Sunday, 20 September 2009

This blog supports Salt and Light TV

I have come late to the spat that has been taking place between Salt and Light Catholic TV Network and others in relation to the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy. If I have understood the situation correctly, Salt and Light were approached by Lifesite News (and perhaps others) to join a lobby/campaign to stop Cardinal O'Malley's participation in the funeral and Cardinal McCarrick's participation in the interment. When they did not join in such a campaign, heated exchanges (well, very heated exchanges) followed through e-mail and blog posts.

The original texts are, so far as I can see, these:

Fr Thomas Rosica's strongly worded post of 3rd September, which reproduces the text of Cardinal O'Malley's own blog post. Fr Rosica is the Chief Executive of Salt and Light Catholic TV.

Lifesite News commentary of 4th September responding to Fr Rosica's post.

A radio interview by Fr Rosica, broadcast on 9th September. The transcript is here, posted on 15th September.

A Lifesite News editorial of 14th September, responding to Fr Rosica's Sirius interview.

A Lifesite News editorial of 17th September, responding to Fr Rosica's contributions.

1. Lifesite News
Quite some time ago now, I had reason to read a Lifesite News report in looking up a story. I found a problem then that I have found with every attempt since to use a Lifesite News report. That problem is one of being able to distinguish the hard news content of the report from the spin or emphasis being added to the hard news content. It makes Lifesite News unusable as a reliable source of news reporting - you always have to go and find another report of the same story elsewhere in order to check that you really know what is going on. This is why I do not link to Lifesite News, and why I would only very cautiously base a post on a report from Lifesite News.

What purpose is, then, served by Lifesite News reports? There is, of course, some purpose served in providing news, or at least giving a head up on a story. And there is probably also some political value in terms of indicating a clear opposition to those who support abortion. But, as with most public voice politics, is the essential audience Lifesite News' own supporters? Is it most effective in building its own standing with its own supporters? I make this as a morally neutral observation - the building of status with your own constituency is a perfectly legitimate part of the process of politics and is the ordinary bread and butter of seeking election to office. But issue politics, as opposed to party politics or the politics of electoral office, needs to be successful in influencing those outside your own constituency - and my question is about how far Lifesite News can do this or, indeed, if they want to do this.

Fr Rosica has posted an account of a meeting he had with young people on 10th September, in the context of this controversy, which provides a good example of what I am trying to say is needed here.

2. Internet lobbying
I have posted previously (I'll insert the link to that post when I find it!) about using blogs to encourage others to e-mail or protest to people. Even if the resulting communications are courteous and considered, there is still a point at which this becomes a form of cyber-bullying. It is a modus operandi which takes advantage of the ease of electronic communication to get people to lobby over something in which they may not have a direct stake. A much more appropriate way of doing things seems to me to be one which encourages others to post on their own blogs their views about an issue.

The following, at the bottom of Lifesite News editorial of 14th September, is, in my view, quite out of order, despite that word "respectfully":

To RESPECTFULLY contact Fr. Rosica:

3. Conclusion
To say that the kind of spat between parties who should be allies which has occurred here is the work of the devil isn't to blame either of the parties as if they were directly undertaking the work of the devil. Somewhere in it all we might accept that the devil has worked his mischief and that the parties involved might need to keep their eyes open to try and see where this mischief is present.

But, that having been said, this blog is declaring on the side of Fr Rosica on this one, and a link to Salt and Light TV Network can now be found on the links list.


Anonymous said...

Judicious. Sane.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dear brother Catholic, you may wish to consider this and then reconsider with whom you align:

WASHINGTON, September 29, 2009 ( - Archbishop Raymond Burke, head of the highest Vatican court, the Apostolic Signatura, has offered a public defense of those pro-life leaders who spoke out against the scandal of the grandiose funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy. "One of the ironies of the present situation is that the person who experiences scandal at the gravely sinful public actions of a fellow Catholic is accused of a lack of charity and of causing division within the unity of the Church," wrote Archbishop Burke.

In addition to this news service, public statements lamenting the scandal of the funeral - which according to some prominent leaders seemed almost a canonization - came from leaders of Human Life International, American Life League, C-Fam, Catholic World News, EWTN, Inside Catholic, Catholic Culture and many more.

While he was not mentioned by Archbishop Burke, the most public of the harsh criticisms came from a U.S.-born priest who is now living and operating in Canada as the head of Salt and Light Television network. Fr. Rosica's remarks were emblematic of other criticisms and his status as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications gave his remarks weight.

After pro-life leaders had expressed their scandal at the funeral, Fr. Thomas Rosica wrote: "Leading up to the Kennedy funeral last weekend, and in its aftermath, many so-called lovers of life and activists in the pro-life movement, as well as well-known colleagues in Catholic television broadcasting and media in North America, have revealed themselves to be not agents of life, but of division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence."

Burke however sees the matter quite differently. "In a society whose thinking is governed by the 'tyranny of relativism' and in which political correctness and human respect are the ultimate criteria of what is to be done and what is to be avoided, the notion of leading someone into moral error makes little sense," he said. "What causes wonderment in such a society is the fact that someone fails to observe political correctness and, thereby, seems to be disruptive of the so-called peace of society. Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity."

Archbishop Burke goes so far as to suggest that "The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life."

He added: "Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities."

Joe said...

1. In making my original post, I was not in a position to consider the bidding prayers, homily, eulogy or other aspects of the funeral liturgy itself - I have not had time to study them. I had hoped to post comment on them at some point, but have not found the time to do so.

2. As I understand the context of Fr Rosica's remarks, this was a result of his being asked to join a campaign with regard to the Kennedy funeral, which he declined to do. The prime lack of charity he referred to was that addressed to himself. At least some of Archbishop Burke's remarks address a wider context than this.

3. My reasons for not aligning myself with Lifesite News remain as they were, and I do not feel that Archbishop Burke's remarks lead me to change my views in that regard.

4. Am I right in thinking that the prime scandal being referred to by Archbishop Burke is that provided by Senator Kennedy's own actions, rather than that which has been perceived in the events relating to his funeral?

As a general observation: Participation of two Cardinals in Senator Kennedy's funeral ceremonies can be seen as a witness to charity on the part of the Church; I think Cardinal O'Malley's blog post removes any possibility that any one can see his participation as approving Senator Kennedy's and President Obama's legislative support of abortion. In making a decision as to whether or not to participate, the Cardinals needed to balance this witness with the need to witness to the Church's teaching on abortion - and some Catholics would clearly have wanted a different course of action in this. I think we should respect that people will have different views of the course of action that would achieve the required dual witness.

Steve said...

Dear Joe,

I appreciate your concern on this issue. Your heart is clearly in the right place. However, some of your facts are erroneous. Please allow me to clarify.

First, LifeSite did not contact S&L to ask them to oppose the funeral of Ted Kennedy. That was done by some unidentified pro-lifers. Fr. Rosica over-reacted to this prompting and generated the scandal that we all know. We Canadians were particularly worked up.

LifeSite was not involved in instigating this scandal. They were busy reporting, as were many other pro-life Catholics (like EWTN and American Life League) that it was scandalous for Kennedy to have been given such a glorious public funeral in which he was virtually canonized. Fr. Rosica's initial article on September 3rd came after this. Once Fr. Rosica published his first article smearing pro-lifers, that's when LifeSite got involved. A chronology of the Fr. Rosica scandal can be found here:

Second, Archbishop Burke addressed the scandal caused by Kennedy's own actions AND the fact that he was given a Catholic funeral. He quotes Canon Law and the perennial discipline of the Church as he asserts that persons like Kennedy should not be given a Catholic funeral or Holy Communion because of the scandal it causes. This is very significant for the purpose of your article and the dispute of Fr. Rosica vs. pro-lifers. When you read Archbishop Burke's statement, you realize that everything that pro-lifers had been saying with regards to the Kennedy funeral and the denouncing of evil was vindicated, while everything that Fr. Rosica was defending was rebuked.

I encourage you to read Archbishop Burke's full statement here:

Take care.

Joe said...

Dear Steve

Thank you for your comment, which I post above.

Three observations:
1. I would suggest that your first link to catholic-dialogue.blogspot is not just an account of the chronology of the relevant events, but includes a significant element of commentary that is not favourable to Fr Rosica. It is useful, though, to recognise that the approach to Salt+Light should not be attributed to LifesiteNews.
2. I do think that the primary scandal referred to by Archbishop Burke in his address is that caused by Catholic politicians who act in the legislative sphere against Catholic teaching on life and marriage; the reference to "those who experience scandal" appears to me to be more in this context than in that of reaction to the Kennedy funeral; and it should not be presented either as if it is a formal Vatican position - it was a speech at an award presentation, not a formal act of the Apostolic Signatura.
3. I think it would be quite useful to detach the discussion of scandal by Archbishop Burke from the present controversy, and try to understand how it can be used to develop a practice for the future. This practice needs to address, in my view, the relative roles of the Bishop/priest and the lay faithful. [I recall a situation where a re-married Catholic was about to be elected to the Chairmanship of a Catholic Club - the relevant parish priest was asked about this by some other members of the club - my suggestion was that he should advise them to stand for election against this person if they felt they were not suitable to Chair the club.] I also found very interesting Archbishop Burke's dicussion of the founding principles of the US constitution.