Matt C. Abbott
April 17, 2014
Father Francis not given Pope Francis-style treatment
By Matt C. Abbott

Here we go again.

Or so it seems.

From LifeSiteNews.com:
    Another controversy has erupted at a Roman Catholic school after students and parents reacted with outrage to Church teaching on sexuality as presented at a school assembly.

    Father Francis 'Rocky' Hoffman spoke to students at The Prout School in Wakefield, Rhode Island on April 4. During the course of his talk, he apparently made comments critical of homosexuality and divorce that some students found offensive....

    Administrators at Prout issued written and verbal apologies to parents and students alike after a number of parents expressed anger about the content of Father Hoffman's presentation, and that they weren't notified in advance. Many are openly calling for Principal David Carradini's ouster....
Good grief.

Father Hoffman is a priest of Opus Dei (no, I'm not a member of Opus Dei, but I'll take OD over the Legion of Christ any day) and is executive director of Relevant Radio, a national Catholic radio network.

I've met Father Hoffman and have even been to confession to him, and he's certainly no "radical traditionalist." He's orthodox and articulate. That's not to say he can't say or do something imprudent now and then – we all do – but it's hard to determine if that was indeed the case here.

Consider:
    LifeSiteNews reached out to Carradini to ask what, specifically, Father Hoffman said that was offensive... Carradini did not respond to us directly, but the diocesan communications director emailed to say that the school does not have the audio available, and that Carradini is not doing interviews on the matter. A follow-up call to the bishop's office was redirected to the voice mail of the same communications officer. She did not return our call.

    Relevant Radio also declined to provide LifeSiteNews with audio or a transcript, and chief marketing officer Nancy Jensen said Father Hoffman was unavailable for interviews during Holy Week. However, Hoffman issued a statement:

    'I am a priest in good standing in the Catholic Church, and I only teach what the Church teaches in matters of faith and morals. That is a matter of established public record. As for the pastoral approach to complex and sensitive questions, each situation has to be taken case by case. The advice given to one set of persons may not be as helpful to others. All priests know this from experience, and hopefully always learn to improve. The priest, as a representative of Christ, always wants to leave people with hope in their hearts.'
So what are we to conclude? Did Father Hoffman make imprudent remarks during his presentation, or is it the parents who are acting foolishly? In other words, are the parents to blame here? If so, they should be rebuked – not given apologies by school officials.

One would think that, had Father said something truly offensive and embarrassing, his detractors would delight in repeating it verbatim and would want the audio made available for that very reason. (Not to mention wanting to stick it to the school's principal!)

On the other hand, if he didn't say anything worthy of such harsh criticism, why is Relevant Radio "fumbling" this matter? Why decline to give LifeSiteNews, a pro-life and pro-family news outlet, the audio? If – if – he said something truly offensive and uncalled for, something outrageous, then Relevant Radio may want to find another executive director. However, if Relevant Radio is simply trying to pacify an angry mob of heretics by allowing Father Hoffman to be thrown under the bus, then Catholics should no longer support Relevant Radio.

There seems to be a lack of transparency on both sides, at least for now.

My two cents: From now on, speakers who want to give presentations at Catholic elementary and high schools should write their talks ahead of time and make them available to school officials prior to the event. If school officials object to some aspect of the talk, the speaker has the option of changing it or withdrawing from the event altogether. Question-and-answer sessions should be treated the same way; nothing off the cuff. It's too bad that it's gotten to this point, but it just may save some well-intentioned people a lot of embarrassment – or worse.

© 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 mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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