NEWARK, New Jersey, February 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Archdiocese of Newark says it will crack down on an outspoken pro-life priest after a media hit piece against him.
On Wednesday, NJ.com published a scathing article about posts made by Father Peter West on his Facebook page. The article says West “has repeatedly railed against Muslims” and opined about matters of prudential judgment within Catholic teaching. It suggested he has violated the Johnson Amendment by being so political on Facebook and worried that West’s “withering attacks … run counter to the statements and philosophies of his own leader, Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, and his ultimate boss, Pope Francis.”
James Goodness, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Newark, told NJ.com that the archdiocese is “concerned about Father West’s comments and actions, and will be addressing them according to the protocols of the Church.”
West, who previously worked for Human Life International and Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews that the article completely misrepresents him.
“It has half-truths, distortions of the truth, and I would say outright lies in it,” he said. For example, the article claims “that I called all millennials snowflakes, which is not true. I think that anyone who is seeking safe spaces and can’t stand to hear contrary opinions is a snowflake no matter what their age.”
The article also says West shared a post on Facebook “that challenged Obama’s authenticity as an African-American because he wasn’t raised by a poor single mother in the inner city.”
“In fact, what I was doing was defending Dr. Ben Carson against the charge that he was an inauthentic African-American and I was comparing some of his experiences to Barack Obama’s experience,” said West. “I shared a meme that … compared some of his experiences growing up to Barack Obama’s experiences. So I was basically saying that, you know, I don’t make such distinctions, but if we want to play that game, look at the contrast between Barack Obama’s life and Dr. Ben Carson’s life.”
He said the article’s misrepresentation of him as racist “troubles me” because he ministers to many African-Americans at his parish. The article doesn’t mention the full context of West’s post.
West is also vocally supportive of Catholic moral teaching on his social media. He has 8,494 Facebook followers. More than 200 people have signed a recently-launched petition asking the Archdiocese to condemn the “false, inaccurate” hit piece on him.
West said his posts about radical Islam were made “on what you might say are feminist grounds.”
He said he was troubled by “the fact that they don’t treat women as equals, that one man can have up to four [wives], that a woman is treated as an article of property, that in many of these Muslim countries, they practice female genital mutilation,” West told LifeSiteNews.
“I have met and have had positive interactions with some Islamic people … people who are of goodwill,” said West.
“I’m not dissenting from any teaching of the Church,” said West. “I consider myself a faithful Catholic. I may have some opinions that diverge from that of some of the bishops. I have promised in the future that I’m not going to take a position on anything that’s contrary to the stated positions of my ordinary.”
Tobin serves as the archbishop of Newark. Pope Francis promoted Tobin to that position in November.
Tobin has criticized those seeking moral clarity on Amoris Laetitia. At the U.S. Bishops’ 2016 meeting, Tobin worried that its new strategic plan might not focus enough on “the magisterial teaching of Pope Francis on the care for creation.”
West stressed that he respects and “will be obedient” to Tobin and from now on will not be posting items on social media that are different from Tobin’s publicly stated positions on various matters.
Will Archdiocese crack down on priests who preach liberal politics?
LifeSiteNews asked the Archdiocese of Newark:
Why it says it is “concerned” about Fr. West’s opinions on matters like immigration, which the Church teaches Catholics may legitimately disagree on.
What sort of action “according to the protocols of the Church” the Archdiocese plans on taking.
How would the Archdiocese of Newark respond to what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about Islam?
The Doctor of the Church wrote:
[Muhammad] seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms — which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.
And if the Archdiocese of Newark will be cracking down on priests who are opposed to President Trump’s agenda and immigration policies and use their pulpits, not private social media accounts, to express those opinions.
“This is an ongoing matter, so I am not sure when I will be in a position to speak on it again,” Goodness told LifeSiteNews in an email response to the questions.
Many priests ‘calling Trump a lot worse’
“If I have sometimes been intemperate in the terms in my use of social media and have expressed a lack of charity toward someone, I apologize for that,” said West.
The article criticized him for writing in a post that an unnamed person is a “totalitarian jerk.” West explained that a person he did not identify by name posted on his Facebook page that he was going to complain about West “and he can’t wait that I am shut down, my voice is silenced.”
“I consider that totalitarianism,” he said. “That’s a form of totalitarianism when you try to silence someone else’s opinion. That’s totalitarian.”
The article also blasts West for calling Hillary Clinton an “evil witch.”
“Should I be more temperate with regard to using such language? Yes, I do believe so,” said West. “But [there are] a lot of priests I know who are calling Trump a lot worse. They’re calling him a Nazi and all sorts of things.”
West said the article “makes it sound like I want [Clinton to be] immediately arrested and thrown into jail. But no, no. I think that there needs to be an investigation. I think she was corrupt and I think she needs to be investigated.”
“I don’t think she should be convicted without a trial,” he explained.
Father Alexander Santora, another priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, tweeted in October that Donald Trump needs to be “restrained and committed.” He suggested Trump has a “learning disability.”
“Can’t string sentences, repeats phrases, jumps around,” Santora wrote. “Forget about temperament. Try intelligence.”
Santora also has tweeted that he is “ever a Democrat.”
The Democratic Party supports taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, forcing Catholic institutions to fund birth control and abortion, and same-sex “marriage,” to name a few of its issues that are incompatible with Catholic morality.
Some of Fr. Santora’s tweets.
NJ.com hasn’t run a hit piece against Santora. In fact, Santora is a frequent contributer to NJ.com. In one article, Santora praises Jesuit Father John J. McNeill, the founder of the dissident “gay” Catholic movement. In another, he seemingly suggested a Catholic might be able to vote for a pro-abortion candidate.
Under previous Newark Archbishop John Myers, a priest was suspended from ministry after he announced that he is openly homosexual and began campaigning for the LGBT cause.