Without Incident (With Brief Update)

Without Incident (With Brief Update) January 23, 2019

Over on the so-called “Catholic News Agency” news page, from an organization consistently fomenting dissent against Pope Francis, they now have a story claiming that Native Americans, with Nathan Phillips, tried to disrupt a liturgical celebration at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. . The story quotes from someone they claim is a guard who locked the doors during the liturgy to stop the disruption. Anyone who knows the basilica knows this would be an impossible task: one guard could not lock all the doors around the basilica so fast, and so if there were any intention of causing a scene within the shrine, it would not be stopped by one lone guard.

The article also states that the official spokeswoman for the shrine said that the Native Americans were outside and left without incident. That contradicts the claim being promoted by the article itself;  combined with the practical impossibility of one guard locking all the doors, the story appears to be entirely contrived and spread to promote more irresponsible controversy and push for an agenda that detracts from the rights and needs of the Native American indigenous peoples. Such a stand goes against the direction and guidance of the church. Pope Saint John Paul II said in his 1987 meeting with Native Americans:

It is time to think of the present and of the future. Today, people are realizing more and more clearly that we all belong to the one human family, and are meant to walk and work together in mutual respect, understanding, trust and love. Within this family each people preserves and expresses its own identity and enriches others with its gifts of culture, tradition, customs, stories, song, dance, art and skills.[1]

This includes recognition of the past harms done to the Native Americans, apologizing to them, and doing what can be done to lift them up and repair the damage which has been done against them. Understanding this, Pope Francis has issued an apology for the grave sins done by colonial powers, even as he has spoken up in favor for their rights when they are being denied to them.

Catholics should not look down and smirk at their Native American brothers and sisters. We are required to work for their betterment, indeed, to back down and listen when they have a grievance. The preferential option for the poor teaches us to give deference to those in need, not to the rich and boastful.  If we want to proclaim the dignity of life, we must do it in deed and not just in word. If we want people to believe us when we say we stand for life, we will indeed stand for life, promoting the marginalized when they are being disrespected if not outright mistreated. When they have complaints, we must listen. To mock them is to stand in the way of peace.  Christ was beaten like a drum to bring peace to all: let us heed the call for peace, so that we will not have to be beaten again in the form of our neighbor.




CNA has updated their post with more information. What they have given does not justify their headline. They have added several unnamed sources making further claims about what happened. This, of course, can leave people in doubt While there is no dispute that the Native Americans were at the shrine, CNA has yet to give credible evidence to support the claim of their headline. If they wanted to say there were Native Americans doing a protest outside of the shrine, that has been verified and was not in question. Proving that does not verify the rest of their claim. As they wanted to say that the Native Americans “attempted to disrupt” a mass, more has to be shown and demonstrated to make their claim credible. First, they would have to show intent to disrupt a mass. Even if it could be shown a group tried to get into the shrine (which has yet to be proven), that would not prove the intent was to disrupt a mass. Second, even if it could be proved that they arrived at the main doors and knocked on them, making demands at the door, that again, does not verify the main headline. The fact that the shrine itself has said there was no incident remains the key part of the story.


Second Update

CNA claims a statement was made by a spokesperson for the basilica, indicating that a group tried to enter the shrine and were denied entry, without telling us where this official statement can be found. Nonetheless, even if this is true, this does not validate their headline, which indicated an attempt to disrupt a liturgical celebration. That is, they need to prove more than intent to get into the basilica, they need to show it was with express intent to disrupt mass. As the shrine is readily open to large group of visitors, many who are not Catholic, many who go in while some liturgical celebration is going on, indicating some group of people wanted to go inside as proof of intent to disrupt mass would then make most people who go inside equally guilty of that intent.

[1] Pope John Paul II, “Meeting with the Native Peoples of the Americas” (9-14-1987).


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