The National Catholic Review

More so than in 2002, when the clerical sex abuse crisis exploded into American newspapers, church leaders and prominent Catholics have accused the media of unjustly targeting the church, specifically the pope.  The reporting on the issue is, they say, inaccurate, unfair and motivated by anti-Catholicism. Let me speak to that question as a Catholic priest, as someone who works at a weekly magazine, and who also occasionally writes for the secular media. 

There has always been a lingering degree of anti-Catholicism in some quarters of the media, for a variety of reasons, some with roots deep in American history, which I've written about at length in America. And the media also gets things wrong from time to time, even in factual reporting--especially when reporters new to the religion beat don't have a clue about the way that the Catholic church functions. ("When will Pope John Paul pick his successor?" I was once asked by a full-time religion reporter a few years ago.)

There are also op-ed writers and columnists who seem never to have a good word to say about the Catholic Church even in the best of times. Snotty comments from pundits who know zero about celibacy are useless; misinformed asides from journalists who know little about the Vatican are unhelpful; and mean-spirited stereotypes from otherwise thoughtful writers about all priests, all sisters, all bishops, all popes and all Catholics are as harmful as any other stereotypes. To that end, I agree with a few of the critiques about the media. A few.

But to blame the messenger for this current wave of stories about sexual abuse is, I believe, to miss the point. For instance, a friend of mine told me that at the Chrism Mass, her local bishop told the congregation to cancel their subscriptions to The New York Times, which he called "the enemy." Besides the fact that a Mass is not the time for a critique of your local newspaper, this overlooks a critical dynamic about the service the media has provided for a church that needed to address a grave problem, but wasn't doing enough.   

To wit: Without the coverage by The Boston Globe in 2002 of the sexual abuse by priests, the Catholic Church in United States would not have confronted the scourge of sexual abuse on a nationwide basis and instituted mandatory guidelines. 

Why do I say this? Because years before, in 1985, The National Catholic Reporter reported and editorialized on abuse cases about a notorious Louisiana priest.  In great and numbing detail. 

What was the response? Well, in 1992, after many closed-door meetings with experts in the intervening years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a series of guidelines on dealing with abuse. These, however, were not binding on the bishops, but voluntary. 

But this was nothing along the lines of what happened as a result of the dogged reporting from the Globe (and other media outlets) that began in earnest in early 2002. That is, there was nothing like the extraordinary meeting of American bishops, convened in Dallas in 2002 that produced the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which set forth the nationwide "zero tolerance" policy for abusers.  There was no mandatory institution of "safe practices" for every single church institution (parishes, schools, retreat centers) across the country, no mandatory training programs for all priests, deacons and church employees.  And there was certainly no creation of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. None of that happened after the 1985 case.  But it did after 2002.

What helped to move the church from "voluntary" to "mandatory" was the full-bore coverage of the mainstream media--harsh most of the time, wrong sometimes, motivated by anti-Catholicm very occasionally--but needed by a church that, at least until that point, seemed unwilling to confront fully the widespread nature of the abuse, the systemic structures that caused it and the seriousness of the damage done to children and their families by these crimes.

The Catholic Church in this country has come far from where it was in 2002. Its extensive training programs and draconian guidelines can be taken as models for other institutions that deal with children and young people. That doesn't mean that local churches elsewhere do not still need to address abuse (as we're seeing in Ireland and Germany), nor that the U.S. church has "finished" addressing these crimes. As long as the possibility for abuse exists, or one victim is still suffering from past abuses, we will not be "finished" with this problem.

Nor is it surprising that the media are now focused on the news from Ireland and Germany, or even on the Vatican's response to individual cases in the past.  It is not simply the question of sexual abuse, which occurs in every institution that deals with children.  (And occurs most often in families.)  Rather it is, as Paul Moses, a Catholic who has worked in the secular press, pointed out on dotCommonweal, a question of whether past cover-ups have occurred. Covering coverups is what the media does, no matter what the institution. "When a scandal of this proportion is uncovered," Moses writes, "journalists will naturally want to see how far it goes--the basis for the latest round of stories."

Every single bishop I know wants to end sexual abuse. They have met with victims whose lives have been destroyed, and they are justly horrified. But for every bishop of my acquaintance, there are as many religion reporters of my acquaintance called "anti-Catholic" by those very same clerics. Reporters work diligently to get the story right, particularly on such an explosive topic, sometimes after being unable to get church officials even to return their phone calls. Sometimes I wish that I could bring both parties together to discuss how the media deals with the church and the church with the media. 

There's another reason not to blame the media: it probably doesn't work in the long run. Blaming the media in these situations, for better or worse, comes off as an excuse; it makes people wonder why so much time is devoted to finding holes in a story when so little was expended in decades past to combat abuse; you never know what digging that the media might be doing that will make your objections seem irrelevant; and, as the saying goes, "Don't pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel."  For every objection you have they will have a team of reporters to respond.  Object and correct, but don't blame.  But, more fundamentally, targeting the media ignores the way the media actually helped the Catholic church in this country. 

In 1992, Cardinal Bernard Law, archbishop of Boston, said, "By all means we call down the power of God on the media, particularly the Globe."  It was a public excoriation for the paper's relentless criticisms of the church's handling of abuse cases.  In a sense, the power of God did come down on the Boston Globe: it became an unwitting instrument through which the church was forced to face--for the first time on a nationwide, mandatory, system-wide basis--the crimes of its priests and the sins of the bishops who had shuttled them from parish to parish in decades past.

So I thank God for the secular media, which, in its own biased and sometimes inaccurate way, forced the church in this country to change for the better.

James Martin, SJ

Comments

John Smith | 4/7/2010 - 9:42pm
Thank you Father Martin. First Catholic article in print
I have agreed with as of late. Fr. Gerald Murray's appearance on Cavuto last week was also very candid and helpful.

The Church hierarchy and some pastors have acted in a
Machiavalean manner( fear of church reputatation and holdings
and some I suspect for their own lifestyles) at the expense of the victims.

The deeper the digging one also begins to see a morally relativistic stance from some voices within the church.

Refuting Machiavelli and dispelling the allure of moral relativism are two peculiarly strong characteristics of Catholicism. And yet we have in fact acted much differently than we teach on these two philosophical and theological issues.

The difficulty of defrocking was the excuse offered in the 80s. Now we hardly hear that due to the uncovering of the facts. They speak for themselves.

Canonical trials, justice, defrocking if warranted and yet mercy, the confessional and psychiatric help for the ex-priest
are simple solutions that are fully Catholic but do not deny mercy, sanity, justice to the victims, sparing potential future victims, and to the priests and religious( the vast majority)who are not involved with this sort of evil and criminality.

We have to be mandated public reporters. How can we exempt ourselves from this statute? Insanity.

If homosexual behavior is sinful and the orientation described as a psychological disordering how can any of this be enabled? Not to mention the worse evil in the acts of pedofilia?

By Catholic teachings there is a disconnect that challenges common sense.

Why so much sympathy and empathy to pedofilia and homosexual behavior in the hierarchy? Has this sin and evil entered the church to such a degree? Or is it the more benign case of power just wishing to hold on to power regardless of the underlying sinfulness?

The Legionaires of Christ were the new poster boys of the traditionalists in the 80/s/90's when I was interviewing and visiting the seminaries. The founder was on the fast track for sainthood while alive in some corners. He was a close friends of the two last Popes. His case is more perverse than most.How can such depravity be missed? It is mindboggling to one's common sense.

The mind that is Catholic asks us to observe reality.

Catholic apologists are often correct to point out the crude and weak arguments against so many Catholic teachings. This is clearly not one of those times. To continue this line of defense is to repeat the coverup strategy of the hierarchy.It undermines the faith. It does not work. It is not working.

As a traditional Catholic and as a conservative citizen I fear not the lies nor feeble attacks of the Church's enemies-real or imagined. They often make me feel more grateful and comfortable and snug in a dark quiet church or at Mass or in the confessional and praying for grace to repent and live better according to the teachings of the church.


My real dilemma is much more vital.I cannot get my hands around how the sober hierarchy( in charge of teaching on matters of faith and morals) around the world and in Rome could have mishandled such simple cases of evil and criminality time and time again. The numbers are staggering and there are many of us out of loyalty and mercy who have not pursued our own horrors.This will change now I readily believe due to the coverups and the present stonewalling and shifting th blame. This is not a Catholic response to sin and mercy.

The ecclesial authority has undermined its teaching authority.
When the teaching authority is undermined everything then is at risk.

The wages of sin and the lack of other ideas found in alternatives to Catholicism help us stay close to the Catholic church. The wages of our own church's sins and the lack of response from the church can drive the same folks out.

For the first time in my life the Catholic response and the conservative response to the media's role here are indeed making the case- and sadly yet for the media's position and not the Church's.

Fr. Martin's is the first serious attempt I have seen to grapple with the complexity from within and without.
John Smith | 4/7/2010 - 9:11pm
Thank you Father Martin. First Catholic article in print
I have agreed with as of late. Fr. Gerald Murray's appearance on Cavuto last week was also very candid and helpful.

The Church hierarchy and some pastors have acted in a
Machiavalean manner( fear of church reputatation and holdings
and some I suspect for their own lifestyles) at the expense of the victims.

The deeper the digging one also begins to see a morally relativistic stance from some voices within the church.

Refuting Machiavelli and dispelling the allure of moral relativism are two peculiarly strong characteristics of Catholicism. And yet we have in fact acted much differently than we teach on these two philosophical and theological issues.

The difficulty of defrocking was the excuse offered in the 80s. Now we hardly hear that due to the uncovering of the facts. They speak for themselves.

Canonical trials, justice, defrocking if warranted and yet mercy, the confessional and psychiatric help for the ex-priest
are simple solutions that are fully Catholic but do not deny mercy, sanity, justice to the victims, sparing potential future victims, and to the priests and religious( the vast majority)who are not involved with this sort of evil and criminality.

We have to be mandated public reporters. How can we exempt ourselves from this statute? Insanity.

If homosexual behavior is sinful and the orientation described as a psychological disordering how can any of this be enabled? Not to mention the worse evil in the acts of pedofilia?

By Catholic teachings there is a disconnect that challenges common sense.

Why so much sympathy and empathy to pedofilia and homosexual behavior in the hierarchy? Has this sin and evil entered the church to such a degree? Or is it the more benign case of power just wishing to hold on to power regardless of the underlying sinfulness?

The Legionaires of Christ were the new poster boys of the traditionalists in the 80/s/90's when I was interviewing and visiting the seminaries. The founder was on the fast track for sainthood while alive in some corners. He was a close friends of the two last Popes. His case is more perverse than most.How can such depravity be missed? It is mindboggling to one's common sense.

The mind that is Catholic asks us to observe reality.

Catholic apologists are often correct to point out the crude and weak arguments against so many Catholic teachings. This is clearly not one of those times. To continue this line of defense is to repeat the coverup strategy of the hierarchy.It undermines the faith. It does not work. It is not working.

As a traditional Catholic and as a conservative citizen I fear not the lies nor feeble attacks of the Church's enemies-real or imagined. They often make me feel more grateful and comfortable and snug in a dark quiet church or at Mass or in the confessional and praying for grace to repent and live better according to the teachings of the church.


My real dilemma is much more vital.I cannot get my hands around how the sober hierarchy( in charge of teaching on matters of faith and morals) around the world and in Rome could have mishandled such simple cases of evil and criminality time and time again. The numbers are staggering and there are many of us out of loyalty and mercy who have not pursued our own horrors.This will change now I readily believe due to the coverups and the present stonewalling and shifting th blame. This is not a Catholic response to sin and mercy.

The ecclesial authority has undermined its teaching authority.
When the teaching authority is undermined everything then is at risk.

The wages of sin and the lack of other ideas found in alternatives to Catholicism help us stay close to the Catholic church. The wages of our own church's sins and the lack of response from the church can drive the same folks out.

For the first time in my life the Catholic response and the conservative response to the media's role here are indeed making the case- and sadly yet for the media's position and not the Church's.

Fr. Martin's is the first serious attempt I have seen to grapple with the complexity from within and without.
Vince Killoran | 4/1/2010 - 2:55pm
I would love to know what Pope Benedict was doing on May 30, 1998 instead of attending a meeting in his office about a priest who abused as many as 200 deaf boys?  Was he on holiday?  Catching up on some reading?  Did he have more important meetings on his agenda (perhaps about a priest in Latin America who might be flirting with Marxism)?
 
 
The Wisconsin and the German cases prove one of two things: that then-Cardinal Ratzinger knew about these cases and allowed serial abusers to continue in active ministry, or that he delegated responsibility for such matters to his staff (one of whom is now a Cardinal) and they kept him in the dark about such matters. Which is worse-assisting in human rights abuses or leading a Church that gave this criminal behavior such low priority and not holding Vatican heads responsible?  
 
 
When the equivocators are done raking the NYT over the coals they can move on to more disturbing news,. this time reported by NPR, about guilty priests in the U.S. being returned to active ministry recently.
Robert Sauer | 4/2/2010 - 2:02pm
You have a very credible and worthwhile opinion to share on this topic and one which is uncharacteristic of many in and related to the Church. For example, I don't think Bill Donohue of the Catholic League can find anything good to say about any media outlet (press, TV etc.) So your measured critique is a welcome and refreshing slant from one who "knows".
FRANCIS PIDERIT | 4/2/2010 - 8:30am
Fr. Martin, Thank you for a lucid critique of the 'bash the media' argument we have heard in recent days, most prominently from our own Archbishop Dolan on his blog and even from the pulpit of St. Patrick's. He does not appear to realize the importance of his position and his posture as our leader in what is surely the latest phase of the most serious crisis in the Catholic Church in many centuries. As you note, Law and many others immediately attacked the Globe in 2002, as did many pastors in their Sunday homilies. Has Archbishop Dolan forgotten that we have all been through this, heard all this, before? Does he not realize that when it comes to defending any of the past practices of the Church, the credibility of Catholic bishops in the public arena is less than zero? So more of the same useless argumentation merely reduces their image even more. Far better to acknowledge our shame as a Church, and commit ourselves as a community of faith to prevent such practices from ever occurring again.
Anonymous | 4/2/2010 - 4:48am
Fr. Martin, thanks for this post and the others on this subject.  I was an abused kid (my stepfather) and I find myself identifying with the victims in these cases.  It's good to know there are people in the church like you.
Edward Burton | 4/2/2010 - 1:12am
One commenter wrote:
"I would love to know what Pope Benedict was doing on May 30, 1998 instead of attending a meeting in his office about a priest who abused as many as 200 deaf boys?"
Possibly dealing with something that was within the jurisdiction of his office? He didn't get jurisdiction over abuse cases until 2001. The 1998 question had to do with what the proper canonical procedure would be to prosecute such a person in Church courts. "The Wisconsin ... cases prove one of two things: that then-Cardinal Ratzinger knew about these cases and allowed serial abusers to continue in active ministry, or that he delegated responsibility for such matters to his staff (one of whom is now a Cardinal) and they kept him in the dark about such matters." 
When the Wisconsin case came before him on an occasion within his jurisdiction, he granted a shut down of prosecution because Fr. Murphy wad dying (and did die with 5 months) long before any such case could come to trial. All that proves is that he saw no reason to spend more time and money on a case that could never reach a conclusion.
Ira Salom | 4/1/2010 - 10:33pm
Priests, nuns and any other religious authority of any religion that have abused children are individually responsible for their sins and crimes.

It is not their individual sins that are destroying the Catholic Church's credibility. It is the 'corporate' response - the irresponsibility of the Church as an organization - that has raised the existing furor.

"It's not the crime, it's the cover-up" applies here in spades. The responsibility for that falls squarely on the Church. The individuals in the hierarchy - the Pope, the bishops in the affected diocese, and the like bear personal responsibility because of how they caused the institution to fail in its responsibility.



Anonymous | 4/1/2010 - 7:53pm
The claim that there is no case against BXVI seems to overlook the disclosure/defense by Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna about how Ratzinger wanted an investigation of Cardinal Groer's abuse of seminarians. Ratzinger was overuled by JPII and his Curia no investigation.. just go to a monestary and hide.. , Same for the coverup of  Maciel of the Legionaries. Wait till JPII dies ...go to a monestary and hide.....and pass on in 2008  ...final investigation due out next month.. As Winters says this is throwing JPII 'under the bus' to 'save' Ratzinger. And some posters here are talking about 'made up stuff' Please Think why are they  throwing JPII under a bus... just hoping  to get better NYT coverage???? are you people kidding??
Vince Killoran | 4/1/2010 - 7:48pm
Robert-it's good to know that County Sligo is well represented here!
 
jeff, there are alot of us Jesuit-trained debaters on the AMERICA website.  My surprise at the offense you took was genuine. You are correct, however: if this were a collegiate debate what I take to be your bad behavior is immaterial. Is this a collegiate debate?
 
 
I did not think I have treated these arguments unfairly.  I didn't "name names" in my post. I don't think all of the people you have listed have equivocated. I have, for example, followed John Allen's reports and interviews and he has offered more than a single focus on whatever inaccuracies are contained in the NYT's report.  But we have had a full week of blogs and op-ed pieces ONLY focused on the NYT and is an explanation composed of, in equal parts, a charge of anti-Catholicism and an acknowledgment, in the passive voice, that "mistakes were made" long ago and this no longer needs serious attention. To that end I think Fr. Martin's comments are compelling.
 
 
Kate's post is a vivid reminder that this pain is very real and justice has not yet been achieved. 
ROBERT KILLOREN | 4/1/2010 - 7:00pm
I have to agree with my fellow Irishman, Vince Killoran. Your conclusions are hardly fair and unbiased but loaded with attack words reserved for bashing the so-called ''liberal media.''
''Therefore, its not the reporting, bad as it appears to be, that many object to; its the 'massaging' of the facts in order to make conclusions about Benedict.  Its 'gotcha journalism' pure and simple.''
The real point is that the Pope ought to stand up the way Harry Truman did and admit that ''the buck stops here.'' What he knew or didn't know or what he did or didn't do as Archbishop in Germany or as head of the Congregation or as Pope - at each level he was responsible for what went on under him. That's the way leadership goes. But lately that hardly seems the way it is done. Rather, the blame is passed from the top down.
The whole thing could have been turned positive if he had immediately confronted the matter at any of those steps (even as late as when the stories recently broke) and took responsibility there wouldn't be all this hubbub. It will only get worse for him the more it looks like the Church is covering up or not taking responsibility. The Bishops in the US who did this fared far better than those who sought to protect the Church from the media and its own members.
The meditation for Good Friday should not be the one from Jeremiah but the one from the Gospels – let this cup pass away from me, but not my will but yours be done – or from Peter – he took upon himself all our sins. Is that too much to ask from Christ's vicar on earth?
And that applies to everyone even for those Jesuits who have treated Kate unjustly and continue to do so even now. It is the Church that needs to seek reform before criticizing others - don't worry about the speck in your neighbor's eye until you remove the timber from your own eye.
Kate, I'm sorry for what happened to you, but Martin is not the one to blame, neither was my Uncle who was a Jesuit priest. Thanks for your courage to come out. 
 
Kate Smith | 4/1/2010 - 6:27pm
Fr. Martin, I found your column through the Abuse Tracker site, and I am surprised I read it through, the whole column.   I am finding Jesuits a wee bit insufferable right now.  I trust you will understand why in a minute.
More than 25 years ago, I was sexually assualted by a Jesuit and tried to report it, but was rebuffed.  In the followjng decades, there were times when it came up again - ruined my llife, honestly - and it never was put to rest.  In the meantime, I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a Jesuit college, got a ''presidential scholarship'' to a Jesuit law school, decided to get a master's in pastoral ministry from a Jesuit university, and had a Jesuit spiritual guide.   Looking back and saying it this way, I don't want to be misunderstood.  I kept wanting to live my life, and not be held back by shit.   I can add that I have been a Catholic Worker, and did my pastoral ministry field ed at a Paulist place.
Why am I reading the Abuse Tracker - and your column - in 2010?   Well, in 2003,  I again reported the Jesuit who assaulted me, and this time the Jesuits dealt with him - removing him from ministry, banning him from teaching.   And then that provincial finished his term.  Mid way through the next provincial's term, the Jesuit who assualted me was back teaching, at Fordham and Georgetown, and back presiding at mass.   Flagrant violations of promises made, and flagrant violations of legal agreements.
So, tomorrow, Good Friday, the attorney I hired is sending a letter to the Jesuits (provincial #3), who ignored me without a lawyer.  
I have never been public about this, but as you can see, that might be changing.
''The truth will set us free'' was the feature line in the first provincial's letter to me, when he found me credible in 2003.   If I have to go to court in 2010, I want the truth to be told about inept Jesuit supervision and broken promises,  and breached trust.   And I want Jesuits to face it, acknowledge it, and address it.
 
Thanks for the opportunity to express this here.  It was on my mind.
 
Kate in New York
Anonymous | 4/1/2010 - 6:23pm
What I may or may not have a need to do aside, you swipe at a group of pretty smart people as diverse (theologically & politically) as John Allen of NCR, Michael Sean Winters or America, George Weigel & Archbishop Dolan as mere "equivocators" is textbook marginalization.  And it is unfair to their arguments.  As a Jesuit-trained debater, the first rule of fair argument is to treat your opponents & their arguments fairly.
Vince Killoran | 4/1/2010 - 5:26pm
Jeff:
 
Jeez, I'm surprised to hear from you about this, given your consistent need to marginalize public figures and bloggers with which you disagree by slapping crude political labels on them.
 
Let me be clear- I was employing the label "equivocators" in the following way: to prevaricate or hedge. I didn't think I was be disrespectful or intellectually dishonest.  I do know that I am argumentative (my parents told me that many years ago)!
Anonymous | 4/1/2010 - 3:24pm
"When the equivocators are done raking the NYT over the coals they can move on to more disturbing news,. this time reported by NPR, about guilty priests in the U.S. being returned to active ministry recently."
 
Mr. Killoran, you are free to disagree with any opinion shared on this blog.  But in the name of charity, I ask that you respect the persons behind the opinions and to fairly represent the arguments that you disagree with.  Anything less is intellectually dishonest.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 4/1/2010 - 2:49pm
Another great one by Fr. Martin. Thank God for the secular media, and for NCR, America, and Commonweal.

''As long as the possibility for abuse exists, or one victim is still suffering from past abuses, we will not be 'finished' with this problem.''

Agree. Those who think it should be forgotten because the abused children are grown now should listen again to the testimony from the retired mayor of an Irish city who, as a child, developed a speech impediment after being kicked, etc., by his abusers in an industrial school. He still wakes up sweating, terrified, . . .

Some victims are long dead, like the Indian boys whose braids were cut off in the boarding schools of North America. Those were the lucky ones who were not worked to death and buried in unmarked graves.
Anonymous | 4/1/2010 - 2:34pm
Fr. Martin's words are indeed eloquent, but this post ultimately amounts to a non sequitur.  Unlike the Globe's coverage, the Times's stories do not reveal anything new, but rather, as Card. Levada accurately pointed out in response, seek to re-present a case, some 20 years old, by weaving together a complicated timeline in order to lay fault at the feet of Pope Benedict.  Therefore, its not the reporting, bad as it appears to be, that many object to; its the "massaging" of the facts in order to make conclusions about Benedict.  Its "gotcha journalism" pure and simple.  Is it too much to ask that we have BOTH accountability from the Church AND fairness from the press at the same time?
Martin Gallagher | 4/1/2010 - 1:43pm
The difference between the old Globe articles and the current NYT ones is that the Globe articles uncovered truth while the NYT ones seem to be ignoring it.  I may be naive, but I thought that reporting the truth was the ultimate goal of good journalism.  There is absolutely no evidence that Ratzinger covered up the abuser in Munich or was even responsible for his reasignment (other than being the bishop of the priest who did) .  Similarly, there is no evidence that Ratzinger had the jurisdiction to remove Fr. Murphy from the priesthood for the crime of abuse.
 
I would welcome a good quality investigative article in how the system has failed so many victims.  Hopefully, we can learn from that.  Of course, that kind of article would not $ell.
 
 
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn | 4/1/2010 - 1:38pm
Thank you for this and for your other pieces this past week. Your candor and your insights are much needed and I wish that they were in the NY Times.
 
There is a long tradition of anti-Catholicism in the media and in our culture. The mention of this at this moment, by most of us who might say it, gets met with accusations of defensiveness and I can understand why.
 
These are hard times for our church. I opened a reflection that I offered on Tuesday with that thought - hard times two thousand years ago and hard again - hard always. This year does seem worse than ever in my lifetime.
 
I work for, with and around many priests and I would have to say that I find them as I find most humans... Flawed and beautiful at once. I do not think that any of them have done anything wrong and I hope that I am right about that; I believe that I am. Just yesterday I was speaking with a old friend and mentioned the percentage level of priests who abuse and she was shocked. She had called me because she knows I work for the Church. In her mind, from all that she has read, she figured it had to be much, much higher.
 
This is Triduum. We must go to the Cross. There is only one way to do that - with integrity and faith. So it is. Let's hope that the reactionary anti-NY Times/media talk softens to what we are about right now.  Reconciliation, transformation and always hope.
jim dick | 4/1/2010 - 12:32pm
 
Fr. Martin, I have appreciated your posts on this topic. Levelheaded and readable. This one is no exception.

My only comment is that there is anti-catholic bias and anti-catholic bias. In the cases of the abuse of children and the abominable treatment the Church historically has given the victims juxtaposed with the self-serving whining about the press these days we deserve it.

And when high level folks such as Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, compares the Pope’s difficulties with the press and the abuse crisis to Jeremiah’s difficulties as in this use of a quote from the book of Jeremiah in one of his Lenten meditations: “Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail. For I am with you to deliver and rescue you.” One has to ask: From what does the Pope who needs rescuing? The truth? Justice?  I am no scripture scholar nor theologian but I image Jeremiah would be standing out in front of the Vatican in sackcloth and ashes prophesying the judgment God will soon bring on his people if we don’t repent and change.

 
Tom Maher | 4/1/2010 - 12:30pm
This analysis of the role and impact of newspapers and other media on the church is exteremely accurate and insightful.

In 2002 the Boston Globe, sister paper to the New York Times. in a extensive series of articles that systematically built on each other, exposed in detail the origins and extent of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the United States. These articles were irrefutable and compelling accounts of various named abusers. The articles tracked sex abuser's careers decade after decade across the United States. The Globe documented the admimistrative pattern where clergy sex abusers without penalty and without warning were transferred from parish to parish and dioscese to dioscese, often with recommendations from their dioscese.

Globe reporters went across the country to investigate sex abusers that originally started thier sex abuse careers in the Boston Archdioscese. The 2002 Globe articles overwhelmed with cases and facts any doubt that the church in the United States had a major systemic problem. These articles were the basis of other papers and media including talk radio, teleivison news and documentaries to very intensively continue reporting worldwide what the Boston Globe investigation revealed. These facts are now history.
Anonymous | 4/1/2010 - 11:59am
I agree that the media's coverage has helped the Church cope with the crisis to date.  It is almost certain that without the media exposure, the Church would have been much slower to respond.  The Boston Globe deserves our thanks for that.  BUT its hard to see how the current stories in the Times are designed to do anything other than pull Pope Benedict into the crisis.  As Mr. Winters has pointed out, the story of Fr. Murphy has been known for some time.  It just seems that the Times could sense that it could "get" Benedict.  And as Mr. Winters and others have pointed out, the dots don't connect all that well to portray Benedict as, to quote Ms. Goodstein "more interested in persecuting theological dissenters than sexual predators".  The Times story is less about a case or cases of abuse and more about "gotcha journalism".