Ever since Pope Benedict announced his resignation, the media has given a special voice to the usual cadre of anti-Catholic bigots and malcontents lashing out at the Church over the decades-old abuse issue.
However, in what may be the beginning of a positive development, two bishops are finally engaging in the public debate with these haters and calling them out for their inaccuracies. The time for bishops to speak out against the media jihad against the Catholic Church is long overdue.
Bishop Paprocki steps up
Seizing on Benedict's announcement earlier this month, so-called Episcopal priest Tom Ehrich unleashed an angry and bigoted screed in which he stated that the Catholic Church is "uninterested in sex abuse scandals beyond their litigation costs," "stuck in the 19th century," "providing safe cover for oppression and intolerance," "against oppressed peoples," and "homophobic." It was an unhinged screed of such magnitude that it easily could have found a home in the anti-Catholic New York Times or a 19th-century Know Nothing pamphlet.
However, whereas most Church leaders and spokespeople would have shrugged at such a column and done nothing, Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki publicly responded forcefully to Ehrich's ugly rant.
Bishop Paprocki penned a reply for The State Journal-Register newspaper in Springfield under the headline, "Tom Ehrich column promoted religious bigotry." The bishop took Ehrich to task:
"Columnists are indeed entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Ehrich got it wrong in several ways.
"I cannot imagine a secular newspaper publishing such hostile vitriol against any other religion except the Catholic church … [I]t is untrue and patently malicious to declare that Roman Catholicism is 'uninterested in sex abuse scandals beyond their litigation costs.' I know of many cases where dioceses have compensated victims long after their claims were legally barred by the statute of limitations."
Kudos to Bishop Paprocki for standing up to Ehrich's campaign of misinformation and hate.
Defending the faith: Bishop Michael Sheridan
The National Catholic Reporter is an angry, dissident rag that has little connection to the Catholic Church on faith. Its vitriol against the Catholic Church cannot be overstated, and it is obsessive in its coverage of sex abuse allegations from 30, 40, and 50 years ago as a pretext for bashing the Church hierarchy for whom it holds in such contempt for being faithful to Church teaching. In the past we have cited the Reporter for its blatant dissent, dishonesty, and mean-spiritedness.
Now, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael John Sheridan has joined Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn in calling out the Reporter for its flagrant opposition to the Church. In an article in LifeSiteNews.com, Sheridan cited the Reporter as "an embarrassment to the Catholic Church" and opined, "I don't understand why some of these publications use the word Catholic when in some of their editorial stances they stand absolutely opposed to Church dogma."
For far too long, bishops and diocesan spokespeople have been overly timid in responding to false and bigoted attacks against the Church. Bravo to Bishop Paprocki and Bishop Sheridan for finally speaking out in the public square and making the Church's case.
We hope that more Church leaders will follow the lead of these two brave bishops.