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Bishop John England Award Candidates

Congratulations to the nominees for the Bishop John England Award: Thomas Fox, Archbishop William Lori, co-nominees Bishop Lawrence Persico and Bishop David Zubik and Bishop Richard Stika.

The 2017 recipient of the award will be determined by a vote among the Past Presidents of the CPA. Each person will select one candidate as their First Choice and another as their Second Choice. The candidate with the most First Choice votes will win the award. In the event of a tie for first, Second Choice votes will determine the winner.

The winner is announced at the Catholic Media Conference in Quebec City.

Criteria for Nomination

The recipient of the Bishop John England Award should clearly have acted in their role as publisher and clearly have acted in defense of the publication or used their publications, in accordance with its mission, to defend the First Amendment rights of the publisher, the institution owning the publication, and/or the Church as a whole. The nominee may be a publisher with any CPA General Publisher membership, including digital-only member publications and their publishers. The award recipient may or may not be a cleric.

Candidate Biographies

Thomas C. Fox
National Catholic Reporter, Kansas City, MO

I can think of no other candidate more worthy of receiving the Bishop John England Award for Defending First Amendment Rights than Thomas C. Fox, publisher of National Catholic Reporter. Fox retired as publisher of NCR in January 2016 after more 36 years with the newspaper. Throughout that time, Fox’s main objective in leading National Catholic Reporter was to ensure that an independent voice would be part of the public conversation surrounding the key issues confronting our church and society.

In the summer of 2016, Fox’s last summer with the newspaper, Pope Francis issued an extraordinary encyclical on the environment, 'Laudato Si': On the Care of our Common Home'. Fox foresaw the importance of environmental issues to faithful Catholics as far back as the 1980's when he introduced into NCR’s pages the writings of Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry and other eco-theologians that have proven foundational to current environmental thought. Fox made environmental reporting a key component to NCR’s news budget. To help explore the nexus of ecology and spirituality, in 2010 he started the Eco Catholic Blog on the NCR web site. NCR readers were, therefore, well prepared to receive ‘Laudato Si’.

At the time of Fox’s retirement, “Spotlight”, the film about the clergy sex abuse scandal in Boston, was very much in the news. I have wondered how many people know of NCR’s and Tom Fox’s role in bringing the scandal of that crisis to light some 15 years before The Boston Globe wrote its stories. Under Fox’s leadership, NCR has been on that beat for more than 30 years. Fox was determined to report the story of the abuse of children by clergy, and he saw his first duty to tell the truth of the victims. To do this meant enduring a hostile director of the NCR board, readers who cancelled subscriptions and institutional leaders who ridiculed or dismissed NCR’s coverage. Fox’s stand is a proud moment in freedom of the Catholic press.

By keeping NCR focused, Fox made the newspaper relevant, welcome and well read.

Archbishop William E. Lori
The Catholic Review, Baltimore, MD

Few other bishops in the United States today are working to defend the First Amendment rights of the publisher, the institution owning the publication, and/or the Church as a whole more than Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. As chairman and publisher of the Catholic Review since his appointment as the 16th archbishop of Baltimore, he has consistently used his columns in the Catholic Review to speak about the challenges to religious freedom that are experienced both in the United States and around the world. His frequent words on the topic have been covered extensively in the news pages of the Catholic Review and on its website, including talks and panel discussions from Rome to Washington, D.C.

He follows in the footsteps of his predecessor archbishops in Baltimore, including Archbishop John Carroll, whom Archbishop Lori recalled on the 200th anniversary of the death of the first bishop in the United States. Archbishop Carroll, the current archbishop noted, “understood the importance of weaving Catholicism into the fabric of American society within the construct of the newly guaranteed principle of religious freedom.”

Archbishop Lori understands this concept as well, and continues to promote the notion that we can be simultaneously good Catholics and good Americans. In a panel discussion Jan. 21, 2016, Archbishop Lori noted, “If you challenge one fundamental freedom, you challenge them all.” And he added, “the defense of religious liberty is, at the same time, the defense of human dignity and the common good of society. It is fundamental to the task of building a civilization of love. It is fundamental toward … rebuilding the fabric of our society.”

For his consistent defense of our “first, most cherished liberty,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore is nominated for the Bishop John England Award.

Bishop Lawrence Persico
FaithLife newpaper and FAITH Erie, Erie, PA

Bishop David Zubik
Pittsburgh Catholic, Pittsburgh, PA

Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Diocese of Erie and Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh have steadfastly pursued the right of church-related organizations to stand on the side of religious liberty in their opposition to the federal government’s health care policies.

Bishop Persico, publisher of FaithLife newspaper and FAITH Erie magazine, and Bishop Zubik, publisher of Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper and magazine, have strongly defended the right of their Pennsylvania dioceses and related organizations and ministries to oppose a federal mandate requiring them to offer health insurance that includes contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. Both have worked with the Pittsburgh-based law firm of Jones Day to win a permanent injunction in the federal case.

Both bishops represent the lead case (Zubik v. Burwell) of seven appeals in lawsuits brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2016 by Catholic and other faith-based entities opposed to the mandate.

Bishop Persico and Bishop Zubik have consistently stated in the secular and Catholic press — both locally and nationally — that the issue before the Supreme Court isn’t just about contraception; it goes to the very core of the right of religious organizations to conduct their ministries according to firmly held beliefs. Both believe that the federal mandate, even with its accommodation to religious entities, violates the First Amendment right to religious freedom.

In their respective dioceses, Bishop Persico and Bishop Zubik take every chance they get — be it in homilies at Mass or at diocesan functions — to put religious liberty front and center of discussions, much as Bishop John England did more than a century ago.

Surely, this is an issue for the ages. Both Bishop Persico and Bishop Zubik are laying the groundwork for the future protection of religious liberty. 

Bishop Richard F. Stika
The East Tennessee Catholic, Knoxville, TN

The Catholic press can make a difference, especially when voices for the unborn and women’s health are being drowned out.

More than 15 years ago, Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion supporters successfully persuaded the Tennessee Supreme Court to rule that state laws regulating the abortion industry were unconstitutional. That prompted the state Supreme Court to determine that the Tennessee Constitution guaranteed an inherent right to abortion above and beyond what Roe v. Wade allowed under the federal Constitution. After the Tennessee Supreme Court’s action, the number of abortions by women from outside of Tennessee traveling into the state rose dramatically, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

It took nearly 14 years for legislation to pass that would, through a new constitutional amendment, once again allow state legislators to place common-sense restrictions on abortion. This constitutional amendment was up for statewide vote in November 2014 and won despite the fact Planned Parenthood poured millions of dollars into a statewide campaign to defeat the amendment and secular media in Tennessee reported and editorialized against the amendment.

As the surprising victory was analyzed, credit for the amendment’s passage was given to Tennessee’s faith-based residents and organizations, notably the Catholic Church. Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville took a lead role in directing news and editorial coverage of this historic event in keeping with the Church’s teachings and to provide a voice. The diocese’s territory, East Tennessee, which covers a third of the state, was credited with being a sanctity-of-life stronghold despite the fact mainstream media advertisements and news stories championed pro-abortion rights. This Catholic influence and religious liberty were apparent across the state, in the dioceses of Nashville and Memphis, when the 2014 votes were tallied.


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