Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Need For Consistency

You may be aware of the row that is going on in the Archdiocese of Detroit concerning Real Catholic TV and its use of the title "Catholic". Michael Voris, the front man for the TV company, is being told he must stop using the title Catholic since he does not have permission from the Archbishop of Detroit, his Ordinary.

This is an issue of canon law, and Ed Peters explains it all in his canon law blog.  It seems the plot is thickening as the question of jurisdiction has now been raised - it seems that Real Catholic TV may actually be officially domiciled in the Diocese of South Bend, so it is up to the Ordinary there to grant the title and not Detroit.   It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Some maintain that Detroit is going after Voris because of his conservative position on Catholic teaching and his manner of broadcasting - I am not going to comment on that because I do not know all the facts, nor can I read the mind of the Archbishop.  I do know, however, that the title "Catholic" can only be used by a group or organisation with the permission of the bishop of the diocese in which they are based.  When the Fraternity was founded and we were applying for official recognition in the Church, we had to petition the bishop for permission to call ourselves a Catholic association.  That's the law of the Church, and it is there to protect the integrity of the Church and her teaching, and I agree with it.

Now, to be honest, I do think there is a need for consistency with regard to this law and its implementation.  There are many organisations, groups, institutions and institutes which use the title "Catholic", but are as far from orthodoxy as the Inferno is from the Arctic.   Dissenters trade under the title Catholic, and theologians, who are more renowned for their rebellion than their willingness to believe in orthodox Christianity, run about with "Catholic theologian" stamped on their academic passports.   Now the stripping of such a title with regard to theologians teaching in Catholic institutes is a matter for CDF, but local Ordinaries also have jurisdiction over groups and organisations trading in their territories.   Is it not time now to call a halt and start to pull them up as Voris and company have been?

You see, there remains the impression, be it true or false, that authorities are happy and quick to tackle conservative Catholic groups, but leave the self-styled "progressive" groups alone and free to do whatever they want.  This does not inspire confidence at all. 

Some suggest that the liberals and dissidents would not obey the bishop if he asked them to stop calling themselves Catholic - of course they wouldn't - disobedience is their trademark.  But that should not deter an Ordinary nor his officials from reminding them, and the public, that the particular group cannot call itself Catholic and is not recognised as being Catholic.    Others have suggested some bishops are afraid of these groups and so prefer to leave them alone.  We cannot ignore that suggestion because it may be true in some cases, and we respond to that with prayer and encouragement, and take a few tips from St Catherine of Siena who knew how to remind people of their duties, with charity of course.

And that last point is one we must bring to our consideration of the Detroit-Real Catholic TV situation: we presume good faith on the part of all involved and pray the situation will be resolved in a manner which is good for the Church.


  1. Where exactly in canon law does it say you need permission to use the word "Catholic" in the name of your organisation?

  2. Well if you read the article you'd see it was canon 216.