JOLIET, Ill. (ChurchMilitant.com) - After pushback over Bp. R. Daniel Conlon's comments casting doubt on whether the Catholic Church was actually willed by God, the diocese of Joliet, Illinois abruptly deleted the offending quote from its website.
On Feb. 6, Conlon delivered the annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Lecture at Joliet's Elmhurst College. In a presentation titled "Did Jesus Really Intend to Establish a Church?" the bishop suggested the Catholic Church could be an accidental outgrowth of Christ's ministry on earth.
"There is no absolute answer to the question," Conlon told his audience. "Jesus did not address it directly. Neither will I provide an absolute answer. Like many other questions, Christians have to seek answers in the Scriptures and in the living tradition of the Church."
Conlon's remarks were included in an article published Thursday on the diocesan website.
Word of the bishop's comments began spreading among faithful Catholics, who expressed frustration and outrage at the remarks, and shortly afterward the diocese deleted them from the article.
The original article (left) quotes Conlon speaking about the title of his address.
The screenshot below is from the updated article; Bp. Conlon's remarks are gone.
On Thursday, Church Militant reached out to the Joliet chancery for comment. When asked if Conlon would stand by his assertion that "there is no absolute answer to the question" whether Christ intended to establish the Catholic Church, a diocesan spokesman said that Conlon is suffering from a "context problem" and insisted the bishop is "obviously Catholic."
Conlon addressed the issue in an official statement:
Bishop Conlon recently spoke at a lecture at Elmhurst College that was entitled "Did Jesus Really Intend to Establish a Church?" His lecture should be based on its entirety, not just one quote that was extrapolated. Those in attendance can attest to the complete focus of the lecture since there is no audio or video of the talk.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, "The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it. ... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in ... the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him." (816) The position of the Diocese of Joliet is the same as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
As of press time, the diocese has offered no theological context for Conlon's initial heterodox assertion.
Meanwhile, disgust at the bishop continues to percolate among faithful Catholics. In a statement to Church Militant Thursday, The Lepanto Institute's Michael Hichborn called Conlon to task for preaching falsehood.
"First, Pope Francis claims that God willed the plurality of religions, and now Bp. Conlon is saying that it's unclear whether or not Jesus even intended to establish a Church at all. Can there be any wonder that so many Catholics no longer take the Faith seriously?" Hichborn asked.
"Bishop Conlon claims that Jesus did not directly address whether He intended to establish a Church," he said. "This is patently false."
Not only does the word "church" appear nearly 100 times in the New Testament — which is the Word of God — but there are two areas where Our Blessed Lord specifically addressed the founding and work of the Church. In Matthew 16:18, Our Lord very clearly stated His intention to establish His Church upon the rock of Peter. Two chapters later, Our Lord established the Church as the supreme judge in handling certain disputes. Our Lord instructed: "If thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican." Mtt 18:15–17
He added, "It is incumbent upon Bp. Conlon to clarify his statement, because to directly deny that there is an answer to the question, 'Did Jesus really intend to establish a Church' is to deny that Catholics can be sure of anything regarding the Catholic Church.”