Feb 042009


By Barb Arland-Fye

St. Ambrose University associate professor Keith Soko’s column criticizing the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) has provoked numerous responses.

We have received letters via e-mail, U.S. Postal Service and — a first for us — “blog comments” on our new Web site,

Soko’s contention that many people incorrectly assume EWTN is “the Catholic channel” and that it presents an outdated view of the Catholic Church was offensive and hurtful to a number of readers who responded.

“EWTN is an excellent teaching tool,” say Elmer and Annette Pollpeter of Burlington, who believe that “our bishop, his diocesan paper, our Catholic schools and universities and our parish priests ought to be encouraging these efforts.”

“EWTN is doing what no other Catholic entity has succeeded in doing: bringing Catholic television programming into the home,” says Madelyn Phares of Princeton. “I do not feel that pre-Vatican II theology is being shoved down my throat by EWTN. And if I did, I would just select a different channel, rather than belittle the entire network in the pages of The Messenger.”

Tim Hart of Fairfield, writes, “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 Soko says: EWTN promotes ‘an outdated theology … a version of Catholicism that no longer actually exists.’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.” (Hart’s full letter will appear in next week’s issue).

One letter writer took on a scolding attitude, exclaiming, “Shame on you!” at the beginning and end of her letter.

Another demanded that Soko retract his opinion column and write an apology in The Catholic Messenger.

Others criticized Soko personally and made disparaging remarks about St. Ambrose University, The Catholic Messenger and the Diocese of Davenport.

Some of the more uncharitable comments were from bloggers, people who write entries for inclusion in our Web log (“blog” for short), which appears beneath the on-line article. The Catholic Messenger may accept or reject blog comments, and at least a half-dozen have been rejected because they stifled rather than furthered dialogue.

The first blogger to submit a comment, Sister Dawna Sutton, SFCC, thanked Soko for sharing his opinion. “I could not have said it better. (EWTN) is an outdated view of Catholicism today.”

A friend who e-mails me regularly with gently worded critiques of The Catholic Messenger thought Soko’s reasoning was immature and wondered how often he watches the station and whether he had watched it lately. My friend wished Soko had provided more specific examples of programming he found fault with. I would have to agree with her on that observation.

In responding to my friend and other e-mail writers, I said that the Opinions Page is a place for people to express opinions. Nothing Keith Soko said was blasphemous or denied church teaching. His opinion piece has generated plenty of thoughtful responses as well as some unconstructive criticism.

It’s a good thing to get Catholics talking about issues that are important to them. In part, that’s what makes The Catholic Messenger a Catholic newspaper.

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