In his most recent post, Mike Lewis mentioned a website called “Faithful Shepherds,” which is spun off from LifeSiteNews. Faithful Shepherds ostensibly exists to “hold bishops accountable.” Gallingly, given current events in the Church, what the site means by “accountable” is not “morally accountable” but “accountable to a certain set of Catholic political priorities.” For the people at LifeSiteNews, publicly taking pro-choice politicians to task is equally constitutive of orthodoxy as holding pro-life views oneself.  Both issues are listed below a bishop’s positions on last year’s Viganò letter and the interminable Amoris Laetitia controversy. (In both cases, the allegedly-orthodox position is the one that is more suspicious of Pope Francis.) The website is part of LSN’s growing platform as a sort of one-stop emporium for talking points and brickbats to use against Pope Francis and the bishops who share his priorities and vision for the Church. It even contains a mechanism for sending semi-automated postcards to bishops either lauding them or chastising them over what Faithful Shepherds has to say about them.

The other night, a curiosity-driven search of the site for various bishops with whom I am familiar led me down several dismaying byways.

I’m a member of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and geographically reside in the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, so the bishops with whom I am most familiar are Steven Lopes and Mitchell Rozanski. Faithful Shepherds, understandably, loves Lopes, since he’s definitely a conservative figure; I like Lopes too, because he runs a tight ship and is willing to crack down on the element of the anti-Francis vortex that intersects with the Ordinariate when he has to. Faithful Shepherds’ takes on Lopes are more or less verifiably correct and are understandable for the type of website that this is. It is when I got to the website’s page on Rozanski that obvious problems with it started to emerge.

Rozanski is listed as not having “enough evidence collected” on the issue of his “pro-life leadership.” As somebody who almost always attends Diocese of Springfield Masses (the mountains are high, and my Ordinariate parish is far away), I’ve personally experienced two examples of Bishop Rozanski’s pro-life leadership. First, every Mother’s Day he has all the churches in the diocese sell bouquets of roses in the narthex to support pro-life organizations in Massachusetts. Secondly, the last time the Massachusetts legislature considered legalizing assisted suicide, as it intermittently does, Bishop Rozanski had every priest in the diocese read out a pastoral letter arguing against the proposal at every weekend Mass. I’m not necessarily thrilled about the association of pro-life causes with Mother’s Day in particular, especially since my own mother (to whom I am very close) is staunchly pro-choice, but both of these strike me as much more effective examples of pro-life leadership than simply declaring the Church’s opposition to abortion over and over again like a customer service menu tree.

While the idea that there isn’t enough evidence that Mitchell Rozanski is pro-life is obviously ridiculous to anybody who’s lived in Western Massachusetts for any length of time, the problem doesn’t seem to be with the website’s standards. Instead, it appears that the way the website is set up is that one can provide “evidence” on one’s own bishop that the site then aggregates, and it is possible that not enough people in the Diocese of Springfield have done so yet. This setup is worrying in and of itself; it carries a distinct hue of informing, denunciation, and public shaming. What it reminds me of more than anything else is the concept of “getting receipts”—documentation of embarrassing or immoral behavior to be filed away in a sort of akashic Rolodex for later use against a foe. Moreover, Faithful Shepherds seems to reserve the right to decide which of these #receipts to accept and which not to.

More worrying still is Faithful Shepherds’ take on Edward Scharfenberger, the Bishop of Albany, who succeeded the recently-disgraced liberal lion Howard Hubbard five years ago. Two of my closest friends live in the Diocese of Albany and it is probably the diocese with whose internal politics I am most familiar other than my own. Scharfenberger is much more scrupulously orthodox than Hubbard but he is not what most people would call a doctrinaire conservative. One of Hubbard’s positive legacies is a good relationship between Catholics and Jews in the Albany area and this has continued to be an emphasis of the diocese under Scharfenberger, whose grandfather was Jewish (as was mine, so I see “Bishop Ed” as a kindred spirit of sorts). What Faithful Shepherds cares about when it comes to Bishop Ed, however, is that he “supports investigating Archbishop Viganò’s claims.”

I found this astonishing given what I know about Bishop Scharfenberger so I read the sources that Faithful Shepherds cited. One was about Scharfenberger coming out early against ex-Cardinal McCarrick when his scandal first broke last summer. The other was about Scharfenberger being the bishop most strongly against Cardinal Wuerl’s call for the bishops to police one another a week or two later. Neither article linked mentioned Viganò or his letter, which makes sense given that both articles predated the publication of the letter by at least two weeks.

Perhaps, I thought, reading this, Bishop Ed does support investigating Viganò’s charges. It wouldn’t be entirely out of character, since he has been on the warpath against the abuse coverups. So I googled “scharfenberger vigano.” The first result, mirabile dictu, was a website called Planet Albany lamenting that Scharfenberger had not commented on Viganò’s charges (of which charges Planet Albany was itself partially supportive and partially skeptical). Almost every other result was from Scharfenberger’s initial appointment in 2014, dealing with Viganò in his then-capacity as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States; in this post he would have had a role in Scharfenberger’s appointment. No word about Bishop Ed “supporting” Viganò, his letter, or the veracity of the claims therein. In other words, no word that Faithful Shepherds had not, quite simply, lied about the extent to which a bishop known for his integrity on the abuse crisis was sympathetic to their own positions. A little more digging revealed that other bishops–including, incidentally, Bishop Lopes–had also been characterized as supportive or not supportive of Viganò on the basis of their remarks on non-Viganò aspects of the crisis.

Reader, I closed the tab. Faithful Shepherds is not a reliable source. Not only does its raison d’être include fomenting intrigue against the Pope, not only does its definition of orthodoxy involve adherence to a very specific series of political views, but it is not even honest on its own terms. If Faithful Shepherds is neither able to ascertain whether a Catholic bishop is pro-life without soliciting informants, nor able to be honest about what responses to the abuse crisis another bishop does and does not support, then it is of no use as a key or tool for the faithful.

Image: Adobe Stock

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Nathan Turowsky went to elementary school in Vermont, high school in New Jersey, and college in Massachusetts, where he now lives. A lifelong fascination with religious ritual led him into first the Episcopal Church and then the Catholic Church. An alumnus of Boston University School of Theology and one of the relatively few Catholic alumni of that primarily Wesleyan institution, he is unmarried and works in social services.

I Browsed the “Faithful Shepherds” Website So You Don’t Have To

6 Responses

  1. Marie says:

    Thanks Nathan

    CCC 2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

    – of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

    – of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

    – of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

    But hey, who cares right. Shameful, once again.

    “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Matt 7:15-16

    • jong says:

      If you move further on that passages and cite Matthew7:21-23
      True and False Disciples
      21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

      Now,the “real schism” is visible according to Pope Francis. The Catholic are now face with with Two Church in opposition. The group of Dissenters lead by Dubia Cardinals are preaching claiming orthodoxy focusing on the God’s Law & Judgement” and citing Veritatis Splendor and Canon915.
      On the other hand, we have the Church united to Pope Francis preaching the “Mercy of God” which the opposing forces claimed is heterodox.
      Which voice are speaking the TRUTH about the true gospel of Christ?

      If we read the whole chapter 7 of Matthew gospel. it warns and reminded us about the False Prophets or Disciples with this passages:
      “15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.”

      Now, how do we recognized the wolves in sheep clothing? below passages is very helpful;
      Ask, Seek, Knock
      7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

      9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

      If we ponder of this passages and applied this to the Dubia Cardinals et,al vs. Pope Francis, pondering this passages from the heart will lead us to see that the Dubia Cardinals are the “wolves in sheep clothings” who closes the Door of the Church” for all the lost & wounded “asking,seeking and knocking” at the Door of the Church.

      But the most important phrase, I hope you discern it clearly the key word “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”
      Have you seen that St.Matthew implied that the wounded soul is asking for “bread”, meaning the Holy Eucharist. This is the wisdom of Pope Francis inspired by the Holy Spirit., that the Church cannot close it’s doors to the lost and wounded souls “asking,seeking and knocking” at the Door of the Church.
      And this passages stated that the Abba Father is willing to give the “bread” to those who ask for it, and also said that is sums up the Law and the Prophets.

      As I posted, in Mike Lewis recent article, the Dubia Cardinals et,al are committing apostasy not only by contradicting the Will of the Father(John3:17) but also the “Desires of the Father” in 1Timothy2:4.
      Jesus Christ given mission on earth was salvation of souls and not condemnation, while it is true that Jesus taught the judgement of God in all sinners it will only be acted upon by Jesus once He ascended into Heaven and not while on earth.
      I now understand, why Rad Trads channel are also attacking the teachings of Hans Urs Von Balthasar now because his meditation on his famous book “Dare we hope, that all men be saved” is rooted deeply in the “Will and desire of the Abba Father”.
      And if we do not follow the Will of the Father like Jesus did as he said in John6:38 then our fate in the end is like the Dubia Cardinals, et al.
      “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’(Matthew7:21-23)

      In closing, the gospel called all those who do not follow the Will of the Father as “evildoers” and the gospel of Matthew exposes to us by using the gift of discernment who is truly the True and False Prophets in our times. The Dubia Cardinals et,al are preaching the “anti-gospel” contradicting the Will of the Father, and this is just the perfect scenario described by St.JP2 in his words about the Final Confrontation. My Jesus mercy.

  2. Jessica says:

    I think I’ve identified what bothers me about this website.

    Bishops are the descendants of Christ’s representatives, the apostles. None of them deserve to be ranked on a website. The ranking system oversimplifies their messages and their morality. Worse, it implies that they deserve more or less respect depending on popular opinion of them (higher ranked = approved of by more people).

    That means the website is both misleading and disrespectful.

    • Nathan Turowsky says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Thank you for commenting and I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think people, even people like the ones behind Faithful Shepherds, are obliged to be madly in love with their bishop–after all, not all bishops are good men or even likeable ones!–but this idea of marking them up or down based on glib little “on-the-issues” checklists like they’re candidates for political office is profoundly insulting to their ministry.

  3. Manuel Dauvin says:

    I know the founders and some of the writers of lifesite news personally. ..when they were just starting as the pro life voice on the Internet. Scares me to think how they’ve descended so far down a hopeless path of rebellion. How many feathers they’ve thrown into the wind! How will they gather them?
    I was blocked from their site…they knew me…I was a friend. Not cool.

    • Nathan Turowsky says:

      Hi Manuel,

      I know some people who’ve gone down this path too. Not people who are responsible for leading others down it the way LSN is, but it’s still frightening and, honestly, pretty heartbreaking too.

      Thank you for your comment.

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