EWTN’s programming is faithful to the church

To the Editor:

In response to Keith Soko’s article criticizing EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) as offering “an outdated view of the church,” it is hard to know where to begin. It is really sad to even need to defend not only an oasis in the mostly depressing landscape of television, but also the definitive presentation of the beauty, breadth and authoritative understanding of the Catholic faith.

EWTN television and radio programming reach countless millions of viewers and listeners in dozens of countries. It is the largest religious media outlet in the world, and is generally regarded as the most successful source of Catholic evangelization.

The quality and diversity of 24/7 programming is remarkable. Contrary to Mr. Soko’s claim that EWTN ignores “the greater role for the laity” ushered in by Vatican II, much of the programming is led by lay Catholics. Watch programs like “The Journey Home,” “The World Over,” “The Abundant Life,” “Super Saints,” “G.K. Chesterton,” “Crossing the Goal” and many others, and you will see informative and lively discussion on a huge range of topics hosted by lay Catholics.

Mr. Soko says EWTN promotes an “outdated theology … a version of Catholicism that no longer actually exists.” Wow! A version of Catholicism? I thought the church was one, holy, catholic and apostolic. I didn’t know there were different versions.

If you want to know what the church actually teaches and believes, watch EWTN. From the holy Mass to the excellent homilies to the programs outlining what is actually in the Catechism and Vatican II documents, you will understand and come to appreciate the fullness of the Christian faith that is our holy Roman Catholic Church.

Tim Hart

Fairfield

To the Editor:

Reading Keith Soko’s column, “EWTN offers an outdated view of the church,” has left me wondering why he is Catholic.

According to Soko: “EWTN is … promoting a version of Catholicism that no longer actually exists. That previous model of the church, “hierarchical, clerical, absolute, unchanging … was abandoned when Vatican II (1962-1965) ushered in a greater role for the laity, male and female, married and single.” While the latter may be true, the Catholic Church IS hierarchical and unchanging (regarding doctrine). Without that, we are just another “church of what’s happening now.”

Mr. Soko also contends that EWTN is making an idol of the church by putting it on a pedestal. I guess St. Paul is guilty of this also in 1 Timothy 3:15 where he describes the “church of the living God” as “the pillar and foundation of truth.” Or even Jesus himself, who in Matthew says regarding one who has sinned against you, “If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

EWTN has had several shows going through and defending the documents of Vatican II. I would say that rather than Mother Angelica making her own version of the church, liberal theologians have made their own version of Vatican II.

John Friede

Walcott

To the Editor:

I found Keith Soko’s analysis of EWTN, sad, confusing and unconvincing.  His complaint, as I understood it, was that EWTN’s portrayal of the church looks back to a church that no longer exists.

Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” When I watch EWTN I am inspired by the rows of young nuns who have accepted God’s call, programs of young people on fire for the Lord, some good classic preaching, movies and relevant discussions.

What I observe in today’s church is the sharp drop in vocations, the devastating issue of clergy sexual abuse, declining church attendance, many Catholic colleges and universities losing their Catholic identity, and the widespread secularization that Benedict XVI speaks of frequently. These are all signs of a dying church. Should we choose life or death?

There are many spiritual giants in the saints of the past that we need to look back to in order to know the way forward. It is noteworthy that raising the bar attracts young people, many of whom are foreign born, to the religious life in a style that is orthodox and traditional. For this they are often criticized by the older generation of priests and intellectuals. We should not interfere with those who have chosen that path to live the Christian life faithfully.

Bernie Vogel

Bettendorf

To the Editor:

Thanks for Associate Professor Keith Soko’s article. He made me think about all the good programs EWTN has and what they mean to me. The very best are the Masses and their great homilies aired four times a day, the rosaries, the saints’ stories, the good interviews and the educational talks. Plus, music and children’s programs. All of it is good, Catholic theology!

I have trouble finding time to watch as often as I like. Mother Angelica didn’t build her network starting with a small station. She did it from scratch, not even knowing a thing about TV and she had no money. And now it is the biggest religious station in the world. Not only is it worldwide, she also has a worldwide radio satellite station. If you think I am stretching the truth, get her book, “Mother Angelica: the Remarkable Story of a Nun” by Raymond Arroyo.

Doris Mineart

Fairfield

To the Editor:

I read Keith Soko’s Jan. 29 attack piece (“EWTN offers an outdated view of the church”) with disgust.  I have heard Keith’s tired, recycled and discredited views many times, but thought we’d moved beyond his 1970s theology. I know that financial times are tough, so let me be the first to offer to buy him a new set of textbooks.

Keith offers no facts or examples regarding EWTN, just gross generalizations and mischaracterizations that lead one to wonder whether he’s ever listened to it. Perhaps he’s just regurgitating the biases of his peers in the St. Ambrose faculty lounge.

Keith is concerned that the faithful will see EWTN as “the Catholic channel.” My concerns are different: I fear the faithful may still suffer the misconception that St. Ambrose is a “Catholic university” or that the Messenger is a “Catholic newspaper.”

Greg Hamilton

Iowa City

To the Editor:

While reading The Catholic Messenger I was surprised by Keith Soko’s column about EWTN. So I must be outdated, also. I claim to be inspired by the many programs and Masses here and at the Vatican. They all look modern to me!

There is Father John Corapi’s program on the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Scott Hahn, a very modern theologian, Father Frank Pavone’s “Priests for Life,” all of these offer very present-day subjects. I enjoy listening to Mass, listening to the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Father Groeschel, and many other interesting programs.

Can anything be bad if it inspires one to pray?

EWTN does advertise to be “Sharing the Splendor of Truth.” Would you believe that I look at Mother Angelica as a living saint? EWTN is the best TV on the air.

Marjorie Hora

Riverside

To the Editor:

I am deeply troubled by the article in the Jan. 29 Catholic Messenger written by Keith Soko titled, “EWTN offers an outdated view of the church.”

Mr. Soko says he gives Mother Angelica credit for doing what no one else has done, operating a Catholic cable network and persevering in taking a small television station and making it a national offering.

How do you suppose she did that?

Professor Soko writes: “EWTN promotes a view of church and theology that focuses almost exclusively on tradition with a capital ‘T.’

What’s ironic, though, is that it promotes this top-heavy, clerical model in a time when priestly vocations are dwindling, when educated Catholics are leaving the church,” etc.

Why do you think that has happened?

Catholic radio stations are popping up across the nation fulfilling a need of the Catholic laity hungry to learn more about their faith in this busy, hectic world. Many of the EWTN programs are aired on both TV and radio. Some of my favorite programs are “Where God Weeps,” which is all about the poor in Jamaica; “The Journey Home,” in which Marcus Grodi interviews ministers from other faiths who have come home to the Catholic Church; “Women of Grace” by Johnette Benkovic; “Crossing the Goal;” “Faith and Culture;” “The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization;” “The World Over” with Raymond Arroyo and the “Catholic Connection” with Teresa Tomeo.

My husband and I are fortunate to be able to attend daily Mass and we are eternally grateful to our wonderful priests, Father Patrick Hilgendorf, Father Bruce DeRammelaere and Father David Steinle. We are inspired by their homilies and comforted and encouraged by their words and example. That’s why we enjoy EWTN —because it complements their work.

Margie Blindt

Burlington

To the Editor:

Dear Mr. Soko,

Why did you attack EWTN in The Catholic Messenger as being “outdated theology, promoting a version of Catholicism that no longer actually exits?” I help operate a local low-power FM radio station in Burlington, which rebroadcasts EWTN to the Burlington area and you now have told my listeners through the diocesan newspaper that they are listening to outdated theology.

You say that EWTN is promoting a version of Catholicism that no longer actually exists, that this version was abandoned by Vatican II.

 Tell me how your view of EWTN offerings is interpreting Vatican II from a hermeneutic of reform and not the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture. (Reference address of Pope Benedict XVI to The Roman Curia, offering them his Christmas greetings Thursday, Dec., 22, 2005)

You say that EWTN comes dangerously close to making an idol of “the church.”

That statement is inflammatory.

Are we in the same one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church? Are we in the same church as St. Therese of Lisieux?

We should not work against each other. Airing this kind of thing in print or on air only hurts the church and does us no good.  

William Hausner

KCDM LPFM

Burlington

To the Editor:

Shame on you! For printing the article “EWTN offers an outdated view of the church” by Associate Professor Keith Soko of St. Ambrose University.

EWTN, like the church Jesus Christ established and which the Vatican and EWTN uphold, is not swayed by the ways and whims of society. The most learned and profound men and women contribute to the richness of this awesome network.

I think Associate Professor Soko has a lot to learn and I think St. Ambrose needs to update its instructors if it intends to compete with our top Catholic universities and produce lasting and sound vocations.

As I said, shame on you for the less informed readers who will be profoundly influenced by this misleading article.

Please take this into consideration as I take my faith seriously and do not wish to be inundated by articles that viciously attack our most precious and lasting Catholic faith, the very reason for our existence. Please share this letter with our diocesan bishop, Bishop Martin Amos. This is a serious matter.

Ruth Coffey

Wever

To the Editor:

What an insult to me, and thousands like me who own EWTN by our continual financial support, for Keith Soko to say, “Don’t call it the Catholic channel.”

I am, and for nearly 94 years, have been a practicing Catholic. My faith has made me whole and EWTN strengthens me in my Catholic faith.

Now I wonder, is St. Ambrose a Catholic university?

P.S. Thank you for the Right to Life ad concerning FOCA on page 10 of the Jan. 29 issue of The Catholic Messenger.

Mary Doering

Fort Madison

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