Bishops Prod U.S. Congress to Support Net Neutrality

Published January 27, 2011

Inflluential Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan is urging Congress to support several public policy initiatives, including Internet network neutrality.

In a letter dated January 14, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, “As the Internet continues to grow in its influence and prominence in Americans’ lives, we support legislation and federal regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet for all, including religious and non-profit agencies, as well as those in more sparsely populated or economically distressed areas. True net neutrality is necessary for people to flourish in a democratic society.”

The “U.S. Bishops’ Legislative ‘Principles and Priorities’ for New Congress” also urges, “The poor and vulnerable must not be neglected in times of difficult choices.” Other policy topics addressed in the letter include health care, abortion, education, same-sex marriage, and immigration.

The USCCB includes all U.S. active and retired archbishops and bishops, and is headquartered in Washington, DC.

‘Removing Intrinsic Good’

“The USCCB is in gross error in this,” said Tito Edwards, editor of the Catholic Internet news aggregator The Pulpit and editorial contributor to The American Catholic Web site. “They are violating free market principles set out by the Catholic Church.”

Edwards says a “free economy should be seen as something that is intrinsically good in itself, and if the USCCB is looking for more government control over forms of communication, ipso facto they are removing an intrinsic good,” he said.

“Pope John Paul II rejected government intervention in [Papal Encyclical] Centesimus Annus when it falls outside the realm of the common good,” Edwards continued. “Controlling the Internet does no one any good as it is simply another step towards socialism and communism, both condemned by the Church.”

Liberation Theology

In the USCCB document, Dolan wrote that it is “an agenda for dialogue and action” and “offer[s] a constructive and principled contribution to national discussion about the values and policies that will shape our nation’s future. We seek to work together with our nation’s leaders to advance the common good of our society.”

Seton Motley, president of Less Government, declared the USCCB support of network neutrality displays the group’s affinities with liberation theology, an ideology developed in Latin America during the 1970s. The Vatican, the authoritative body of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, strongly opposes liberation theology because of its Marxist foundations. The USCCB is ultimately subject to the Vatican’s authority, but not all USCCB decisions require approval by the Pope.

The Vatican’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) officially silenced Leonardo Boff—the Brazilian priest who formulated liberation theology along with Peruvian priest Carlos Gutierrez—for a year in 1985 after Boff published claims the Church was complicit in the social and economic oppression of the poor. Boff subsequently abandoned the priesthood after Ratzinger threatened to silence him a second time in the 1990s.

“Liberation theology is, in fact, neither,” Motley said. “It is a virulent Marxist infection of Catholicism and Christianity, a symptom of which is really bad pronouncements on Internet public policy.”

Motley continued: “The [U.S.] Catholic Bishops have unfortunately been exposed to this horrendous social justice virus. They should reconsider their fevered, anti-free market position in favor of net neutrality.”  

Catholic Doctrine Explained

Catholics can correctly disagree with the USCCB on all matters concerning the teachings of the Church, Edwards explained.

“Indeed, it is a fundamental error to conflate the role of the political system in seeking to help the poor through coercive redistribution with that of people acting spontaneously out of charity,” he said.

“The state should create a just order which promotes the common good. The state may intervene, as a last resort, to try to assist the poor. But the virtue of solidarity, represented by love and works of charity, arises in the first place from the individual, the family, and spontaneously from the community.

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is managing editor of Infotech & Telecom News.

On the Internet

“U.S Bishops’ Legislative ‘Principles and Priorities’ for New Congress,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, January 14, 2011:

Centesimus Annus, Papal Encyclical of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 1991: