for the NonCatholic Reporter, but what?
    They were told in 68 to drop the name Catholic, we see how well they followed that. Their claim of being independent when asked to show their bona fides shows how much they respect his authority & would submit to it.
    Any penalty would be shrugged off as they would find plenty of dissident priests to allow them to continue playing Catholic.
    I am all for Bishop Finn imposing all the canonical penalties they deserve for their continued obstanance. I just wish I could see how they would have an effect in stopping the NonCR.
    It will take a miracle of Divine intervention, which is what I suspect Bishop Finn is praying for.

  4. wmeyer says:

    The New Evangelization also requires a sweeping of the floors.

    Amen to that! My former parish is offering classes in adult ed this spring in which all of the materials are writings of dissidents. My current parish astonished me with 15 EMHCs at the 8:45 Mass last Sunday. And has made a permanent place for a drumset at Mass.

    We are often chided for challenging the things we see as wrong. Often we are told it is “only a small thing”, and does not, or should not, affect “our walk with Jesus.” Perhaps true, for any one of these, in isolation. But taken as a lot, they are a consistent set of Modernist errors, and cannot properly be ignored. Moreover, if these were such small things, why was it so essential that the changes be made decades ago? The fact that they were made puts the lie to the current dismissive response.

    We must pray for our priests and bishops, always. And we must also remind them that we do see what is real.

  5. Quirinus says:

    “Strike one to educate one hundred”, that’s what Chairman Mao said, to quote an author vastly more popular among the Fishwrap’s editors and readership than the Successor of Peter. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time we overcame our pre-Conciliar, patriarchal, intolerant impermeability to non-Catholic doctrines and learned from distant brothers those things than can foster oneness within the People of God.

  6. BillyHW says:

    What’s so great about Ed Peters’ blog?

    He went after RealCatholicTV without disclosing that he works for the Archdiocese of Detroit. It’s nice to see him finally acknowledge, however subtly, that he and his boss were wrong about about them, after all, the very fact that they changed their name is proof that they deserved to keep it.

    And has Ed Peters ever apologized for going after Fr. Guarnizo with his incorrect analysis of that entire incident? Whatever happened to Fr. Guarnizo? He has been completely forgotten.

    [Because you are such an expert in canon law that you can do a better job? Right. Agree with him or disagree with him, he is a well-known canonist with good credentials. This is a rabbit hole of the worst kind and it is hereby closed. This entry is not about the quality of Ed Peter’s blog. Or did you miss that?]

  7. Glen M says:

    What’s noteworthy in comparing Bishop Finn’s statement against the NcR and Michael Voris’ ‘dust up’ with his diocese is that to my knowledge Voris has never said anything contrary to doctrine. Some people find his style on the Vortex ‘uncharitable’ but of course that’s just plain subjective. The same criticism could be made against many saints and even Jesus. [No. Not Jesus. That would be blasphemy, wouldn’t it?]

    The NcR was rebuked by their bishop in 1968 yet continues to be supported by individual Catholics, parishes, and even Chancery Offices. Perhaps back in the 70s & 80s people just didn’t know about this:

    “In 1968, NCR’s ordinary, Bishop Charles Herman Helmsing “issue[d] a public reprimand for their policy of crusading against the Church’s teachings,” condemning its “poisonous character” and “disregard and denial of the most sacred values of our Catholic faith.”[11] Helmsing warned that NCR’s writers were likely guilty of heresy, had likely incurred latae sententiae excommunications, and because the publication “does not reflect the teaching of the Church, but on the contrary, has openly and deliberately opposed this teaching,” he “ask[ed] the editors in all honesty to drop the term ‘Catholic’ from their masthead,” because “[b]y retaining it they deceive their Catholic readers and do a great disservice to ecumenism by being responsible for the false irenicism of watering down Catholic teachings.”[11][12]

    NCR refused to comply with its ordinary, and 66 Catholic journalists signed a statement disagreeing with the condemnation based on its “underlying definition of the legitimate boundaries of religious journalism in service to the church.”[13] The Catholic Press Association reported that the dispute arose from a difference of opinion regarding the function of the press.””
    Wikipedia

    Perhaps those who support this dissident publication today aren’t aware of its risks. It is the duty of the faithful blessed with the gift of knowledge to change this situation. If the NcR is sold in your church you have to take action. Go speak to the pastor and give him the benefit of the doubt. Ask if he’s aware of Bishop Finn & Helmsing’s stance. That might be all it takes. If not, if the pastor strongly supports the NcR then you’ve got a bit of a problem. You may have to take the matter to your bishop, but do so properly.

    The Church isn’t going to repair itself and it won’t be done quickly. For things to change people of good will have to do something other than moan and complain in comboxes and blogs. Don’t put the onus on the clergy because they have enough to do already.

  8. Robert of Rome says:

    The Non-Catholic Reporter should be referred to at all times as a schismatic newspaper.

    [Good one. That’s a plan.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. mamajen says:

    After perusing their advertising pages, I’ve discovered their website and newspaper are not nearly as popular as I would have thought. With so many legitimate news outlets struggling in this day and age, NCR is a problem that may take care of itself before too long. It is frustrating to see how many “Catholic” organizations are wasting big money advertising there. I suspect it might be an exercise in futility as their advertisers are probably of the same ilk, but contacting advertisers is a good way that regular people can try to do something about the situation. Sometimes organizations pay someone else to place their ads and they don’t know where they’re actually placed. They might like to know. Unless NCR have some very generous donations coming in, ad money is everything.

  10. mamajen says:

    Okay, I just did the math and 0.13 percent of U.S. Catholics subscribe to NCR.

    Their website readership is slightly better at 0.32 percent.

    LOL

  11. Scott W. says:

    Okay, I just did the math and 0.13 percent of U.S. Catholics subscribe to NCR.

    Their website readership is slightly better at 0.32 percent.

    LOL

    Exactly. We can’t completely ignore dissent, but at the same time there is something to be said for letting the tick-tock solution take care of it.

  12. dcs says:

    Is it really that clear that the NCR does not have consent of the Ordinary to use the word “Catholic” in their name? I think one could argue that since they have never been penalized for such use, they have at least the tacit consent of Bp. Finn.

  13. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    May I peak down the rabbit hole long enough to reply to the anonymous and offensive assertions of “BillyHW”? If not, I’ll understand. Your call, Pater.

    What’s so great about Ed Peters’ blog? NOTHING. IGNORE IT AS YOU SEE FIT.

    He went after RealCatholicTV without disclosing that he works for the Archdiocese of Detroit. MY EMPLOYER IS, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, LISTED EXPRESSLY ON MY BLOG AND WEBSITE. IT’S IRRELEVANT TO MY CANONICAL ARGUMENTS, BUT IT IS MADE, FWIW. It’s nice to see him finally acknowledge, however subtly, that he and his boss were wrong about them, after all, the very fact that they changed their name is proof that they deserved to keep it. I DENY ALL OF THIS. TALK ABOUT RABBIT HOLE, ‘NUF SAID.

    And has Ed Peters ever apologized for going after Fr. Guarnizo with his incorrect analysis of that entire incident? Whatever happened to Fr. Guarnizo? He has been completely forgotten. NO APOLOGY IS REQUIRED. MY ANALYSIS WAS CORRECT. SOME FOLKS HAVE TROUBLE DEALING WITH THAT.

  14. Matt R says:

    dcs the bishop of KC-St Joseph in 1968 ordered them to calling themselves Catholic. They disobeyed, and the civil courts refused to take the side of the bishop. Therefore, it is canonically illicit.

  15. Athelstan says:

    Dr. Peters,

    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.

    I can’t think that Bishop Finn is ignorant of this. (Well, I hope not.)

    Of course, it’s possible. My suspicion is that he thinks it would be counter productive to bar the NcR staff from communion – that he would face too much blowback, especially from those critical of his leadership since the conviction on connection with the Ratigan affair.

    I’d still do it – not to change their behavior (which seems obstinate) but to address the public scandal of their assaults on the Church.

    Hello Scott,

    Exactly. We can’t completely ignore dissent, but at the same time there is something to be said for letting the tick-tock solution take care of it.

    The problem is that, based on profitability, they ought to have gone out of business years ago.

    But they’ve been able to find benefactors to keep them afloat. I don’t think we can count on financial insolubility deriving from a “biological solution” of its aging readership (average age as of 2005: 69). They will probably find a way to keep staying afloat for years to come. I’d rather not wait to act.

    But that is for Bishop Finn to decide, and he has decided not to act – at least not canonically.

  16. Mamajen has a point. I remember sometime a few years ago seeing that the NcR’s number of subscribers was nearly unchanged compared to 40 years ago, and that the average age of their readership had advanced some 40 years. Does it not seem to follow that their subscriber base is made up of the same individuals?

    And Mr Peters has a good point. It would be hard to pull off without seeming like retribution, but is something that needs doing nonetheless.

  17. Scott W. says:

    Fair enough Athelstan. I think my point is rather that a bishop not pulling out every canonical stop available does not amount to a dereliction of duty.

  18. mamajen says:

    I definitely don’t think that anyone should ignore them, I just find it humorous that they’re not nearly as influential as they would have people believe.

    I don’t think the bishop should let concerns about blowback prevent him from doing something concrete about the situation. The only people who would complain are the ones who aren’t on his side to begin with, and their numbers are insignificant. These people have become accustomed to getting more power and validity than they deserve, and it’s time for that to stop.

  19. Stumbler but trying says:

    The NcR…every time I read about some ruckus they are causing I always ask myself, “Gosh, those old folks still around?” Perhaps, like the sisters of the labyrinth, they too, will one day retire into oblivion. In the meantime, I am praying for their conversion/salvation/return to the fold of truth.
    I agree with the kind Bishop though and am glad he’s called them on the rug…needs to be done more often.

  20. Allan S. says:

    At a minimum, Bp. Finn should declare the paper to be an anti catholic organization under canon law and for it it’s presence or distribution on any diocesan property, and forbid any diocesan cleric from cooperating in any way with the publication, and publish this on a static web page labeled “The NCR is not Catholic”

    As for the blowback or allegations it would be payback, so what. Bishops are supposed to be hated. They hated Me before you, etc. So what? He can line up USCCB and Rome first if he wishes, but just do it already.

  21. Allan S. says:

    Ugh. Spell check… For it = forbid

  22. al007italia says: I am all for Bishop Finn imposing all the canonical penalties they deserve for their continued obstanance. I just wish I could see how they would have an effect in stopping the NonCR.

    What always gets ignored is the salutary effect of canonical penalties on the laity. The fact is, it is edifying to see the guilty being punished. It is disedifying and demoralizing to see them proceeding along their evil course, year after year, with impunity. That is why it is wrong to refrain from imposing canonical penalties on the (questionable) assumption that it will not make the guilty parties change their behavior.

  23. EVERYONE:

    Just an FWI and FWIW….

    Really think before posting.

    I am pretty tired and, therefore, just a little edgy… no… cranky.

    I don’t have a staff that minds the store when I am on the road or occupied.

    If you make me work because your comment is a rabbit hole or pursues a rabbit hole I closed, I’m going to take the path of least resistance and just delete your comments and then put you into perpetual moderation or delete your posting ability.

    ‘K?

    I’ll be better rested soon.

    Have a nice day.

  24. The Masked Chicken says:

    Hey, lay off the National Catholic Reporter paper, will ya?

    I have found it to be of an excellent quality – very strong, yet soft, water absorbing, but resistant to wrinkling. There is simply nothing finer to rest my tired rear end on in the coop and maybe I know several others who feel the same way.

    What? The words? Oh, that…

    Well, excommunicate the writers, but for the love of birds, chickens, cats, and rabbits (ah, this is a rabbit hole that is allowed, eh?):

    Keep the Paper!

    The Chicken

  25. dcs says:

    @Matt R.,

    I know the NCR’s Ordinary in 1968 asked them to stop calling themselves “Catholic” (one can read the text of his condemnation on the Internet), but I don’t know that he ordered them to do so.

    I’d be interested to read more about the civil suit brought by Bp. Helmsing against the NCR. Do you know where one might be able to read more about that?

  26. Matt R says:

    dcs, that is a question for a canonist. In my view, I think when your bishop asks you to do something, you do it since you are obedient to him as the local bishop, unless some part of the law supersedes it.

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