Wherein Fr. Z’s spidey sense is tingling. Help requested.


This image, by the great Vincenzo, brings back memories. VINCENZO! WHERE ARE YOU?

UPDATE: See below!


My spidey sense is tingling.

I’m having a flashback… but the details are a little vague.  I need the help of the readership with this.  You have long memories and can find stuff when you work together.

What brought this on?

The catholic Left is making more and more noises about repressing opinions that don’t coincide with their own.  They are sending out whistles and signals.  Some of them say they are tired of converts voicing opinions.  That’s because converts tend to disagree with them.  There are calls for Church authorities to “neutralize” people who don’t agree with the Left and to have them “purged“.

suspect the Left’s next move will be something along the lines of calling for official guidelines or even legislation to “control” what is published (i.e., squelch opposition), a sort of  Fairness Doctrine.

Such guidelines would be unenforceable, of course, but then they would have a sanctioned fire hose with which they could blast Catholics who dared to stand up to them.

And in calling for such a thing, they would, again, betray their hypocrisy.

This is where you readers come in.  I have a fragment of a memory that you must fill in.

Waaay back in the day, during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II – of happy memory – the late Archbp. John Foley for many years ran the Vatican’s office for Social Communications.

If I remember correctly, at one point Foley raised the idea of licensing Catholic journalists.   The lefties of the Fishwrap et al., had a full-fledged spittle-flecked nutty breakdown.

Do you remember that?



Once again, you readers have demonstrated your resourcefulness.

One of you sent excerpts from the 2002 document The Church and Internet:


II. 8. The proliferation of web sites calling themselves Catholic creates a problem of a different sort. As we have said, church-related groups should be creatively present on the Internet; and well-motivated, well-informed individuals and unofficial groups acting on their own initiative are entitled to be there as well. But it is confusing, to say the least, not to distinguish eccentric doctrinal interpretations, idiosyncratic devotional practices, and ideological advocacy bearing a ‘Catholic’ label from the authentic positions of the Church. We suggest an approach to this issue below.

III. 11. A special aspect of the Internet, as we have seen, concerns the sometimes confusing proliferation of unofficial web sites labeled ‘Catholic’. A system of voluntary certification at the local and national levels under the supervision of representatives of the Magisterium might be helpful in regard to material of a specifically doctrinal or catechetical nature. The idea is not to impose censorship but to offer Internet users a reliable guide to what expresses the authentic position of the Church.

Now we need the lib reactions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The Mad Sicilian Geek says:

    But, “licensing journalists” is quite the silly idea.

  2. AnnTherese says:

    They probably did. The left AND right are generally hypocritical when it comes to their criticisms of each other. Nothing new… and will swing back the other way eventually.

    And usually the Gospel gets lost in the shuffle.

  3. moon1234 says:

    Well to a degree there already IS licensing since a company can not use the word catholic in it without permission. That is why Church Militant is now named what it is. Voris was forced to remove the word Catholic since the local authority did like his message. [Forced? I know there was pressure, but didn’t he do that voluntarily?]

    I think it would be impossible to enforce a license to be a journalist. No one would bother. The secular media would have field day with it. I can see the headlines already:

    Pope Francis seeks to silence whistle blowers


    Local Bishops move to suppress Catholics reporting on sexual abuse.

    And the list goes on. We all know that many Catholic groups, such as the SSPX, would ignore such silliness. What is more chilling is the fact that the pope has not responded to the formal correction and he is continuing to move in the opposite direction though replacements of personnel in key positions.

  4. TonyO says:

    I don’t remember the event.

    There is something deliciously ironic in the notion that the libs, who mastered the techniques of modernism in bending and breaking the rules and concept of approval (as in things like the imprimatur), so that now even when you see the imprimatur – on a book, mind you, which takes months (at least) to publish – it is virtually worthless, coming around and wanting to see rules and approval for journalists who have to publish in a day or two? And have them be EFFECTIVE rules? Hah, that’s pretty funny.

    Turns out that they think Dignitatis Humanae is meant to uphold religious liberty for everyone BUT orthodox Catholics.

  5. Rich says:

    Ruh roh. I hope Cardinal Sarah will consider getting one of those licenses before he thinks about writing another column for the Wall Street Journal.

    But in all seriousness, in an age when print media are a thousand times more accessible than when JPII was pope, such a license would be a joke, and, those who try to point out that someone doesn’t have any standing to report on things Catholic because so-an-so has no license to do so, an even bigger joke.

  6. bobbird says:

    There is a much more obvious, pertinent, at-hand exposure of the Anti-Catholic Distorter’s (MY name for “Fishwrap”) hypocrisy. In all their newly discovered respect for ecclesial authority, and their willingness to have it … exercised … they dwell in daily defiance of their own Local Ordinary who demanded that they remove the moniker “Catholic” from the title of their rag.


  7. ChesterFrank says:

    MURCIA, Spain, MAY 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- When it comes to the media and communications, the public want consistency in what journalists say and how they live; in a word, they want “ethics,” the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications underlined.

    Archbishop John P. Foley spoke with ZENIT during the 2nd international congress on the Church and the media, held at the Catholic University of St. Anthony of Murcia, from May 15-17.

    The U.S. archbishop opened the meeting with a talk on the “Ethical and Moral Dimension of the Means of Social Communication.”

    Q: In your address, you said that public opinion asks journalists and the media in general for truth and values. Can it be said that it is precisely ethics, and not so much technique, that makes the difference between one means and another?

    Archbishop Foley: Today there are many differences between the different media, and there are also different levels of professional quality. But people perceive the consistency between the communicator’s words and life. I think there is profound appreciation for people — not only in the world of communication but also in political life — who are consistent in the values they preach and those they live.

    Q: You gave Pope John Paul II as an example in this sense.

    Archbishop Foley: This is what gives force to his communication. When he delivers an address and puts aside the text he has prepared, people perceive that he is obviously a consistent person, a person with a life that is completely integrated between values and actions. He is a completely honest, sincere man.

    Q: What should be distinct about a Catholic journalist? What should be his added value?

    Archbishop Foley: He should certainly be a person of truth. This without a doubt. But I think that a Catholic journalist should have a background of formation in philosophy, theology, and history. In this way, he can put in a proper context — historical, philosophical, theological — everything he analyzes.

    When I studied at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, there were courses in economics, politics, and education. When they gave me an award some years later, I told them they should have a special course in religion.

    They instituted one and they now have a department of religion within the school of journalism. They realize that religion is an essential part of human life and that an intelligent journalist should know the world of religion in order to write an intelligent and comprehensible report.

  8. Aquinas Gal says:

    I don’t remember that. I don’t know if this helps, but his office issued a document called “Ethics in Communication” in the year 2000. It doesn’t say anything about licensing journalists, but toward the end, in no. 26, it says that no one has the right to give their own opinion as if they are speaking for the Church.

    “Catholics, like other citizens, have the right of free expression, including the right of access to the media for this purpose. The right of expression includes expressing opinions about the good of the Church, with due regard for the integrity of faith and morals, respect for the pastors, and consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons (cf. Canon 212.3; Canon 227). No one, however, has a right to speak for the Church, or imply he or she does, unless properly designated; and personal opinions should not be presented as the Church’s teaching (cf. Canon 227).”

  9. The Mad Sicilian Geek says:


    Let’s see…

    Moon1234 says “Well to a degree there already IS licensing since a company can not use the word catholic in it without permission.”…

    What does that even mean? Permission seems to imply that revocation of said permission is possible. We know how well that has worked with the National “Catholic” Reporter…

    Chester Frank, quoting Archbishop Foley “He should certainly be a person of truth.”

    Theoretically, all journalists should be people of truth. That notwithstanding, being given a label of “Catholic Journalist” only works as long as you are in line with the view of those in power. Recent changes in the Papacy, from Pope Saint John Paul II to Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis, have illustrated just how quickly one can go from being “looked upon kindly” to being ostracized.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with a journalist seeing verification from a reputable Catholic source (office of the Cardinal, office of the Bishop, office of the Archdiocese, etc.)… but that isn’t going to ever be a barrier to the publication of an article. What if the verification is significantly delayed or just denied? What then?

    I cannot see how, using even the most casual of reviews, one cannot see this as a really, really, really bad idea.

  10. WesleyD says:

    Spidey sense? Fr. Z, I thought you were a DC fan, not Marvel!

    [I’m ecumenical.]

  11. Benedict Joseph says:

    The NCReporter reacted like cat on a hot tin roof when it was directed to remove “Catholic” from its title back in the late sixties.
    Ah, those were the days…
    Whata nightmare…I can’t wake up!

  12. benedetta says:

    Quashing things as not being officially Catholic from hierarchy was something observed for decades, often aimed at very worthy attempts at renewal in the name of protecting the laity, in particular regions of the country. Combined with vociferous progressivism and other -isms though, it did little to “protect” anyone from anything truly threatening, and in fact whatever purist criterion was not consistently applied to treat other trends and developments which did serve to undermine the Faith. So if there is a movement afoot to attempt to “regulate” things right now it would not be surprising as it was a tried and true tactic in certain places.

  13. Alexander says:

    I see the humor in this. It reminds me of the hoplophobic members of the media and their uninformed opinions on guns (and the American Constitution).

    They frequently call for a license to own firearms or ammunition. As a result, some conservatives were floating the idea of requiring a license to be a journalist.

  14. Siculum says:

    Kind of an offshoot of this discussion (particularly the Foley comment) but rather related:

    In light of current events, should we expect to see the National Catholic Reporter, America, and other similar publications given the .catholic TLD?

    What about heterodox dioceses and Bishop’s conferences that post heresy online as part of their policy and agenda?

    What about L’Osservatore Romano? Obviously, there is News.va, but still.

    Who gets and who does not get .catholic could well separate the sheep from the goats, if used properly.

  15. Ultrarunner says:

    Historically speaking, my spidey sense is tingling too…about Catholics repressing opinions that don’t coincide with their own and sending out signals and calls to “neutralize” people who don’t agree with them and to have them “purged“.

    Article 16 of the 1933 Concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich, states:

    “Before bishops take possession of their dioceses they are to take an oath of loyalty either to the Reich governor of the state (Land) concerned or to the President of the Reich respectively, according to the following formula: Before God and on the Holy Gospels I swear and promise, as becomes a bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the State. I swear and promise to honour the legally constituted government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honour it. With dutiful concern for the welfare and the interests of the German state, in the performance of the ecclesiastical office entrusted to me, I will endeavour to prevent everything injurious which might threaten it.”

    This Article resulted in priests and bishops being bound by solemn oath to Adolf Hitler.

    Google images for, “Catholic bishops Nazi salute”. You might be surprised.

    Hitler and Pius XI died, but their agreement survived the war. To this very day, the fruits of Nazi Germany continue to accumulate in the form of billions of Euros every year from the Kirchensteuer which is enforced through the practical excommunicatuon of lay Catholics who refuse to pay the tax.

    Article 13

    “It is understood that the Church retains the right to levy Church taxes.”

    In 2017, Simony is the law of the land in Germany; a fruit from a tree planted by Adolf Hitler and Pius XI.

    German Cardinals and Bishops, indeed even German Pope Benedict, have inflicted spiritual death upon millions and millions of Catholics who have refused to pay a tax in exchange for their right to receive the sacraments. Given the genesis of their revenues and how they collect it, is it any wonder that the likes of Kasper, Marx, Woelki, et al, promote intercommunion, female deacons, communion for the divorced and remarried, population control, global warming, mass immigration? Of course they are going to control speech through fear and intimidation. Their methods are those of modern day Nazis and this is not hyperbole. Millions of German Catholics are being denied the grace provided by the Sacraments of the Catholic Church…for the rest of their lives!…because they refuse to pay for them via the Kirchensteuer. It is nothing less than a modern day Catholic Holocaust. If the German hiearchy are willing to purge men and women from their churches and damn them to eternal hell over money, there is absolutely nothing they will not say or do. The salvation of souls pales in comparison to money and power for these men who are intent upon destroying the Church.

  16. Eric says:

    The obit on NCR, for Hoyt, the founder (by Thomas Fox):

    Function of the press

    A copy of the talk was published by NCR in August 1964 in advance of its first issue “to announce its own program and journalistic criteria.” On its first anniversary, the Oct. 27, 1965, issue, NCR reprinted the text in its pages. Murray makes the case for unfettered access to information.

    “Within the church, as within civil society, public information is a social necessity. The press performs a social function and this function is indispensable,” he wrote. “The Catholic free press within the church is not some sort of luxury that is really to be frowned on. It is not a nuisance that has to be tolerated. … The church, for all her differences as over against civil society, remains a society. And the societal character of the church creates a public right to information about all that concerns the church … through the rights of the people the freedom of the press knows only one limitation, and that is the people’s need to know. And I think within the church as within civil society, the need of the people to know is in principle unlimited.”

    With such words appropriated as their marching orders, the early editors and reporters of NCR had the widest latitude possible in the gathering of information.

  17. Eric says:

    Tom Roberts, sorry

  18. depeccatoradvitam says:

    “Licensing journalists” sounds like a job for the ministry of silly talks

  19. comedyeye says:

    Catholic Culture used to have a section on their website that evaluated various Catholic websites, blogs, and evangelical tools and programs. It was quite thorough in its criticisms and praises. This was about as close to “licensing” as I have seen. Recently, they shut down that part of their website. I wonder if they received pressure because they panned the ALPHA program.

  20. Fr. W says:

    Getting ready for morning Mass so do not have the time to add to the substance of the discussion. But do want to say how good it is hear a reference to Cardinal Foley. He was named Archbishop and Director of Social Communications half way through his course on Metaphysics when I was a seminarian at St. Charles in Philadelphia. Think he gave us all “A’s”. A very kind and sincere man and priest. Will be praying for him in a particular way at Mass in about 30 minutes.

  21. amsjj1002 says:

    Bobbird’s post reminded me of Bishop Finn and NCReporter a few years back:

  22. pelerin says:

    I am old enough to remember when books of a Catholic nature once bore a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. One I have was bought in England but bore the Imprimatur of Archbishop Cushing of Boston.

    Underneath is printed ‘The Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur are ecclesiastical declarations that a publication is free of doctrinal or moral error, not a statement of the positive worth, nor an implication that the contents have the Archbishop’s approval or recommendation.’

    I would welcome something like this for Catholic websites as at present we have to use our own personal judgement as to whether the site we have discovered is ‘orthodox’ or not and it is not always easy to discern this. I usually trust any linked to by Priests I know personally.

  23. WmHesch says:

    Now that the Holy Father has dedicated his forthcoming World Communications Day message to the topic of “fake news”, it will be interesting to see what materializes on 13 May 2018.

  24. jflare says:

    I do not think licensing journalists would help much. We already have numerous accusations of clergy exercising undue influence over this publication or that. Trying to place “police powers” about Catholic faith in the hands of chancery officials probably will not increase anybody’s confidence in the Church’s transparency and openness to debate.

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