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Editorial: Fr. Rosica, civility, and Fr. Gravel’s lawsuit

The Editors

March 10, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Fr. Thomas Rosica wants desperately for the Catholic blogosphere to be more civil.

LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) readers will remember Fr. Rosica as the priest who, back in 2009, criticized LSN during an appearance on a Catholic radio program as “not credible,” “not ethical,” “not honest,” “bombastic,” “derisive,” and who said that, insofar as it is “divisive,” LSN is doing “the work of Satan.” 

Since then the head of Canada’s Salt & Light Catholic television network, who is now also a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, has led an ongoing campaign against what he sees as an overly angry, harsh, and condemnatory pro-life movement and “Taliban Catholicism,” as he puts it. He has, however, recently remained silent, at least in the media, on the subject of LSN specifically – until now.

It was Fr. Raymond Gravel’s lawsuit against LifeSiteNews that provoked Fr. Rosica to once again condemn this news service with his comments in an article about the lawsuit written by Montreal correspondent Graeme Hamilton in last Saturday’s National Post.

“At best,” he is quoted as saying, “the activity of LifeSite is a form of unthinking activism akin to a shooting gallery. Now and then they hit a target. More often, however, they leave a vast trail of collateral damage, character assassination and destruction of reputations of good people…”

Unfortunately, the irony of promoting civility, while using such an uncivil flurry of hurtful language seems to be lost on him, as it was in 2009.

But what has probably been lost in all of this is just how strongly we agree with Fr. Rosica on the need for civility. LSN shares the concern, which was expressed well by Archbishop Chaput in a 2009 interview with the Pew Forum, that many, including some on the religious right, too often express their opinions in overly harsh and counterproductive language, especially using the “instant” medium of the internet. In fact, when we realized a few years ago that some of our readers were not being as careful in their word choices as they might be, we even wrote up a document explaining how best to go about communicating one’s views respectfully, especially to religious leaders. We frequently refer to that document at the end of our news reports.

However, we also believe that civility - or more properly, charity – is always answerable to the demands of truth: that is, charity requires not only affirming the good, but also in some cases exposing lies and falsehood, especially when they try to present themselves in the guise of truth.

LifeSiteNews is driven by the conviction that in this battle between the culture of life and the culture of death, the stakes are nothing less than the lives, and the souls, of the most vulnerable. That is why LSN has, and will continue to report, boldly, clearly, and charitably, allowing the facts to speak for themselves, when public figures promote anti-life and anti-family values. It would, in fact, be uncharitable and negligent not to do so.

But in his comments to the National Post, Fr. Rosica paints LSN and Fr. Gravel as two “extremes” in the Catholic Church, setting himself up as a “middle” ground.

However, the question arises, what exactly is this ‘middle’ that Fr. Rosica is referring to between the Fr. Gravels of the world and LSN? When LSN reports on Catholic-related issues, we have always emphasized the crucial importance of Catholics being 100% faithful to their Church’s teachings on life and family. If that is “extreme” in today’s liberal culture, then perhaps indeed we are “extreme”.

But what becomes increasingly obvious as the article progresses, is that Fr. Rosica clearly believes that one of his “extremes” is rather more extreme than the other. While he carefully distances himself from Fr. Gravel’s more unorthodox positions, he urges us to remember that Fr. Gravel “remains a human being, and a Roman Catholic priest who has helped many people with their personal difficulties and crises,” and says that Gravel has “brought people to Christ” and even discouraged some women from obtaining abortions.

It is in good keeping with Christian charity to seek out and to emphasize the legitimate good that others, including our opponents, may have performed. But how strange it is that the Salt & Light CEO reserves no such kind words for LSN. Surely it is a curious form of “civility” that would rather take the side of one of Canada’s most prominent self-professed “pro-choice” priests in a potentially crippling lawsuit against a pro-life, pro-family news service that has done nothing but report what that priest has said and done during his highly public career.

The open secret is that much of the talk about “civility” we hear nowadays is too often only a ploy to silence, dismiss, and ultimately condemn those with whom one happens to disagree. We saw this clearly in 2009, when Fr. Rosica chastised many pro-life and Catholic leaders for the position they took on the grandiose Catholic funeral given to Senator Ted Kennedy.

There was, of course, plenty of room for legitimate disagreement on the issue. However, in almost the same breath that Fr. Rosica lamented the loss of “civility, charity, mercy and politeness,” he labeled those who had criticized the public funeral for the late pro-abortion senator as “not agents of life, but of division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence,” and described them “as little children bullying one another around in schoolyards - casting stones, calling names, and wreaking havoc in the Church.”

Vatican Archbishop, now Cardinal, Raymond Burke had an opposite view to that of Fr. Rosica towards those who sincerely saw that there was scandal in the way the Kennedy funeral was conducted. Archbishop Burke went so far as to say, “One sees the hand of the Father of Lies at work in the disregard for the situation of scandal or in the ridicule and even censure of those who experience scandal.”

In 2009, many were quite reasonably left scratching their heads at the disturbing contradiction between Fr. Rosica’s simultaneous call for civility, and the use of such severe epithets against many who have devoted their whole lives to protecting the unborn.  His latest public, and unprovoked, condemnations of LSN, leave us with that same feeling of puzzlement.

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