The director and editor-in-chief of the news agency Catholic News Service has reportedly resigned from his position under pressure from the “far right” for tweets he made in support of LGBT rights.
Tony Spence told the National Catholic Reporter that he resigned from his position Wednesday as requested by the Secretary General of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, the council with which Catholic News Service is affiliated. He was then escorted from the Washington conference office building that afternoon without being permitted to meet with his newsroom staff.
“The secretary general asked for my resignation, because the conference had lost confidence in my ability to lead CNS,” Spence said.
Spence had been under fire for some time by conservative Catholic bloggers and web-based fidelity watchdogs such Lepanto Institute, The Church Militant, and Life Site News due to tweets he’d been making in opposition to anti-LGBT conservative talking points and the so-called religious liberties laws being passed in North Carolina and Georgia, which he referred to as “stupid” and “fooling no one.” His email has also been filled with hate mail calling him a “traitor to the faith” and urging his excommunication.
“The far right blogsphere and their troops started coming after me again and it was too much for the USCCB,” Spence told NCR.
“Sixty-three and unemployed; not the brightest prospects,” Spence said to America: The National Catholic Review on Thursday.”My plan now is to go home to Tennessee and start over.”
“My 12 years at CNS have been the best 12 years of my professional life; my staff is just amazing and I’ll miss it,” he added.
The resignation was unexpected, and those who knew Spence say he feels “shattered.” Spence himself said he never expected his tweets to receive such a vitriolic response and that he felt he was just commenting on the developing stories always covered by his news agency.
The Magisterium of Roman Catholic Church has historically been unequivocal in its rejection of the legitimacy of same-sex marriage and the immorality of LGBT lifestyles, but attitudes of individuals within the Church toward LGBT rights can be as diverse as attitudes outside it.
Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute and one of Spence’s most aggressive online critics, had nothing but praise for the actions of the USCCB. “Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops demonstrated the clarity and leadership so desperately yearned for by the Catholic faithful,” Hichborn told LifeSiteNews, another outspoken source of Spence criticism.
“Let us pray for all those involved and hope that Catholic News Service can fulfill its mission in the spirit of the new evangelization and in fidelity to our bishops and the Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church,” Hitchborn continued.
Spence has an extensive history in Catholic journalism, getting his start in diocesan newspaper the Tennessee Register in Nashville some 30 years ago. He served as general manager and editor-in-chief of Tennessee Register, Inc., from 1989 to 1998, and also served as the communications director of that diocese from 1992 to 1998.
In 2010 Mr. Spence was given the the St. Francis de Sales Award by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. The St. Francis de Sales award is the highest honor given out by that establishment.
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