High Profile Priest Sues Blogger Over Criticism



I couldn't help but wonder over the bizarre news over the last few days about Fr. Thomas Rosica, the Vatican spokesman & CEO of Canadian Salt & Light TV, who seems unable to avoid embroiling himself in what can best be described as embarrassing polemics. A full explanation of what's going on here from Michael Voris:



It is a bit shocking that a Vatican official would engage on this level and make a legal threat against a small part-time blogger who wants to defend Church teaching. Especially in the light of the Pope's call to engage in a "no-holds barred debate" regarding the controversial issues raised by the Synod last year regarding homosexuality and communion for divorced and married Catholics, as reported in the mid-term relatio document which read like nothing I've ever seen out of the Church before in my life! It could make you think that the no-holds barred debate is only allowed if you are challenging what the Church holds and teaches?

I might have got something wrong here. Maybe David Domet has got some history I'm not aware of, I haven't read his blog and maybe it is really nasty…But a quick scan doesn't show that it is. I am struggling with the irony of a priest like Fr. Rosica, who publicly defends the right to freedom of speech and press, attempting to silence the blogger who has criticised him. And he does have some funny ideas for someone so close to the Pope:


Now this is probably just one of those peculiarly ambiguous statements that are easy to take up wrong. It's pretty clear to me what he is saying here, but I suppose the problem is whether he should be saying it so publicly? It's clearly a loaded statement, given the contents of the Synod on Marriage and the Family and is clearly aimed at a softening of doctrine. This is just the sort of stuff that one can say in the pub with ones friends in an attempt to float an idea, but probably not best said publicly if you are in a position like Rosica's. Certainly Vox Cantoris, the blogger at the centre of this story had no problem feeling hurt and confused by Fr. Rosica's tweet; see here.

This one is similarly loaded:



Obviously this demonstrates clearly what side of the orthodox fence Fr. Rosica is and it is shameful frankly, for this priest to publicly attack a Cardinal and associate him with dissent (of all things!!).

Perhaps Jack Reagan articulated the most pertinent question about this debacle on Twitter:
Regarding #VoxCantoris why on earth is a Vatican official threatening to sue a blog with an Alexa ranking of 1.9 million? This is completely nuts. It amplifies a small problem in to a king-sized one and gives the blogger an audience he would never otherwise have had. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

About 5 or 6 years ago in E&W we learned how to deal with the internet nasties: You never, ever make a public response. and, unless they're BIG (i.e. Alexa >100k) you just completely ignore them. It works a treat. There's a bit more to it than that, but not making a public response is the centrepiece of a strategy that's now working an absolute treat in the UK.
 
I mean... is there anyone at the Vatican capable of even basic SM analysis? Does anyone even know how to do an Alexa check to see how many people are actually looking at a site? 
Did nobody think to say 'err... this blog is being read by a few dozen people at the most.'
I despair! I really do!
In other words, whether you agree with Fr. Rosica or David Domet, Fr. Rosica does appear to be using a sledge hammer to crack a nut here.

Of course, Fr. Rosica has spoken about blogs before, I have to say I found this rather sane and sensible:



But the last awful row he was involved with was Lifesite News and EWTN's news editor Raymond Arroyo. He criticised these Catholic outlets for what he considered their uncivil approach to public discourse. This came to a head when Cardinal O’Malley of Boston allowed, and even participated in, a public Mass of burial for Senator Edward Kennedy, who had been perhaps the most visible Catholic abortion supporter in the United States. For many Catholics this constituted a grave scandal, because  the Church clearly teaches that anyone who procures abortion excommunicates themselves:
murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance. Infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority.
You can easily find all the details on this online, but here's Father Z's report. I think the things said about and to Fr. Rosica are quite shocking and I wouldn't want to be seen to defend them in anyway. But I do understand that what has elicited such vehement responses is his stance, which seems to regularly run right up against the red-line with regard to Catholic teaching. Yes be merciful, yes be pastoral, yes be there with the people who need your love and support, but always remember that Jesus said "go and sin no more". He called us to repentance, not to condone sin. The Catholic Church's clear stance about right and wrong is one of the things that makes it a clear choice for people in these confusing times. When the Church says one thing, like on this example regarding abortion, but then acts in another way without clearly explaining why its actions do not contradict what it teaches, can we really be surprised when people are hurt and confused? If we can't, perhaps we should find another job other than priest!!

OK so it's clear that Michael Voris and David Domet are on the same band wagon. For many, that degree of "Church Militancy" is enough to discount their opinions. For me, I admire it. I admire their passion and their desire to hold firm to Church teaching, and I understand what riles them is those who claim to be leaders and teachers in our Church obfuscating clear truths about the faith.

Since I started writing this blog I have found that it is very difficult not to upset anyone. As Fr. Rosica states in the video above, I am aware that this blog is a window for some onto the Catholic world. As such, I do not want to fill my blog with posts about the divisions in our Church community, I do not see how that builds anything. But we do need to speak out against problems, dissent, heresy, lies, etc.

This is clear in the Summa Theologiae (you don't have to read all this bit in red, just skip it if you believe me, but just in case you don't…):
"If the Faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public."
Summa Theologiae II II q.33 a.4
St. Thomas Aquinas
OBJ 1: It would seem that no man is bound to correct his prelate. For it is written (Ex. 19:12): "The beast that shall touch the mount shall be stoned," [*Vulg.: 'Everyone that shall touch the mount, dying he shall die.'] and (2 Kgs. 6:7) it is related that the Lord struck Oza for touching the ark. Now the mount and the ark signify our prelates. Therefore prelates should not be corrected by their subjects.
OBJ 2: Further, a gloss on Gal. 2:11, "I withstood him to the face," adds: "as an equal." Therefore, since a subject is not equal to his prelate, he ought not to correct him.
OBJ 3: Further, Gregory says (Moral. xxiii, 8) that "one ought not to presume to reprove the conduct of holy men, unless one thinks better of oneself." But one ought not to think better of oneself than of one's prelate. Therefore one ought not to correct one's prelate.
On the contrary, Augustine says in his Rule: "Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger." But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected.
I answer that, A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.
Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Tim. 5:1): "An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father." Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church.
Reply OBJ 1: It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by God's condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark.
Reply OBJ 2: To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction, and so Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he were in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. But one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully. Hence the Apostle in writing to the Colossians (4:17) tells them to admonish their prelate: "Say to Archippus: Fulfil thy ministry [*Vulg.: 'Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.' Cf. 2 Tim. 4:5]." It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Gal. 2:11, "Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects."
Reply OBJ 3: To presume oneself to be simply better than one's prelate, would seem to savor of presumptuous pride; but there is no presumption in thinking oneself better in some respect, because, in this life, no man is without some fault. We must also remember that when a man reproves his prelate charitably, it does not follow that he thinks himself any better, but merely that he offers his help to one who, "being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger," as Augustine observes in his Rule quoted above.
"If the Faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public."
Summa Theologiae II II q.33 a.4
St. Thomas Aquinas
OBJ 1: It would seem that no man is bound to correct his prelate. For it is written (Ex. 19:12): "The beast that shall touch the mount shall be stoned," [*Vulg.: 'Everyone that shall touch the mount, dying he shall die.'] and (2 Kgs. 6:7) it is related that the Lord struck Oza for touching the ark. Now the mount and the ark signify our prelates. Therefore prelates should not be corrected by their subjects.
OBJ 2: Further, a gloss on Gal. 2:11, "I withstood him to the face," adds: "as an equal." Therefore, since a subject is not equal to his prelate, he ought not to correct him.
OBJ 3: Further, Gregory says (Moral. xxiii, 8) that "one ought not to presume to reprove the conduct of holy men, unless one thinks better of oneself." But one ought not to think better of oneself than of one's prelate. Therefore one ought not to correct one's prelate.
On the contrary, Augustine says in his Rule: "Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger." But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected.
I answer that, A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.
Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Tim. 5:1): "An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father." Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church.
Reply OBJ 1: It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by God's condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark.
Reply OBJ 2: To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction, and so Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he were in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. But one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully. Hence the Apostle in writing to the Colossians (4:17) tells them to admonish their prelate: "Say to Archippus: Fulfil thy ministry [*Vulg.: 'Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.' Cf. 2 Tim. 4:5]." It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Gal. 2:11, "Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects."
Reply OBJ 3: To presume oneself to be simply better than one's prelate, would seem to savor of presumptuous pride; but there is no presumption in thinking oneself better in some respect, because, in this life, no man is without some fault. We must also remember that when a man reproves his prelate charitably, it does not follow that he thinks himself any better, but merely that he offers his help to one who, "being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger," as Augustine observes in his Rule quoted above.
In this Youtube clip, at 48:00 ff. Fr. Rosica talks about the way Catholic Doctrine (i.e. teaching) changes. He actually uses these words. I have to say I find this deeply worrying and confusing because the Church cannot change its doctrines no matter how badly some theologians may want it to or how loudly they claim it can. The doctrines of the Catholic Church are the deposit of faith revealed by Jesus Christ, taught by the apostles, and handed down in their entirety by the apostles to their successors. Since revealed truth cannot change, and since the deposit of faith is comprised of revealed truth, expressed in Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the deposit of faith cannot change.

While it's certainly true that our Lord's words to the apostles in Matthew 18:18-19 grant authority to the apostles to "bind" the members of the Church to believe the doctrines of the Church ("He who listens to you listens to me. He who rejects you rejects me and the one who sent me" [Luke 10:16]), the "loosing" spoken of in Mathew. 18:18 does not mean the apostles can modify doctrine.

The Church does not have the power to do the impossible, to change or delete divinely revealed truth which forms the deposit of faith. Rather, the concept of loosing, as it pertains to the apostles and their successors, has more to do the Church's ability to dispense individuals or the whole Church from observing certain ecclesiastical disciplines. None of these issues deals with doctrine as such (since doctrine is unchangeable) but with Church discipline, government, and penance.

When I think about the Saints and Fathers of our Church, I see a huge variety of characters. Some of them are brash and assertive, some gentle and quiet. Almost every variety of character is represented. So it is with the blogasphere and indeed the Catholic community in every parish. Problems only seem to occur when one or another contradicts Church teaching as is the case here. A powerful member of the Church is openly attacking doctrine, which faithful, informed Catholics know cannot change. When he is challenged, he responds with bully tactics. This sort of behaviour does not appear in keeping with the kind of ministry Pope Francis advocates!

So here's an idea, why don't we just stick to what the Church teaches and when someone corrects me charitably, I promise I will always ask them for their forgiveness.

The lawyer's letter to Vox Cantoris can be viewed here.


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