Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Another Problem with Watchdog Groups

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm a big proponent of strengthening the Catholic character of our Catholic universities. Those who know me well also know I'm not a fan of self-appointed Catholic university watchdog group, The Cardinal Newman Society (I'm not sure Cardinal Newman would be a fan either). I have had some correspondence with the group's president, Patrick Reilly, and we have a number of similar opinions about how our Catholic universities might be more Catholic, but we differ markedly on how to go about that. We more or less agreed to disagree about that, a couple of years ago. However, he increasingly ups the ante on the kind of tactics he uses and the importance he places on himself and his organization (this is the great temptation of watchdog groups).

The latest, it seems from a Catholic News Service article reporting on a speech by Reilly, is that he now has raised the group to the level of the magisterium of the Church:

Cardinal Newman Society head says group operates within magisterium

By Agostino Bono
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A self-described watchdog organization that claims many Catholic colleges are losing their Catholic identity is not setting up a teaching authority independent of the bishops, said the head of the group.

The Cardinal Newman Society is exercising a "concurrent magisterium" in keeping with the church's teaching authority, said Patrick Reilly, the society's president.

He said that the organization presents to bishops its concerns that some Catholic colleges hire professors and invite speakers who oppose Catholic teachings, especially on abortion and sexual morality.

But the society needs no prior permission from bishops to issue its criticisms, he added.

read the rest.

Even if you support the group and its goals, I think you have to be concerned with its tactics and an increasingly exaggerated sense of its own self-importance and authority. If the Cardinal Newman Society is now part of the magisterium, the next step can only be infallibility.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they have a concurrent magisterium, will they have a concurrent papacy?

Bill Logan

2:48 PM  
Blogger Mr. Clio said...

I hereby declare that I have a concurrent magisterium too.

Anyone else?

Let's all have concurrent magesteria!

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Patrick Reilly said...

Unfortunately you have been duped by a false and misleading article from the Catholic News Service. I never used the term "concurrent magisterium," as reported. Our full press release is below:


-- Publications Urged to Reject Baseless Article Posted Feb. 7 --

MANASSAS, VA (February 8, 2006) – The Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization to strengthen and renew Catholic identity at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, has demanded that the Catholic News Service issue a correction and apologize for a highly misleading and damaging article about the Society posted Tuesday evening.

The article’s headline (“Cardinal Newman Society head says group operates within magisterium") and first seven paragraphs focus on the malicious allegation that the Cardinal Newman Society is “setting up a teaching authority independent of the bishops.” No facts or arguments are presented to support the allegation, and no source is identified as making such a complaint. The first time the Cardinal Newman Society was aware of any question about its fidelity to the Church -- which has no basis in fact, given the Society’s mission to defend Catholic teaching in Catholic higher education -- was when Catholic News Service reporter Agostino Bono confronted Society president Patrick J. Reilly with the statement on February 2.

“The allegation addressed [in Bono’s article] is a fictional construction of the reporter, who cites no sources for the allegation,” writes Reilly in a February 8 letter to Catholic News Service editor Tony Spence. “The allegation is ridiculously false, so much so that anyone familiar with the Cardinal Newman Society would doubt its truthfulness, and no responsible editor would allow it to be published without verification.”

In the article, Bono falsely quotes Reilly as claiming that the Cardinal Newman Society exercises a “concurrent magisterium,” a term that suggests the organization is somehow separate from the Church. While interviewing Reilly on February 2, Bono claimed that unnamed critics had accused the Society of attempting to establish a “parallel magisterium” to the bishops. Reilly insisted that the Society acts not separate from the bishops but with complete fidelity to Catholic teaching and respect for the bishops’ authority. The Society has struggled to defend the bishops against academic officials and faculty who oppose the Church’s oversight of Catholic higher education.

In his letter to Spence, Reilly writes that the “irresponsible” article “attacks” the Cardinal Newman Society. Reilly notes that the Catholic News Service’s “appearance of objectivity” is diminished because the Service “recently sought to engage the Cardinal Newman Society in a similarly ludicrous legal dispute -- an attempt to force us to abandon use of our acronym ‘CNS’.”

Earlier today, Spence refused to temporarily pull the article from circulation while Reilly documented concerns about the article. But Spence pledged to review the concerns, which were delivered by fax late today. Regardless of whether a correction is issued, all publications are urged to reject the article, having been informed of its false and misleading statements.

# # #

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Patrick, I noticed your list of bishops who are your official advisors is shorter than it used to be. What happened?

Don't worry, we all know the answer...

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick Reilly is nothing more than a Catholic terrorist. He employs incendiary language and threats to achieve a dubious goal, which undermines the nature of Catholic education as education. What really separates him from other religious fundamentalists around the world who promote violence in the name of religion? You don't always need an actual bomb to promote coercion. If his standards for what could be viewed or read on Catholic campuses were applied as he wants them to be, the Bible would have to be on the top of the list of banned books.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...


Thanks for the clarification.

I can't find the press release on your website.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous DavidAWW said...

Here's the link, Mark:


2:39 PM  

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