Bishop Roger Foys of Covington, Kentucky, issued an apology Friday for a Jan. 19 diocesan statement that condemned the actions of some Covington Catholic High School students following a widely publicized incident after last week’s March for Life in Washington, D.C.
“We apologize to anyone who has been offended in any way by either of our statements, which were made with goodwill based on the information we had,” said Bishop Foys in the letter, which was addressed to the parents of Covington Catholic students.
“We should not have allowed ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely, and we take full responsibility for it.”
Bishop Foys also singled out Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann, the student at the center of the controversy. A video emerged Jan. 19 of Sandmann standing in close proximity to Native-American activist Nathan Phillips, who was, at the time, chanting and playing a ceremonial drum.
Phillips made claims that he had been blocked and taunted by Sandmann, but video evidence later showed that Phillips had wandered into a crowd of Covington Catholic students while chanting and drumming.
“I especially apologize to Nicholas Sandmann and his family, as well as to all CovCath families who have felt abandoned during this ordeal. Nicholas, unfortunately, has become the face of these allegations based on video clips,” said Bishop Foys. “This is not fair. This is not just.”
Earlier in the week, Bishop Foys offered similar sentiments to the student body at Covington Catholic during a rally.
“Know that I stand with you, that I join with you in that ‘Spirit that will not die,’ and that together we will work through this. Thank you, and God bless you,” the bishop told students.
The Kentucky Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School released a joint statement Jan. 19 condemning the students’ behavior at a time when it was widely reported that they had been mocking or antagonizing Phillips.
“This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated, and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion,” the Jan. 19 statement said.
“We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the march and all those who support the pro-life movement,” it concluded.
Since the controversy began, Covington Catholic High School students have been subject to death threats, and the school was closed. Classes resumed with heavy police presence.
On Saturday, Phillips and a crowd of about 50 others attempted to disrupt Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, but were stopped by shrine security.
On Jan. 22, the Diocese of Covington released an updated statement saying that it would open a third-party investigation into what actually happened on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Bishop Foys’ most recent statement said that it was his “hope and expectation” that this investigation would “exonerate” the students and that they will be able to move past this ordeal. He also expressed support for Robert Rowe, the principal of Covington Catholic High School. Rowe is a “fine leader,” said Bishop Foys, and “those calling for his resignation simply do not know him.”
“I pray that, with the grace of God and the goodwill of all involved, peace will once again reign in the hearts and minds of our faithful,” said Bishop Foys.
“As for CovCath, we have a spirit that will not die!”