Faith In Accountability And Responsibility

Over on Twitter, Bree A Dail, a journalist who among other duties is the Vatican Correspondent for The Epoch Times, posed an interesting question as part of a discussion:

If a journalist (or media outlet) identifying as Catholic Media publishes or supports publications rejecting/denying the Bishop of Rome, or Church Teachings, should they be exposed, publicly reprimanded and censured by Bishops and/or the Holy See?

Within the context provided, I would (and did) answer yes to her poll. My explanation of why I voted as I did led to a nice discussion with her, and among other things she pointed out to me this story from a Catholic media outlet saying that Francis is not the Pope. In fact, they refuse to call him Pope or Francis.

Some quick background before we dive in on this. I was raised Methodist and joined the Episcopal Church in late high school. Eventually I found my way to the Catholic Church. When I joined, I did so in one of those conservative churches so beloved of Pope Francis (/sarc), one which until brought to heel performed the Latin Mass every Sunday. In fact, when I joined the early Mass was Anglican, the reasonable Mass was the Sung Mass, and the later/mid-day Mass was the Latin Mass. The difference between the Sung and Latin Mass? About an hour.

One benefit of joining in a more conservative Church was that the RCIA program, which educates on Catholic theology and practices, was rigorous (and fun). We had some theological debates and discussions, and more importantly got into some of the historical debates and discussions that resulted in current Catholic doctrine. The course I took was such that other Churches sometimes sent their students, or even those who were of the Faith, to participate and learn. Some of it was warts and all, as there have been Saints fist fighting and Popes who were “rotters.” Thing is, at the end, you had no doubt about where the Church stood, why they did so, and what the options and expectations for you involved.

In fact, we spent pretty much an entire session one evening discussing things like the denial of the Sacrament to those who supported abortion or other issues that run counter to the laws outlined in the Catechism of the Church. On any number of issues like that, if you did not agree with the Church’s position, you should not join. If you did join, and found yourself in disagreement with the Church on doctrine decided later, you should not accept the Sacrament.

Technically, I am a lapsed Catholic. For personal reasons and because I find myself in disagreement with a number of things decreed by Pope Francis, I chose to not take the Sacrament and to even step away from the Church. It is the right, moral, and honorable thing to do IMO and is in keeping with the Catechism. My Faith remains, and remains strong. My faith in Man and the Institutions of Man remains about the same, just short of non-existent.

Until Bree pointed out that article and some other things, I was unaware that any Catholic media was denying that Francis is the Pope, much less questioning the authority of the Bishop of Rome and the Magisterium. Been focused on a few other things the last year or two, and while I knew I was far from alone in my thoughts in regards Pope Francis I did not realize that things had gotten this far.

For good or ill, Francis sits on the Throne of St. Peter and is the Pope and Bishop of Rome. Period. Full Stop.

The thing that struck me in some things I’ve been reading since this came up, the argument being made is that Francis has abandoned doctrine, process, and more and therefore isn’t Pope. It is a novel approach, though not terribly grounded in Church law IMO. I’m rather surprised that none of those denying his authority have done it (at least that I’ve read) on the basis of his being an anti-Pope.

For those of you who’ve never played Pope-A-Day Bingo, there have been times when there were two (in once case I think possibly three) Popes. This happened when politics ruled the day and there were competing factions French, Italian, and otherwise. The verdict of history (written by those who lived much later most often) was that one was the “real” Pope and the other was an “anti-Pope” or false Pope. An intellectual case can be made that Benedict was either forced out or that his being allowed to renounce the Crown of St. Peter was improper/illegal (under Church law), and that therefore the elevation of Bergoglio was improper/illegal. Whatever the verdict of any future history, the fact remains that Bergoglio was elevated and is serving as Pope Francis.

Now, back to Bree’s query above. Based on the laws of the Church as outlined in the Catechism, the process should be for the appropriate Bishop to remonstrate with them in private, and if that is not satisfactory, remonstrate in public and take further steps as needed. Those steps could be to deny the Sacrament or even up to excommunication.

I am uncomfortable with forcing resignations or removals from the publications. Again, while it has been done in the past, even the recent past, it is far too easy to weaponize against simple, even if profound, disagreement. It is also in many respects a secular response to a spiritual matter.

However, given the manifest unwillingness of the vast majority of Church leadership to do so with a number of people on several subjects (Pelosi and Biden are not the only ones just on abortion, and let’s not even get into matters sexual), I do not see this being addressed anytime soon. Which also tends to push things towards what might be a rather draconian response when and if it comes. It doesn’t help that far too many in leadership see disagreement not only as an assault upon them as an individual, but also as an attack on the office which they hold, and that therefore to disagree with them in any way, shape, or form as an attack on the Faith as a whole as well. Simple disagreement is not being Satanic.

Which leads to another poll Bree conducted as part of the thread:

Should journalists who identify as Catholic Media be held to a standard of ethics, to include Oaths of Fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church?

This is where things get interesting for me. Oaths are powerful and sacred things, even when they deal with the purely secular. I’ve sworn a couple in my life that have no expiration that include the cost of my life. I tend to approach them a bit differently from some for very good reasons.

While the idea of Catholic Media taking an oath similar to what some Catholic academics do seems like a good idea, I have some strong reservations about it. Much depends on what is sworn, and how. Given how so much of the leadership of the Church is thin-skinned on criticism (to be polite) my concern is that any oath to obey, support, or other the Magisterium or the authority of the Bishop of Rome could (and sadly I suspect would) be twisted such that any disagreement, or any report they don’t like, is a violation of the oath.

I do think that media claiming to be Catholic media needs to be held to a higher standard on matters of the Faith and the doctrines of the Church. Then again, I think all media needs to be held to some minimum standards on honesty, accuracy, and other matters. I agree with Bree that we need to hold journalists to at least the standards we would hold a child doing a book report. Preferably more. When I left journalism many moons ago, I was delighted to discover that public relations not only had a much stronger code of ethics, but that unlike journalism they actually enforced it. At least they did at that time, no idea about today. Modern journalism talks (a lot), but does not walk the walk.

Catholic Media needs to walk the walk. If they are to claim that they are a Catholic organization/publication/whatever, then they need to be held at least to the standards expected of any member of the Faith. Disagreement and discussion are allowed in the Faith within certain constraints. It is how the Church grows and expands the understanding of God’s Word. To that end, those that stray need to be dealt with by the spiritual methods as outlined in the Catechism, not by secular means.


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