Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What is the real status of the National Catholic Reporter in the Catholic Church?

Bishop Charles H. Helmsing, Bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph (MO) in 1968
with Pope Paul VI

Every time another controversy erupts on the web over something at the National Catholic Reporter's (NCR) website, reasonable people ask why they are still using the Catholic name.  I believe this was addressed by the responsible bishop in 1968, but few know about it. Perhaps it's because it is buried. But why?

Some years ago I stumbled upon what appears to be an official condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter by Bishop Charles H. Helmsing of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Mo) diocese, which is the geographical diocese of the NCR.   His charge was that the paper was heretical.  In that same statement the bishop publicly demanded that NCR cease using the Catholic name.  The statement is written in a way that might make some cringe today, but I'll take frank any day over ambiguous which is the delight of the Angel of Darkness.  There must be a chapter on such things in C.S. Lewis', The Screwtape Letters.

I am copying full text of that statement in this post.  In the past, I kept linking to something obscure only to find the domain expired and it was forever lost.  The text below comes from the following webpage, where you will also find newspaper articles related to the statement: 

One more important point: Please don't confuse the dissenting National Catholic Reporter with the other NCR, the faithful National Catholic Register.

Here is the statement.  After you read it, I will have some additional thoughts and questions below.

Following is the text of a statement issued by Bishop Charles H. Helmsing of Kansas City - St. Joseph (Mo) Diocese. The statement pertains to the National Catholic Reporter, which is published in the diocese and is an outgrowth of its diocesan newspaper 
The Catholic Reporter, formerly the official newspaper of the Kansas City - St. Joseph, was begun by my predecessor under a policy of editorial freedom. That policy of editorial freedom [I] endorsed on my appointment as bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph. When the National Catholic Reporter was launched, that original policy of editorial freedom was announced as basic to the new publication. 
At all times it was presumed that the policy of editorial freedom was none other than that legitimate liberty declared and defended by the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration on Religious Liberty, further defined in the conciliar Decree on Communications, and, likewise, defended in the Constitution on the Church in the Modern WorldIt could not imply that pseudo-freedom from man's obligations to his Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier in vogue under the standard of the 19th century liberalism. It could not imply, as a conciliar declaration on religious liberty clearly states, freedom in the moral order. As Cardinal Koenig pointed out in his recent address to editors, there is a legitimate freedom of opinion to be exercised by the Catholic press so long as it is absolutely loyal to the Church's teachings. If an editor is to merit the name "Catholic," he must remember "to think with the Church." 
As long as the Catholic editor carries the name Catholic, he can never forget that he is a teacher of Christ's revelation. What he writes necessarily touches on faith -- that gift of the Holy Spirit which "we carry in earthen vessels" and by which we accept Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, and His revelation. 
The Catholic editor must manifest a reverence which must shine through in his attitude and in his every expression. The Gospel is clear on the destructive effects of ridicule, for example, in recounting of the taunts hurled at Simon Peter: "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth," and their effects on him who, once converted, was to confirm his brethren. 
As the editors of the National Catholic Reporter know, I have tried as their pastor, responsible for their eternal welfare, and that of those whom they influence, to guide them on a responsible course in harmony with Catholic teachings. When private conferences were of no avail, as is well known, I had to issue a public reprimand for their policy of crusading against the Church's teachings on the transmission of human life, and against the Gospel values of sacred virginity and dedicated celibacy as taught by the Church. 
NOW, AS a last resort, I am forced as bishop to issue a condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter for its disregard and denial of the most sacred values of our Catholic faith. Within recent months the National Catholic Reporter has expressed itself in belittling the basic truths expressed in the Creed of Pope Paul VI; it has made itself a platform for the airing of heretical views on the Church and its divinely constituted structure, as taught by the First and Second Vatican Councils. Vehemently to be reprobated was the airing in recent editions of an attack on the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the virgin birth of Christ, by one of its contributors.  
Finally, it has given lengthy space to a blasphemous and heretical attack on the Vicar of Christ. It is difficult to see how well instructed writers who deliberately deny and ridicule dogmas of our Catholic faith can possibly escape the guilt of the crime defined in Canon 1325 on heresy, and how they can escape the penalties of automatic excommunication entailed thereby. 
In fairness to our Catholic people, I hereby issue an official condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter. Furthermore, I send this communication to my brother bishops, and make known to the priestsreligious and laity of the nation my views on the poisonous character of this publication. 
As a bishop, a member of the college of bishops, and one in union with the head of the college, Christ's Vicar on earth, I proclaim with my brother bishops that the Church is, indeed, always in need of reform. This reform is a matter of putting on the mind of Christ, as St. Paul declared, through our contemplation of Christ in His teachings and through our loyalty to the teachings of the Church so painstakingly expressed in recent years in the constitutions, decrees and declarations of the Second Vatican Council. 
The status of the world when our Lord came was a deplorable one. We are not surprised that the status of man, wounded by original sin, remains deplorable as long as he does not heed the voice of Christ and his authoritative teacher, his Church. Sociological studies, according to modern techniques, can help us appreciate the status quo -- the exact thinking and acting and attitudes of our people. For this we are grateful. But it is a total reversal of our Divine Lord's policy to imagine for a moment that the disclosure of attitudes through such surveys becomes the norm of human conduct or thinking. 
Christ and His apostles preached first and foremost penance, metanoia, the change of mind and heart. The Church continues to do so today, but it finds itself increasingly more frustrated in its teaching of the ideals of our Lord by the type of reporting, editorializing and ridicule that have become the week-after-week fare of the National Catholic Reporter. 
IN AS MUCH as the National Catholic Reporter does not reflect the teaching of the Church, but on the contrary, has openly and deliberately opposed this teaching. I ask the editors in all honesty to drop the term "Catholic" from their masthead. By retaining it they deceive their Catholic readers and do a great disservice to ecumenism by being responsible for the false irenicism of watering down Catholic teachings. 
I further ask the editors and the board of directors, for the love of God and their fellow men, to change their misguided and evil policy; for it is evident to me that they have already caused untold harm to the faith and morals not only of our laity, but of too many of our priests and religious. 
I make this statement with apostolic freedom as given by our Lord to His followers; I make it conscious of the heavy burden that is mine as a bishop, as one enjoined by the Holy Spirit through the pen of St. Paul: "Reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine; for there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrines; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their own lust, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and will turn aside rather to fables." (2 Tim. 4:2-4)
The underline and bold attributes have been applied to the text for emphasis.
A single underline denotes a capitalization not in the original copy.
The [I] is what probably was under a small (2 space) blank spot on the original copy.
The original had "II Tim. 4." instead of "(2 Tim. 4:2-4)"
Bishop Charles H. Helmsing Hierarchy info here


1) If that statement is legitimate, should it not be displayed on the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph website? The language may seem harsh, but it leaves no doubt in anyone's mind that anything published at NCR is not reliable.

2) Why is NCR included in the list of clients on Twitter (under NCRonline) of the Catholic News Service (CNS), which is the reporting arm of the U.S.  Conference of Catholic Bishops? Also noteworthy is that while sources like NCR, which have worked against the bishops and the Church, are in that client list, faithful and popular sources like EWTN, Catholic News Agency, Catholic Culture, and the National Catholic Register, among others, are not in the list, even though articles by, and interviews with, US bishop can be found there.  I think the USCCB needs someone with enough media savvy to look through all of these details, and through that list of clients. A faithful, knowledgable Catholic shouldn't need a 1968 condemnation of the NCR to know it is wrong to promote anything from that site.  While John Allen may write some excellent and solid articles, Catholics who are not properly formed, wandering around that site after reading his column, will find many ways to be led astray. 

3) The US bishops need to be clear about their position on sources using the Catholic name illegitimately.  Now that sources are not bound by geographical location and are viewed internationally, the USCCB's website should have a page with a list of sites that have been the subject of bishops' statements.  A diocese would send a link for the official notice that is on the diocesan website and it would be added to an alphabetical list at the USCCB's website.  Such a list could mitigate the media's use of certain sources which are known for their attacks on Catholic teaching.  It would be a one-stop shop for everyone to see which sites, originating out of the US, are not reliable. I'm talking strictly dogmatic and doctrinal matters here, not matters of style.

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Anonymous said...

Easy way to remember which is good to read, which is not:
National Catholic Reporter = National Catholic Distorter


Daniel Humm said...

As far as additional thought 2, aren't the "clients" of CNS those that have subscribed with permission to reprint CNS articles in their own publications? CNA is an alternate source competing with CNS, much like in the secular press UPI competes with AP. The Register, EWTN, etc. would be clients of CNS rather than CNA. I'd think some of the CNA clients might also be CNS clients, but CNA would have no reason to list their competitor's clients.

John said...

Wow, Diane! That is an amazing find. I had no idea that the Reporter was already officially condemned and asked to remove the word "Catholic" from their name. It shows the respect they have for the Church that they refused and are still attempting to deceive people by keeping the name.

Mike said...

This is very interesting, especially in view of the campaign to stop Michael Voris calling his organisation ‘Real Catholic’. The latter seems to have been effective while this one seems to have had no effect whatsoever. said...

Thank you for this post.

The Reporter is a despicable publication. The bishop's condemnation, if anything, is too mild.

I would not like to be associated with such a dissident, sordid newspaper and stand before St. Peter when my time is up.

While everyone has seen the heresy that the paper propagates, I have personally experienced the dishonesty and maliciousness of those who work at the Reporter. They are truly reprehensible people.

Jesus says we must pray for our enemies. Boy, that is quite a challenge with these wretched individuals.

Deacon Greg Kandra said...

I raised this issue with someone the other day. It was explained to me that there are several complications here.

1) The name "National Catholic Reporter" is part of the publication's incorporated title, and can't be easily changed.

2) The paper is entirely lay-led, and is completely independent of a diocese or religious order. It is not operating under a vow of obedience to anyone.

Speaking from personal experience: my magazine has been a CNS subscriber for years. But I kept noticing that we weren't on their online list. I dropped CNS a note and said, "Can you add us?" And they said sure. It was just an oversight. I don't think the list is updated/maintained very well —I noted a couple dead links there—and it may just be that no one has gotten around to adding the others.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be easy for the USCCB to deny them press credentials for things like their annual meeting and ask bishops and USCCB to not grant an interview to any reporter associated with the NCR?

~West of the Potomac

Jay McNally said...

The NCR has broad support from American bishops and the many thousands of "professional Catholics" who run their chanceries, universities, schools, hospitals, parishes, etc.

The NCR is where the bishops recruit their staffs and even top administrators. Last time I looked the classified pages were filled with hundreds of ads purchased by dioceses throughout the country looking for staffers. The Archdiocese of Detroit (as I said, last time I looked, which was probably three or four years ago) was running scads of advertisements in NCR.

Additionally, when Cardinal Bernardin died the NCR editor wrote a column in which he said he routinely talked to Bernardin about what was going on, etc. Bernardin would not talk to the Wanderer, and I never heard Owen Kearns was on talking terms with Bernardin.

So, if the NCR persists in "pedaling dissent from dogma and doctrine" it is really not all that different than the generic bishop or diocese, even today.

It would be a fun project for anyone who thinks the USCCB should not be abolished to spend some time tracking down the classifieds in the NCR.

Greg said...

Why doesn't the present bishop do what the bishop of Detroit did to RealCatholic.TV? The bishop of Detroit told them that they could not use the word 'Catholic' in the diocese, which is ironic, since the organization upholds Church teaching to the hilt. They obeyed and changed it to ChurchMilitant.TV. Maybe the bishop under which the NCR is under could do the same...that the publication cannot use the word 'Catholic' to define itself.

NBW said...

Why did a bishop make Real Catholic TV change their name and not the NCR? It's not right, especially when the NCR is heretical.

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed to see the NC Reporter in just about every seminary and monastery I have ever been to. I know the seminarians/younger monks don't take it seriously - but the older priests "insist" on having it around for a "balanced" view on things.

In about 10 years the NCR will be gone because the generation of priests and nuns who are fueling that paper's fire will not be around... dare I say.

Anonymous said...

You can change the name of a corporation rather easily. You vote. Take minutes. Then you submit a form changing its name.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Daniel Humm,

Thanks for the clarification on the client list, which makes some sense. However, I have a fundamental problem with CNS following NCR, and re-tweeting anything from them: Many Catholics are not well formed in the faith. When they are led to one article there, they see all kinds of headlines in the sidebars. Many of those things are, in fact, downright heretical. While I am not going to be led astray by anything that is there, I know others who would be. In fact, there was a time in my life that I was led astray by such things, which is why I am so sensitive to it.

That said, I don't see any reason why CNS would be obligated to follow, or include in a public client list on Twitter, a source which engages in blatant, open dissent.

In fact, I would go so far as to question why CNS is permitting NCR to publish it's articles. This lends credibility to a dissenting source. People see the CNS label there and presume it is an okay site by virtue of the fact that CNS material appears there.

Once a bishop goes to the length that Bishop Helmsing did in 1968, that paper should be treated by dioceses and the USCCB like it doesn't exist, other than to offer a response when warranted.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Deacon Greg,

You wrote:

1) The name "National Catholic Reporter" is part of the publication's incorporated title, and can't be easily changed.

2) The paper is entirely lay-led, and is completely independent of a diocese or religious order. It is not operating under a vow of obedience to anyone.

Any group using the name Catholic against the explicit wishes of the Church could make the same arguments. The bottom line is that people claiming to be Catholic - those lay people. Whether they are under a vow of obedience or not is not relevant.

They are in violation of canon law, are they not?

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


You wrote: Why did a bishop make Real Catholic TV change their name and not the NCR? It's not right, especially when the NCR is heretical.

Bishops can't make anyone do anything. They can ask (as Archbishop Vigneron seems to have done in the case of Real Catholic TV) and they can forcefully demand (as Bishop Helmsing apparently did with NCR in 1968), but they cannot force a result. Real Catholic TV changed it's name; NCR chose to defy the bishop and it continues today.

I've wondered if Bishop Finn could acknowledge the statement by Bishop Helmsing and give his position on it.

Once a bishop issues a statement, as Bishop Helmsing did, it would not be necessary for every succeeding bishop to re-issue the statement or bring up the subject again, unless something warrants it. In the case of NCR, who knew a statement was issued in 1968 by Bishop Helmsing? I wish Bishop Finn would consider addressing the matter.

Angry Jason said...

Can you imagine any other era in the churches history where a publication could last this long calling itself catholic and people actually believing it? Only in the Springtime of Vatican II could this nonsense go on this long. The church surrendered her authority and character when it let the smoke of Satan into the sanctuary (Pvi). Anarchy resulted and continues to this day.

Jerry said...

About a month ago someone posted in a comment on Fr. Z's blog a reply from Bishop Finn to a private inquiry asking about the NCR situation. Bp. Finn responded that one of his predecessors lost a court case attempting to legally force the Distorter to remove the word 'Catholic' from its name. He also noted that he has attempted to have them moderate their position, obviously without success.

The text of Bp. Finn's letter may be found here. See the response by Chantgirl, 14th from the top.

Nick said...

RE: "However, I have a fundamental problem with CNS following NCR, and re-tweeting anything from them: Many Catholics are not well formed in the faith."

NCR is in the same boat as EWTN as far as being lay-led. Both get support from the Vatican (or at least EWTN does), USCCB, and Catholic news and directory sites. I've been trying for over a year to contact the Vatican about this and other scandals and problems in the Church, but no luck.

Also, here's something to ponder: Which vice is the most prominent among bloggers and news reporters online? Justifying the means by the ends. It's also the vice that's driving support for heretical and schismatic groups and the spread of doctrinal errors in the Church.

Tell people the alternative to NCR is News.Va and other Vatican news services, too.