Libel, Damned Libel, and the Mainstream Media

The Setting

There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there’s the kind of thing reported by the mainstream media. I am referring here to three cases of sexual abuse, in neither of which is implicated the Holy Father, but both of which are constantly mentioning said Supreme Pontiff. The first is the case of the priest—Fr Peter Hullerman, sometimes referred to as “priest H.”—who sexually abused minors while serving in the Archdiocese of Munich. At the time, the archbishop of that diocese was Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). The second is the so-called Murphy Case, involving s priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, involving Fr Lawrence Murphy, who was accused (though never formally convicted) of molesting up to 200 children. The third and final case is a lawsuit one launched in Kentucky which “seeks to have the pope deposed over claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to report abuse claims.”

It is of the utmost interest that justice be done in regards to all of the child abuse cases. People of good conscience can agree on that point in good faith, and can agree that the people who are directly involved can and should be prosecuted. The scandals themselves are widespread geographically (though everywhere involved only a very small number of the clergy—about 4% in the US by one account, and as small as 0.3% by another), and some occurred as recently as 20 years ago. Because of the sensitive nature of these cases, they ought to be dealt with both fairly and justly, being careful to separate those guilty of abuse from those not guilty, and those who actually harbored these molesters from those members of the hierarchy who were not involved in any cover-ups.

Unfortunately, this is not the approach taken by the mainstream media. These are much more interested in forming a witch-hunt, both against the Church writ large and against the Pope himself. Unfortunately, the negative effects of this media frenzy are already being felt here in the states, as people’s favorability of the Holy Father is dropping. The Holy Father, for his part, is scarcely implicated in these despicable deeds.

Global Problems and Technological Solutions

I just got out of this weeks Atomic, Molecular, and Optical physic seminar; often the seminar deals with topics directly related to AMO physics (obviously), though we do usually have one or more out-of-department, out-of-field speakers each semester. Today was such a day, and we welcomed Professor Michael Webber of the Mechanical Engineering department. Professor Webber came to speak to us a bit about alternative energies technologies, a fascinating topic to be sure. He certainly gave a good talk--focusing largely on the technological hurdles which must be overcome for a number of potential energy sources. The talk itself was somewhat controversial--there was plenty of lively discussion and argument during the seminar and its question and answer session. Much of the argument centered on the use of wind energy (we've had another talk here recently in which the professor argued that wind is not the final answer, and that it is not a very effective solution for much of Texas in general).

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