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.

In the case of Priest H, the accusation is that then Archbishop Ratzinger knowingly transferred and abusive priest into active ministry within his archdiocese. Actual reading of what evidence exists shows that this just isn’t true. The priest was transferred to then Archbishop Ratzinger’s diocese to undergo “psychiatric therapy”—as even the New York Times admits. What isn’t mentioned is that the priest in question was handled more by the diocesan vicar than the archbishop. As Father John Zuhlsdorf notes, “The role of the Vicar General in German dioceses is very strong. They handle most personnel issues for the bishop.”

Said vicar has actually come forth and admitted that he was the one actually at fault in this case. The pope is actually blameless according to witness testimony. The immediate superior of Fr Hullerman, Prelate (that is, Monsignor) Josef Obermaier has resigned as a result of this particular case. These are scarcely the actions of a man who believes the pope to be involved and at least somewhat responsible for the sexual abuse scandal of that diocese.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See's Press Office….said that a recent communiqué from the Archdiocese of Munich answers questions about Priest H. He stressed that the document shows that as archbishop the future Pope Benedict was completely "extraneous" to the decisions made after the abuses were verified.

The pope is not implicated in the least in this case. The worst which could be said is that it is possible that he knew that one of the 1000 priests under his charge had at some point sexually abused children, and that this person was still serving the diocese. That would be deplorable if he did not act, but again there isn’t even any evidence that this scenario is true. More than likely the Vicar General dealt with the issue himself, and the future pope was unaware of the situation. Indeed, “The archdiocese said during Pope Benedict’s tenure as archbishop Priest H. was in the pastoral care of the vicar general at the time, Fr. Gerhard Gruber….‘Gruber assumes full responsibility for these mistaken decisions,’ the archdiocese reported.”

So the superior and the vicar general—the two men most directly responsible for this incident—have both come forward, and neither has implicated the pope. Yet, to read the mainstream media’s coverage of these events, one would conclude that Pope Benedict himself was deeply and directly involved. Another priest, Fr Thomas Doyle, at come point called Pope Benedict a “micro-manager”—thus adding fuel to the media flames—but this claim is patently untrue. As Fr Zuhlsdorf explains,

First, anyone who knows anything about Joseph Ratzinger personally, knows that he is not a micro-manager. Quite the opposite is true. He is the supreme delegator. Furthermore, and this bears repeating, the role of the Vicar General in German dioceses includes most personnel decisions. There will be times when the chapter and ordinary are involved, but mostly the VG handles these matter. This would be particularly the case with then-Archbiship Ratzinger of Munich, who is not a micro-manager, but rather tends to delegate administrative decisions.

It perhaps may be claimed that the future Pope ought to have been more involved in this case because it was such a serious situation.

However, it is absurd to claim that the Pope was involved based on false judgments about the Pope’s the management style coupled with a misunderstanding of the way German dioceses usually work. (emphasis in original)

The second case, that of Fr Lawrence Murphy, is even weaker than the first. However, it is the case upon which a larger amount of media attention is focused. Father Murphy stood accused of abusing nearly 200 deaf children between the years of 1950-1975. The mainstream media story line is that the man was finally being brought to justice when then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, halting the Church’s canonical trials.

In another case, documents show the Vatican office responsible for disciplining priests, while headed by Ratzinger, halted a church trial of a Milwaukee priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys from 1950-1975.

Two Wisconsin bishops had urged the Vatican to approve the proceeding against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, arguing that even though it was years after the alleged abuse, the deaf community in Milwaukee was demanding justice. The trial was approved in 1997, only to be halted after an appeal by the priest to Ratzinger. Murphy died in 1998.

Meanwhile, in typical attention-grabbing style MSNBC published an article entitled “Abuse Victims to Vatican: ‘Stop Attacking Us.’” As if the Vatican itself were directly involved in abusing these alleged victims. Repeated in the article is the meme about how Pope Benedict was personally involved in thwarting Fr Murphy’s canonical trial, albeit via his deputy. Even the liberal Catholic cite dotCommonweal has joined the frenzy, stating that “the latest revelation [is] a direct hit on Joseph Ratzinger’s credibility.” Oddly enough, they had access to this story the day before it ran, and yet said nothing about the story’s own credibility. The liberal National Catholic Reporter has followed suit.

Recently released documents showed a Vatican office led by the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, halted a church trial against Murphy. Ratzinger's deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, shut the process down after Murphy wrote Ratzinger a letter saying he had repented, was old and ailing, and that the case's statute of limitations had run out. Bertone now serves as the Vatican's secretary of state.

Reading the headlines of these various news outlets, one would be lead to believe that the pope himself was directly involved in the cover-ups. Or, in one especially egregious and libelous case, that the pope himself was guilty of abusing children. As a hint for the generally clueless mainstream media elite: in the Catholic Church, we don’t “defrock;” we laicize.

However, the media fails to note—or in some cases to emphasize—several important things about the Murphy Case. First of all, Fr Murphy had not been convicted of a single crime in the civil courts as of yet, and in fact the civil authorities—who knew full well that Fr Murphy had been accused of child molestation—had failed to move against him. Second, Fr Murphy was at that point in frail health—he died within a few months of the trials’ alleged halting—and may or may not have lived through the trial. Since he was already effectively suspended from active ministry, there was really no point in continuing the trial; however, as we will see later, the trial itself was never actually halted, according to perhaps the most important living witness. Third, he had claimed repentance; this may not count for much in the secular world, but it counts for a great deal in the spiritual world, and thus in the life of the Church. The Church’s tends to err on the side of mercy, hence he couldn’t be excommunicated (excommunication is meant to ring a person to repentance, not to punish them after repenting). Fourth, as the New York Times begrudgingly admits, “the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.” Thus, according the Church’s own canon law, Fr Murphy could not be tried in this way.

Finally, there is the Lawsuit in Kentucky whose aim is to depose the pope. This is, of course, a frivolous lawsuit, since no authority on earth can “depose” a pope, whatever may be his crimes. The Church has suffered a few popes who have been pretty bad, and none of whom were deposed. Why? Because neither the Church nor the state has the power to do this. The closest thing to deposing is the declaration that a sitting pontiff is an anti-pope, but this is not the same as deposing the pope. The difference is quite similar to the difference between a “divorce” (which is impossible in the Church) and an “annulment.”

In the former cases (deposing, divorcing), a declaration is made that something which was previously present (a marriage, consecration as a pope) is no longer present; a thing which cannot be broken save by death is broken in life. In the cases of annulment or “anti-papacy,” the declaration is that the thing never really (validly) existed. This is not something which can be decided by legislative or judicial fiat, and so the lawsuit is absurd; it’s only possible valid outcome would be analogous to a call for the assassination of the pope: hardly a fitting punishment, even if he actually was guilty of covering up a child abuse case.

As to the media’s own involvement in this, it is once again a failure. Headlines proclaim that the Vatican (or the US) has declared that the pope is immune from “molestation” or “abuse” lawsuits. This, of course, conjures up images of an alleged victim coming forward to name the pope as a plaintiff, not as a supervisor, but as the actual perpetrator.

Fact Checking: Never Leave Home without It (Unless You Decide to Write Something about the Church)

So woefully inadequate has the media’s coverage been that the actual presiding judge for Murhpy’s canonical trial wrote a column to clarify the inaccuracies reported by the media. It is worth reading the entire column by Fr Thomas Brundage (JCL). I quote some of it here, with my own emphases (all such emphases are mine).

To provide context to this article, I was the Judicial Vicar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from 1995-2003. During those years, I presided over four canonical criminal cases, one of which involved Father Lawrence Murphy. Two of the four men died during the process. God alone will judge these men…. I will limit my comments, because of judicial oaths I have taken as a canon lawyer and as an ecclesiastical judge. However, since my name and comments in the matter of the Father Murphy case have been liberally and often inaccurately quoted in the New York Times and in more than 100 other newspapers and on-line periodicals, I feel a freedom to tell part of the story of Father Murphy’s trial from ground zero.

“Liberally and inaccurately quoted.” In other words, the media is sometimes manufacturing its “facts” out of nothing. This is a part of what makes all of their rants and screed, all their vitriol and poison, the bile they've hurled upon the pope, so bad. It is what makes these stories libel, because they do not represent even an honest (if mistaken) representation of the evidence available.

With regard to the inaccurate reporting on behalf of the New York Times, the Associated Press, and those that utilized these resources, first of all, I was never contacted by any of these news agencies but they felt free to quote me. Almost all of my quotes are from a document that can be found online with the correspondence between the Holy See and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In an October 31, 1997 handwritten document, I am quoted as saying ‘odds are that this situation may very well be the most horrendous, number wise, and especially because these are physically challenged , vulnerable people. “ Also quoted is this: “Children were approached within the confessional where the question of circumcision began the solicitation.”

The problem with these statements attributed to me is that they were handwritten. The documents were not written by me and do not resemble my handwriting. The syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements, yet I am credited as stating them. As a college freshman at the Marquette University School of Journalism, we were told to check, recheck, and triple check our quotes if necessary. I was never contacted by anyone on this document, written by an unknown source to me. Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that the New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take the time to get the facts correct.

Additionally, in the documentation in a letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone on August 19, 1998, Archbishop Weakland stated that he had instructed me to abate the proceedings against Father Murphy. Father Murphy, however, died two days later and the fact is that on the day that Father Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this. Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary. That process would have taken months if not longer.

In other words, all of the ordeal which the media has been making about how the Vatican—specifically, the future Pope Benedict XVI—suspended the trial of Fr Murphy is a bald-faced lie.

Second, with regard to the role of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), in this matter, I have no reason to believe that he was involved at all. Placing this matter at his doorstep is a huge leap of logic and information.

Third, the competency to hear cases of sexual abuse of minors shifted from the Roman Rota to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001. Until that time, most appeal cases went to the Rota and it was our experience that cases could languish for years in this court. When the competency was changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in my observation as well as many of my canonical colleagues, sexual abuse cases were handled expeditiously, fairly, and with due regard to the rights of all the parties involved. I have no doubt that this was the work of then Cardinal Ratzinger.

In other words, then Cardinal Ratzinger had no authority over the trial of Fr Murphy—or of any other related canonical trials—until 2001. Upon being granted such authority, the future pope actually improved the process, so that trials were carried out more justly. It would seem that the media will let no good deed go unpunished.

Fourth, Pope Benedict has repeatedly apologized for the shame of the sexual abuse of children in various venues and to a worldwide audience. This has never happened before. He has met with victims. He has reigned in entire conferences of bishops on this matter, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland being the most recent. He has been most reactive and proactive of any international church official in history with regard to the scourge of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Instead of blaming him for inaction on these matters, he has truly been a strong and effective leader on these issues.

Finally, over the last 25 years, vigorous action has taken place within the church to avoid harm to children. Potential seminarians receive extensive sexual-psychological evaluation prior to admission. Virtually all seminaries concentrate their efforts on the safe environment for children. There have been very few cases of recent sexual abuse of children by clergy during the last decade or more.

As Mr Thomas Peters has pointed out in his own analysis of Fr Brundage’s article, these stories have be “hit job [s] from the start, one which violated basic tenets of journalism (proper sourcing of claims, understanding the subject material, obtaining objective experts, etc).”

The media has effectively concocted a story about the pope’s involvement in the child sex-abuse cases from shadowy sources. The have accused the Holy Father of participating in despicable actions without the slightest shred of actual evidence. That’s called libel, and it seems to be the default mode of “reporting” in the mainstream media with respect to the Church these days.

Libel, Damned Libel, and the Mainstream Media

From there, it actually gets more nasty. Ms Maureen Down, that scionette of the radical feminist left, fired the opening salvo in her New York Times op-ed piece, “A Nope for Pope.” Writes the disingenuous Dowd,

Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler” when he was the church’s enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.

Not satisfied to roll out the ad hominem attacks on the Pope, Dowd next turns to a non-sequitor.
Because he did not defrock the demented Father Murphy, it’s time to bring in the frocks.

Pope Benedict has continued the church’s ban on female priests and is adamant against priests’ having wives. He has started two investigations of American nuns to check on their “quality of life” — code for seeing if they’ve grown too independent. As a cardinal he wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners and not take on adversarial roles toward men.

But the completely paternalistic and autocratic culture of Il Papa led to an insular, exclusionary system that failed to police itself, and that became a corrosive shelter for secrets and shame.

If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry, if it could banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children, it might survive. It could be an encouraging sign of humility and repentance, a surrender of arrogance, both moving and meaningful.

Because this kind of thing never occurs in those professions which allow women and married men. It especially isn’t a problem, for example, in the public schools system, thanks to the prevalence of women (and married men) in that work environment. What Dowd wants is not so much a "Nope" (nun-pope) as a "Dope" (Dowd-pope).

Apparently not content to limit her defamation of the Church to just one article, Dowd has penned a second article. More male-bashing, more Church-bashing, and more pope-bashing are afoot. She opens with the ironic if not hypocritical statement that “It doesn’t seem right that the Catholic Church is spending Holy Week practicing the unholy art of spin.” It gets worse.

The church gave up its credibility for Lent. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are now becoming Cover-Up Thursday and Blame-Others Friday.

This week of special confessions and penance services is unfolding as the pope resists pressure from Catholics around the globe for his own confession and penance about the cascade of child sexual abuse cases that were ignored, even by a German diocese and Vatican office he ran.

Dowd continues in this vein to lash out at every person imaginable who has come to the aide of the pope. This includes Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Dolan, amongst others. Her worthless tirade is replete with such one-liners as “A few priests? At this point, it feels like an international battalion.” What does that day about the other 96% of priests who are wholly innocent? That they are an international brigade? If so, they are certainly a nonviolent one--which is fortunate for Maureen Dowd and her ilk.

And these two piece of vitriolic anti-Catholicism aren’t even coming from the professionals. Mr Christopher Hitchens wrote his expected hit-piece, which has been thoroughly picked apart by Mr Sean Murphy. Professor Richard Dawkins, followed his fellow atheist provaceteur. Dawkins writes that the pope is

A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job.

As Mr Damian Thompson notes, “The article conjures up the image of a nasty old man who’s losing his marbles. It’s not very nice about the Pope, either.”

Then there is the slew of anti-catholic cartoons, published in nearly every major paper in the country, not to mention some insignificant backwater ones, such as the paper from my own home county. Disgusting.

A Catholic Response

A number of prominent Catholics—both lay and clergy—have stepped up to the challenge of responding to the mainstream media’s lies and libel. The well-known blogger Mr Thomas Peters refers to his own efforts as “Defending the Pope from Hot Air.” This is quite a well-fitting description of the charges.

Well today, there still haven’t been any credible charges made against him, but the attacks keep coming so we have to take action. These attacks on the pope, after all, are at heart attacks on the Church. (emphasis in original).

With people writing and doing such preposterous things about and to the Church and the pope, we need to respond with the truth. I find it very interesting that this attack has been leveled at the Church during Holy Week, when the Church is most trying to focus on Christ and His sufferings. Well, this year we can identify with some of His suffering a little more easily.

Elizabeth Scalia has written an excellent piece for First Things, which focuses in part on the efforts of no less a figure than Cardinal William Levada.

It is rather easy for a news vessel as large and powerful as the NY Times to smear and “take down” a public figure. All it takes is a few headlines and a thousand well (or poorly) crafted words; it takes many thousands of words to fairly defend the public figure and and bring clarity to the story, itself, once those headlines have been fired off. (bold in original)

The well-known Catholic apologist Mr Jimmy Akins gives the New York Times a thorough dressing-down, by looking at their own “original sources” (which they have conveniently posted online).

The New York Times has done a great service to those wanting to look into this story by putting online a large number of primary source documents pertaining to the case. No doubt they mean these to incriminate Pope Benedict, but if you read them carefully—and if you know the relevant background—they don’t (link in original).

Among other things, Mr Akins notes that it is possible that then-Cardinal Ratzinger never saw the infamous letter which was sent to him from Fr Murphy, but that Cardinal Bertone surely did. Also of interest (all emphases in original):

Murphy also makes a mercy-based request to the CDF not to be subjected to a trial at this point in his life. He writes:

“I am seventy-two years of age, your Eminence [Cardinal Ratzinger], and I am in poor health. I have just recently suffered another stroke which has left me in a weakened state. I have followed all the directives of both Archbishop Cousins and now Archbishop Weakland. I have repented of any of my past transgressions, and have been living peaceably in northern Wisconsin for twenty-four years. I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood.”

So when the response came from Archbishop Bertone, what did it say?

It did not prohibit a canonical trial. It didn’t say that this couldn’t be done. But it did hint at another path, saying:

“[T]his Congregation invites Your Excellency [Raphael Michael Fliss of Superior, WI] to give careful consideration to what canon 1341 proposes as pastoral measures destined to obtain the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice.”

Canon 1341 provides that:

An ordinary is to take care to initiate a judicial or administrative process to impose or declare penalties only after he has ascertained that fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude cannot sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, reform the offender.

So Bertone urges the relevant ordinary (now Fliss due to the change of diocese in which the trial would occur) to heed what the Code of Canon Law says regarding when to use a judicial process. Criticize the Code if you want, but we don’t have evidence of wrongdoing on Ratzinger’s part.

Note that Bertone doesn’t say Fliss can’t or shouldn’t go forward with the trial. He just says think about this canon and if there is another way to resolve the matter.

The letter in question essentially says that if you are going to hold a trial, be sure to do so in accordance with the laws by which the man is being tried. In other words, the trial must be fair and impartial, and not run as a kangaroo court. Imagine the media frenzy if even accused man was told that he would be given a trial, but that some of the laws which are in place in our civil courts would be suspended (a la Guantanamo, if some reports from there were accurate).

This would be akin to suspending a person’s Miranda rights. In this context, Cardinal Bertone’s letter simply demands a fair trial; this does not mean suspending the trial, and can even be read to imply that a trial is necessitated (depending on whether the “fraternal correction” condition has been met). It’s no wonder that the current archbishop of Milwaukee, his Excellency Jerome Listecki, has stated in a recent Chrism Mass that any mistakes made in the Fr Murphy Case were made by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and not the Vatican or the future pope.

Which is simply more evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger is in no way culpable for this case (or any other) or child sexual abuse. This sentiment is echoed by Fr Raymon de Souza in his piece on National Review’s The Corner:

The documents show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested, given that Father Murphy was in failing health and a canonical trial is a complicated matter, that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry.

To repeat: The charge that Cardinal Ratzinger did anything wrong is unsupported by the documentation on which the story was based. He does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop Bertone, agreed that there should be full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry.

From a different angle, Fr Dwight Longenecker hits the nail square on the head in his characterization of the media coverage so far (via the his “alter-ego” Todd Unctous of the mainstream media).

Many of the cases recount events as recent as forty years ago, and most of them are traceable directly to Pope Benedict XVI, the Pope of Rome. The files from the 'secret archives' in the ancient walled city of the Vatican reveal that Pope Benedict XVI was an Archbishop in Germany, which is in Europe. At that time a German priest was guilty of child abuse and the Pope did nothing about it. He simply allowed him to receive 'therapy' and go free. The person who made this decision now says that he made the decision and the Pope had nothing to do with it. This sounds like a cover up to me. If the Pope was the Archbishop in charge of 1,000 clergy he must have known what was going on. The fact that there is no evidence that he was involved only goes to show just how good the Catholic Church is at covering up the facts.

This provides some desperately-needed humor to an otherwise grim situation. Elsewhere, the good father provides his insights as the real sources of this conflict.

However, let us also be aware that a spiritual battle is engaged. The one enemy the forces of secularism in the world hate most is the Catholic Church. The Protestants are divided and cannot speak with one global voice of authority. They are easily ridiculed for their wild eyed evangelicalism or their loopy liberalism, but the Catholic Church is not so easily dismissed. There is no other ancient, historic and universal religious and moral authority in the world but the Catholic Church. The hateful forces of secular atheism know this and will do everything they can to destroy the Catholic Church. The ranks of demons have seen the Catholic Church survive for two thousand years and hate our church.

The always perspicacious Father John Zuhlsdorf provides commentary on—well, virtually everything written so far—on his website.

There have also been plenty of statements issued by the Bishops. Archbishop Timothy Dolan (Archdiocese of New York), Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (Diocese of Brooklyn), Archbishop Charles Chaput (Archdiocese of Denver) have all spoke out on this issuesome numerous times. Even so August a figure as William Cardinal Levada, formerly Archbishop of San Francisco and before that of Portland, who now head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Pope Benedict’s old post), has issued a statement on this matter.

There are also plenty of lay Catholics who are willing to weigh in. This includes notables just about everyone: from the widely popular apologist Mr Mark Shea to the widely-syndicated writers Mr George Weigel and Mr John Allen (the one good writer for the National Catholic Reporter, from the witty Mr Jeff Miller to those creative brothers Misters Patrick and Matthew Archibold, and from Ms Elizabeth Scalia to Ms Peggy Noonan.

Of course, you’d never know this if you read the New York Time. Scratch that—you’d know this thanks to Maureen Dowd’s second vitriolic screed. The New York Times is more content to instigate than to actually report, and to villainize the pope than to actually help fight child abuse. As Archbishop Dolan noted (for one exaple),
On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.” Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.” (all emphases are mine, link in original)

In attacking the Holy Father, the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets are actually attacking one of the men who did the most to fix the problem. Furthermore, he actually attempted to fix this problem as soon as he was able. As Mrs Peggy Noonan notes,

Some blame the scandals on Pope Benedict XVI. But Joseph Ratzinger is the man who, weeks before his accession to the papacy five years ago, spoke blisteringly on Good Friday of the "filth" in the church. Days later on the streets of Rome, the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported, Cardinal Ratzinger bumped into a curial monsignor who chided him for his sharp words. The cardinal replied, "You weren't born yesterday, you understand what I'm talking about, you know what it means. We priests. We priests!" The most reliable commentary on Pope Benedict's role in the scandals came from John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, who argues that once Benedict came to fully understand the scope of the crisis, in 2003, he made the church's first real progress toward coming to grips with it (emphasis mine)

Moreover, they will not give voice to the authentically Catholic perspective—Archbishop Dolan tried to submit to them an op-ed—because they are simply not interested in honest reporting or journalistic integrity. As Mr Mark Shea notes,

I think the thing that is most repulsive about the current media feeding frenzy on Benedict is the appalling combination of slovenly malice with the sheer self-congratulatory demand of the character assassins that Catholics should be grateful for their vendetta. You know: "Oh, we make some mistakes now and then, but where would you be without us exposing the corruption?"

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, exactly the mentality that abusive priests and the bishops who loved them indulged in while they practiced their particular form of malpractice and it is not helped one bit by the media doing it now. Yes, yes, MSM. By all means, find the criminal and expose the corruption. But don't kid me that you are doing anything of the sort when you launch off on ill-documented campaign to malign Benedict on the flimsiest of pretexts while ignoring the actual corruption. You're full of crap.

Let's get some of the more egregious stuff out of the way first. Sorry, but it's not a "mistake" when a major news organization runs a headline like "Pope Describes Touching Boys: I Went Too Far" and then links a story that has absolutely nothing to do with a claim of sex abuse against the Pope. It is libel. Malicious libel . But we will not see any demands for the resignation of the clowns responsible because the Vatican does not issue fatwas. Similarly, the grotesque interviews with such experts as Sinead O'Connor and Mehmet Ali Agca(!) likewise betray a bloodlust that is barely concealed. As one of the readers at First Things points out, it's like asking Sirhan Sirhan to comment on the Kennedy legacy. (links in original, emphases mine)

It is here worth bringing up a point about libel and slander as opposed to merely being "insulting," 'offensive," or even "unkind." Everybody at times says things which are unkind, less-than-flattering, or which give offense, myself included. The media has gone beyond doing that. When I write harsh or unkind words, they're generally backed by fact and honest (if at times mistaken) reasoning. The media in this case has manufactured much of their charges from inaccurate quotations and inaccurate analysis. But even those charges which exist--namely, that the pope is somehow involved in a cover-up--do not warrant headlines such as MSNBC's (now-retracted) "Pope Describes Touching Boys: I Went Too Far." Mister Shea is absolutely correct when he says that this is not a matter of "oops, we made a mistake." Serious harm has been done--and very unjustly--to the pope's reputation (at the least). This harm is not only not based in fact, it is not even based in an erroneous interpretation in fact. That is a big part of what makes the mainstream media's attack on the pope libelous as opposed to merely "offensive."

Father Zuhlsdorf—among others—refers to the New York Times as “Hell’s Bible;” in truth, it’s an honest assessment. The rest of the mainstream media has proven that it’s not much better. The sheer malice aimed at the pope is contemptible, especially since, as Archbishop Dolan notes,

Pope Benedict XVI himself has expressed hurt, anger, sorrow, and contrition. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now as Pope, he is seen as one “who gets it” when it comes to the horror of clergy sexual abuse, and who has placed the full force of the Apostolic See, the Vatican, behind efforts to reform. Who can forget his forthright references to this scourge at least half-a-dozen times in his visit to our country nearly two-years ago, and his moving meeting with victim-survivors? And now we have his blunt, realistic Pastoral Letter to Ireland on the crises there. He must be asking, as we all do, “When will it all end.”

As Mrs Noonan notes in her own conclusion,

There are three great groups of victims in this story. The first and most obvious, the children who were abused, who trusted, were preyed upon and bear the burden through life. The second group is the good priests and good nuns, the great leaders of the church in the day to day, who save the poor, teach the immigrant, and, literally, save lives. They have been stigmatized when they deserve to be lionized. And the third group is the Catholics in the pews—the heroic Catholics of America and now Europe, the hardy souls who in spite of what has been done to their church are still there, still making parish life possible, who hold high the flag, their faith unshaken. No one thanks those Catholics, sees their heroism, respects their patience and fidelity. The world thinks they're stupid. They are not stupid, and with their prayers they keep the world going, and the old church too.

The mainstream media has done more than anyone to ensure that these latter two groups become victims in the own right, and on account of a handful of bad priests.


A list of updates can be viewed on my blog, here.

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