McCarrick was once the powerful cardinal of Washington, D.C. and Vatican powerbroker. He was extremely popular with reporters in “Team Ted” in the mainstream press.
The subsequent results of a Vatican probe released in 2020 exonerated Francis of any wrongdoing — puttng the blame largely on his predecessors Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
At the same time, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, recently suggested McElroy — although he didn’t name him directly — was a “heretic” because of his views on a number of social issues.
In 2021, Pope Francis told a group of Jesuits: “There is, for example, a large Catholic television channel that has no hesitation in continually speaking ill of the pope.” And just last year, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, addressed EWTN’s European television affiliates, telling them:
Catholic media, as you well know, has an important role in the task of the new evangelization. This is why it is good that they feel that they are an active part of the life of the Church, first of all by living in a spirit of communion with the Bishop of Rome. This is all the more urgent today in a time marked by overly-dramatic debates, also within the Church, which do not even spare the person and the Magisterium of the Pontiff. When Mother Angelica founded EWTN with tremendous courage and extraordinary creativity, she did so primarily to provide an instrument of good at the service of the Church and the Pope. This continues to be your greatest mission and reward – to be and to experience yourselves at the service of the Church and the Successor of Peter.
All this has led to McElroy’s unprecedented position to ban EWTN from his diocese’s media, which includes stories from the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency.
The Tablet, the international Catholic news weekly, reported on the story. This is the key section:
Explaining why opposition to Pope Francis is so acute in certain US circles, McElroy said: “Francis’ attention is centred on the life of the believer in its complexity and on how the Gospel and the tradition of the Church can apply in an effective and compassionate way to the lives of those who struggle ardently to draw close to God and follow his path in the midst of so many challenges.”
The Pope’s pastoral sensibility “doesn’t have the clarity and security that many have come to trust in their understanding of the faith”.
EWTN, which owns both the Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register, is seen as the principal forum for opposition to the Pope.
“The main anchors of the channel constantly minimise the abilities and theological knowledge of Francis, cite Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s slander of the pope and try to move the world away from the reforms the Pope is signalling,” McElroy said.
Like the Paprocki comments, McElroy’s decision to ban EWTN received zero mainstream news coverage (Also, tmatt acknowledged the lack of mainstream secular news coverage regarding Paprocki’s essay at the time).
It should be noted that there was a possible escalation (aside from Paprocki’s comments) between McElroy and some in right-wing Catholic media dating back a few weeks.
For example, the National Catholic Register ran a column by George Weigel, a senior fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C, on Feb 1. He was also the author of “Witness to Hope,” a major biography of Pope St. John Paul II.
This is the key section:
The question of “inclusion” and the Church’s self-understanding was recently raised by an article published in America by Cardinal Robert McElroy, because the sensibility on display in the cardinal’s article is not that of the Bible, the Fathers of the Church, the Second Vatican Council or the Catechism. It is the sensibility of woke culture’s obsession with “inclusion.”
The article suggests, if elliptically, that, because of concerns about inclusion, the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood and the moral integrity of gay sex are open questions. But that is not the settled teaching of the Catholic Church. How can a highly intelligent man who has taken solemn oaths in which he accepted that teaching and promised to uphold it think otherwise?
Like contemporary woke culture, the cardinal’s article seems to regard gender theory as a secular form of revealed truth. In fact, theories of culturally-constructed “gender” and “gender fluidity” flatly contradict divine revelation: “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
The article makes extravagant (and unsourced) claims about widespread “animus” against “the LGBT communities,” deeming such “visceral” attitudes “demonic.” But Cardinal McElroy has nothing to say about the severe (and readily documentable) cultural, professional and legal pressures brought to bear on those who refuse to go woke about the proper ordering of human love.
Woke inclusion-mania’s anthem is Frank Sinatra’s childish concept of freedom: “I did it my way.” Burning incense at the altar of such infantilism is not going to bring men and women to the Christ who linked freedom to truth: “… you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).
The Catholic Church is a communion of men and women, all of whom struggle with human weakness when confronting the vicissitudes of the human condition. But that communion of disciples has also been given the truths that truly liberate by the Lord himself — truths that are not subject to affirmation or denial by discussion groups.
There you have it.
Certainly, McElroy saw these comments as fighting words. Catholic media — on the left and right — have always been very good at reporting the facts and highlighting the divisions between both campos.
This also opens up the question of whether diocesan newspapers are there to uphold Catholic teachings and traditions or meant to advertise the whims of a cardinal or bishop in any given jurisdiction? The answer is “no.” These newspapers exist to inform the community and to give them stories you won’t read in the secular mainstream press.
McElroy’s biggest issue may be with the commentary that has run on EWTN and its websites more than its news coverage. That’s a fair debate. More than a blanket ban, however, I would have liked to have seen McElroy engage — both theologically and intellectually — with EWTN’s various journalistic platforms.
Where has EWTN failed in upholding Catholic teachings? This is a fair question and one in which McElroy could have engaged with rather than treat EWTN like a hostile news organization. Cardinals have a duty to engage with all Catholics. That means having to reach out to everyone in Catholic media — especially during the Lenten season — and debate the differences that sometimes cause the church to be at odds with itself.
In 2015, Pope Francis told U.S. bishops the following:
“I know that you face many challenges, that the field in which you sow is unyielding and that there is always the temptation to give in to fear, to lick one’s wounds, to think back on bygone times and to devise harsh responses to fierce opposition. Yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter,” he continued. “We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every response. Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One who never wearies of visiting the marketplace, even at the eleventh hour, to propose his offer of love.”
“Dialogue is our method.” Indeed, it is for many in Catholic media. Now only if the cardinals abided by those same rules.
FIRST IMAGE: Lightning strikes St. Peter’s Basilica in 2013, in an uncredited photo at the Roman Catholic Man website.
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