The Deacon's Bench

That’s the word writer Louie Verrechio uses to characterize some of what’s happening over at the Catholic News Service (CNS), the operation owned and managed by the USCCB. Verrechio takes aim, and fires with both barrels.

An excerpt:

Catholic News Service has long been viewed with a suspicious eye by “conservative” Catholic groups, but any perception that this wariness was confined to some traditionalist fringe, however, was officially put to rest earlier this year.

By January 2009, CNS’ failure to consistently apply reliably Catholic editorial standards had become so problematic that Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican, was moved to take the extraordinarily bold step of criticizing CNS from Rome.

“The bishops need to look at our Catholic News Service; they need to review their coverage of [the Church’s moral and social teachings] and give some new direction,” he said.

The problems at CNS, which has been under the directorship of Editor-in-Chief Tony Spence since 2004, are well illustrated by considering the case of Pepperdine law professor Douglas Kmiec.

In the months leading up to the recent U.S. Presidential election, Kmiec — a Catholic — not only campaigned for Barack Obama, he became the self-appointed spokesperson for moral relativists everywhere by publically insisting that Obama’s pro-abortion agenda fits comfortably within authentic Catholic social doctrine.

Naturally, Kmiec’s views drew the criticism of a number of American bishops, including Archbishop Charles Chaput who said that Kmiec had “done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue.”

Kmiec has since established himself as the Obama Administration’s chief Catholic apologist, rankling the pro-life community by applauding the nomination of pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services and offering praise for the President’s decision to overturn the “Mexico City Policy” thereby forcing American taxpayers to fund overseas abortions.

Based on this brief snapshot alone it is painfully obvious that Kmiec’s agenda is the antithesis of the Council’s vision for a media intent on “advancing public opinion in accord with Catholic teaching and precepts” (IM 14).

How then can anyone explain why Catholic News Service — an organ of the USCCB — would grant Kmiec’s opinions a de facto Imprimatur by syndicating his columns for distribution to Catholic publications all over the world?

To be fair, everyone makes mistakes in judgment. Goodwill or the lack thereof, however, is easily discernable by examining the way in which one amends their ways, or does not, after being called to account, as in the case of Archbishop Burke’s stunning rebuke of CNS.

In April 2009, Tony Spence left little room for doubt in the matter when he decided to publish a Kmiec column that hailed the National Institutes of Health’s newly proposed guidelines for Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research as “ethically sensitive” and a move “in a noticeably more Catholic-friendly direction.”

This latest CNS-sanctioned apologia on the Obama Administration’s assault on human life was so out of bounds that Cardinal Justin Rigali, who chairs the USCCB’s Pro-Life Committee, was moved to refute Kmiec’s falsehoods point-by-point in a column of his own, ultimately evaluating Kmiec’s CNS piece by saying, “The truth is opposite.”

It is bizarre theater indeed when an American Cardinal must directly refute the errant opinions that were syndicated, published and propagated by the news service owned by the Bishops’ Conference to which he belongs, and this just months after the leadership of said news service was put on notice by a powerful Vatican prelate.

Check out the rest.

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