For those that do not know, the National Catholic Register is an excellent weekly newspaper which happens to be owned and by the Legion of Christ (LC). I have a subscription to the Register and have greatly enjoyed its coverage on all things Catholic these four years hence. For the most part, the Register is extremely loyal to the magisterium of the Catholic Church (an oft noted charism of the LC) such that its reporting tends to follow “the party line,” if you will. It doesn’t bother me. I’m a party line kind of guy and happen to love my Church. Nonetheless, the Register is also not afraid to proclaim the fullness of Catholic teaching, even if it offends some of their readership; which they have done in the past.
To take one example, in 2005 the Register did an opinion piece on the devastating effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention the flat out immorality of dropping the bomb. It’s that last part that caused quite a stir. In the following weeks, there were more than a few letters covering the Editorial pages questioning the wisdom of printing such an article. If my memory serves me correctly, at least one reader was so infuriated that they said their subscription was canceled and there was nothing the Register could do to change their mind. Several other readers threatened to do the same. As the weeks rolled by the Register stood by its story and stood by it firm, backed up by plenty of papal pronouncements, not to mention the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Their case was air tight, and they would not abandon the Church no matter who’s political party was offended. I, for one, was very impressed and promptly extended my subscription for another two years.
So why am I not as impressed now? As I mentioned earlier the Register is run by the LC, a religious order in the grip of turmoil due to the outright betrayal of its deceased founder. If you know not of which I speak, the American Papist has you covered. Thomas Peters has done an excellent job covering this story. The Register has not. In fact, the only thing I have seen in the Register is a brief editorial blurb asking for prayers, but not much more. This is a newspaper that has done tough stories before, but now shies away when it is obvious for all to see that this is the time they should be the most candid and forthright. This is their religious order. Is it not their duty to report the news, especially when it pertains to them?
On Monday, Father Raymond J. de Souza, a 12 year veteran of the Register, posted a piece on the First Things blog questioning the Register’s lack of reporting in this important time. As one of the newspaper’s subscribers, I ask the same. Fr. de Souza is respectful, yet firm with the LC and their need to change course. He outlines 5 stories the Register ought to pursue:
- Just be honest about what has happened. Write candidly about Fr. Maciel and the wrong he has done.
- How did Fr. Maciel’s perversion shape the LC formation process in its seminaries? Is this why secrecy is such a noted “feature” of the LC?
- What did senior LC priests know and when? Where false statements defending Fr. Maciel made knowingly by those now running the LC?
- Did the LC leadership try to frustrate the investigation of the CDF into the accusations against Fr. Maciel?
- High profile Catholics were invited by the LC to come to the defense of Fr. Maciel over the years. How were they persuaded, and were any deceptive tactics used?
If the Register did these stories, I would be impressed beyond all measure. This would be reporting, and I would renew my subscription for another two years or more! Furthermore, I am willing to bet (and it is likely a safe bet) that the overall subscriptions for the Register would go up tremendously if these stories were persued with all the tenacity and veracity that they demand. Imagine. A Catholic newspaper going after the dirt in its own Church, and even in its own religious order. A little in-house cleaning, when done with all honesty, is a very revitalizing agent in the life of the Church. I will be watching, and I know others will be as well. The ball is now in the Register’s court. Let’s see what happens. Perhaps the Register can do what the LC leadership has yet been able to do: speak candidly about what has happened and what it means for the order. To be honest, I’m not very optimistic.
Please see The Register and the LC Update post