A Response to Recent Attacks on Catholic Teaching
by: Rob Gasper
The National Catholic Reporter (NCR), to put it charitably, is well known for its independent spirit and progressive leanings. According to NCR’s mission statement, “NCR is the only significant alternative Catholic voice that provides avenues for expression of diverse perspectives, promoting tolerance and respect for differing ideas.” Furthermore, for twelve years running, the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has been the recipient of the Catholic Press Association’s award for “general excellence,” the highest award given by the Association.
As part of my editorial and research duties at American Life League, I make a point to read the contents of NCR on a regular basis. To be fair, occasionally I am surprised by an article that falls within bounds of acceptable Catholic teaching. However, that those occasions are surprises speaks to a fundamental problem at NCR, fidelity to doctrine in a publication billing itself as Catholic should not be the exception to the rule.
I am not the first to notice NCR’s false advertising, however. In 1968, Bishop Helmsing in whose diocese the NCR was housed, issued a fiery condemnation of the paper and requested that NCR remove “Catholic” from its title. The condemnation read in part:
“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 priests, religious and laity of the nation my views on the poisonous character of this publication.”
Lest one think Bishop Helmsing was some sort of reactionary, heavy handed cleric, keep in mind that he had helped NCR get off the ground, giving them diocesan office space and funding in the early 1960’s. The condemnation of NCR is still in force according to knowledgeable sources.
A more recent example of NCR’s disregard to fidelity can be found in a March 12, 2012 editorial “NCR Endorses Call for a New Sexual Ethic.” Here, NCR took an official position endorsing retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s call for jettisoning the Church’s official and authoritative teaching regarding sexuality in favor of a new understanding of relationships which would ultimately allow for the acceptance of homosexual acts and contraception. According to Bishop Robinson:
1) There is no possibility whatsoever of a change in the teaching of the Catholic Church on the subject of homosexual acts unless and until there is first a change in its teaching on heterosexual acts;
2) There is a serious need for change in the Church’s teaching on heterosexual acts;
3) If and when this change occurs, it will inevitably have its effect on teaching on homosexual acts.
NCR’s official endorsement of a direct attack on the Church’s teaching authority is, to be blunt, an endorsement of a materially schismatic act and a participation in that act. One must wonder why this publication, which has been condemned by its own bishop and demonstrated that it has not changed its positions, is given any credence whatsoever in Catholic circles. It is clearly time for Catholics who care about the Church to distance themselves from NCR and give their time and support to real Catholic entities.