Catholic Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, Washington, has disconcerted members of his flock over his stance on a pro-life charity event. Diocesan officials are discouraging parishes from advertising a dinner being hosted by Image Point Mobile Medical Services, a private non-profit that maintains and operates a mobile medical unit that offers services at the site of abortion providers that including counseling and ultrasound. The organizers are hoping to raise money for another mobile testing facility for Image Point.
An email missive from a diocesan official to the priests of the diocese cited what was called Image Point’s alleged failure to “collaborate in a meaningful way with the Diocese,” after having received a grant from the Knights of Columbus. In his email, Monsignor Robert Siler, Bishop Tyson’s Chief of Staff, wrote:
“Second, the speaker they have invited, Laura Ingraham, while having a positive pro-life witness including her personal choice to adopt three children from other countries, is a strident opponent of many of the immigration positions held by the US bishops. As such, her visit to Yakima sends a profoundly mixed message to our community. As a very public figure with a national audience, she is held to a higher degree.”
Laura Ingraham is a Catholic, who also is a well-known radio/television commentator and attorney. She is also the editor-in-chief of the LifeZette news service.
The email from Monsignor Siler concluded, “Given these two points, it is not appropriate to advertise Image Point’s event in any way. This isn’t about advertising future events, as will we make those decisions on a case by case basis and should be brought to me.”
In a post on LifeZette, writer Jon Conradi wrote “Tyson’s singling out of Ingraham, a lay person, for her pro-immigration enforcement positions, is a stunning development, especially considering the firestorm set off when Pope Francis maligned Donald Trump’s Christianity because of the GOP frontrunner’s own immigration views.”
Ingraham fired back, saying that it is “disconcerting” to see her standing as a “good Catholic” used to suppress turnout for the fundraising event. She said, “By disseminating this warning to parishes, the Diocese is in violation of Canon Law and hurting a pro-life group that it couldn’t control.”
For his part, Monsignor Siler said that the diocese has not made public any criticism of Ingraham in what he called “an internal communication to our pastors.” Moreover, Siler said that it is not the intention of his diocese to embarrass or pick a fight with Ingraham, but that it is the right to promote events that “best uplift our Catholic teachings in their entirety.”
Ingraham was incensed at the clarification. “So are we now saying that Catholics should ignore the rule of law and that only those who seek to dismantle our borders can speak credibly on pro-life issues? For some reason the diocese is intentionally undermining a pro-life organization and personally attacking me. I would have expected more in this Year of Mercy.”
This is not the first time that Bishop Tyson has crossed swords with pro-life Catholics. He once called off an annual March for Life that had been a decades-long tradition. In another instance, the Hope Medical Group received financial assistance from the Knights of Columbus to acquire ultrasound equipment. Because the grant was to an organization within his diocese, a signature from Bishop Tyson was required on a one-page form and thus grant his consent, sources say. Bishop Tyson refused, and then piled on by barring the pro-life organization from advertising in parish bulletins or seeking Catholic volunteers. He has also barred yet another pro-life group, 40 Days for Life, from functioning in his parishes. Many other dioceses have embraced the group, however.
Reflecting a focus on the needs of the mostly Spanish-speaking immigrant community in the region, the diocesan website features material in English and Spanish, and has “Multicultural Ministries” to “honor the sacredness and interdependence of individuals and cultural groups.” Some priests in the diocese contend that the bishop leans towards the left in political matters and do not agree with him on issues relating to immigration.
In November 2015, Bishop Tyson expressed an open-ness to serving Syrian refugees coming to the United States. While he said in an interview that improved screening by the federal government may be necessary, citizens should not lose sight of the fact that refugees are fleeing persecution. In an interview with KAPP-TV, a local Catholic, Gilbert Martinez said "The church is supposed to be serving like a church, not involved in other things from another country or the wars or this or that."