For weeks—no, for months—I’ve been watching from the dark corners as Catholic bloggers disparage and demean and dismiss fellow blogger Father John Zuhlsdorf (Father Z). “Who is he?” some have demanded to know. “Why doesn’t he have any parish responsibilities?”
And what sport it is to assault an enemy of faith and reason, to fluff one’s feathers at the mere mention of his name! But the thing is, Father Z is not the enemy.
HE IS A CATHOLIC PRIEST in good standing, who seeks to spread the Gospel using the tools available in the modern era. He is a fellow laborer in the vineyard, and a fellow pilgrim on the road to heaven. He is NOT the enemy, even if he is more conservative (or less conservative) than you are.
In the greater blogosphere, some have been critical of Padre Z for leading a cruise during Lent. But wait: The popular Catholic Answers cruise is scheduled during Advent, another penitential season; and supporters will appreciate the off-season rates and the opportunity to grow in faith during this spiritual season.
The Telegraph’s Damian Thompson has accused Zuhlsdorf of “atrocious anti-gay bigotry” for his report regarding the brutal murder of Mary Stachowicz by a homosexual man with whom she had worked. Of course, the local ordinary Bishop Thomas Paprocki himself, noting the particulars of the case, had called Stachowicz a “martyr for the faith.”
Sam Rocha wrote a piece this week, criticizing Father Z for likening the Bishops gathered at World Youth Day to the Nazi’s. The thing is, that may have drawn hits and popularized Sam in some corners; but I knew, as I’m sure Sam knew, that that’s not the point that Father Z was trying to make.
I have not always been a fan of WDTPRS, Father Z’s popular blog. At least in the past, his caustic criticism of left-leaning Catholics or his snide reference to the “National Catholic Fishwrap” has sometimes made me wince. I have never doubted, though, that his intent is to foster the good of the Church; and for that, he earns my respect. Also, because he is a priest, a spiritual father who has forfeited the right to a family of his own, to an intimate relationship with a loving spouse, in order to help people attain heaven—well, for that, too, I am deeply grateful.
In 2011 the Abbey Roads blog took a different approach from Sam’s: They called for prayers for Fr. Zuhlsdorf, noting that “he really is a good, faithful priest who works generously for the Church and the salvation of souls.”
“Father Z” has consistently ranked at or near the top in the About.com Catholic Blogger competition. The British magazine New Statesman listed his site as one of the top ten Christian blogs in the world.
I, too, have wondered about just what he does, aside from his writing. I found the answer in a post on his own blog. He writes:
I am a priest in good standing in the Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri-Segni in Italy. This is one of the little ancient dioceses encircling Rome, thus “Suburbicarian”. My name appears on my diocese’s website in the list of diocesan priests…. I have no asterisk by my name. I have faculties to say Holy Mass (can. 903), to preach (can. 764), and to receive sacramental confessions (can. 969.1).
I am living, with the knowledge and consent of my bishop and his predecessor, outside my diocese and in the United States. I am working on my doctoral thesis, working on the internet, writing as a columnist for different publications, and giving talks at conferences and other events.
I am not engaged in any official external apostolate where I live. I have no assignment. I haven’t sought anything on top of what I now do. I can barely make headway on my thesis as it is! (It’s about the figure of David as an exemplum of civic virtues between Augustine and Ambrose, by the way, for the Augustinianum.) Since I am not functioning publicly in any way as a priest within the diocese where I live, I do not need the faculties of the diocese and therefore I have not sought them. I have been in the diocese with the knowledge of the last two bishops of the place. I don’t know what the present bishop knows. I haven’t been in touch. [Since I posted this, the situation is changed. I have full faculties of the diocese and I am publicly functioning in various capacities.]
Read the rest of his personal story here. It’s an interesting tale: He converted from Lutheranism while in college, and was ordained to the priesthood by Pope John Paul II in 1991.
In the 17th century, the Archbishop of Split (Spalato), Marco Antonio de Dominis, is reported to have said “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Good advice for the modern age, as well.