Wherein National ‘c’atholic Fishwrap’s own Wile E. Coyote “oopses” himself. Fr. Z explains.

The Fishwrap is known by various monikers.  The editors call it the National catholic Reporter in defiance of a decree of their local bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bp. Helmsing, who ordered them to remove “Catholic” from their title.  It is also called by many the National Catholic Distorter, for obvious reasons.  It is known as the National Schismatic Reporter.  There are less cordial nicknames as well.

Most people now recognize it as the Fishwrap.

One of Fishwrap’s prime time writers, Michael Sean Winters, also has his nicknames.  For some he is the “Tricoteuse”  of the papalotrous New catholic Red Guards, aka Madame Defarge, from his self-description as desiring to sit, as did the figure in Dicken’s novel, by a guillotine to watch people he disagrees with be put to death.  Really. For others, like Robby George, he is the Wile E Coyote of catholic Left: he has a penchant for hoisting himself on his own machinations.  Think rollers skates and rockets, catapults and boulders, boomerangs and dynamite.

The last of those nicknames seems most appropriate to apply to MSW today.

Wile E. dusted off his ACME edition of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and applied it to the anything but speedy or appetizing USCCB, which – by the way-  has its own zany relationship with boomerangs and dynamite (cf. can. 915).

Today at Fishwrap, Wile E. (aka Defarge, aka MSW) strapped on his ACME jet pack and skis and aimed himself at the not-ever-to-be-confused-with-Fishwrap, National Catholic Register.

Here goes.  Prepare for the ensuing hijinks.  Will Wile E. catch his prey?

My emphases and comments:

You have to admire the chutzpah of the editors at the National Catholic Register. They published an editorial that insists on calling the recent document approved by the U.S. bishops a “teaching document,” but it isn’t that. [Okay… if it isn’t a “teaching document”, then what is it?  The USCCB calls it a “document” HERE.  The suspense builds as Wile E. checks his gear.] Teaching documents not only require approval by two-thirds vote, but also the approbation of the Holy See. [Oh dear… we can see right away that Wile E. is getting out over his ACME canonical skis.  But let’s let Wile E. cite his ACME copy of the Code!] Canon 455 states:

Can. 455 §1. A conference of bishops can only issue general decrees [DECREES] in cases where universal law has prescribed it or a special mandate of the Apostolic See has established it either motu proprio or at the request of the conference itself.  [The attentive followers of this wacky cartoon, will note that the flaw in Wile E.’s cunning plan is that this canon – in all editions of the Code –  is about decrees.]

§2. The decrees mentioned in §1, in order to be enacted validly in a plenary meeting, must be passed by at least a two thirds vote of the prelates who belong to the conference and possess a deliberative vote. They do not obtain binding force unless they have been legitimately promulgated after having been reviewed by the Apostolic See. [All that’s left is to wait for the (pick one or more) a) boulder, b) cliff, c) fast moving truck, d) cactus.]

But [! – Here it comes!] the bishops were told that this document did not need to be sent to the Holy See. At least the Register admitted what conference president Archbishop José Gomez denied, [Sooo… this is payback from Wile E’s inner Madame Defarge for what Gomez recently said in public!] that this document was the fruit of the working group he set up to confront the prospect of a Catholic president. Gomez seems to forget that in the memo he sent to the bishops on Jan. 19, 2020, accompanying the unfortunate statement he issued the next day when President Joe Biden was sworn in, Gomez wrote that the working group had proposed two initiatives, the first being the Inauguration Day statement. Then he added:

The second initiative was for the Conference to work on a document that clearly lays out the teaching [you mean… like a… “teaching document”?] of the Church on the importance of Eucharist coherence or consistency — including the fact that our relationship with Christ is not strictly a private affair.


No better word for it than Wile E’s own, “Oops”.

MSW blasted himself with his ACME rocket and “oopsed” himself.

Insert here the whistling sound of falling, followed by a kaBLAM, and then the impact of the inevitable boulder.

Let’s clear this up.

In Wile E.’s attack on Gomez, and in his sniff of Biden’s hair, he calls the bishops’ rather toothless document a “decree”.

It is isn’t a decree.

How do we know that it isn’t a decree, you ask?

In the realm of official documents you recognize a “decree” because of the large letters that say “DECREE” on it.  Otherwise in the text the legislator writes “I decree”.   It isn’t that hard.

Some samples of USCCB Decrees can be found HERE.  Here’s one:

  On November 18, 1998, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved complementary legislation for canon 284 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States.

The action was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by Decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Franciscus Monterisi, Secretary, and dated September 29, 1999.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 284, hereby decrees that without prejudice to the provisions of canon 288, clerics are to dress in conformity with their sacred calling.

In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgicad books. [Oops.] Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric.


We note with pleasure that that discretion is, among younger clerics, growing swiftly.

In another, more recent example, about Can. 1297 on Leasing of Church Property, after stating that the Conference sought the recognitio from Rome, it says:

Wherefore, and in accord with the prescripts of canon 1297, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the following norms shall govern the leasing of Church property:


WERE the USCCB’s document on the Eucharist a decree – and it is not – then it would have had to go to Rome for approval.  Since it is not a decree, the Conference is free to publish it and let the chips – or boulders – fall where they may.

FACTOID: The only use of the word “Decree” in the USCCB’s recent document on the Eucharist is in a footnote... to which I direct Wile E.’s full and undivided attention: Council of Trent, Session 13Decree on the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

I note that CANON XI of that Decree says:

lf any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burthened with mortal sin, how contrite even soever they may think themselves. But if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated.


Here is a short of Wile E. drafting his offerings for the Fishwrap.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in 1983 CIC can. 915, Canon Law, Liberals, The Drill, Wherein Fr. Z Rants, You must be joking! and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


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  2. jwcraig11 says:

    Wow! You really can order anything from Acme. I never would have thought I could get a copy of the Code of Canon Law from them – but I was wrong!

  3. Gaetano says:

    Further evidence that when non-canonists attempt to argue canon law, the results are typically sad & often pathetic.

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  6. Angelo Tan says:

    Father, I believe it’s a desperate move by this unholy “news” site. Play on words, insinuating something that is farfetched. Even I would not have a write-up of this kind. Trashhhhh.

    Oh blessed Charles, great Bishop of God’s Church, pray for us all journalists. May God always strengthen our fortitude.

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