RAPID CITY, S.D. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bishop is now apologizing to a Catholic lay watchdog group just days after he criticized it publicly.
In a letter dated Thursday, Bp. Robert Gruss of the Rapid City, South Dakota diocese told Catholic apostolate Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF) that he is sorry for issuing a statement read at parishes slamming the organization. The bishop's pulpit announcement, read at Rapid City parishes the weekend of Feb. 9–10, referred to RCF's mission as "evil" and mentioned Church Militant.
Bishop Gruss also issued a follow-up statement in diocesan monthly newspaper West River Catholic seeking to clarify why he opposes RCF. He critiqued Church Militant's reporting on the controversy, saying what he disagrees with is not simply the fact that RCF opposes Cdl. Blase Cupich. Gruss suggested that RCF goes beyond legitimate criticism and seeks to "destroy the reputation of Cdl. Cupich."
Noting that RCF has referred to Cdl. Cupich by the nickname "Blazing Cupcake," Bp. Gruss asked rhetorically, "Is this respectful to the human dignity of another person?"
But on Thursday, Bp. Gruss sent RCF an apology letter. He apologized for his statement read aloud at parishes, writing, "I am very sorry that my comments were offensive to all of you and I apologize. They were strong and reactionary, and I am sorry that so many felt hurt by them."
The bishop noted, "People have the right to be angry at Church leaders who have abused their power and authority, who assisted others in this abuse of power, and who have not yet been held accountable."
Elsewhere in the apology letter, Bp. Gruss still criticized some of RCF's methods, saying, "Inflammatory accusations and disrespectful name-calling as appeared in your ads and on your website cloud the pursuit of truth so that the end product is without credibility."
The bishops said, "I also believe that the content of my letter was grossly taken out of context and put out for the whole world to see to serve an uncharitable purpose."
Echoing what he said in a recent email to clergy of the diocese, Bp. Gruss claimed he and his staff have received about 150 messages and comments that were "extreme, hate-filled and slanderous."
RCF's Stephen Brady commented on the bishop's new apology to Church Militant, saying in an email Friday, "As I read the first couple sentences of the letter, I gained some respect for the bishop. But as I read on I realized we still had some issues, and I asked him for a meeting."
"What puzzles me," Brady explained, "is he sent three rather nasty letters one right after the other. ... A day later came the apology. I wonder what motivated him to take such action."
Brady remarked to Church Militant, "No bishop has ever sent me such nasty letters, and no bishop has ever sent me a letter of apology."
Brady continued, "I have no ill will towards the bishop, but I would love to sit down and speak with him, to find out what he thinks about things."
He mentioned that RCF had contacted Bp. Gruss with a "challenge for debate," after which diocesan personnel sent RCF the bishop's apology letter.
Regarding his request to meet with Bp. Gruss, Brady noted that not many bishops have met with him in the past.
"There are only three bishops who have ever been willing to sit down and speak with me," he said.
These three bishops, Brady stated, include Bp. Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois and retired Bp. Fabian Bruskewitz of the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.
The other bishop who has met with Stephen Brady was a Polish bishop who had him on for a radio program that was translated into Polish.
The same diocesan newspaper that featured Bp. Gruss' follow-up statement also included a letter to the editor from a group of local Catholics — mostly laity — who disagree with RCF and support Cdl. Cupich.
"Cardinal Blase Cupich led our diocese with uncommon devotion and effort," their statement claims.
It goes on to say, "We support Cdl. Cupich and renounce any effort to spread untruths and provide non-factual information in an attempt to create havoc in our church."