Some Catholic leaders and conservatives are denouncing the Covington Diocese and the Kentucky Catholic Conference (KCC) for condemning students of Covington Catholic High School who found themselves at the center of a national media hoax.
The Catholic students, who wore MAGA hats, were the victims of a deceptively edited viral video that portrayed the students as engaging in disrespectful remarks and gestures during an encounter with Native American activist Nathan Phillips and the religious sect known as the Black Hebrew Israelites.
Media pundits across the political spectrum immediately began condemning the students. However, other video of the entire encounter shows the students were not only verbally accosted and insulted by the Black Hebrew Israelites – who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at them – but that Philips himself initiated the encounter with the young students, yet failed to provoke them.
Catholic education advocate Theresa Farnan, co-author of Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late, is a parent of teens who attend the March for Life with their Catholic school.
“I am horrified by the Kentucky Bishops and the Kentucky Catholic Conference’s willingness to condemn these kids before even hearing the facts,” Farnan told Breitbart News. “I’m appalled that the KCC still has the original statement of condemnation on their website, even after the initial video has been shown to be utterly misleading and the conduct of these teenage boys has been vindicated.”
Both the Covington Diocese and the school condemned the students’ behavior based on the initial false media account, before viewing all the video available.
In a subsequent joint statement, neither the school nor the diocese retracted their original statements of condemnation of the students or issued an apology to them. Instead, the diocese and school speak of a “third-party investigation” and potential “corrective actions”:
Concerning the incident in Washington, D.C., between Covington Catholic students, Elder Nathan Phillips and Black Hebrew Israelites the independent, third-party investigation is planned to begin this week. This is a very serious matter that has already permanently altered the lives of many people. It is important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate.
We pray that we may come to the truth and that this unfortunate situation may be resolved peacefully and amicably and ask others to join us in this prayer.
We will have no further statements until the investigation is complete.
Frankly, it looks like the KCC and the diocese of Covington were more concerned with protecting their own reputations than protecting its Catholic students. If the Diocese of Covington is serious about a third-party investigation, the first thing on its agenda should be to examine why the diocese was so quick to condemn its own students. At a minimum, the bishop of Covington needs to apologize to those families.
“Blame for this incident rests solely on these aggressive activists, and any attempt to shift the blame to either the students or their chaperones is unacceptable,” she said.
Writing at the American Conservative, James McElroy also observed, “The most egregious adult failure came from the Kentucky diocese that threw its own children under the bus.”
“Responsible leaders would have waited for more information before issuing a statement,” McElroy continued. “These kids were violently threatened by deranged lunatics only to be threatened with expulsion from their school.”
The writer remarked on the weakness of Catholic Church leaders who, once again, are showing a failure to protect Catholic young people.
“Church leaders are supposed to be shepherds, but they’ve been so beat up by the child abuse scandals that they no longer have any fight in them,” he wrote. “And by failing to wait for the full story, the Church betrayed its youth once again, along with the entire pro-life movement by legitimizing propaganda against it.”
“In a culture that views Christianity as synonymous with bigotry, the Catholic Church needs to be able to withstand a little cyberbullying,” McElroy asserted.
Breitbart News also reached out for comment to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops but received no response.