Vatican Official Comments on Handling of Dissident Views

Says Catholic Publications Shouldn’t Give Them Equal Weight

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ORLANDO, Florida, MAY 25, 2005 ( A Vatican official says he had nothing to do with the ouster of an editor from a U.S.-based Jesuit magazine. But he defended the view that a Catholic publication should not give equal weight to dissenting views.

In a speech prepared for a meeting today of Catholic media personnel, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, made a reference to Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, the recently ousted editor of America magazine.

«Since I was informed before the publication of certain recent news that one of the communicators to share the podium today is Father Thomas Reese,» the archbishop said, «let me first say that I had absolutely nothing to do with the current situation, that I found out about it in the newspapers, that I appreciate receiving America magazine each week, and that Father Reese is a fine gentleman and a fine priest who did excellent work during the recent events in Rome.»

Archbishop Foley added: «I generally find myself in agreement with a recent editorial in Our Sunday Visitor and with Russell Shaw’s op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that a priest-editor, who in some way is expected to represent the magisterium of the Church, cannot appear to give equal weight in a publication sponsored by a religious community to articles which present the teaching of the Church and articles which dissent from it.»

The occasion for the Vatican official’s comments was addressing a joint meeting of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada and the Catholic Academy of Communications Arts Professionals.

He recalled a personal experience in the media when widespread dissent erupted over a magisterial teaching.

«In August 1968,» he said, «the editor of The Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia was on vacation when ‘Humanae Vitae’ was published — and I found myself in charge.

«A number of Catholic publications ignored the fact that there was dissent from the encyclical; a greater number highlighted the dissent and put the encyclical in a subordinate position. I decided to use the encyclical as the lead story and to use the dissent as a separate story on an inside page with the jump of the encyclical story from page one — and then I did an editorial in support of the encyclical.»

Archbishop Foley said: «I felt that the encyclical represented the official teaching of the Church, which had to be highlighted and with which I happened to agree then, as I do now, but that the dissent was a significant fact that could not and should not be ignored.

«I also thought that the official teaching of the Church should be supported editorially — both through comment and through story placement. If I were still an editor, I think that would remain my publication philosophy today.»

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