Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ed Peters' dogged defense of Bishop Zurek

And he said, "Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear."
 – Luke 11:46
Ed Peters seems to have appointed himself to be the lead prosecutor of Father Frank Pavone in a public trial which he is conducting through his blog. Yes, Ed Peters is a canon lawyer, but his issue with Father Pavone does not seem to be just about canon law; it seems to be much more personal than that.

From the beginning Peters has tried to portray this as a conflict between Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. As a lawyer, he should know much better than that. This is not some sort of boxing match with the bishop and his priest in opposite corners as Peters likes to portray it.

This is a policy dispute which was made public when a letter by Bishop Zurek was published by CNS (Catholic News Service). The letter addressed to all the United States Catholic bishops made unsubstantiated claims about the character of Father Frank and about Priests for Life. As a public figure that has a responsibility to defend the reputation of Priests for Life, Father Frank was put into a very awkward position by his bishop.

If he said nothing then Priests for Life would be adversely affected. In fact Bishop Zurek asked his fellow bishops to halt all donations to PFL. How was Father Frank supposed to respond to that? Should he just quietly go into prayer as Peters has suggested?

Ed Peters seems to like to put himself in the limelight. Not that long ago he made a public pronouncement that Bishop Hubbard of Albany should deny communion to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. This led to a flurry of publicity. When Bishop Hubbard did not take any action against Governor Cuomo, Peters let the matter quietly drop.

If only he had followed a similar trajectory in the current situation with Father Frank Pavone then he would have saved the pro-Life community a lot of public embarrassment. Instead Peters got ever more involved in criticizing anyone that showed any kind of support for Father Frank.

Why did Ed Peters let Bishop Hubbard off the hook while publicly scolding Father Pavone in article after article?

In the latest round of fighting initiated by Ed Peters, he took aim at Al Kresta who conducted an interview with Father Frank on his Ave Maria Radio show. Peters' main objection seems to be that Father Frank should simply not be allowed to speak out in public.

It was now Al Kresta's turn to be put into an awkward position. He was forced to defend himself against Ed Peters' charge that he had given Father Frank "what amounted to a 40 minute infomercial". Peters bluntly charged that this was "a bad idea". And added that neither Father Pavone nor Kresta were "competent to explain ... canon law to the public". He said that interviewing Father Frank was especially bad while the "dispute with Zurek was in full swing", which just shows how Peters has attempted to turn this policy dispute into a highly personal confrontation.

So much for tact and diplomacy on the part of Ed Peters; never mind being charitable. This is more the style of a bulldog than a diplomat.

In his response Al Kresta starts out by saying that he and Ed Peters are friends and that Ed Peters has appeared as a guest on his show in the past. Thank goodness that Al is a "friend" of Peters. I'd hate to think how he would have worded his criticisms if they weren't. Kresta tries his best to defuse the situation which Peters has created using very apologetic language. He does however say that Peters' characterization of the interview as an "infomercial" is "silly".

Peters in his reply rather than apologizing just digs in deeper. He describes himself as "one who knows what the rules are". So now Peters is not just the prosecutor, but has also declared himself to be the judge in this case. Aren't Bishop Zurek and the Diocese of Amarillo capable of speaking for themselves?

Meanwhile, where in the world is Bishop Zurek? It's been over two weeks since he disappeared from the face of the earth on September 13 -- the same day that he demanded that Father Frank show up in Amarillo.

As for Ed Peters, I wish he would turn his lawerly attentions to more worthy victims like Nancy Pelosi and the bishops that allow her style of public insubordination to continue unchallenged. Or Catholic "social justice" groups like the 8th Day Center for Justice which insists on showing a film that advocates "women priests". With all the attacks that the Church is under today, why zero in on a priest that has dedicated his life to end abortion?

I hate bringing this up, but I will anyway because it goes to the core of Peters' argument. When we blindly defer to the bishops, bad things can happen. The bishops can and must be held accountable. They should not be above criticism from the laity when they fail to vigorously defend the teachings of the Catholic Church. And they certainly should not be allowed to place themselves above the Pope.

The bishops should conduct their business in public and avoid secrecy as much as possible. Again, we have seen how secrecy has been used to hide abuse in the past. Eventually, secrets are uncovered.

Why shouldn't a bishop go on a radio program to be interviewed? If Archbishop Dolan can go on 60 Minutes, then why can't Bishop Zurek be interviewed by Al Kresta? He should follow the example of Pope Benedict XVI who has been very open and candid in his papacy. At times this has resulted in his being attacked by the press as happened when "Light of the World" was published. But he has helped to dispel the myth that the Vatican and the Catholic Church has something to hide.

When baby Joseph was about to be euthanized by Canadian doctors the whole pro-Life community came out in support. But it was ultimately one priest who was able to make a difference and give Joseph a chance to live out a full life. Shouldn't this priest receive our thanks and support now when he needs it most?

God bless you, Father Frank.

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St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.

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