I’ve often found myself wondering about the bias I see at the Catholic News Service(CNS), which seems to gloss over many of the serious problems in the Church.
Today, my friend Michael Hichborn at the Lepanto Institute has a story on CNS Director and Editor in Chief Tony Spence that may help shed some light on the bias of the USCCB’s official news and information service:
Tony Spence has been the head of the Catholic News Service since 2004. Over the last few weeks, Spence has been publishing statements on his own twitter feed, identifying him as the head of CNS, speaking out against legislative efforts protect the religious freedoms of individuals, businesses and churches.
Hichborn offers copious evidence, including eight separate screenshots of Spence’s Twitter account, in which he is promoting various LGBT issues. Hichborn goes on:
In 2010, Spence was presented with the Catholic Press Association’s St. Francis de Sales Award, which is the “highest award the CPA presents to an individual for “outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism.” In light of what Spence has been writing in direct attacks against Catholic moral and social teaching, one has to wonder if CPA will demand its award back.
In a major twist of irony, and now apparent hypocrisy, it was Spence who, in 2013, ended Catholic News Services’ relationship with Adam Shaw, an editor for the FOX News website. Shaw had been working with Catholic News Service as a film and video game reviewer. On 4 December of 2013, Shaw published an opinion piece on FOX News’ website criticizing Pope Francis by comparing him to US President Barack Obama. Two days later, Shaw was no longer welcome at CNS. What is so ironic is that the statement issued by Tony Spence regarding his reasons for severing ties with Shaw absolutely applies for him regarding these statements on twitter now. Spence said:
“(W)hen he penned the recent piece on Pope Francis, comparing him to President Obama, and presenting it as an op/ed, he seriously compromised his credibility as an objective Catholic journalist for CNS. Had Adam merely reported on the pope’s apostolic exhortation, even citing unflattering sources, there would have been no problem. However, Adam’s caustic condemnation of the exhortation and of Francis himself, one of the key figures we cover daily with objectivity, fairness and certainly charity, left me little choice but to end his service with us.”
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If a low-level reporter at the Catholic News Service is released for issuing his own public opinions regarding the pope, then surely the head of the same agency should likewise be released for issuing public opinions that are in direct conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching.
It’s getting pretty old to see these stories again and again. Does the US Conference of Catholic Bishops care at all about having a CNS Director who is faithful to the Church’s teaching? It’s safe to assume, considering the brazen and public nature of Spence’s conduct, that the answer is no.
Over a year ago, I reported to you that Ralph McCloud, the director of the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development,
had, during his first year working for the US bishops, simultaneously served as Treasurer for the campaign of Wendy Davis – then in the process of unseating a pro-life incumbent in the Texas state senate. (Two years later, she would become best known for her 11-hour filibuster in the Texas state legislature to block a bill seeking to enact more restrictive abortion regulations. Davis was also endorsed by Planned Parenthood.)
Despite this, McCloud is still the head of the CCHD. And since 2011, not a few stories have come out about the organization’s consistent failure to identify appropriate recipients of its funding. Just this month alone, three additional press releases have crossed my desk from the Lepanto Institute alone:
15 months later, McCloud is still listed as the head of the CCHD. The US Bishops Conference has ZERO accountability on these issues, and they continue to leave them in place with impunity.
I wish I had the power to defund the USCCB. I can tell you that they will not get a red cent from me until things start changing. In fact, considering the millions they take from dioceses around the country each year, my inclination is not to fund them either.
I’m sick and tired of seeing Catholic organizations act as though they’re anything but.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.