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Is the National Catholic Reporter (aka Fishwrap) out to get Fr Z? If so, they would be wise to think again

Persecuting orthodox bishops is one thing: but this target bites back

By on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Bishop Finn: attacked by a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter (CNS photo)

Bishop Finn: attacked by a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter (CNS photo)

Are we now witnessing the beginning of a development towards mounting persecution mania – not only (with some justification) against those Catholic bishops who have, in one way or another, conducted sustained operations to shield abusive priests from justice, thus allowing their abuse to continue (as revealed by the Cloyne report) – but also against any bishop who has failed to act decisively enough in some isolated case, through simply failing (as anyone might in his position – I include myself) to spot its seriousness? And does this persecution mania extend also to any priest who defends the bishop in question, who then himself becomes the object of the same hysterical persecution?

I am, of course, referring to a particular case, that of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas, Missouri, who was recently defended by Father Z, a regular columnist in this newspaper, against an egregious slur by one Phyllis Zagano in the National Catholic Reporter. Fr Z is now (he thinks as a consequence) being threatened by this same Zagano, who he has been told is currently phoning around trying to get something on him.

This is the opening of Zagano’s attack on Bishop Finn (whom she then goes on to excoriate at length – referring to him throughout with calculated disrespect simply as “Finn”, as though he were a convicted criminal – for being excessively traditionalist, in favour of celibacy, against women priests and the like):

Who are these guys and where did they come from?

Testosterone is in the news again from coast to coast. The new reality TV follows the misadventures of over-sexed men, their victims, and their defenders. It looks like a cartoon about a dysfunctional high school.

Reading from the left, in California Arnold Schwarzenegger (football coach), gets a housekeeper pregnant and lies about it for 15 years or so while his wife raises their son, born a few days earlier.

In the Mid West, Kansas City-St Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn (chaplain) earnestly defends not reading a year-old, four-and-a-half-page Catholic school principal’s memo detailing weird behavior by one of his priests, even after finding pornography on the priest’s computer.

In the nation’s capitol, Congressman Anthony D Weiner (assistant principal) weepingly admits he is so enamored of his physical endowments that he Tweets photographs of them to total strangers.

And, in New York, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar (language department) strenuously defend against sex abuse claims by hotel maids.

As we watch the stories unfold, we are left sitting in the school cafeteria wondering how these stereotypes got in charge in the first place.

This was answered very adequately by Louie Verrecchio on the Catholic News Agency website who established that Zagano’s accusation that Bishop Finn ignored a report on a priest’s unhealthy apparent attraction to schoolchildren, even after pornography had been found on his website, was a gross distortion. The bishop’s failure, reported Verrechio, was that: “As he has publicly and with great humility maintained, he failed to act as decisively as he could have… Hindsight recently made this clear when the priest was eventually discovered to be in possession of child pornography at which point he was promptly arrested.”

One case of indecisiveness; and the bishop is accused by Zagano of being driven by testosterone, of being “over-sexed”. As they say in America, “Pardon me?”

But this isn’t a defence of Bishop Finn: others have done that better and more bitingly than I could, including Fr Z, who quoted the passage with which I began this piece, and responded thus:

This is disgusting and unworthy even of the Fishwrap [this is Fr Z’s amusing name for the National Catholic Reporter; he features a photo of a copy of the NCR wrapped around a raw fish]. Schwarzenegger, Wiener, Strauss-Kahn, Omar and Finn?

National Catholic Fishwrap owes Bishop Robert Finn an apology for this insult.

The rest of her column, obviously condoned by the editors, is also an insulting personal attack.

They should not run Zagano’s stuff and nonsense again until she apologises for drawing a moral equivalence between Bishop Finn and those other three figures.

Stuff and nonsense is one thing, and in stuff and nonsense Zagano’s and NCFishwrap‘s columns will surely abound. We can differ and even bicker about stuff and nonsense.

This was a vile smear.

As I say, I write this morning less to draw attention to the case of Zagano’s vile smear (Fr Z is of course right) against Bishop Finn than to its apparent sequel: well, it is at least post hoc, and it may well, as Fr Z thinks, be propter hoc. Here’s Fr Z again:

Zagano didn’t like my call for an apology to her yellow smear of Bp. Finn. So now it is my turn. It’s payback. She is going to write a piece to smear me, because I called her on her smear of Bp. Finn. …

“But Father! But Father!”, you are now asking. “What dirt is Phyllis digging for?”

She has been calling everyone under the sun asking mainly, it seems, about my canonical status. Am I really a priest? Am I in good standing? Why do I live where I live?

She has been threatening in her phone calls to people I know that she is going to write about me.

For why she would do that, see Fr Z in the same post; I haven’t the space for it, but it’s well worth reading in full. Zagano is obviously hoping to demonstrate that because Fr Z doesn’t live in the Italian diocese where he was ordained (he’s in the US, completing a PhD as well as writing and preaching when asked) there must be something fishy about him. As I say, have a look at Fr Z’s response: if I were Phyllis Zagano or the editor of the NCR, I would draw back before I found that I had bitten off a lot more than I could chew – rather as the Tablet found when it tried to discredit Fr Finigan (a somewhat reminiscent case).

Bishop Finn is in no position to defend himself. But Fr Z is, and he will.

Watch this (and Fr Z’s) space.

  • W Oddie

    No: the mania is what those who indulge themselves in vindictive feelings are guilty of. Those who have forgotten that our Lord said “judge not, lest you be judged”.

  • ms catholic state

    All life belongs to God.  God is the giver of life……and also the taker of life.  The Lord has given….the Lord has taken….Blessed be the name of the Lord. 

    And He wills everybody to live with Him in eternity.  Whether we do or not….is up to us.

  • Patt

    I get it– you are the token atheist, but why are you here? Don’t you have anything to do aside from making no sense…

  • irishsmile

    The ‘National ‘Catholic’ Reporter is a rag that is neither Catholic nor even friendly to Catholic doctrine!  It’s a shame that this bunch of anti-Catholic bigots can use that name.  Truthfully,  they are not Catholic at all..  Would this rag actually publish an indepth report regarding the abuse crisis that reflects the real  truth that almost all the victims are young boys?   It is same sex attraction!  Gay men who become priests who especially are drawn to finding young male victims.   I think not because the Reporter’ protects the gay agenda.  Good priests are humiliated while the truth is surpressed.  Revolting!!!

  • Michael McManus

    I have enough sense not to be part of a religion, That thinks its ok to experiment on babies , and then sell the babies to rich catholics, But then patt you believe its ok to cover up child rape , Same as all catholics , If you did not believe that you would be asking question why the pope has promoted scum who did this

  • Michael McManus

    Tell me how an hour old baby can choose

  • Anonymous

    @Michael McManus
    I suppose God knows what the baby would have chosen, had he or she lived any longer, but you are so angry that I don’t think this reply will make any difference, and no doubt you will come back with some entirely unconnected rant.
    Yes, child abuse is wrong; sometimes people in authority don’t deal with it adequately, or deal with it in the wrong way.

  • Anonymous

    Parasum wrote:

    > ## Isn’t persecution mania what people feel when they believe they are being persecuted ? Maybe I’ve missed something, but I’ve not seen anyone being maniacal in persecuting the Church. OTOH, a lot of Catholics seem to suffer from the idea they are being persecuted, when often enough they who deal some very hard knocks to others.

    Many Catholics I know are paranoid about being (as they see it) persecuted by gays, and many gays I know are paranoid about being (as they see it) persecuted by Catholics. Surely they can’t both be right?

  • Bill Logan

    Also, the grand jury indictment of Ratigan reveals that actual child pornography was on his laptop computer when diocesan officials reviewed its contents in December of 2010. Yet they did not turn him over to the police but moved him.

  • GFFM

    Those of us in the US who watch episcopal appointments realized that when Bishop Finn was appointed to Kansas City, Missouri, it was to deal in some way with the NCR. Bishop Finn had been an able editor of the St. Louis Review before he was made bishop and was known for his orthodoxy. Zagano’s piece is payback for Finn’s frequent criticism of the NCR’s heterodox positions– there is no doubt of that. As for Bishop Finn’s response to egregious abuse, I am stumped. He knew of Cardinal Law’s and other bishops’ pathological inaction on the abuse front. Amongst many bishops this inability to act stems from the inability to grasp the gravity of these horrific situations and secondly I have become convinced that priests and bishops have difficulty responding to fellow priests with whom they went to seminary. Finally, many bishops and priests think the abuse crisis within the Church has been used to beat the anti-Catholic drum within the Church. What many have failed to register even now, amongst very good bishops, is that the damage done to the Church is deep and wide and the laity is quite angry about what they perceive to be a “circle the wagon’s mentality” shared by their pastors and bishops.

  • AgingPapist

    Fr. Z never fails to read his fish wrap before wrapping fish in it though. He may hate the The” National Catholic Reporter”, but he wouldn’t miss reading it for the world.  The NCR would be wise to ignore him and his merry band of the worst informed Catholics to be found anywhere in the United States. A hopeless bunch or extreme rightists looking for a prophet to lead them into some promised Catholic land.  They’re good for a few laughs though,but that’s about it.

    Now the readers of NCR may be attracted to the smell of fish, but Fr. Z’s blog seems to attract his followers like flies descending on a cow pie.

  • AgingPapist

    but the pope loves SSPX heretics and does indeed hold women in low esteem. 

  • AgingPapist

    Not a word of this affects the theolgical judgement that the gospels
    & Exodus is inspired & canonical & sacred Scripture –
    theological judgements are based not on history, but on faith.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————
    Yes, and there is a growing body of scripture scholars who say Matthew never wrote the gospel attributed to him. Just as Peter’s epistles, once believed to have been written by Peter, were written by others with a far better education than Peter could have had. 
    The traditions of the Red Sea parting, Moses and the burning bush are basically campfire tales, or a form
    of entertainment for lonely nights on the desert.  They’re entertainment and morality tales.  No matter what we may think one way or the other as to their veracity, our thoughts won’t change this fact, but we can be inspired by the underlying messages of these fictitious stories.

     Fiction can be a form of sermon or a prayer.

  • AgingPapist

    I’ve been hearing about the death of the ” National Catholic Reporter” since the 1960s. I’ll believe they’re dead when the paper is no longer published.

    It has immense readership . Contrary to the bilge water produced by the right-wing about NCR’s popularity, it continues to expand its readership beyond the supposedly dying Vatican II breed now in their 60s an 70s.  It is a paper even Fr. Z loves to hate.  His more enlightened followers, all five of them, read it and contribute to it all the time.

    He may wrap his fish in it, but you notice he reads it.  Which is more than can be said for most of the philistines who hang on his every word.

  • AgingPapist

    National Catholic Reporter writes about Catholicism. It doesn’t profess to be “a Catholic newspaper” in the sense of a diocesan newspaper, more like a bird cage liner, which serves as nothing more than a bishop’s propaganda organ.

    The late bishop Kansas City Missouri disassociated himself and his diocese from the NCR. The biggest mistake he ever made, but manna from Heaven for  NCR . It received instant notoriety and has been dancing on the bishop’s grave ever since.

     For which we should all be very grateful. Without NCR reporting, Rome would still be looking the other way as bishops bribed sexual abuse victims and their families to HUSH UP.  The NCR is a leading force, along with “America” and a few other Jesuit publications in exposing the fraud and the Satan-controlled Church of Rome.