Thursday, September 29, 2011

My second response to Ed Peters

I was glad to read Ed's response. I don’t have any desire to drag this out but wanted to respect Ed’s careful approach and clarify a simple point or two regarding the role of lay Catholics, like myself, seeking to faithfully use the public media.

With the remarkable growth of Catholic radio and presence on the Internet, journalistic questions of propriety, jurisdiction, exercise of influence will all have to be submitted to, at the very least, careful prudential thinking. But the future looks good if we continue in a spirit of fraternal challenge and let, as Proverbs puts it, “iron sharpen iron.”

Like Ed, I do regard this as essentially a disciplinary matter between Bishop Zurek and his priest. However, when it became publicized it morphed, secondarily, into a news story.

Since it is a disciplinary matter, it would be arrogant of me to expect Bishop Zurek to come on-air and disclose his plans or defend his decision. As a news matter, however, he should be given the opportunity to make a public comment. His refusal to do so should not be interpreted as some kind of shirking of duty. I didn’t expect him to join us on-air and I certainly didn’t expect him to “defend” his actions.

His vicar, however, had made a number of public statements that Fr. Pavone was a priest in good standing and that no charges of malfeasance had been made. So I thought I should leave the door open for his participation. I've seen precedence for this over many years.

When years ago, Bishop Bruskewitz, “excommunicated” members of various groups, he authorized his chancellor to interview with me.

In the Archdiocese of Detroit, Cardinal Maida, allowed me to question him publicly regarding the problem of pro-choice Catholic politicians. Some thought that I shouldn’t have asked about any particular officeholders by name. I disagreed and asked about one particular governor by name. (Guess who?).

Cardinal Maida understood far better than I the boundaries between the public and private that needed to be respected in that case. Nevertheless, my asking of the question publicly clarifies the boundaries.

During the most intense period of the sex abuse controversy, the Archdiocese of Detroit, asked Bishop Hurley to address questions publicly with me. Ten years before when I approached the USCCB with similar questions, they decided not to speak. So there seems to be some Episcopal discretion in handling the public dimension of these largely private matters.

Back to the Fr. Pavone matter: At the time of the interview I was under the impression that Fr. Frank was entirely free to discuss this matter without, in any way, violating Bishop Zurek’s order. Given my continuing respect and appreciation for Father Pavone and the many requests for information that I had received from listeners, I thought it best for Fr. Pavone to tell his own story and speak to his own supporters among Ave Maria and EWTN listeners.

If this turned out to look like an attempt to settle a private disciplinary matter through the mobilizing of public pressure, then I regret the impression. I don’t regret, however, providing the opportunity for Fr. Frank to clarify his own handling of the matter up to that point. Nor do I regret the challenge offered by Ed Peters to clarify my thinking publicly.



  1. In light of the many opportunities that bishops have suppressed truth for fear of public conflict (a situation Cardinal Ratzinger called "repulsive,") the vacuum is often filled with anti-Church abominations. I suspect the role of a "free press" within Catholicism can serve the same role as a "free press" within secular political societies. Sorry to announce that bishops over the centuries, at times, have demonstrated the same malfeasance as secular politicians. They are human. I am about finished with Ruffin's PADRE PIO: THE TRUE STORY (Ignatius) and am not surprised at the immensity of ecclesiastical egos documented therein. I have a tad of first hand experience with such egos and it's appalling. So, I question the canonical virtue of obedience in such situations. Pade Pio would strongly disagree with me. But his religious sister, Suor Pia, found it difficult to obey authorities that forgot their own vows of obedience. Yes, I know, supposedly blind obedience even to a ecclesiastical authority's misplaced values is supposedly the same as trusting God. But, when the Church reminds us that we are under no obligation to obey secular authorizes when told to do something questionable or wrong, there must be a canonical law that reflect a similar sensibility toward bishops who appear to have gone astray.

  2. that's "authorities" not "authorizes."

  3. The main issue I had with the Fr. Pavone interview is that it seemed like there were some tough questions that could have been asked, but weren't. I wish I could provide specifics, but I haven't listened to the interview since it aired live (was it last week?). But I do remember thinking at the time that it seemed like a rather "softball" interview, that allowed Fr. Pavone to get out his version of the story with minimal challenge, and that one or two questions I would like to have asked remained unasked. (Yes, I know, I could have called in.)

    Having said that, I still think that Al Kresta is one of the best interviewers in radio -- whether Catholic or secular. I still love the show and of course will continue to listen.

  4. Also, in fairness, I should state that I missed the first 5 or 10 minutes of the interview, so if tough questions were asked during that time, then that might change my opinion. My comment above is bssed on having heard roughly the last 25 to 30 minutes of the interview.

  5. I disagree with you. It is a private matter and became a new story because the media decided to jump on it. The media has to take responsibility for what they term 'reporting?'

    If no one paid any attention, it would be private!

  6. I agree with Ed Peters and his attempt to herd cats.


  7. I do not agree with many of those "commenting" on this issue. Among them is Mr Peters, who blogs about the matter, but feigns indifference, while claiming a role of clarifier.
    It IS a news story, and to leave it to the mainstream media to do all of the reporting is only going to lead to distortion and perhaps scsndal. If the bishop does not wish to speak, that is his business. If Pavone wishes to air HIS views, that is his business, though it is an act that has risks and consequences (such as Mr Peters' commenting on it).
    Thanks for trying to shed a little more light on this subject, Mr Kresta. After the likes of Law, Bernardin and Weakland, I am not sure the hierarchy deserves a whole lot of trust. Obedience, yes. Trust, no.