Bishop of Covington does a 180, apologizes.

Say you set out on an errand by foot to the post office.  Trudge trudge trudge.   Suddenly you realize that you made a bad turn and you are going in the wrong direction.  Someone might say, “Hey, buddy!  If you are going to the post office, it’s that way.”  Time after time, the neighbors helpfully offer, “Yo!  It’s that way!  You’re going the wrong direction!” What do you do?  Do you keep going on the same, errant, direction?  Or do you stop, turn around, go back to where you made the mistake and correct your way?

Scratch that. Better analogy.

Say you are in a burning building.   Smoke is filling the halls, making it hard to see.  You want to get out, so you start running down the hall.  But people are running in the other direction.  They say, “Hey! You’re going the wrong way!”  Do you listen to them, turn, and go in the right direction?   Do you keep going?  Do you stop and stand there doing nothing?

Most of us would retrace our steps and correct our course.

Today at the site of WCPO of Cincinnati, we read that Bp. Foys of Covington has at last done a 180 to retrace his step and get back on the right course.

Bishop: Diocese of Covington felt ‘bullied and pressured’ into condemning students too quickly  [Not a great headline, but keep reading.]

COVINGTON, Ky. — Diocese of Covington Bishop Roger Foys apologized Friday afternoon for issuing a premature statement about a group of Covington Catholic High School students’ interactions with Native American activists Saturday in Washington, D.C.

In a letter to Covington Catholic parents, Foys wrote the diocese felt harangued into reacting as quickly as possible to a viral clip of the incident — and then, when additional clips filmed from other perspectives began to circulate, to issuing a just-as-quick retraction of its earlier condemnation. [The diocese felt bullied?]

“We should not have allowed ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely, and we take full responsibility for it,” he wrote. “I especially apologize to Nicholas Sandmann and his family as well as to all CovCath families who have felt abandoned during this ordeal. Nicholas unfortunately has become the face of these allegations based on video clips.

“This is not fair. It is not just.”

Sandmann, 16, was among a group of Covington Catholic students who had traveled to the capital for the anti-abortion March for Life. While waiting for buses outside the Lincoln Memorial, they became involved in a back-and-forth shouting match with members of a fringe religious group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites. The BHI, who believe they are the “true” Jewish people and are known for anti-gay, anti-Semitic invective, vociferously insulted the students as well as uninvolved passersby.

Among those passersby were Native American activists participating in their own demonstration, the Indigenous Peoples March. They attempted to intercede in what they perceived as an escalating conflict.

A short video clip of one activist, Omaha tribe elder Nathan Phillips, playing a traditional drum while face-to-face with a smiling Sandmann, who wore a “Make America Great Again” cap, became the lit fuse on a controversy Bishop Foys said led to an online explosion that damaged the entire diocese.

Shortly after the clip began to circulate Saturday, earning Sandmann the condemnation of figures ranging from “Captain America” actor Chris Evans [As if we care what actors think.] to sitting politicians, the diocese and school released a joint statement.

It read:

We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. [What is really a violation of dignity is rash judgment and harming their reputation on this scale.] The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion. We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.
In Friday’s new statement, Foys wrote he hoped an independent third-party investigation would definitively exonerate the students of the racism and harassment of which they had been accused.

He added he supported the school and its principal, Robert Rowe, moving forward.

“This has been a trying time for all of us,” he wrote. “I pray that with the grace of God and the goodwill of all involved peace will once again reign in the hearts and minds of our faithful. As for CovCath, we have a spirit that will not die!” [Except maybe when you beat it to death with rash judgment.]

Foys had earlier in the week spoken with Covington Catholic students in person, according to an article published in diocese newsletter the Messenger.

It quoted him as having told the students: “This is a no-win situation. We are not going to win.  [Yeah… that’s the spirit!] No matter what we say one way or another there are going to be people who are going to argue about it … The best we can do is, first of all, to find out the truth. To find out what really went on.”

Read Bishop Foys’ entire letter to Covington Catholic families: …

The letter follows on Scribd. You can read it there.

The mess continues.

BTW… that burning building analogy at the top could describe what we have been doing as a Church for the last 50+ years.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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25 Responses to Bishop of Covington does a 180, apologizes.

  1. Kathleen10 says:

    That response wouldn’t even inspire me to get up off the couch, let alone engage in spiritual battle or engage the culture. Those poor kids. Well they must have at least some actual Catholic guidance in their lives, even if it didn’t come from their weak-kneed shepherds. Massive FAIL on the part of the bishops and the school principal. Just pitiful and pretty much what we would expect during these dark days, a colossal lack of leadership and courage in the face of blatant cultural Marxism.

  2. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    There’s a bit more to the story than this. If you go to the twitter feed of the attorney for the Sandmann family, Lin Wood, a nationally known libel lawyer, he’s written this:

    “Last night, Todd McMurtry @FitLwyr and I delivered a preservation of evidence demand to Bishop Foys. This afternoon, he belatedly apologized to Nick by letter. Good first step but more is necessary in order to fully remedy the damage caused by his libelous statements.” Lin added in another tweet: “Truth has a way of always rising to the surface. Sometimes with a push.”

    Lin Wood
    ? @LLinWood
    2h2 hours ago

    Last night, Todd McMurtry @FitLwyr and I delivered a preservation of evidence demand to Bishop Foys. This afternoon, he belatedly apologized to Nick by letter. Good first step but more is necessary in order to fully remedy the damage caused by his libelous statements.
    11 replies 44 retweets 70 likes
    Lin Wood
    ? @LLinWood
    2h2 hours ago

    Truth has a way of always rising to the surface. Sometimes with a push.

  3. ArthurH says:

    What is missing in all this is what the Indian group was doing there. Whether or not they “tried to intercede” (I doubt it based on the following) they were present not (only, if at all) for some “innocent Indian march” but rather to disrupt a Catholic Mass. Along the way after this exchange occurred.

    For the details of that attempt to disrupt the Mass see Bill Donohue’s blog titled “Meet the Indian and Black Thugs at:
    https://www.catholicleague.org/meet-the-indian-and-black-thugs/

  4. Sue in soCal says:

    Bishop Foys “apologized” before the Friday deadline rather than be sued by Nicholas Sandmann’s attorney. I doubt that his “pastoral” inclinations have changed. We must pray for a miracle of grace for such bishops.

  5. eamonob says:

    At least he finally issued some kind of apology. What he should have done in the first place, since the video showed the boys doing nothing wrong, was to have taken their side over a bunch of protestors. Pro life kids from his own diocese, and he threw them under the bus.

  6. VP says:

    As much as I hate to personalize this, Bishop Foys is, by this letter, either joking or is himself the joke.

    It took only hours for the “bullied and pressured” diocese to condemn the students for disrespecting the “Elder.” Now, after six days, Bishop Foys says in paraphrase, “we are sorry that Nick and family felt abandoned…” Cold comfort to the family at this point.

    We see in the letter that an entire team of crack third-party investigators has yet to complete a review of at most 3 or 4 hours of easily accessible footage from various sources; I hope the diocese is not getting billed by the hour. Then, there is an expression of hope that the ruin of Nick’s life will only be temporary (he will be under a cloud for every college or job interviewer not of like mind), topped off with a feel-good about school spirit, and the inevitable Catholic exclamation point!

    Whatever his merits may be, the Bishop is just another clericalist who hopes to avoid consequences for his most serious mistake. It would be fitting and just for the diocese to get sued right out of its office building.

  7. Benedict Joseph says:

    He can pick up the phone and admonish his confrere Bishop Stowe of Lexington to correct course. It could be good practice for more than a number of issues.

  8. A poorly written and expressed apology. The right way to apologize is directly and unreservedly, without trying to make excuses.

  9. JKnott says:

    I don’t understand why there has not been commentary on the letter that Nick Sandmann wrote describing the incident. This boy acted with a good character that is both exemplary and edifying for a teenage boy today.
    He wrote that when he was confronted by that man drumming in his face he, “quietly said a prayer”. He said he is a Christian and a practicing Catholic and tried to stay calm so as not to escalate the situation. He said, basically, he smiled so as to show the perpetrator that he was not going to be aggressive or fearful.
    Sounds to me like he practiced a slew of good virtues in one shot; prudence, charity, and patience. Why is the broken record, even among Catholics and those recanting their calumny, still blind to the exceptional goodness of Nick Sandmann and the kids? There is a loud gong and chilling void in the failure to recognize innocence. In failure to praise these children. These good Catholic children racked over the coals in ways that even some adults couldn’t take.
    The obsessional talking point with everyone is that Nick “smirked.” No, he told us what he did.
    And even if he didn’t, it is not uncommon for some people to smile when nervous.

    Nick Sandmann is a Catholic we can be proud of. His parents and his school should be commended. He is worthy to be a role model!
    Will priests and teachers in other Catholic schools hold him (and the other boys who said they have been taught to be respectful) up for a lesson in virtue?
    I certainly would!

  10. Dismas says:

    1. With the sin of detraction, isn’t restitution required?

    2. Considering the overall theme of appointments of late, is Bp. Stowe aiming for D.C.? Leaden robes await in some deep, dark ditch should he not repent.

    3. Bullied!? Seriously!? A grown man of his seventies is reduced to a quivering wreck over 1/10,000 of the grief unleashed on a mere sixteen year old kid, so he is obligated to pile on the boy!? Oh, and he’s only sorry once the kid lawyers up? With such completely emasculated bishops, no wonder why people are confused about deaconesses.

  11. moon1234 says:

    This whole thing is just getting worse. Bishop Foys wants all of the boys to consent to be interviewed by a third party the diocese hired to “get to the truth.” This is AFTER the apology. It sure looks like Bishop Foys is trying to find some evidence to prevent him and diocese from being sued. It appears Foys still considers the boys guilty and is leading an inquisition against them. Can this continue to get any worse?

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/attorney-for-covington-catholic-students-says-no-lawsuits-against-diocese-a

    From LifeSite News:
    According to OANN reporter Jack Posobiec, Barnes believes that Bishop Foys is not conducting an impartial investigation of the incident but is seeking to avoid legal consequences of any false statements he may have made. Also, according to Posobiec, Foys is investigating Sandemann’s “intent” when he stood silently in front of counter-protester Phillips, who was loudly chanting and banging a drum just inches away from the boy’s face during the encounter. Parents of the students have received a notice from the investigators engaged by diocese asking for permission to speak to the students.

  12. Dan says:

    “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.“
    -CS Lewis

  13. ALL: I’ve deleted some comments.

    Some of you write good observations and then, at the end, you turn into a knucklehead by ruining your comment with some unnecessary and inflammatory word or image.

    This is not YOUR blog or YOUR combox.

    Don’t create work for me, please. Think before posting and remember decorum and where you are.

  14. BrionyB says:

    This is a charitable interpretation of events. It seems more likely to me that the Native activists were attempting to provoke a confrontation that could be caught on camera and made public as “evidence” of harassment by young Christians. I have heard that this was not the first group of March for Life attendees they approached in this way (a previous attempt involving a group of young women failed to provide suitable footage, as the girls were visibly frightened and intimidated).

    Either way, it seems clear that the boy in question did nothing wrong and in fact showed great restraint in the face of aggressive provocation. I’m reminded of this young woman, who became famous for standing her ground with a calm smile when confronted by an angry activist https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/09/birmingham-woman-standing-in-defiance-of-edl-protester-goes-viral. Yet one is lauded while the other is vilified, simply because of the story the media want to tell in a particular time and place.

  15. Sportsfan says:

    Not accepting an apology is worse than not giving one.

    Our Lady of Lourdes parish which Bishop Foys has designated for the Traditional Latin Mass in the diocese of Covington is just a few hundred yards from Covington Catholic High School. A few hundred yards in the other direction is St. Agnes parish with a Divine Mercy perpetual adoration chapel.

    The boys of CovCath go to school in a well defended neighborhood in part through the graciousness of Bishop Foys. The boys left those defenses to go out into the world and defend the defenseless. They were attacked and acquitted themselves well.

    Jumping to conclusions on why Bishop Foys apologized is the same as jumping to conclusions about a video clip.

    God Bless Nick Sandman a true American Hero.
    God Bless Bishop Foys an apostle of Christ.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Sportsfan wrote:

    “Not accepting an apology is worse than not giving one.”

    Fair enough, but that is also rather vague and on rare occasions depends on the circumstances. Note that you simply mentioned “apology” without the usage of “sincere” or “comprehensive.” Please provide your reasoning as to how your statement should be applied here.

    “Our Lady of Lourdes parish which Bishop Foys has designated for the Traditional Latin Mass in the diocese of Covington is just a few hundred yards from Covington Catholic High School. A few hundred yards in the other direction is St. Agnes parish with a Divine Mercy perpetual adoration chapel.”

    That is interesting. Please provide your reasoning as to how that applies here.

    “The boys of CovCath go to school in a well defended neighborhood in part through the graciousness of Bishop Foys. The boys left those defenses to go out into the world and defend the defenseless. They were attacked and acquitted themselves well.”

    Good point. Though it raises the question, out of curiosity, how Bishop Foys assisted in making the neighborhood “well defended.” I have an interest in urban warfare (a fascinating topic from skyscrapers to sewers) and am sincerely interested in your answer. Also, when the shaggy barbarians were over-running the Roman Empire some bishops organized the defense of their town. Perhaps an interesting tactical ploy can be shared here and filed away by us readers for a future rainy day.

    “Jumping to conclusions on why Bishop Foys apologized is the same as jumping to conclusions about a video clip.”

    Please provide evidence to support your assertion. Recall, the circumstances of Foys’ condemnation and apology are different. It would strengthen your case by detailing a jump-to-conclusion regarding the apology, and also providing an example of a opinion on the apology that was not a jump-to-conclusion. Cheers.

  17. “We should not have allowed ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely, and we take full responsibility for it.”

    The good Bishop is mainly responsible, not for being “bullied” (seriously?), but for a lack of fortitude, of courage. If saying this is inflammatory, then so be it. But while Catherine of Siena may have respected the priestly office, she hardly minced words with some of those who held it.

    After the events of the past year, it may be time (again) to call out something for what it is.

  18. Sportsfan says:

    Semper Gumby:

    (Cool handle by the way)

    I have to go out and split wood (of which I am now taking a water break)to heat my house then take my wife to the grocery store (while she’s doing that I hope to run over for confession) then dinner and I have several other chores to do. If I get time before I turn in I’ll try to answer some or all of your questions.

  19. OldProfK says:

    One presumes Bp. Foys has read Romans 8:31 at least once, somewhere along the line…how then bullied? How then harangued?

  20. Spade says:

    A successor of the apostles, 10/11 of whom were executed, should be able to stand up to being “bullied and pressured”.

    I can’t imagine what the martyrs of the church think of such excuses.

  21. Sportsfan says:

    Semper Gumby:

    I can not read minds so I do not know if the bishop is sincere or not. I do know he apologized. Some seem to have inferred he is not sincere. I do not infer that.

    When I was young I made a mistake at school and was chastised by my teacher. I mumbled, “sorry” to which he replied,”I know you are now apologize.” I was truly sorry and from that time decided I would accept people’s apologies no matter how ill delivered. I have a hard time sounding sincere and one of my biggest fears is going into a confessional to ask for our Lord’s forgiveness for an offense against him and have the priest say, “You aren’t sincere, get out of here.”

    As for a comprehensive apology, an earlier post by Father Fox suggested the apology was poorly written and expressed because the bishop “made excuses.” There is a fine line between explaining one’s self (aka being comprehensive) and “making excuses.” My parents were of the “don’t make excuses” camp of receiving an apology. After several years of marriage I figured out my wife is of the “comprehensive” camp of receiving an apology. The bishop is right, sometimes one just can’t win.

    An apology is an apology qualifier or no.

    The statements I made about OL Lourdes and St. Agnes parishes were an attempt to prove the neighborhood is well defended. I was trying to imply spiritual defense. From what I understand demons hate Latin and holy mass. I also assume since our Lord is physically present in the monstrance in the adoration chapel that there are a host of angels in the near vicinity also. Although I know little of spatiality and distance when it comes to the spiritual realm I imagine that demons are disinclined to haunt this neighborhood.

    Bishop Foys bought the church building for OL Lourdes and one would assume not only allows the adoration chapel at St. Agnes but approves of it. He made OL Lourdes a parish, not an oratory. It is on equal standing with the other parishes of the diocese. He would be well within his rights to shut either down. The fact that he went out of his way to accommodate the Extraordinary form community and those that find adoration important in my view makes him gracious. Thus the neighborhood is well defended, in part, through his graciousness.

    As for the jumping to conclusions part. It seems to me that Bishop Foys jumped to a conclusion based on a video clip he saw. He admits to it in the apology. I have heard others, not in this thread or comments, suggest the only reason he apologized to the CovCath boys and families is because of the threat made by the boys attorney to sue anyone that did not retract their statements within 48 hours. We do not know what he would have done if he had not been threatened. The threat may have had nothing to do with the apology. I am inclined to take him at his word and accept his apology unreservedly even if some people think it poor or insincere.

    I am not tech savy enough to post a link to the comment I made in the previous thread about bishop Foys. I said people should not give any money to the diocese until he apologizes. He apologized. Let’s go about our business.

    I stand by my call for the bishop of Lexington to apologize. He shouldn’t receive another dime until he does.

  22. Semper Gumby says:

    Sportsfan: Thank you for your reply.

    Your comment displayed abundant regard for this “gracious” Bishop. Perhaps abundant regard could have been displayed for the plight of these students who were unjustly condemned by their Bishop and many others, and who are the target of multiple death threats to include being fed into a woodchipper.

    “…I do not know if the bishop is sincere or not. I do know he apologized.”

    This is contradictory.

    “An apology is an apology qualifier or no.”

    Incorrect. Adjectives are essential to communication.

    “Not accepting an apology is worse than not giving one.”

    This tendentious statement from your earlier comment may be agenda-driven.

    “He apologized. Let’s go about our business.”

    This arbitrary command negligently ignores the context and realities of what has occurred and is occurring with this situation. It seems that for personal reasons you want this situation to simply go away. Have a pleasant day.

  23. How, it is asked, can a Catholic priest or bishop be “bullied”?

    Because many priests and bishops have forgotten that theirs is a divine calling, and that they have been given supernatural powers and gifts in order to fulfill it. Worse, some seem never to have believed in hell or in the reality of their supernatural power over hell, and think of their vocations as just another career. This is the price we are paying for trying to bring the Church into line with the world.

  24. Sportsfan says:

    Super Gumby:

    I do have abundant regard for bishops. Stating that Nick Sandman is a hero is my opinion. Stating that Bishop Foys is an Apostle of God is a fact.

    “…I do not know if the bishop is sincere or not. I do know he apologized.”

    This is contradictory.

    No it’s not.
    ———-
    “An apology is an apology qualifier or no.”

    Incorrect. Adjectives are essential to communication.

    No they’re not. I can make the statement to you, “I live in a house.” Just because you want to know the size and color of my house does not oblige me to offer it.
    —————-
    “Not accepting an apology is worse than not giving one.”
    This tendentious statement from your earlier comment may be agenda-driven.

    Finally you are correct. I make it my mission to call out anyone that doesn’t accept an apology. [Remember that this is my blog. Make it your mission within the parameters of MY combox. Read me?] I believe it to be a despicable act that puts a person’s soul in peril.
    The next time you say an Our Father pay attention to the part about forgiving those that trespass against us.
    ———–
    “He apologized. Let’s go about our business.”

    This arbitrary command negligently ignores the context and realities of what has occurred and is occurring with this situation.

    No it doesn’t.

    Father Fox stated that it was “A poorly written and expressed apology.” He did not say it should not be accepted.
    I said it should be accepted. I did not say it wasn’t a poorly written and expressed apology.

    I had a very pleasant day. Thank You.

  25. Semper Gumby says:

    Sportsfan: Thank you for your reply.

    “Stating that Bishop Foys is an Apostle of God is a fact.”

    Matthew 16:23

    “No it’s not [contradictory, in the context of Sportsfan’s admission of unawareness regarding Bishop Foys’ sincerity].”

    Note the distinction: an insincere apology differs from a sincere apology.

    “[Adjectives are not essential to communication.] Just because you want to know the size and color of my house does not oblige me to offer it.”

    Note that the topic Fr. Z set before us readers is of greater significance than the size and color of houses.

    “I make it my mission to call out anyone that doesn’t accept an apology.”

    Define “call out,” a pop culture idiom.

    “The next time you say an Our Father pay attention to the part about forgiving those that trespass against us.”

    Another instance of an arbitrary command, here it is attached to personal prayer.

    “I said it [the “gracious” Bishop Foys’ “apology”] should be accepted.”

    My reply here will be with your own words regarding houses and colors above: “…does not oblige me…”

    Have a pleasant day.