Over the past few weeks, I have written posts about Covington Catholic High School boys who were wrongly maligned and harassed at the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life in Washington, DC, on Friday, January 18, 2019:

A school chaperone’s role is an onerous one (January 18)

Covington Catholic: responsible media backtracked (January 20)

Covington Catholic: doxxing followed by support on a fateful weekend (January 20-21)

Covington Catholic: when the media narrative turned (January 21-22)

Today, I will look at the Diocese of Covington’s response as well as those from two archdioceses.

Instead of waiting to gather facts about the incident, the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky — and at least two archdioceses — were quick to condemn the high school students.

Diocese of Covington

On Tuesday, January 22, Breitbart posted ‘Catholic Leaders Refuse to Retract Slander of School Boys at March for Life‘. The diocese unquestioningly followed the media narrative from the weekend (emphases mine below):

The boys’ school and the Diocese of Covington joined in the feeding frenzy, hastily issuing a statement of condemnation of the boys as well as a public apology without hearing the boys’ version of the story.

“This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” Covington Catholic High School and the Diocese of Covington said in a joint statement. “The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”

We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips,” the statement reads.

Bishop Foys created his Twitter account a short time ago in January 2019. The tone of his first tweet contradicts the above statement:

His second was this retweet of a President Trump message:

Conservative network OANN host Jack Posobiec reported that parents wanted a swift apology to the students on the March for Life:

Perhaps Bishop Foys thought the diocese’s strong statement would avert a protest in front of a Catholic church in Covington on January 22. If so, he was mistaken. Fortunately, the weather was cold:

Catholics across the country were frustrated, if not livid, with the condemnation of the students, especially as lengthy videos showing their innocence appeared that weekend:

The Daily Wire article says, in part:

The commissars in charge of Covington Diocese are not the only members of the American hierarchy behaving shamelessly during this railroading of innocent young boys. As of this writing, Cardinal DiNardo, president of the USCCB, has uttered not a word in the boys’ defense, nor has he rebuked priests like Father Edward Beck (CNN Commentator) who doubled down on his condemnation of the boys even after evidence proved them innocent.

On January 23, Gateway Pundit‘s Cassandra Fairbanks tweeted:

Fairbanks’s article states:

The students claim that after some of the kids spoke to Fox News and other outlets, the Bishop informed the school that he doesn’t want them doing any more interviews. The school faculty agreed, claiming they are worried about their safety.

While no punishment was made clear if they fail to comply, the students want to cooperate and plan to do so.

One of the mothers Fairbanks interviewed had said at the weekend (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

“Like I said, the Bishop here is literally victimizing the victims twice. They’ve already been victimized by the media, now they are being victimized again,” she added. “There is blood in the water and they are making it worse. They’re feeding the piranha frenzy from the liberal media. I just want people to understand that they need to wake up and stop believing the fake news and defend the kids.”

That day, Bishop Foys addressed Covington Catholic’s students. I’m so disgusted by some of the remarks, I won’t even comment (emphases mine):

I am the shepherd of this Church. I have to present not only to the people of our diocese but also to the world the facts. Not the facts that someone has imagined or the facts that someone thinks or facts that people might determine from seeing a video. I encourage all of you, especially the students who were there at the march, to cooperate with the investigators. This is with the permission of your parents. We’re not going to have you do anything without the permission of your parents. And the teachers and chaperones who were there, I am asking you, too, to be cooperative with this …

I’m going to ask you, as your bishop, to stay off social media in regards to this situation at least until it is resolved. Because the more you say — pro or con — the more you exacerbate the situation. You have to help, especially yourself, by getting off social media. Right now anything we say — you or I — anything we say is questioned. The devil is real; trust me. He has taken this good thing, this March for Life, and turned it into a media circus.”

Bishop Foys then talked to the students about the statements that have been released by the diocese and the school, which have been criticized.

Some people think our first statement was too strong, but in my mind with what we saw and what we heard at the time, we had to say what we said and we meant it. If that behavior is genuine then we have to condemn it.

“We issued a second statement yesterday. Regardless of what you heard or what you’ve read or what you think— I am on your side. I want you to come out of this in a positive light.

“In our second statement I asked people to pray that we will arrive at the truth. The only way we can do that in an objective way is through a thorough and in-depth investigation … If there was some wrongdoing we have to own up to that, too. Father Michael [Hennigen, school chaplain] is right, it is the truth that will set us free.”

“Know that I stand with you, that I join with you in that ‘Spirit that will not die’ and that together we will work through this. Thank you and God bless you.”

As Bishop Foys turned the podium over to Mr. Rowe, he expressed his confidence in the principal. “Mr. Rowe has done a wonderful job here in his leadership. I have full confidence in him and he will continue to lead you,” he said.

In his final remarks before dismissing the assembly Mr. Rowe said, “Bishop Foys supports us — now we need to support him.”

On January 25, Bishop Foys sent a letter to the parents of Covington Catholic High School students. In it was an apology to Nicholas Sandmann and his family. Foys admitted he thought the diocesan announcement of the third-party investigation into the Lincoln Memorial incident would placate venomous critics and acknowledged that did not happen.

Sadly, it took until Wednesday, February 13, for the boys to be exonerated:

If the diocese paid handsomely for this report, they were robbed. The Daily Beast reported:

The Washington Post reports Wednesday that a team of Cincinnati private investigators spent hundreds of hours reviewing footage and interviewing witnesses before concluding that there was no evidence that there were “racist or offensive statements by students to Mr. Phillips.” They did not, however, speak to Nathan Phillips or Nicholas Sandmann, the two people featured most prominently in the encounter. After the results were released, the Bishop of Covington reversed the diocese’s earlier condemnation of the students, noting that “my hope and expectation expressed in my letter to you of 25 January that the results of our inquiry … would exonerate our students so that they can move forward with their lives’ has been realized.” The report doesn’t offer any guidance on how to prevent similar encounters in the future.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore

Two days after the Lincoln Memorial incident, the Archdiocese of Baltimore — hundreds of miles east, in Maryland — got involved:

That tweet received a number of indignant responses, which outnumbered positive ones.

A Catholic priest tweeted:

Boomer Catholic clergy pass judgment on Catholic high school students before investigating all of the evidence. Why aren’t there more young people at Mass?

Someone recommended the archdiocese delete their tweet:

Very sad that a prominent archdiocese would rush to judgment and gullibly swallow a contrived, libelous attack on young Catholics. You’d do well to delete this tweet.

Someone else recommended amending the tweet in light of new facts:

You are WRONG!!! Get the facts. Watch the videos. And CORRECT this tweet. NOW!!!

Another noted that clergy love only the elite:

Love how the Catholic Church stands with elites instead of its children.

A mother tweeted:

I’ve been preparing my teens that we’ll likely see more aggression towards Catholics. Who knew it would come from a hierarchy that can’t even keep their own accountable for their sins? Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

A Catholic man said:

Would that the hierarchy was this quick to deal with molesters in its ranks…🙄

On January 21 — Martin Luther King Day — the archdiocese issued a clarification:

The statement reads in part:

The Archdiocese of Baltimore wishes to clarify its message condemning what was widely reported as disrespect toward a Native American elder during the March for Life in Washington, D.C. We reiterate our condemnation of disrespect and denigration toward any person or group based on the color of their skin, their religious or ethnic heritage, or immigrant status. The circumstances of this confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial are now being reported as more complex and it will be the responsibility of school authorities, parents and others involved to determine the actual circumstances, responsibility and consequences. Regardless, it is deeply unfortunate that the annual March for Life was marred by this confrontation.

That made their Twitter readers even angrier.

Risky business, that. Donations can dry up in an instant.

One Catholic tweeted:

Then let me respectfully clarify my position on the annual appeal letter I just received …until you apologize to those boys for rushing to judgement and condemnation, I’ll set the letter aside and will recommend that all Catholics in this Archdiocese do the same

Another Catholic responded:

You’ll never receive another dime from me.

A third Catholic said:

This is why we refuse to give to the Hope Appeal.Your quick to condemn these young people w/o all the facts yet you covered up pervert priest for years.. Apologize now.

A fourth sent them back to Catholic catechism:

Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, specifically paragraph 2477 “Respect for the Reputation of Others” and the definitions of “rash judgment” and “calumny.” You owe those students an apology!

A fifth wrote:

Apologize and stop attacking the laity.

A sixth said:

This explains why the Laity is taking the lead. Because the leadership is not Catholic.

And, finally, a Venezuelan Catholic wrote:

Still waiting s not an . These is the perfect example of why more and my re people is LEAVING the church.

On January 23, the archdiocese tried again. Money talks. They probably got a lot of angry phone calls, emails and letters:

This was a guarded — let’s just say, lame — apology. The statement reads in part:

It has become apparent, however, that initial reports of that incident were at best incomplete. Those incomplete reports led many, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to speak out too hastily. We apologize for doing so. It is our hope that the young people involved were in fact acting in accord with the truth and values that are foundational to Catholic education. We also hope that this sad incident will give to all a renewed determination to respect the life and dignity of every person without exception.

Only three people were happy. Everyone else was scathing. Responses from Catholics follow. Interestingly enough, all of the following are from women.

One lady wrote:

Nick Sandmann turned the other cheek and you stabbed him in the back. For once could you put the well-being of teenage boys ahead of your own ambitions?

She added:

That was such a quisling statement.

Another lady said:

How about having the courage to unequivocally state that these boys did nothing wrong? So sad that pro-life Catholic boys can’t even depend on their shepherds to stick up for them in the face of persecution.

To which another responded:

Totally agree! A pretty lame statement.

A second response rolled in:

Why was everyone so quick to judge the boys in the shortened video, but afraid to condemn the aggressive behavior of adults (towards kids!!) after seeing the full video? It boggles my mind. This is a cowardly, conforming statement, at best. We are lost.

I wonder if the archdiocese thought its tweets on Catholic schooling were somewhat misplaced the following week. I accept that it was Catholic Schools Week, but when Covington Catholic High School and the diocese weren’t defending their students, one wonders.

Even after Catholic Schools Week was over, the archdiocese was still at it. Meanwhile, Covington Catholic High School’s students were still under the cosh, as it were, awaiting judgement — for having done nothing wrong:

Two days later — after the Diocese of Covington found no wrongdoing on the part of the students — the archdiocese tweeted:

Oh so generously, the Archdiocese of Baltimore felt it could finally support the students. Pah.

Here’s the statement in full. Note what could be construed as a legal disclaimer in the second paragraph:

Citing the public release today by the Diocese of Covington of the Final Investigative Report into the January 18th incident at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Archdiocese of Baltimore joins Bishop Roger J. Foys, Bishop of Covington, in expressing its support for the students of Covington Catholic High School. The independent investigation, conducted by a third-party firm with no connection to Covington Catholic High School or the Diocese of Covington, found that “our students did not instigate the incident that occurred,” Bishop Foys said.

As previously related, the Archdiocese regrets communicating before all the facts were known about the unfortunate confrontation that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial with other demonstrators.  Furthermore, the Archdiocese of Baltimore again commends the students from Covington and across the nation who participated in the annual March for Life in witness of their active faith and defense of the sanctity of human life at every stage.

By then, Twitter readers must have been fed up. The tweet only garnered four responses: three negative and one positive.

First tweet:

At least you finally responded in the right way. My ongoing complaint and criticism remains: You act like pansies without a backbone unwilling to take a strong stance on any issue (esp Catholic issues) unless you have the support of a corrupted society. I keep praying for you.

Second:

didn’t support Needed an “independent investigation” in order to clear youths’ reputations. What a bunch of cowardly shepherds. Skulking under their skullcaps. Creeping behind their croziers. You should be embarrassed.

And finally:

When the ex-con fake vietnam vet got in this child’s face, his Indian friend yelled racial slurs at the white kids. The Indians then attempted a hate-crime by trying to disrupt a Catholic Mass. How sad you attacked these pro-life teens. SHAME!

The Archdiocese of Baltimore never should have said a thing.

The Archdiocese of Louisville

Closer to home, the Archdiocese of Louisville chimed in.

The Archbishop’s original statement of January 19 was replaced with one dated January 22:

Over the past few days, I have received many calls and email messages from people with many different viewpoints and seemingly opposite messages about the incidences involving Covington Catholic High School students at the March for Life. Many of these calls and messages have revealed the regrettable polarization in our Church and in our society

As many have noted, over the weekend, I joined Bishop Foys in a condemnation of alleged actions, not people. This post replaces that original blog entry with the additional information below from the Diocese of Covington.

I do not have jurisdiction in the Diocese of Covington. However, I have sought to act in solidarity with the Bishop of Covington, who is in a position to have the best information about what transpired and who has pledged an independent investigation of the situation. (See the statement from the Diocese of Covington below.) At this time, I am not going to get ahead of the Diocese of Covington’s independent investigation with additional comments.

I want to assure those who are concerned that I am confident that Bishop Foys and the school will reach out and respond to those who were impacted by these events and media reports

Whatever the investigation reveals, I hope that we can use this as a teachable moment, learn from any mistakes on the part of anyone involved, and begin the process of healing.

That, too, was pretty lame. The last sentence in particular suggests that, somehow, someone did something woefully wrong.

The Archbishop issued one further statement — a weak apology — on January 25:

I offer further reflections about the events at the March for Life involving Covington Catholic High School students.  Today’s letter sent by Bishops Roger Foys to Covington Catholic High School parents is a good description of what has transpired since the events at the March for Life.

Since I joined with Bishop Foys in condemning the alleged actions by Covington Catholic students, I apologize for what was a premature statement on my part based upon incomplete information. I very much regret the pain and disruption in the lives of the Covington Catholic community and in the broader Church and society.

I support Bishop Foys in his efforts to investigate fully what happened, to learn from mistakes, and to take any action needed to address the harm done to anyone from the events that occurred last Friday at the March for Life.

There is a great deal to be learned about the risk of responding to social media and media reports without additional analysis and especially the need to elevate our discourse and to foster the much-needed skills of listening, dialogue, and mutual understanding.

After the Covington Catholic High School boys had been cleared of wrongdoing, nothing to that effect was posted on the archdiocesan website.

One cannot help but think the Archbishop really wanted someone to be expelled. As if the boys hadn’t suffered enough — for doing nothing wrong.

If nothing else, this painful debacle proved the truth of the New Testament to the boys that followers of Christ will be persecuted.

It’s a pity that their own clergy had to join in that persecution: Pharisees, every last one of them.

I will look at the legal angles in another post.