Writing on the mission of Catholic media, Kansas City-Saint Joseph Bishop Robert Finn expressed his disappointment with the National Catholic Reporter’s failure to live up to its name. Bishop Finn wrote:
“In a different way, I am sorry to say, my attention has been drawn once again to the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper with headquarters in this Diocese. I have received letters and other complaints about NCR from the beginning of my time here. In the last months I have been deluged with emails and other correspondence from Catholics concerned about the editorial stances of the Reporter: officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.
My predecessor bishops have taken different approaches to the challenge. Bishop Charles Helmsing in October of 1968 issued a condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter and asked the publishers to remove the name “Catholic” from their title – to no avail. From my perspective, NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.
When early in my tenure I requested that the paper submit their bona fides as a Catholic media outlet in accord with the expectations of Church law, they declined to participate indicating that they considered themselves an “independent newspaper which commented on ‘things Catholic.’” At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a dead end.
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.”
Canonist Edward Peters, at his “In the Light of the Law” blog, said that the National Catholic Reporter’s use of “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,” Peters wrote. Peters serves as professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
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