Wherein Fr. Z responds to a libelous cheap-shot from @MichaelSWinters

At Fishwrap (aka National Sodomitical Reporter), usual suspect Michael Sean Winters has risen from his couch to defame me with a libelous statement.  Libel is a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation.

Winters wrote a piece about Pope Francis’ alleged words to a homosexual Chilean man.  The Pope is alleged – we only have the man’s report – that the Pope said to him that, “God made you like this. God loves you like this”.

Winters goes on to attack me by name, with something liberal… er… libelous.

Similarly, Fr. Zuhlsdorf suggested the pope might not have even said it, and used the occasion to expose his own homophobia. I half-expect Zuhlsdorf to start “praying away the gay” any day now.

In order….

Winters himself begins his piece with, “I cringed when the news broke that Pope Francis reportedly said,…”.   “Reportedly”.

Yes, I indeed suggested that the Pope might not have said what Winters himself says he “reportedly” said.  I wrote:

I am not going to accept the claim that that is what the Holy Father actually said.  Gratis asseritur…. And, were he to have said that, that would do nothing in any official way to change or to redirect the Church’s teachings about homosexual persons.

Doctrine is not officially taught and Popes don’t change the Church’s teachings in off-the-cuff private remarks that can’t be substantiated one way or another.

In the end, there was a claim that the Pope made that remark.  It can’t be substantiated.

Next, Winters goes on to defame me.   He wrote of me: “used the occasion to expose his own homophobia.”

“Homophobia” is a word with a real meaning: “dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people”.   I do not dislike people who are homosexual.  I don’t have a prejudice against people who are homosexual.  I do strongly dislike it when people push a homosexualist agenda on the majority or purposely confuse sex, gender, sexuality, etc., and what the Church teaches.

However, “homophobia” has also become go-to, cheap-shot word used by homosexualists, and the dim-witted who parrot them, when they lack a good argument and when they lack charity.  If anyone resists changing laws that allow “gay marriage”, that person must be tarred and defamed with the “homophobia” brush.

In the same piece I wrote, over which Winters defames me, I included the following:

Homosexual persons with same-sex attractions or desires have disordered, improperly directed, attractions or desires. That doesn’t mean that they are “bad people” or “automatically sinful” or name your label. They are made in God’s image and likeness and, therefore, have the dignity inherent in all human beings. God permitted the disordered inclination and, somehow, we shall see what it all means in the vast scheme of His plan when the General Judgment rolls around. Meanwhile, I firmly believe that people with those inclinations, if they remain chaste and continent or learn to redirect themselves, will – because of their trials and sufferings – have a high place in heaven.

Great challenges bring great graces and, eventually, great rewards, though those rewards may not be realized until heaven.

Meanwhile, I utterly reject and abhor strident efforts to normalize these disordered inclinations and the acts that follow upon them. I also find loathsome the efforts of those who vilify people who uphold the dignity of human sexuality as God clearly intended it.

In defaming me as a “homophobic”, Winters strays close to that last sentence.  It is the sort of venom we have some to expect from him over the years.  And HERE.

I have a decent record, I believe, when it comes to my views on homosexual persons. In a post about Andy Warhol I wrote:

I sincerely believe that people with same-sex attraction, if they strive to be chaste and bear their subsequent suffering, will have a very high place in heaven.  The greater the burden and suffering, the greater the graces and reward.

Support of homosexual persons is obligatory for true Catholics.  However, also obligatory is the whole truth, which necessarily includes the explicit and clear renunciation of same-sex acts, which violate human dignity and do great harm to individuals and society.

Again and again over the years, this has been my position.

I have tremendous respect and admiration for people who strive – and therefore suffer – when overcoming their sinful inclinations, whatever they may be.

Priests who hear confessions cannot but be moved, sometimes to tears, hearing the pain endured in some penitents.  At the same time – and I think I can speak for most confessors – we are amazed, impressed, edified by the confessions.   Everyone struggles against some temptation or inclination.  I don’t happen to have those disordered temptations.  However, over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that same-sex inclinations are among the most challenging and painful.   I pray for those who have them when they make their confessions.

Some confessors, by the way, will do the penances also that they assign to penitents, in solidarity of prayer.   I actually acquired that practice from a priest friend of mine who had his own actively homosexual past.   But, remember, I’m supposed to be a homophobe.

On the issue of homosexual priests, No, I don’t think there are many as some claim.  No, I don’t think that men with homosexual inclinations should be admitted to seminaries.  However, if they are ordained, and they have taken on the frightening burden of responsibility that comes to those to whom much has been given, then, Yes, if they want to live a continent life and not commit public scandals, I think they should strive with courage and suffering to be the best priests they can be: as all the others must as well.  Priests are human beings, after all.  I think the same about men who are husbands and fathers.

Winters used a phrase which I didn’t quite understand.  It is obviously meant to be arch, and something he disparages.  Note the scare quotes:  “I half-expect Zuhlsdorf to start “praying away the gay” any day now.”

Is that a … bad thing?  To pray “the gay” away?  I did a quick search on the phrase and found some wisdom from the likes of Katy Perry about summer Bible camps.  But, seriously, when is prayer – by people who have these disordered inclinations and for these people who have them – not the first thing, middle thing, and last thing we undertake?   It may be that Winters’ use of that phrase means that he thinks that I have a simplistic view of what homosexual people experience.  I don’t think I have a simplistic view.  I don’t think Winters’ view is simplistic, either.

We are all in this together.  We all of us fell in the Original Sin of our First Parents.  When we as individuals sin we hurt everyone.  That’s why, when we receive absolution in confession, we are being reconciled both with God and with the Church.  Sin hurts the bonds we have with persons, divine and human.  Some sins harm those bonds more than others.   Hence, overcoming those sins and resisting them is an occasion for great graces and admirable victories.  Homosexual acts are counted among the four sins that cry out to God for vengeance because they are so harmful to souls and the whole human race.  The graver the sin, the more urgent must be our response in prayer and in action.

Were I to remain silent in the face of what is going on, I would put my own soul at risk, as a negligent priest before the judgement seat of the Just Judge.

That said, as you read the whole of Winters’ piece, his overriding motive becomes clear: he is fulfilling his self-appointed role as a member of the New catholic Red Guards and trying to name and to target people with whom he disagrees for attacks by others who have power.  For example, in the same piece Winters attacks Prof. Chad Pecknold of Catholic University of America for expressing his views on Twitter.  Winters wrote: “Pecknold teaches future priests who live at the Theological College seminary and take their courses at CUA. His mandate to teach theology should be stripped”.


Yep.  That’s how seriously Winters takes himself and his agenda.

He added: “The Pecknolds and the Zuhlsdorfs of the world seem to think pastoral accompaniment consists of repeating abstract moral laws.”

I respond, saying: “Winters doesn’t have a clue, if that is what he really thinks the Pecknolds and Zuhlsdorfs are doing.  But I am not sure that is what he really thinks.  He uses cheap shots and he acts like a bully who tries to get people fired.  He also has a track record of changing the definitions of words so that he more easily creates straw men and can also vilify his opponents, as he does time and again with ‘libertarian’ and Acton Institute.”

In any event, at least this provided an opportunity to be associated with Prof. Pecknold, and to expose at greater length what I think about homosexuals, the homosexualist agenda, and bullies.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. benedetta says:

    MSW is a hater who uses bullying in the service of all his agendas, at the expense of reason. He employs hateful bullying to incite his troops to…more hatreds is all that one can see that comes of that. It’s not just this agenda but his partisan politics were also based in hatred and slander of others. His column is not about the faith, not about communion, not about dialogue. It’s an attack agenda and it’s dangerous. I really do not think that liberal Catholics care what he says, nor do I think they care for how he says his things either. I think he is essential to the Fishwrap’s mission which is rooted in bigotry against Catholics in general and an overriding intent to destroy Catholicism in favor of cultural nihilism and atheist secularism. Outside of that, he wouldn’t be able to find work as a partisan working on a campaign nor as a Catholic columnist. His words certainly do not serve to inspire, convert, heal, encourage, it’s that simple. Whereas the fact is that countless people have been edified in the practice of charity in their Catholic faith by reading Fr. Z, and countless have been converted to live a vibrant, generous, reverent daily practice of Catholicism.

  2. RichR says:

    @MichaelSWinters : 2,134 followers
    @fatherz : 40.7K followers

    I say Fr. Z not give this guy any free publicity. His relevancy to the younger generation of Catholics who actually practice the faith is very low. I would love to see the age distribution of NCReporter subscribers compared to the age distribution of Zed-heads. My guess is Mr. Winters is heavily influencing 75 year-olds while Fr. Z. Is heavily influencing 30 year olds….and more importantly, SEMINARIANS,

  3. JustaSinner says:

    And the Dark One chuckles as it floats by MSW’s office…

  4. Benedict Joseph says:

    A seriously superior commentary, Father Z. You’ve performed a great service here. There are a lot of people who need to read this.
    God reward you.

  5. Glennonite says:

    You said it all, and so well. Nicely done, Father.

  6. JARay says:

    I have never had anything to do with Michael S. Winters and I certainly will not have anything to do with him in the Future. But, I do respect and admire Fr. Zulsdorf and I thank him for his most erudite blog. Never have I seen anything that he has written which could be reasonably construed as being “homophobic”

  7. ChrisP says:

    Oh my. Such umbrage from Winters. Whatever must he think then of Pope Francis?, who stated – with a degree of verifiable certainty much higher than this Chilean bloke – that gays should not be admitted to the seminary: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/report-pope-francis-affirms-church-practice-against-admitting-gay-men-to-seminary-65273

    Now given Winters reported performances in the seminary, this sounds like solid thinking: https://throwthebumsoutin2010.blogspot.com/2010/02/who-is-michael-sean-winters-what-is-his.html
    (note: link post above is not from anybody who necessarily likes the Catholic Church, but somebody who was there when Winters was. It’s almost like the left eating itself).

  8. teomatteo says:

    Well stated Fr. Z. I think that the true homophobic is a woman with SameSexAttraction Disorder. For her to reject the natural, organic complementary definer of a man is a clear phobia. A homo phobia.

  9. S.Armaticus says:

    I don’t know if you follow Dr. Jordan Peterson, but he has some good insights on “Catholicism”, but coming at it from the secular (Natural Law) side of what can be called ontological reality.

    Here is one video titled Modern Secual Confusion: https://youtu.be/mQqySz8Ihho

  10. Julia_Augusta says:

    Hmmm . . . sounds like clickbait. Many online sites depend upon clicks for their advertising revenues. the more extreme and obnoxious the post, the more clicks. Has nothing to do with the truth.

    Father Z, you’ve gotten me to go to Confession regularly. Your big reward is in heaven.

    As RichR says, don’t give MSW any attention. Don’t feed the troll.

  11. MrsMacD says:

    And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. Matthew 10:22

    Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. Matthew 24:9

    Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Luke 6:22

    If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you. John 15:18

    If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15:19

    God bless you for your work.

    I think satan is mad at something. I mean he couldn’t get at you so he got this guy that’s under his power to say something against you to try to get at you. Satan’s big on revenge. Maybe you helped some soul back into the fold and he’s heaping on the revenge. He reminds me of a rabid dog on a chain. He can bark.

  12. Gregg the Obscure says:

    The anger and hatred poured out on those who simply reiterate eternal moral truths about this subject illustrate that humanity would be better off if the historic practice of never so much as mentioning the varieties of sexual depravity in public settings were to be quickly and forcefully restored. The precedent set in the Oscar Wilde trial (where a libeler* went unpunished) continues to produce bad effects.

    *in more civilized times ANY public accusation of sexual depravity – true or false – was rightly characterized as libel.

  13. I have a treasure, a little book, “The Spiritual Maxims of St. Francis de Sales”. I have always remembered this:

    “You must not reply nor appear to hear what the enemy says; let him clamor as much as he likes at the door; you must not say as much as “Who goes there?” (LW III 11)

    Then he says:

    “There is nothing so like as two drops of water–yet the one may be from roses, the other from hemlock; one cures, the other kills.” (LR I 1)

    In speaking the truth you are a drop from the rose; the other who falsely accuses you and speaks bad of you is from the hemlock.

    I am sorry you were attacked, Fr. Z, so we pray for your attacker.

  14. LarryW2LJ says:

    This is a typical tactic of the progressive Left. When they cannot argue a point with logic and reason, they resort to emotion. Smear, defame, and deflect is the order of the day for them. I can only imagine the tons of screed that the Reporter would produce against Jesus Himself had they existed 2,000 years ago.

  15. Charles E Flynn says:

    Some people apparently think the Great Commission was to “Go, therefore, and pastorally accompany all nations”.

  16. Father Z: You are the model of one whom I describe as being ruthless with ideas and gentle with people. You respect people too much to permit superficial and shallow sentimentalism to obfuscate your perception of the Truth to Which we are all drawn and proclaiming it. The other guy is embarrassingly obvious in what he is about, even as he attempts to pretend people don’t notice. I applaud your courage and treasure your friendship – and enjoy your wit, even when others see it as meanness. Bravo fratello.

    [Thanks, dear friend. And centi anni to you! I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks at Acton University.]

  17. Spade says:

    “Winters used a phrase which I didn’t quite understand. It is obviously meant to be arch, and something he disparages. Note the scare quotes: “I half-expect Zuhlsdorf to start “praying away the gay” any day now.””

    IMO, he’s saying you’re a closet homosexual without saying it. I’ve seen this sort of thing plenty on the internet.

    A lot of these types claim that if you oppose homosexual behavior it’s to cover up your own inclinations in a “you hate thieves so much because you’re a thief” kind of way.

    [Hmmm… I re-read that and you may be right. If that is what he is trying to say then his head is full of monkeys and cats. That particular closet doesn’t have anything in it. ROFL! The door to the opposite-sex attraction closet however, keeps on slamming open.]

  18. Peter Stuart says:

    If there’s one thing we struggling SSA’s learn through episodes like this, it’s who our friends are. Winters isn’t one of them. Or any of his gang at NCR. Or a lot of bishops. Or priests (you excluded thank God!)

  19. majuscule says:

    Julia_Augusta wrote:

    Hmmm . . . sounds like clickbait. Many online sites depend upon clicks for their advertising revenues.

    You are on to something! Fishwrap used to have a very active comment section. I think it was a big draw for certain people. Comments in line with Catholic teaching were pounced on by smug “Vatican II changed everything” types. When those people had no opposition in the combox they would spend their time patting each other on the back about the direction they were promoting for whatever they imagined their “catholic” church to be.

    The service Fishwrap was using to keep comments civil went out of business. They do not have the resources to monitor a free and open combox so they shut it down. I may be mistaken but I think the uncharitable discussion there is what brought many to the site. Now they need to do something for clicks and derogatory statements about Fr. Z is probably a way they think that will happen! (They really hated it when Father would mention something like a poll that His readers might want to take part in. They know Fr. Z’s vast readership!)

    Time was, when Fr. Z’s name came up, someone would point to his Amazon link, gift list and his request for support as something greedy. Well, around the time the Fishwrap combox shut down, they started their “NCR Forward” campaign to solicit monthly donations…bad when Fr. Z does it, good when they do it.

  20. Brian Cannon says:

    I lean left on many things, and even I think MSW is far afield here.

  21. There are those who think one should not respond to libelous critiques, on the grounds that it gives the libeler too much undeserved attention. There may be times when the cause of peace is best served by not responding, but that is not a good all-purpose, blanket rule. The interests of Truth also need to be served. Very often it is necessary to respond, because a lack of response is usually taken as an implicit admission that the libel is in fact true.

  22. Nathan says:

    What I don’t understand is why the venom, the ad hominem, the attacks, all in service of making us all Episcopalian? Look how well they’ve turned out!

    In Christ,

  23. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Father Z,

    I find these comments from Winters, directed at you, to be puzzling. I wonder what it is that he *needs* from you? I wonder what it is that he *wants* from you? MSW reminds me of that pesky kid that follows a person at school, bugging them, resenting them, because they want to be them, or they want to be like them, or they wish they could be their friend.

    I’m thinking that this trolling of you by Michael Sean Winters is something of a “public therapy” that he’s doing. In a sense, he needs to tell the public what it is about you that makes him obsess about you, as if that will bring him some healing or resolution he is searching for.

    He needs to criticize you, not because you are an enemy. If you were a real enemy, he could just ignore you. But no. He needs to win you over, to have your attention, to get some kind of validation from you. If he can’t have that, he will just be that pathetic school boy, following you around the playground. I feel sorry for his commentary–there’s nothing substantive. It’s almost stalker-ish.

    [Thanks. You have some interesting insights that go beyond my interpretation of his actions as wanting to be like a member of the Red Guards that surround the Pope.]

  24. BH says:

    I have nothing of value to add to this conversation, but want to thank you Father for your continued example of charity toward sinners, and to all those who comment for the insightful conversation.

  25. robtbrown says:


    Applying Mr Winter’s own psychological method, it is obvious that he titled his column “Distinctly Catholic” to prevent his psyche from facing the reality that he is (at best) un-Catholic.

    What little I’ve read by him, he seems inclined to using Liberalism as the hermaneutic of the Faith.

  26. Paul of St Paul says:

    Father Z thank you for clearly explaining the Catholic understanding of homosexuality several times in the past 12 months
    Also interesting …. Fr James Martin talking about the Catholic right and Pope Francis
    from 15.10 here
    and Fr Martin’s book after 20.00

  27. robtbrown says:

    Should be hermeneutic

  28. TonyO says:

    I just have one small item to add to the mix here: As I understand it, the liberal stupidigentsia say that “pray the gay away” was a phrased used by certain “therapy”-intending groups who claimed to be able to “cure” the disorder, and who featured prayer as if it were a therapy. They (the stupidigentsia) go on to say that (a) there was never any science behind it so it didn’t qualify as therapy, (b) gays are “made that way” and it is permanent (i.e. a “part of who they are”) and so the idea of “pray the gay away” could not possibly ever have worked anyway, and (c) that it amounted to abuse. That’s what they say.

    The reality, of course, is that Fr. Z never claimed that praying for gays constitutes medical therapy. We pray for gays as we pray for all sinners and all people troubled with disorders. We pray for sinners that they overcome their temptations, not that they cease to be human and therefore no longer subject to the possibility of sin. We pray for people troubled with disorders in the hope that God will lighten their burden, either by addressing the disorder or by strengthening them to live with it (or both), not because praying for someone who is sick takes the place of medical care. Our prayer also can be instrumentally causal in God choosing to use natural means to lessen the disorder, through his Providential control of all Nature, and by His using doctors and nurses to pursue good medical treatment. There is no reason to refrain from praying for someone while also treating their condition with everything that science has to offer to repair their disorder, it is not like natural remedy interferes with grace; it’s not like God fights with Himself in doing something in the natural order as well as doing something in the order of grace.

    The reality is that even if one person’s SSA condition cannot be cured in the natural order, prayer can help make one suffering from SSA become more chaste and eventually more at peace even while living with his condition. The reality that prayer does not damage a person with SSA, any more than it damages a person with stage IV cancer who receives no miraculous cure.

    But of course Winer couldn’t be bothered with the distinctions. The liberal stupidigentsia hate distinctions, because making proper distinctions makes you smarter, and, well… the term says it all.

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