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Where Are the John Fishers?

by John Mallon Contributing Editor for Inside the Vatican

August 2004

The state of the Church in the United States is angry. The anger is over the silence of many (not all) of the bishops in the face of the upcoming presidential election.

My sense, based on many conversations with fellow Catholics, is that what faithful Catholics long for most is a clean, refreshing burst of moral outrage from their bishops, individually and collectively. Controlled, well thought out, but keenly felt righteous indignation would act as a healing tonic for the Church in America. I can’t think of a single thing that would do more to raise the morale and restore the credibility of the Church in America than for a bishop to break ranks and let out a firm, bold and, yes, angry statement flatly declaring the moral state of the nation, including the moral state of the Church, and issuing a loud, clear call to holiness and repentance.

Even the enemies of the Church (within and without) would respect it. They’d grumble, but respect it. A bishop is not a grandfather to the faithful who can sit back and watch the children enjoy themselves while somebody else applies the discipline. A father whose child is abused is a very fierce thing, seething with white-hot outrage. Where is the outrage among the Fathers of the Church? For over 25 years we have had the thrilling witness of Pope John Paul II the Mensch. Must the buck always be passed to him?

Frankly, the faithful are exasperated with diplomatic language and episcopal spin: “mistakes were made,”

“we prefer to persuade....” With all due respect, it is not the bishop’s job to persuade but to preach the Gospel, the truth, the Good News, the Gospel of life, in season and out of season. Persuasion is the Holy Spirit’s job, the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin. St. Paul says “faith comes by hearing.” The Word must be spoken; it is up to the Holy Spirit to prepare the hearts of the hearers.

Jesus did not attempt to persuade. In John 6, when He said, “My body is real food, my blood is real drink,” people got up and left. Jesus didn’t run after them. He simply asked the Apostles if they were leaving too. There is no indication that He would have run after them if they had. Fortunately, Peter knew that the words of Jesus were the words of life, even when he didn’t comprehend them. Who Jesus was was enough for him.

The very same people who falsely accuse the Church of silence and inaction during the Nazi holocaust are the people who demand that the Church be silent in the face of the abortion holocaust.

Bishops who remain silent and fail to act on behalf of the unborn in this crucial election season are bring- ing shame and disgrace upon themselves and the Church. This is too important a matter to leave to a committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is up to the individual bishop in his diocese to act.

Recently I’ve been involved in an effort to publicize the dangers of “emergency contraception,” the so- called “morning-after pill,” and its harmful and abortifacient effects, based on research from the Population Research Institute of Front Royal, VA, USA. (To see this information go to

We have written op-ed columns and letters to editors of newspapers and even to medical journals which are pushing to make this dangerous drug as easy for young girls to pluck off the shelf as aspirin.

My colleagues and I have run into a virtual media blackout on this issue. It is as if there were a wall up against these facts. A statement from a bishop would help causes like this, which are, in fact, the Church’s causes. As much as bishops dislike controversy or even publicity, they may help save some lives by speaking out. Most lay people simply don’t have the clout to make news on things like this as a bishop would.

Even President Bush reportedly told the Holy Father at their recent meeting that he could use more help from the American bishops on the same-sex mar- riage issue and protecting the family.

Does it strike anyone as odd that the president of the United States should have to appeal to the Pope in Rome to defend what are essentially Catholic teach- ings? Even those of other faiths look to the Catholic Church for leadership on these issues. Do the US bishops really need prodding from the Pope at the request of the president to enunciate Catholic teach- ings to a nation in moral crisis?

It is neither hyperbole nor exaggeration to suggest that, because of the pre-eminent position of the United States in the world, the future of Western cul- ture may well hang on the outcome of this election.


A 15,000-pound statue of the Virgin Mary stands strapped to a flatbed truck ready to be removed from outside the former Boston archbishop’s residence June 29. The archdiocese sold the residence for more than $99 million to pay for settlements for clergy abuse victims. 

Many critical life issues like same-sex “marriage,” cloning, and stem cell research hang in the balance.

Supporters of abortion often point to the death penalty in their political attacks on the Church’s disciplining of pro-abortion politicians, but as the death penalty is not an intrinsic evil it does not rank with these other issues involving the destruction of innocent helpless human life. However serious it is, it does not have the same civilization-destroying potential.

I have spent my entire career defending bishops from attacks from dissenters within the Church and secularists with- out. Now, Your Eminences and Excellencies, I appeal to you. Does it really take the courage of a Bishop St. John Fisher to stand up to a pro-abortion politician? Does it really require the conviction of a Bishop St. Athanasius to step out from the USCCB and denounce the anti-life planks in the platform of the Democratic Party? Is the tax-exempt status of the Church worth more than the life of even one unborn child who might be saved by your words or actions?

Does it take the eloquence of a St. Jerome (who called the doctrines of Pelagius “feces” — a polite translation, no doubt) to address the dissident theologians who teach the young? Or to remove from a religious education office a nun who has long since exchanged her Catholicism for ideological feminism and New Age paganism ?

Does it take a St. Augustine to realize the barbarians are already within the gates and the place is being sacked?

Does it take a St. Ignatius of Antioch to face the lions of the New York Times? And risk their disapprobation? I think it’s safe to assume you will not be drawn and quartered with your head placed on a spike, but the same can’t be guaranteed for your successors if action is not taken now.

For almost 40 years, dissident theologians, pagan nuns, pedophile priests, actively homosexual priests and pro-abortion politicians have been shown a greater degree of tolerance in their mischief than simple, orthodox faithful Catholics who voice their concerns. What will it take to spark a bishop’s outrage on behalf of the honor of God and His scandalized little ones? What would be the fate of Jeremiah or Ezekiel if they turned up today stalking the halls of the USCCB?

Pro-life leader Joe Scheidler risked total financial ruin because he dared take on the killing machine of Planned Parenthood. Joan Andrews Bell spent two and a half years in solitary confinement in a prison reserved for the most hardened criminals for her non-violent civil disobedience on behalf of the unborn. These are only two of the Thomas Mores of our time. What we need are more John Fishers.

Should we really be moved that a prince of the Church, whose red signifies his willingness to die for the faith, is “uncomfortable” denying the Eucharist to a political champion of death who is cheered wildly by NOW and NARAL?

The scandals of 2002 were but a warning of what can follow from inaction when God’s little ones are abused. What will follow from inaction in the face of their being murdered for 30-plus years?

An archive of some of Mallon’ s articles may be found at: http://johnmallon.LIFE