Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pope Benedict, the Catholic Church and the sexual abuse crisis [Roundup]

The press of late has been dominated by coverage of the Church and the sexual abuse crisis. Much of this reporting has been sketchy on the facts and/or downright slanderous, the work of those who would exploit this tragedy to advance their vendetta against the Holy Father. Following is a roundup of news and commentary.

Prior Roundups

Further Commentary

  • "Keeping the record straight on Benedict and the crisis" National Catholic Reporter John Allen Jr. finds that
    the first casualty of any crisis is perspective. There are at least three aspects of Benedict's record on the sexual abuse crisis which are being misconstrued, or at least sloppily characterized, in today's discussion. Bringing clarity to these points is not a matter of excusing the pope, but rather of trying to understand accurately how we got where we are. [more]
  • "Pope's critics must get their facts straight" George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, schools Christopher Hitchens on the merits of accurate reporting.

  • “A step comparable to a parent who denounces his or her own child”: A different perspective David Schütz (Sentire Cum Ecclesia):
    There has been a lot of confusion about the so-called “policy of secrecy” in the Catholic Church regarding the offences we are discussing. I thought it would be helpful to include here a few paragraphs from an interview by Italian journalist Gianni Cardinale with Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ...
  • Thomas Plante, PhD., ABPP, notes that "there are a lot more myths than facts bantered around" by the press and would like us to know Six important points about clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (Psychology Today March 24, 2010).

  • Ross Douthat reviews the pattern of priestly sex abuse which lends credence to the claim that "something in the moral/cultural/theological climate of the 1960s and 1970s encouraged a spike in sexual abuse." (On that note, see also Mary Eberstad's "Elephant in the Sacristy" Weekly Standard June 17, 2002).

  • John Allen Jr. has an op-ed in the New York Times, in which he points out "For anyone who knows the Vatican’s history on this issue, Benedict XVI isn’t just part of the problem. He’s also a major chapter in the solution":
    To understand that, it’s necessary to wind the clock back a decade. Before then, no Vatican office had clear responsibility for cases of priests accused of sexual abuse, which instead were usually handled — and often ignored — at the diocesan level. In 2001, however, Pope John Paul II assigned responsibility to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s all-important doctrinal office, which was headed by Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal.

    As a result, bishops were required to send their case files to Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. By all accounts, he studied them with care, making him one of the few churchmen anywhere in the world to have read the documentation on virtually every Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse. The experience gave him a familiarity with the pervasiveness of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic Church can claim. And driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as “filth” in the church, Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have undergone a transformation. From that point forward, he and his staff were determined to get something done.

  • Archbishop Dolan of New York City, blogging on the scandals:
    What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

    That, of course, is malarkey. Because, as we now sadly realize, nobody, nowhere, no time, no way, no how knew the extent, depth, or horror of this scourge, nor how to adequately address it.

    The sexual abuse of our young people is an international, cultural, societal horror. It affects every religion, country, family, job, profession, vocation, and ethnic group.

    We Catholics have for a decade apologized, cried, reached out, shouted mea culpa, and engaged in a comprehensive reform that has met with widespread acclaim. We’ve got a long way to go, and the reform still has to continue.

    But it is fair to say that, just as the Catholic Church may have been a bleak example of how not to respond to this tragedy in the past, the Church is now a model of what to do. As the National Review Online observes, “. . . the Church’s efforts to come to grips with this problem within the household of faith — more far reaching than in any other institution or sector of society — have led others to look to the Catholic Church for guidance on how to address what is, in fact, a global plague.”

    See also Archbishop Dolan's latest column on the "a well-oiled campaign against Pope Benedict."

Challenging the critics

  • "Why can't the media treat the Pope fairly?" asks the Telegraph's Andrew M. Brown:
    I read the coverage of the Pope every day in the newspapers and listen to the BBC news and as a Catholic and a journalist I feel like crying out pathetically: “This is not fair!” And it isn’t fair, or reasonable. Intelligent journalists who are normally capable of mental subtlety and of coping with complexities have abandoned their critical faculties. There is an atmosphere of unreason.

    I cannot help feeling that a lot of it is down to sheer, blind hatred. It amounts to the demonisation of a whole institution and its leader. We have come to a stage where nothing good whatever, no good faith can be assumed of anybody involved in the Church – however senior, however greatly respected, loved, admired, including the Pope.

  • Diogenes (Off The Record) notices the appearance of "the usual suspects":
    Desperate for new witnesses who will join in the calls for the Pope's resignation, the media have rediscovered Hans Küng, who-- having honed his skills through decades of complaints that his old faculty colleague is responsible for all the world's ills-- sure, enough, thinks the Pope should resign.

    In other news, the sun rose in the east again this morning.

  • Speaking of the usual suspects, the dour, unhinged, and factless, Maureen Dowd seeks papal whipping boy (Carl Olson, Insight Scoop).

  • George Weigel and Rev. Jay Scott Newman respond to Sinead O'Connor (National Review):
    f Irish singer Sinead O’Connor wishes to denounce her mother publicly as an abusive parent, that is her privilege. If Ms. O’Connor wishes to shred a photograph of Pope John Paul II on stage, as she did almost two decades ago, she is, one supposes, within the boundaries of “performance art.” If Ms. O’Connor wishes to “separate” the God she believes in from the Catholic Church in which she was raised, as she put it in a March 28 article in the “Outlook” section of the Washington Post, she is free to do so.

    What Sinead O’Connor is not free to do is to misrepresent the teaching and law of the Catholic Church in the Post in order to buttress her claim that the Church is an “abusive organization” and that the Church threatens with excommunication those who would blow the whistle on clerical sexual abusers. That is utterly false. If Ms. O’Connor is aware of that falsehood, she has lied.

  • Creative Minority Report points out "the worst headline ever".

  • The Telegraph's Damien Thompson responds to the high priest of atheism, Richard Dawkins:
    [Dawkin's] article conjures up the image of a nasty old man who’s losing his marbles. It’s not very nice about the Pope, either.

  • Fr. John Zuhlsdorf takes apart Fr. Richard McBrien's Newsweek screed ("I think McBrien is pissed off that Hans Kung got press on this issue before he did").

See also

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


According to the video you'll find at this link, the journalist Jason Berry, who did the documentary claiming Cdl Ratzinger was point man for a cover-up of Maciel's abuses, now says that Pope Benedict 'Didn't do enough' and 'should've excommunicated' Maciel but that, holy smoke, he wanted to investigate Maciel, was told no - by Pope John Paul - and then did it anyway.
The guy idiotically calls Pope Benedict a 'fundamentalist;' but he sees that Maciel was a smooth operator. Anyway, worth a look.