US bishops oust long time CNS editor-in-chief over tweets

The editor-in-chief of the US-based Catholic News Service has resigned abruptly at the request of a US bishops’ conference official.

Tony Spence had posted tweets in reaction to religious freedom legislation under debate in Georgia and Tennessee and a gender identity measure in North Carolina.

He also tweeted about an article in another publication about gay students at evangelical colleges.

For example, a tweet he posted on March 24 stated: “LGBT protections get flushed as NC governor signs bill over #bathroomwars.”

Mr Spence, who had been director and editor-in-chief of CNS since 2004, was attacked by conservative Catholic bloggers over the tweets.

The bloggers alleged that he was promoting an LGBT agenda.

These views were posted to sites like The Lepanto Institute, The Church Militant and

“The far right blogsphere and their troops started coming after me again and it was too much for the USCCB [US Conference of Catholic Bishops],” Mr Spence told the National Catholic Reporter.

“The secretary general [of the US bishops’ conference] asked for my resignation, because the conference had lost confidence in my ability to lead CNS,” Mr Spence said.

Those who know him said Mr Spence feels “shattered”.

Catholic News Service is an office of the USCCB and Mr Spence was a member of the conference senior staff.

On Wednesday last week, Mr Spence attended a regularly scheduled staff story meeting at 2 pm.

Sometime later, after meeting with Msgr J. Brian Bransfield, the general secretary of the bishops’ conference, Mr Spence was escorted from the conference office building without being allowed to speak to his newsroom staff.

Staff in the Washington office were told of Spence’s leaving shortly after 4 pm.

James L. Rogers, chief communications officer for the US bishops’ conference, sent an email memo to all CNS staff “to share news of Tony stepping down as editor-in-chief, effective today”.


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