The Catholic Key and Who Speaks for the Church

I give Jack Smith, editor of Kansas City diocesan paper, a good deal of credit. His “Catholic Key” blog breaks beyond the usual church-sponsored model of communication. It is provocative, in tune with the bishop, Robert Finn, for whom he works, and a good place to get perspective on conservative views in the Church. (I rarely agree with his political points and think he’s taken some real cheap shots on a number of issues, but that’s another story.)

The Catholic Key blog, in other words, is a good read. But is it more than that? And should it be?

Yesterday, Smith weighed in on the controversy surrounding Cardinal Francis George’s comments at the closed door meeting of the US Bishops last week. It’s a long story (background here), but the essence of it is that the “Catholic News Agency” attributed remarks to George that the spokesperson for the US Bishops Conference, Helen Osman, says are a “fabrication.”

“If a news agency fabricates quotes by the president of any major organization and the false quotes spread wide and far, I cannot imagine the reasoning of a communications director who would take five days to respond – and then only in a staff blog post,” writes Smith. Fair enough. Smith then calls on Osman to release the transcript of the meeting to clarify what was said (which sounds like a good idea to me.)

The story behind this story is that a communications professional employed by one bishop (one whose views on the health care bill and the role of the Catholic Health Care Association in its passage are well known) is publicly asking for release of a document that the president of the US Bishops Conference, Cardinal George, does not appear to want released. (If George wanted the transcript or the portion of it dealing with his comments released he could make that happen.)

Is the bishop of Kansas City taking a shot across the bow of the bishops’ conference president, Cardinal George, through Smith’s blog? (The “Catholic News Agency” and other conservative voices in the blogesphere have a campaign afoot to delegitimize CHA because of its stance on health care.) Does Smith have the independence to challenge, albeit indirectly, the US’s most prominent cardinal?

As Cardinal George frequently asks: Who speaks for the Church?

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