Bishop's actions support church's mission

In an Oct. 24 article in the Phoenix New Times, freelance writer Michael Lacey criticized Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, for removing the Anti-Defamation League’s sensitivity training from Diocesan schools for what Lacy termed “abortion politics.”

According to Lacey, the ADL provided anti-bias programs meant to inform students at multiple diocesan high schools about the harmful aspects of bullying based on racial, historical and sexual stigmas.

Then, writes Lacey, these programs were suddenly eliminated from the Diocesan schools because of Olmsted’s “personal malice” towards the ADL.

Huh? Anyone who has shaken the hand of this man or who has had the pleasure of engaging him in conversation can attest that he is anything but malicious.

He is generous in speech and always sporting a smile that no objective individual would describe as anything but genuine. All of his decisions are made from the perspective of a servant of the Roman Catholic Church, wherein lies his responsibility to instruct and lead the flock.

To simply assume malice without an inquisition as to why Olmsted made the decision to remove ADL from the schools, as Lacey does, is disrespectful and defamatory.

It is unfortunate that the author would refuse to assume anything but the worst about Olmsted, a man I’m sure he would find to be nothing but compassionate, were he to truly engage him in dialogue. But Lacey failed to do that before composing his smear attack on the bishop, instead resorting to an armchair quarterback analysis of the bishop’s decision, claiming that “Olmsted's action (to end the ADL training) was driven by abortion politics and was entirely unrelated to the teaching program, which aims to instill civility in juvenile savages.”

Can anyone blame a Catholic bishop for not wanting to endorse an organization that supports a practice that runs in direct opposition to the Catholic Church’s mission of defending the value of every human life?

Although the program does well to inform students of the evils of defamation, is it that hard to understand why the bishop would not want his schools to be in support of an organization that endorses an intrinsic evil?

To further assume that such a decision was made out of “personal malice” is absurd.

What the whole piece by Lacey (and the cover image) really amounts to is a disparaging attack on Olmsted because of a decision he believed was the best course of action for his church.

This is nowhere more clear than in the conclusion, in which the author misappropriates Pope Francis’ recent comments that abortion needn’t dominate Catholic agenda as support for his position on Olmsted.

Lacey criticizes the bishop because he “routinely leads rosaries in front of Planned Parenthood in Phoenix.”

I find it hard to believe that Pope Francis would criticize a leader of the Church for praying for an end to abortion. I rather think he would give his highest endorsement to the good bishop for living out a good example in all his decisions.


Reach the columnist at or follow him on Twitter @cshmneyrichard

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