Updated with a 4th and 5th article from Our Sunday Visitor, however, I'm placing Phil Lawlor's first as it has to do with the AP story in many papers throughout the country, including Macon's. This is absolutely shocking? When will the media say they are sorry?
I have five stories related to the main line media's unrelenting attacks and Pope Benedict, which is an attack on the Catholic Church, (you and me!) and upon religion in general. These are posted below my comments, the forth one is the best and is must read!
I was speaking with a priest friend of mine last night about the main line media generated attacks against our Holy Father, Pope Benedict. The latest one is an AP news story that appears even in the Macon Telegraph this morning saying that Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985 delayed a priest's laicization. Who do you believe, the media that is on a witch hunt the likes I've never seen, or people who give thoughtful coverage to this important story? The main line media gives no context, releases stories at a piecemeal rate of time and reports news that is sometimes over 50 years old as though it is recently discovered. There are multiple scandals going on here not the least of which is the scandal surrounding how the main line media is covering this story. It is truly shocking, but there is no media to reveal the scandal of the media except those who are now reporting on the internet! Thank God for the internet as the main line media continues to act irresponsibly.
The First Story
On The News
Journalists abandon standards to attack the Pope
RSS Facebook By Phil Lawler | April 10, 2010 10:03 AM
We're off and running once again, with another completely phony story that purports to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in the protection of abusive priests.
The "exclusive" story released by AP yesterday, which has been dutifully passed along now by scores of major media outlets, would never have seen the light of day if normal journalistic standards had been in place. Careful editors should have asked a series of probing questions, and in every case the answer to those questions would have shown that the story had no "legs."
First to repeat the bare-bones version of the story: in November 1985, then-Cardinal Ratzinger signed a letter deferring a decision on the laicization of Father Stephen Kiesle, a California priest who had been accused of molesting boys.
Now the key questions:
• Was Cardinal Ratzinger responding to the complaints of priestly pedophilia? No. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the future Pontiff headed, did not have jurisdiction for pedophile priests until 2001. The cardinal was weighing a request for laicization of Kiesle.
• Had Oakland's Bishop John Cummins sought to laicize Kiesle as punishment for his misconduct? No. Kiesle himself asked to be released from the priesthood. The bishop supported the wayward priest's application.
• Was the request for laicization denied? No. Eventually, in 1987, the Vatican approved Kiesle's dismissal from the priesthood.
• Did Kiesle abuse children again before he was laicized? To the best of our knowledge, No. The next complaints against him arose in 2002: 15 years after he was dismissed from the priesthood.
• Did Cardinal Ratzinger's reluctance to make a quick decision mean that Kiesle remained in active ministry? No. Bishop Cummins had the authority to suspend the predator-priest, and in fact he had placed him on an extended leave of absence long before the application for laicization was entered.
• Would quicker laicization have protected children in California? No. Cardinal Ratzinger did not have the power to put Kiesle behind bars. If Kiesle had been defrocked in 1985 instead of 1987, he would have remained at large, thanks to a light sentence from the California courts. As things stood, he remained at large. He was not engaged in parish ministry and had no special access to children.
• Did the Vatican cover up evidence of Kiesle's predatory behavior? No. The civil courts of California destroyed that evidence after the priest completed a sentence of probation-- before the case ever reached Rome.
So to review: This was not a case in which a bishop wanted to discipline his priest and the Vatican official demurred. This was not a case in which a priest remained active in ministry, and the Vatican did nothing to protect the children under his pastoral care. This was not a case in which the Vatican covered up evidence of a priest's misconduct. This was a case in which a priest asked to be released from his vows, and the Vatican-- which had been flooded by such requests throughout the 1970s -- wanted to consider all such cases carefully. In short, if you're looking for evidence of a sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, this case is irrelevant.
We Americans know what a sex-abuse crisis looks like. The scandal erupts when evidence emerges that bishops have protected abusive priests, kept them active in parish assignments, covered up evidence of the charges against them, and lied to their people. There is no such evidence in this or any other case involving Pope Benedict XVI.
Competent reporters, when dealing with a story that involves special expertise, seek information from experts in that field. Capable journalists following this story should have sought out canon lawyers to explain the 1985 document-- not merely relied on the highly biased testimony of civil lawyers who have lodged multiple suits against the Church. If they had understood the case, objective reporters would have recognized that they had no story. But in this case, reporters for the major media outlets are far from objective.
The New York Times-- which touched off this feeding frenzy with two error-riddled front-page reports-- seized on the latest "scoop" by AP to say that the 1985 document exemplified:
…the sort of delay that is fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal in the church that has focused on whether the future pope moved quickly enough to remove known pedophiles from the priesthood, despite pleas from American bishops.
Here we have a complete rewriting of history. Earlier in this decade, American newspapers exposed the sad truth that many American bishops had kept pedophile priests in active ministry. Now the Times, which played an active role in exposing that scandal, would have us believe that the American bishops were striving to rid the priesthood of the predators, and the Vatican resisted!
No, what is "fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal" is a media frenzy. There is a scandal here, indeed, but it's not the scandal you're reading about in the mass media. The scandal is the complete collapse of journalistic standards in the handling of this story.
This is most recently posted and is about the AP story about the California priest and Cardinal Ratzinger. Just who is AP trying to fool and confuse?
The Second Story on AP
Cardinal Ratzinger and Fr. Stephen Kiesle
By E.D. KAIN
Critics of the pope will call the letter recently unearthed by the Associated Press from Cardinal Ratzinger to Bishop John Cummins regarding the defrocking of the confessed child molester Stephen Kiesle a ‘smoking gun’ but I would urge caution from a rush to judgment.
First of all, it is still not at all clear that Ratzinger was even in charge of defrocking priests accused of child molestation in 1985. Ratzinger’s office did not gain that authority until 2001.
Second of all, it is not at all clear that Ratzinger – in the letter – urged anything but ‘careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.’ Indeed, the priest in question was defrocked two years later – which may seem like a terribly long time, though perhaps not so long if you consider how long it took secular authorities to bring Kiesle to any sort of justice. (For the molestation Kiesle committed in 1995, long after he was defrocked, he was not convicted until 2004 by civil authorities. He is now out of jail and living in Walnut Creek.)
There is no doubt, however, that at the time the Church and its officials moved far too slow in defrocking Kiesle. In the 1980’s the cases of sexual abuse were almost universally badly handled. It appears Cummins wrote to Ratzinger the very same year Ratzinger arrived in Rome. It is not clear whether this case would have been under Ratzinger’s jurisdiction at that time.
One way or another, the letter is a lonely document. It can certainly be construed as damning but that may be because it is but one piece of correspondence among many. There is almost no context. The Associated Press – if it possesses more letters – should release them so that we can get a better picture of what exactly went on. It’s one thing if this was merely a poor procedure, with an overly cautious Church taking far too long to act – and quite another thing if it was an attempt at a cover-up, which seems unlikely given the priest was defrocked two years after this letter was written. For his crimes in 1995, Kiesle waited nine years to see justice. That seems as scandalous as anything reported thus far about Ratzinger’s role in all of this.
One more thing – all reports on this matter repeat the claim that Ratzinger’s office was in charge of disciplining priests accused of sexual abuse in 1985. It bears repeating that this was not the case until 2001.
(My comment: There's something fishy going on here and it's not just in the Church!)
The Third Story on AP:
And from the United Kingdom's Telegraph:
By Damian Thompson Religion Last updated: April 10th, 2010
And so the relentless attempts to 'get' Pope Benedict XVI continue…
The Associated Press is claiming that the former Cardinal Ratzinger was implicated in a decision to delay defrocking a paedophile priest. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But, as with all the media attempts to “get” Pope Benedict XVI, the story turns out to be a bit more complicated than the headlines imply. Fr Stephen Kiesle committed his disgusting crimes in the 1970s, the Diocese of Oakland withdrew him from priestly ministry and he asked to be laicised, a complicated canonical procedure. In 1985 Ratzinger signed a letter (in Latin) urging caution but then did give permission for the defrocking, which happened in 1987.
Probably the delay was a bad decision; but it was as a lay worker that Kiesle later volunteered for youth ministry – and seems to have got away with it, thanks to the diocese, not the CDF. We don’t really know the full details, but it’s pretty clear to me that, as with The New York Times’s dodgy Wisconsin story, the shocking negligence of the Church authorities can’t easily be laid at the door of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who did not take over direct responsibility for sex cases until 2001. And, indeed, no one would be trying to do so if he hadn’t later become Pope.
The forth Story about New York Times coverage of the Pope:
The Pope and the press
Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post Published: Thursday, April 08, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI was falsely accused two weeks ago by The New York Times. That same false charge was repeated and amplified in the National Post. The facts are now in, and even the Times has corrected itself by rewriting the story. Two weeks later, however, and despite its flaws, the story is reverberating around the world. Indeed, without the Times' accusations, the sexual abuse story would not have dominated Holy Week as it did.
On March 25, the Times set off a worldwide firestorm with a front page story that made an incendiary accusation: "Top Vatican officials -- including the future Pope Benedict XVI--did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit."
Falsehood upon falsehood -- four errors in the first paragraph. First, the case to defrock Father Lawrence Murphy was approved by the "top Vatican officials," was never stopped by anyone in Rome and was ongoing when Murphy died. Second, Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, is not shown in the documents to have taken any decisions in this case. Third, the real villain, aside from Murphy himself, was the compromised former Archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, who had sat on the case for 20 years. Fourth, the files were not "newly unearthed"; a general chronology had been released by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee years ago, and the documents were released by the archdiocese itself.
The New York Times was guilty of egregiously shoddy reporting -- or worse -- on a story of global implications.
While the case was not new -- the priest died in 1998 -- the charge landed on front pages around the world, including the National Post, because the Pope was supposedly involved. Within days we learned that the Times was false on the facts, suspect in the sources and reckless in the reporting. All of which the paper had to implicitly concede a week later in an extraordinary rewrite by the same author. So what happened? Were the reporter, Laurie Goodstein, and her editors merely careless, genuinely duped or willing collaborators in an orchestrated smear?
The story did not get the extra scrutiny it deserved. The documents on which the story was based did not support the newsworthy charge against the Pope. After the National Post repeated the charges on our front page on March 26, I read all the documents, posted at the Times web-site. I wrote a point-by-point rebuttal, which was immediately linked to all over the world and played a contributing role in exposing the Times story. For those who knew this file, the sources used screamed out for greater scrutiny. The first was Jeffrey Anderson, who gave the documents to Goodstein, a longtime reporter on Vatican affairs who covers the religion beat. Anderson is the most prolific contingency-fee lawyer in suing the
Church, from which he has made tens of millions. He has current civil suits pending against the Vatican. It is in his direct financial interest to promote the public perception of complicity by the Pope. That alone should have prompted Goodstein to examine what the documents showed and to inquire of others whether there were other relevant documents that he did not give her. Instead, her story accepted fully the Anderson spin.
The next obvious step would have been to corroborate what was found in the documents. It was subsequently revealed that Goodstein did not even contact the key judicial official in the Murphy case, Father Thomas Brundage. Had she done so she would have learned that the defrocking trial was still ongoing until three days before Murphy's death, when it was stopped by Weakland -- undermining the key accusation in her story. After Brundage corrected the record publicly, Goodstein finally interviewed him, five days after her original story appeared.
The only other published source for the original story was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, the disgraced former archbishop of Milwaukee. He resigned in 2002 when it was revealed that he had a homosexual affair and then used $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to buy the man's secrecy. Weakland detailed his other clandestine homosexual affairs, his mismanagement of sexual abuse cases and his longtime hostility to Pope Benedict in his 2009 autobiography. Did Goodstein know how discredited Weakland was? She knew, as she wrote a flattering story about the autobiography last year.
So when she approached Weakland for comment on the story, some basic questions might have been in order. She did not ask them. First, why did Weakland, who had jurisdiction over the case since 1977, wait nearly 20 years before moving against him? Second, during the very period the Murphy case was underway, Weakland was negotiating the terms of his former lover's blackmail payoff. Would that not make his comments about transparency and justice somewhat suspect? Third, was there any independent corroboration to support Weakland's own letters? It is possible that bad sources can still provide good information. But did news editors the world over even know enough about the principals in this story to demand extra scrutiny?
As others began to ask those obvious questions, and it became apparent that Goodstein had not asked any of them, she published an extraordinary follow-up story on April 1. This one appeared on page 6, not the front. Gone was the suggestive headline. This one had the banal title: "Events in the Case of an Accused Priest." All of the accusations against the future pope are dropped, the new information from her tardy interview with Brundage is included, Weakland's comments disappear and Jeffrey Anderson is gone altogether.
The April 1 story is for all intents and purposes a correction of the March 25 story. Had it come first, it would not have made the front page on March 25; it likely would not have made the paper at all. The firestorm of the past two weeks would not have occurred.
(This is the most damning part of what the New York Times orchestrated against the Catholic Church during the most important week in the Church, Holy Week! It was contrived and intentional!--Fr. McDonald)
Remember what the major items on the sexual abuse file were the day before Goodstein's story appeared. On March 20, Pope Benedict had published a blunt letter to Catholics in Ireland, apologizing to victims, lambasting the priest abusers and excoriating the failure of bishops to exercise proper oversight. On March 23, the annual independent audit of American dioceses revealed that in 2009, there were six credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors, in a church of 68 million people -- a sign of astonishing progress in stamping out this evil. That was the news before The New York Times decided to make its own.
The fifth Story
Monday, April 5, 2010
Troubling conclusions from clerical sex abuse scandal
By Russell Shaw for Our Sunday Visitor
It’s probably premature to think the latest furor over clergy sex abuse has begun to subside, but by no means is it too soon to draw some useful, troubling conclusions from what has happened so far. Here are three.
First, the coverup of abuse in years past has done and continues to do enormous harm. Are there more time bombs ticking away in ecclesiastical files one place or another waiting to explode?
Explain until you’re blue in the face that time and again these horrible things happened years, indeed decades, ago: if the coverup has continued until now, people will be furious just the same — and they’ll blame those in charge now for what happened back then.
Many Church leaders have yet to grasp that the culture of secrecy has to go. Here and there that seems to be sinking in, but it’s slow going. Until it’s universally recognized that the ordinary presumption in Church affairs should favor openness, with secrecy reserved for cases of real necessity, there’s more trouble ahead.
The second conclusion is that Pope Benedict has been very shabbily treated during this latest go-round.
His record — as archbishop of Munich, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now as pope — needs no apologies. Indeed, in the last decade especially he’s shown courage and foresight in his handling of the abuse crisis.
But you’d never know that from the critics. They accuse Benedict of mishandling two abuse cases in particular.
In one, the vicar general of the Munich archdiocese returned to pastoral ministry an abuser-priest who’d had psychiatric treatment without telling Cardinal Ratzinger. In the other, involving a Milwaukee priest, the former judicial vicar of the archdiocese says the trial of this elderly, dying man was terminated — and the man died — three years before jurisdiction over such cases was transferred to Cardinal Ratzinger’s Vatican congregation.
That’s all. Efforts to use these incidents to indict the pope would be laughable if the matter weren’t so serious.
Benedict didn’t get a lot of help from his Vatican colleagues in the early days of this dustup. The Vatican appeared to have been caught flat-footed, and it responded clumsily or by clamming up. Here’s a fresh reminder that the Holy See needs someone skilled in hands-on crisis management. That isn’t the pope’s job, and it’s obvious that no one else is doing the job now.
The third conclusion is that elements of the media abandoned elementary standards of fairness in this episode. It’s hard not to think that happened because they sensed a fresh opportunity to strike a blow at the Church — indeed, at the pope himself.
If not, then what really did pass through the minds of people in the newsrooms of major outlets like The New York Times and the Washington Post to account for various bizarre editorial decisions lately?
Thus, in one pre-Easter incident, when the official papal preacher, a man with no policy role at the Holy See, haplessly likened the campaign against the Vatican to “collective violence” against the Jews, these and other news organizations leaped on the remark screaming “Gotcha!” even though they routinely ignore everything else this individual says.
But merely blaming the media, however blameworthy they may be, doesn’t help. We learned that to our sorrow when the scandal erupted in the United States eight years ago. In the end, it’s the culture of secrecy that makes the Church vulnerable to unfair coverage and commentary. And for the persistence of secrecy we have ourselves to blame.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor