Matt C. Abbott
July 26, 2006
Priest fires back at archdiocese spokesman
By Matt C. Abbott

Silenced priest Father Robert Altier has responded to a recent letter by Dennis McGrath, communications director for the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, regarding Father Altier's status in the archdiocese.

The following is Father Altier's (unedited) response to McGrath:

Dennis McGrath
226 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102-2197

Dear Mr. McGrath,

Praised be Jesus Christ! I am writing to you in response to a letter that you wrote to Mr. Kenneth Fisher on July 17, 2006 and which was, in turn, forwarded to me. In this letter you state, regarding Mr. Fisher, that "his story is replete with errors and major exaggerations. As the communications director for The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, let me strive to correct the record and, hopefully, get your Catholic Newswire to do the same if you're at all concerned about journalistic ethics and truth." Toward the end of the letter you further state "to let Mr. Fisher use your news service as a communications medium to trumpet a campaign based on false and distorted information is almost unimaginable to me, as a trained journalist."

These are rather interesting statements considering that your own letter contains very few pieces of factual data but is, indeed, replete with misinformation and a great deal of false and distorted information of its own (and this is not the first time). This strikes me as being "almost unimaginable" coming from one who claims to be a trained journalist and even more because you represent the Archdiocese and the Archbishop. If this were merely a matter of false and distorted information I would have ignored it and remained silent, as I have in the past. But there is something much more serious contained in your letter which has prompted me to write you. This would fall under your statement about getting the record straight and concern about journalistic ethics and truth.

In your letter you state that I have "indeed frequently and inappropriately (if not disobediently) criticized the Archbishop and Archdiocesan leaders (and not simply on the VIRTUS child protection/education program)." While it is true that I have not always agreed with certain decisions that have been made, I have never, to my recollection, made public statements that are critical of the Archbishop and I have never been disobedient to anything he has ever asked. A clear distinction needs to be made here. We have a right and, at times, an obligation to make judgments on actions, including decisions. To criticize such actions or decisions does not constitute criticism of the person per se. I have made a promise of respect and obedience to the Archbishop and I have maintained this promise. To disagree with a decision is neither an act of disrespect for the person of the Archbishop nor is it an act of disobedience. These charges made in your letter are not only fabrications of your own, but they constitute slander and calumny which are both serious sins. I am requesting that you either produce some evidence to back up your remarks or "strive to correct the record" by recanting these statements in the same medium or media in which they were made.

Mr. McGrath, considering your position as the Director of Communications for the Archdiocese, and considering that you make it clear at the beginning of your letter that you are acting in that capacity, your statements have to be taken not as personal opinion, but as the official position of the Archdiocese. This is quite tragic (but does indeed speak volumes) and it is truly unimaginable coming from a trained journalist who is concerned about journalistic ethics and truth. Since you are speaking on behalf of the Archbishop and your statements are to reflect his own official position, I am sending a copy of this letter to the Archbishop. I am also sending a copy to Mr. Fisher because your original letter was addressed to him. Trusting in your desire to correct the record and uphold only the highest standards of ethics and truth, I will look forward to your rectification of this unfortunate situation.

In our Lord and our Lady,
Fr. Robert J. Altier

Cc: Archbishop Flynn
Mr. Kenneth Fisher

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at

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