The following is a statement from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute:
I regret to announce that I am withdrawing from participation in the Hope is Fuel conference, sponsored by Patrick Coffin. I’d like to make clear exactly why I am making this decision.
When Patrick approached me to participate, I told him that I did not agree with his position on the resignation of Pope Benedict. I have never said anything about this issue in public. Getting involved in this particular controversy would take me too far from the overall mission of the Ruth Institute. I explained to him that I may have to make a public statement distancing myself from him on this topic if it became an issue. We had a very cordial conversation. On this basis, I agreed to be part of the conference.
I recently learned that E. Michael Jones is one of the participants in the conference. Jones has authored several important books that I value. However, he has recently authored works that I consider anti-Semitic. I tried to read his work in this area. I put it down. I considered it poisonous.
Anti-Semitism carries a historical load that no other form of discrimination carries. People say that Jones’ work is well-researched and intelligent. That doesn’t make me feel any better about it. In my judgement, the world does not need anti-Semitism, especially from a Catholic.
Jones’ name was not on the list of participants that Patrick initially sent me. If it had been, I would not have agreed to participate. His presence on the roster is a deal-breaker for me.
Regarding Patrick’s views on the resignation of Pope Benedict: for those who are unfamiliar with this controversy, Patrick has advanced the thesis that Pope Benedict’s resignation was not valid, that he remained the Pope until his death and that Pope Francis is not the Pope. I do not care to get into the details of this controversy, except to say that I do not find this argument persuasive for one overriding reason: the character of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict.
Coffin’s thesis requires us to believe that either Ratzinger made a mistake in the form of his resignation, or that he didn’t really intend to resign. I cannot bring myself to believe either of these. Joseph Ratzinger spent a lifetime being both clear and courageous. The idea that Ratzinger would be either careless or surreptitious is unimaginable to me. This trumps all the other arguments.
Do I wish he had not resigned? Yes.
Am I concerned about many of Pope Francis’ actions? Yes.
Am I concerned about the state of the Church? Yes. Of course.
Pope Francis is the legitimate pope. Pope Benedict understood perfectly well what he was doing when he resigned. The Francis pontificate has exposed many problems in the Church that had been present for a long time. Now, we have a chance to deal with them. More than that, we have a responsibility to deal with them. We can’t avoid the problems by mentally removing Pope Francis from office, or bracketing his actions with some theory that he isn’t really the pope.
My disagreement with Patrick’s thesis was not enough to prevent me from participating in this conference. The Ruth Institute is an interfaith coalition. I have non-Catholic followers, donors and even employees. I’m sure my video podcast producer, who is an Orthodox priest, does not agree with my views about the papacy in general, never mind his opinion of this particular pope! I’ve had Pentecostal employees who didn’t believe in the Trinity. And I currently have Latter Day Saints and a Jewish person on staff, along with several Catholic employees. We keep our attention focused on the mission of defending the family and leave other theological issues aside. In that spirit, I felt ok about working with Pat Coffin on a project that I thought had the potential to do a lot of good.
I’ve been on the receiving end of the “cancel culture” too many times to stop working with an old friend due to a difference of opinion, even on a very important matter such as this one.
But Patrick Coffin’s invitation of E. Michael Jones to participate in this conference is a lapse in judgment I cannot overlook. I will not share a virtual stage with E. Michael Jones. I am withdrawing from the Hope is Fuel conference. I have asked Patrick Coffin to remove my name and image from any and all promotional material for this event.