Saturday, May 19, 2007


Catholic publications: Embrace diversity of thought, or teach Catholic truth clearly?

Lenore and I recently wrote the following letter to our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Herald of Superior, WI. The letter was printed in the May 3 edition:

In this information age, we can easily experience information overload. TV, Internet, books, all combine to create a cacophony of ideas and opinions on every subject imaginable. This may be quite suitable for political and ideological controversies, but the truth of our Catholic Faith must surely rise above such mere subjectiveness and speculation. The highest purpose of Catholic journalism must be seen in this light: to shine the light of the true Faith as a sure beacon and reliable guide in the midst of the chaotic and confusing cacophony in our world.

By publishing the left-leaning and often heretical ideas of Fr. Richard McBrien and Fr. Ron Rolheiser, the Catholic Herald is failing to achieve this high calling. Weighing their own supposed academic prowess and subjective opinions against 2000 years of consistent Church teaching and billions of believing saints, these two priests have no problem preferring the former. But such insufferable hubris is not the primary problem. To give these two a podium is to undermine one's own reliability as a source of Catholic teaching. Such has been the Catholic Herald's error.

Surely more authentically Catholic writers can be found -- writers such as Matt C. Abbott, Amy Welborn, or Russell Shaw, to name a few -- who have consistently written intelligent reflections on our Faith without departing from its truth. We call upon the Herald to replace McBrien and Rolheiser with real Catholics. Enough cacophony!

The May 17 edition contained 6 response letters, all of them opposed to ours, although we also received many favorable responses in person. Regretfully, The Herald does not include letters to the editor in its online version, so links to the written responses cannot be included here.

In light of the interest shown, this blog post is an invitation to engage in a roundtable discussion on the proper role of Catholic publications in the marketplace of ideas. Feel free to click here or on the comment link for this post (below) to read the roundtable discussion, and to add any comment you like. No comments will be edited or deleted unless they are obscene or exceedingly uncivil. The first comment is our letter as sent to The Herald in response to the 6 unfavorable responses.


Jerry said...

to the editor (for publication):

Re. our letter of May 3, and the many responses to it:

A major change has obviously occurred among many Catholics in recent decades, in which personal ideas and opinions are considered as having equal merit as defined articles of faith. Too many Catholics are confused and unsure of what the Church even teaches on many points. This is not good.

The point of our May 3 letter was to call for clarity, at least in the official diocesan newspaper. The Catholic Herald ought to be a place where ordinary Catholics can find reliable and trustworthy information about what their Faith teaches. That is to say, it ought to recognize the aforementioned widespread confusion, and seek to alleviate it by teaching the Catholic truth, rather than adding to the confusion. This is neither censorship nor judgmental, as some have (judgmentally?) charged, but an appeal for Catholic clarity in teaching the truth of our Faith.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's observation that "Truth is truth even if no one believes it, and error is error even if everyone believes it" is an example of the type of clarity that we call for. Let a multitude of conflicting ideas be bantied about in the marketplace of ideas; that's fine. But let the singular and essential Catholic truth be taught unambiguously in some venues, especially by individuals and publications that serve as official Catholic voices, such as the Herald.

We might concede the points made by Phyllis Karr Hoyt and E. M. McCarthy that Fr. Rolheiser's articles are not nearly as problematic as are Fr. McBrien's, and that interesting ideas are sometimes offered in these columns. And one could arguably find comfort that both are printed under the heading of 'Opinion Page', sort of a 'take it with a grain of salt' presentation. But the main point remains: clarity is needed. Consider: Should an official Catholic newspaper endorse a wide diversity of ideas and opinions, or should it carefully and clearly teach the Catholic Faith? We ask for the latter.

And if 'diversity of ideas' is to be endorsed in a supposed Catholic publication, we still ask for one or two syndicated columns by the aforementioned Abbott, Welborn, Shaw, or (to suggest another) George Weigel, to at least counterbalance the dissident writings of McBrien with a more solidly and loyally Catholic perspective.

Speaking of counterbalance, and in view of the interest shown here, we offer this invitation: Anyone who is internet-able and interested may go to and enter into an online discussion of this very point. Look for the 'Roundtable' heading, and leave any comment you care to. Or, drop a message to and a link to the roundtable site will be sent to you.

Jerry & Lenore DePyper

Jerry said...

The above comment was the entirety of the response letter as sent to The Herald. The earliest possible publication date for that would be May 24.

I have also sent emails to the 6 Catholic columnists mentioned, if they want to weigh in. Who knows? One or two might.

Summerfields said...

I read the original letter in the Catholic Herald, after it was pointed out to me, and I agreed with it 100% as being of my opionion, also.

Being a convert to the Catholic Church from Protestantism (I just celebrated my 10th anniversary), I was initially excited to find that Catholics receive weekly newspapers in their mail written from the Catholic perspective -- then I became disenchanted after seeing that the faith that I had sought and found, wasn't necessarily respresented there, and / or other places that I should have been able to depend on finding it.

As a convert, I had investigated the faith on my own, as there are many great apologetics books available on the market, many wonderful writers who are faithful to the Magisterium, to the time-honored gems of our faith. I found a Gold Mine in the Catholic Church.

I believe that it should go without saying that the precious faith that Jesus Christ layed out for us -- indeed, the faith that He came and died to leave us -- should be carefully protected and taught to all the generations, including ours. The weekly Catholic newspapers are one of the prime sources for believers to learn from, a source from which they can be strengthened in that faith, whether cradle-born into the Church and in need or ongoing faith-support and at-hand truths, or for converts like myself who are looking for ongoing teaching and confirmation.

I believe that no one of the faithful need to read, in their local diocesan paper, articles by writers who routinely question the tenets of our faith, or worse, effectively work to derail that faith with personal opinions that argue against delivered truths, against traditional Catholic morality.

We can all read the catechism -- but most folks don't. For many, that little paper is all they see, and they can get an entirely wrong idea about the Catholic faith. I hear the fruits of wrongful teaching, frequently, and it breaks my heart. The Catholic faith often is represented moreso as a protestantism, in actuality.

We need good teaching, reliable information, nothing but the best role models, in a world that has, for the most part, lost much sight of truth and sense of holiness, that has fed on the societal lies that there is no clear truth, that we can be our own gods. The times are extremely serious and there is no room for compromise -- and worse. If we can not rely on our weekly Catholic newspaper to be aligned with the Word of Christ -- we are sunk, indeed.

Jerry said...

Thank you, Summerfields, for your articulate thoughts, and congratulations on your anniversary!

Generally speaking, converts from Protestantism such as yourself seem more likely to see the teaching authority of the Catholic Church in a positive light. I have long suspected that this is because, having experienced first hand the weaknesses inherent in the Protestant approach, you are more apt to recognize, like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:31), the futility of the 'Sola Scriptura' approach, and the need for a reliable teaching authority. Would this be a fair characterization of your position?

I am speaking as a cradle Catholic, but having spent a number of years with a Protestant mindset. I had no problem saying things like, "well, the Church teaches such and so, but here's what I think...". I gradually came to see this approach as not only arrogant (trusting upon my own limited powers of understanding), but foolish as well. How could i be sure of my own insights? And how could i rely upon other human guides, other Protestant minds? Which one of the thousands of denominations had it right? Or was there no such thing as knowable truth? I call this the Protestant dilemma. And so, bit by bit, i saw that the answer to the dilemma was right there all the time, and embraced once again that teaching authority established by Jesus himself. I suppose this makes me a sort of a 'revert', returning to the Faith which i had never formally left.

Anonymous said...

Your second letter to the
Superior Catholic Herald will probably not be published. They have an
agenda and those of us that consider it a must for
Catholics to support the
Holy Father and the Magisterium get short shrift from them. Catholic newspapers are one of the best avenues of reaching most Cathlics but sadly most Diocesan newspapers fail in their mission of printing "Catholic" news and just promote what they think the church should be and teach, even if that is the opposite of what the church does actually teach.
I speak here of those that support Feminism, women priests, married priests,
homosexual "marriage", etc. They think the church is "way behind the times"
and needs to catch up with their moedernism.
The Catholic faith is wonderful if lived according to the teaching of the church. Its TRUELY the church that Jesus founded.
I wonder how many letters
the SCH received in support of your original letter! I have sent letters to the SCH, some they published and some they did not. It appeared to me that when I sent a letter that did not meet their agenda it was ignored. One has to remember that they determine what letters get published and what won't.
Another letter this week
also wanted to keep Fr.
McBrien's articles in the
paper. The writer says that she reads George Wiegel's articles bu dosen't like him. It would seem that the SCH could also publish George Wiegel's articles as a balance. But, sadly they
won't because he is a solid Catholic and does not hesitate to write clearly and truely about things Catholic.
I have been very disappointed with the SCH.
They have such a powerful means to get out the true message of the church which the whole world needs to know but they fir
the title of "Liberal".
Its sad that we just can't be simply "Catholic".
As we pray for the conversion of sinners (and
that includes me) we should pray for those that
are in any way involved with Catholic newspapers that they will actually
learn the faith, live the faith, and relay the faith
faithfully to their readers. Lets pray and
Deepwoods Mike

Jerry said...

The original letter was emailed to the Herald on 4/22/7, and published 5/3/7, 11 days later. The second was emailed last saturday, 5/19/7, and would not have been read by them until monday 5/21/7. So i think it fair to wait another week to see if the 5/31/7 edition contains the second letter.

I am also interested to see if they publish the blog info, and let folks express themselves via this roundtable discussion. This blog is set up, as you have seen, to instantly publish anyone's comments, regardless of the views expressed, and without delay or editing.

Jerry said...

I have just learned that Memorial Day is one of the holidays that causes the Herald to skip an issue. So we will have to wait until June 7 for any more published letters.

Summerfields said...

Jerry wrote:

"...having experienced first hand the weaknesses inherent in the Protestant approach, you are more apt to recognize... the futility of the 'Sola Scriptura' approach, and the need for a reliable teaching authority. Would this be a fair characterization of your position?"

That would be a large part of it, yes. My husband and I worked in a position where we were daily associated with approximately 27 or so Protestant denominations, and we visited church with quite a few of them. I came to a point where I wondered what exactly was the use, other than socializing amongst other believers? I saw many of them outside of church already.

(1) I knew the things they were preaching already -- so just going and hearing a one-hour sermon each Sunday wasn't good enough reason in my mind to attend (I know, a rather bad attitude); I thought there must be more to communing with God than that, or I could stay home and have home church on my own. Many of our peers began to do just that -- and still do, “sort of”.

But (2), mainly I couldn't help but notice that the ministers at each of the churches painted a different picture of Who God and Christ are, and what They expect of us (no small point when you're talking about Almighty God and Eternal Salvation), and that wasn't good enough for me -- I wanted to *know* which was true, because if Truth is that which sets us free -- and Jesus said it is -- I didn't want to be held in bondage to untruths. So I was driven to keep searching. Why this doesn't bother all Protestants, I can't understand.

Having been raised in an anti-Catholic atmosphere -- which vice was only supported more strongly as I branched out in trying different denominations in adulthood -- I was always told that the Catholic Church was bondage, especially for women, but for all; that Catholics are the most downtrodden, the most unenlightened, the most abused populace under the umbrella of Christianity. Well, who wants to go there?

Studying some history and church history, I couldn't help the need to look at the Catholic Church, and instead of finding bondage, I found in this faith Truth that rang like a bell, and so much beauty and holiness I couldn't believe it -- and I have since been able to comprehend how it does set us free... it is only a problem to those who rebel for the sake of a "personal liberty" that is really no liberty at all, but bondage to other "gods".

The Catholic Faith is the faith that has the strongest reasons to believe, the most compelling evidence, the greatest historical witnesses, the closest ties to Jesus Christ, and the fullness of revelation, of any faith or denomination -- but one may have to search with a total heart, and one may have to sacrifice.

For me there was no choice: once I had found the Truth, there was no turning away from the endless treasures that are found in this grand mansion at the end of the road -- and that's just how I have thought of the Church. Life now is exploring that mansion.

So why do others not rejoice in this luxury, this blessing? They just can not believe all of the time-honored Catholic truths. But those who cannot, who struggle with it, should not be teaching -- protesting for -- a false image of Catholicism.

~ Summerfields

Jerry said...

The following email has just been sent to the Catholic Herald:

to the editor (you may publish, if you wish):

Thank you for printing the last paragraph, at least, of our rebuttal / clarification letter.

Since both letters have been more critical of The Catholic Herald than of either Father McBrien or any Herald readers, the refusal to reprint the entire second letter may be unimportant. We hope rather that all three email letters and the roundtable invitation will be allowed to circulate among your own editorial staff. Having ironically been charged with advocating censorship, we offer you, via the blog roundtable, what you deny your readers: an opportunity to clarify and defend your position without editorial constraint. Comments may even be left anonymously.

The question, again, is: Should official Catholic publications advocate and endorse syndicated opinion columns that often contradict Catholic teaching, or ought they be more careful and reliable teachers of Catholic doctrine?

The website, again, is Look for the 'Roundtable' heading.

pax et bonum,

Jerry and Lenore DePyper
Bishop Fliss' personal secretary has been copied.