With Catholic News Service expected to cease operations in the United States at the end of the year, some Catholic media observers are raising questions about conflicts of interest, the U.S. bishops’ evangelism plan and journalistic standards. The decision “reinforces the very anti-Francis ideological forces that the bishops denounce,” David Gibson says in a commentary for NCR. And NCR political columnist Michael Sean Winters said the decision was dire because of its ecclesial significance, which touches on a deeper issue for bishops nationwide. Here are the letters to the editor in response to these articles. Letters have been edited for length and clarity.
With this excellent article by David Gibson, my own frustration with the Catholic media is validated. The diocese in which I live now has a very poor diocesan newspaper. So, I subscribe to the newspaper of a large diocese in a large city where I used to live. When I put the two newspapers side by side, the lack of professionalism of one and journalistic requirements of the other is obvious.
Before reading the Gibson article and before Catholic News Service was shut down, I thought to myself that bishops don’t have standards or measuring sticks for improvements. Unfortunately, I use my current diocesan newspaper to line the bottom of cardboard boxes used for recycling.
ANDREW JOHN DILIDDO, JR.
David Gibson’s op-ed is an informative but sad commentary on the state of the hierarchy in the American Catholic Church. We know the bishops get what they want even if it means the death of the American Catholic Church by 1,000 cuts, some deeper than others.
Consider major news articles over the past 25+ years. They are full of clergy missteps, half-steps and stumbles and prone falls. Frankly, the bishops lied and got caught by honest journalists. The time when journalists were under their control had passed with their moral authority. Journalism, indeed, has taken over. The curtain of secrecy was drawn and a bright spotlight shone on their hidden secrets. It is an unpardonable sin in the eyes of the bishop. We had to do something.
What we see happening to the Catholic News Service is yet another, deep, cut in the church. Visionless prelates would rather spend millions of dollars on a doomed Eucharistic revival when over 75% of Catholics don’t believe what the church teaches! Has a national effort ever been successful?
When that fails, what are the bishops left with? An anachronistic religion with an increasingly aging clergy has little future. The bishops may see the writing on the wall and circle the carts. Sacrificing Catholic News Service to preserve their way of life a little longer is a simplistic response to a larger problem. They reap what they sow.
MICHAEL J. MCDERMOTT
I too regret the unfortunate decision taken by the American Episcopal Conference. This is another example of their lack of understanding of the real needs of the people, of their flock. It is education, including current events that are not politically motivated to divide the people into “camps”.
Now it’s the Catholic News Service they’re going after. In the past, they closed schools and churches on the pretext of low attendance, rather than finding a way to reverse the trend. Many American bishops must be replaced by men of character and dynamism.
ANTOINETTE MERENDA CARBON
Riverhead, New York
Why? It appears that the bishops are trying to take control of all information about our church from a professional organization that has acted fairly for over 100 years.
Michael Sean Winters is right, but Catholic News Service editor Tony Spence is also right.
In large part, the growing number of American bishops are right-wing, reactionary culture warriors who are only too happy to disengage from the concerns and realities of the wider community and the world. Too many of them are focused on nitpicking their own little diocesan kingdoms, enriching themselves via their wealthy donors and benefactors, even outright collection theft, and living a comfortable, even luxurious life, doing little or nothing. that would take them out of their comfort zone. zone and struggle with the difficult and dangerous problems of our time, which could sorely use the advice of social teaching and Catholic thought.
Few bishops and priests seem to have a theological understanding of the Church’s rich and profound social teaching, tradition and history and how to center it in the life of the Church and community in the sense broad, and no sensitivity for the pastoral care of communities and individuals who must struggle through a world that divides, disrupts, marginalizes and leaves them without vision, without hope. Getting rid of the Catholic News Service is just one more example that the American bishops and their hierarchy are a failing institution.
Jefferson City, Mo.
After reading Michael Sean Winters’ article on Catholic News Service closing Church news coverage in the United States, I am writing to my archbishop and urging others to do the same.
The failure to fund Catholic News Service reporting in the United States is a stupid and serious move that threatens to further politicize American Catholic news. Laity, clergy, religious and bishops need the attentive reporting of the Catholic News Service. Scholars and their students who teach religious history and theology need Catholic News Service. The secular and religious press needs Catholic News Service.
Although I realize that financial resources are limited, bishops who live too comfortably should be willing to sacrifice themselves to fund this essential service. Too few have followed the example of Pope Francis.
St. Paul, Minnesota
If, through the concept of civic engagement, Michael Sean Winters suggests ongoing dialogue, then the bishops, in my view, lost interest in dialogue years ago. The closure of the Catholic News Service, as far as national news coverage is concerned, is just the latest piece of evidence.
Pope Francis seems to want to hear from both laity and clergy, and the synod on synodality was a step towards that goal. However, very few bishops have engaged the laity in this scenario, thus limiting any contribution from them. The apparent lack of interest in the opinions of the laity, if not outright contempt, is just one example of some bishops who believe themselves to be less teachers or servants of the people than their superiors.
Many Catholics, like our non-Catholic peers, are consumers of news from various media. The prevailing stereotype about these consumers is that we seek sources of information that reflect our own tastes and sometimes to the extent that we limit contrary opinions. However, most individuals will additionally seek out neutral sources in order to obtain unfiltered information to add to that which fuels our personal preferences. The Catholic News Service was one such neutral resource, and we were able to get their input by reading not only independent journals, but also diocesan resources that relied on Catholic News Service as one of their sources.
CHARLES A. LE GUERN
I appreciate the story “As Catholic News Service Shuts Down, Ideological and Evangelical Media Are Here to Fill the Void.”
It’s well written, reflects journalism issues more generally, and touches on some of my own frustrations with FAITH magazine.
I would have liked to hear NCR’s point of view in the context of the same analysis of the news.
While this may be an opportunity for FAITH and for the Catholic News Agency, isn’t it also an opportunity for NCR? At a minimum, it’s a seismic shift in Catholic media that increases NCR’s need to provide an independent voice.
Can NCR meet this challenge? Will he try?
It is embarrassing for the leaders of a news organization to be the sources of an article they publish. And NCR’s independence makes it a different publication than one funded by the church.
It’s an important distinction, but NCR is a big player in this area. If his voice weighs on the editorials, this analysis of the news also needed it. It cites key sources who declined to respond to requests for comment.
Has NCR received the same request?
That said, I’m a fan. Keep up the good work.
Catholic News Service is a conservative partisan media outlet. I offer as evidence of not reporting anything positive that Pope Francis has said about LGBTQ+ people, and not pointing out that in naming the Bishop of San Diego cardinal, he ignored the archbishops of Los Angeles and San Francisco, sees that are traditionally accompanied by a red hat.
Several times over the years, Catholic News Service has exposed a conservative slant by omitting relevant facts in reporting a story.
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