Throughout the past several weeks, the media has worked itself into a frenzy, trying to use shoddy, “gotcha” journalism to turn the screws on public enemy #1 for the journalistic and political elite; the Church.
Issues of sexual abuse are not problems exclusive to the Catholic Church. Statistics show that the majority of abuse occurs in families, social settings, and schools. However, up until the 1980s, common beliefs that pedophiles could be treated with psychotherapy, coupled with an aura of secrecy and the likelihood of disbelief among a society that held clergy and religious in the highest esteem, prevented bad priests from being exposed. Bishops, such as Bernard Cardinal Law, former archbishop of Boston, swore priests and victims to secrecy for years leading up to the revelation of widespread abuse and a cover-up thereof in the Archdiocese of Boston dating back several decades. Make no mistake-any priest who engages in pedophilia must be quickly handed over to the authorities and punished to the full extent the law allows.
Almost a decade after a scandal that rocked Boston, revelations of abuse in Ireland and Germany have begun surfacing in recent months. Some involved solicitation of minors in the confessional, others involved pedophilia on trips, in schools or in rectories. Fr. Hullermann of Germany was transferred to then-Bishop Joseph Ratzinger’s diocese for treatment and returned to pastoral ministry, only to be convicted of pedophilia a short time later. The press attempted to tie the Pope to Hullermann, only to discover that a subordinate handled the case. The archdiocese of Milwaukee had on its hands a manipulative, unremorseful priest by the name of Fr. Murphy, who allegedly molested some 200 deaf boys over several decades.
The New York Times, not exactly a friend of the Church, ran an “expose” that charged that then-Cardinal Ratzinger-now Pope Benedict XVI-ended a canonical trial conducted by the diocese of Superior in the late 1990s in response to a letter from the offending priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who asked Ratzinger to suspend the investigation and trial because he was dying. Ratzinger was then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had jurisdiction over the Murphy case because some of the charges against Murphy had to do with violating the confessional. Secretary of the CDF, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, now the Vatican Secretary of State, responded in early 1997 to Archbishop Weakland, who had begun preparations for a trial against Murphy and allowed the trial to proceed. Murphy had written to Bertone after he learned of Weakland’s plans to investigate, try, and defrock him, saying that according to the 1962 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect at the time Murphy committed the abuse, the statute of limitations had passed and an investigation/trial could not proceed. He also noted he was dying, and requested to “live out my remaining days in the dignity of my priesthood.” Bertone denied Murphy’s request in 1997, telling Weakland in his response that the canonical statute of limitations were to be waived and the judicial actions could proceed. For clarity, Bertone denied Murphy’s request to drop the proceedings, and instructed Weakland to go around judicial proceedings in order to expedite Murphy’s defrocking. A short time later, Weakland met in Rome for a meeting on the case chaired, again, by Bertone and not Ratzinger, as the New York Times insinuated. Bertone reiterated that Weakland should proceed to defrock him. Murphy died a few weeks after this meeting.
The New York Times, however, went about reporting the story in such a way that fit their preconceived version of events-ultimately, that Pope Benedict had dismissed accusations of abuse as a Cardinal in charge of the CDF, by not responding to Weakland’s request for assistance in how to go about defrocking Murphy. Weakland DID receive a response from Bertone, Ratzinger’s Secretary for CDF. But because the response was not signed by Benedict himself, the Times ran with the notion that Pope Benedict XVI, as Prefect, sheltered pedophiles and protected the Church at the expense of justice. The grievance is a red herring akin to the “scandal” of getting a letter written by a staffer instead of a Congressman in response to a letter supporting some legislative action. In actuality, both as prefect of CDF and as Pope, Benedict has led the charge in rooting out abusive priests and ending the culture of secrecy. More detailed debunking of the New York Times’ story can be read here and here.
In order to give equal fault where fault is due, members of the Church hierarchy made damaging, inappropriate, and in some cases, even criminal decisions about the way in which pedophile priests were dealt with. Bishops, such as Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston and Bishop Brady of Ireland refused to resign after it came to light their complicit actions in covering up scandal, including using the sacrament of confession, in the case of Law, to swear a victim of Fr. Birmingham to silence and secrecy after he came to Law with the allegations. In the heat of the Boston scandal, Law was whisked away from the crime scene and given a position in Rome by an aging Pope John Paul II, who I believe was losing his faculties in the waning days of his pontificate, and was being ill-advised by subordinates with an interest in protecting Law.
Clerics wanting to attribute the scandal solely to vicious, hate-driven media attacks on the Church only serve to create an image and air of the clergy being beyond reproach. Sermons, such as one given by the Pope’s personal preacher on Good Friday that compared the attacks on the Church to anti-Semitism merely throw gas on a fire that the media has worked into a blaze.
However, despite grave and damnable mistakes by some in the handling of the scandal, the mainstream press has had it in for the Church for decades. The American press, led by such “venerable” organs as the New York Times, Newsweek, and the prime-time lineup of hysterics at MSNBC have moved from reporting on the problem of criminal priests to finding fault in the Church doctrines of priestly celibacy, male hierarchy, and a perceived “oppression of women, their “rights” (abortion), and dissent. The scandal of sexual abuse is not about the children or rooting out criminals for the press-it is simply another weapon to use in a 45-year effort by secular liberals to dismantle the last standing obstacle to the implementation of their vision moral relativism and utopia.
When Pope John Paul II passed away in the spring of 2005, the mainstream press was hysterical about the prospects of the Church “finally catching up to the times,” as Lisa Miller of Newsweek has put it in so many articles of late. Proposing that the Church could’ve avoided scandal if women were at the decision-making table, Miller writes that the Church “has willfully ignored the integration of women in the workforce and public life.” Miller engages in wild leaps of logic in her article, stating that “In a world where the whole really matters more than individual parts, a rigid—sometimes brilliant, sometimes mean-spirited—morality reins. This elevation of the church above all things explains how an institution dedicated to serving the sick and the poor might also refuse condoms to those at risk for AIDS. It explains how an organization committed to families could deny birth-control pills to mothers. And it explains, sadly, how a bishop faced with a pedophile in a parish might decide not to call the cops.”
I won’t even begin to address Miller’s illogical hysteria. Miller’s incoherence speaks for itself. Miller is trying to cite failure to adopt to the prevailing mores of pop-culture as the root of sex abuse by priests and the ensuing cover-up. Miller goes on to say that priestly celibacy is the main cause of the culture of secrecy which allowed this abuse to occur. To wit, Miller is right about an unhealthy culture of secrecy within Church hierarchy. The Vatican has, in recent days, clarified and made public procedures for dealing with criminal allegations, stressing the need for immediate, willing and open cooperation with civil authorities. However, Miller’s insinuation that pedophilia is somehow linked to celibacy is outrageous. I guess in Miller’s world, married men have never engaged in sexual assault of minors. While there is room for a debate on the issue of celibacy, which was instituted to prevent priests and bishops from leaving Church property to their children, it has no bearing on whether or not one is a pedophile.
Simply put, those whom the mainstream media is turning to for “expertise” and opinion on the Church are “Faithful” who have substituted political liberalism and a “If it feels good, do it” ideology for the Catechism. As if Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and Sinead O’Connor represented the lay faithful and allegiance to any social teaching of the Church other than care for the poor, the media is desperately trying to make liberal celebrity “Catholics” who disagree with every other tenet of the Faith the face of the global Church. Unable to separate the atrocious sins of men from the timeless truths of God and natural law, individuals like Miller, Keith Olbermann and Maureen Dowd turn to criticizing the Church for no longer marching in lockstep with mores of Liberalism, and, to an extent, the Democratic Party. Before the scandal in Germany and Wisconsin came to light, it was health care reform that was used to attack the Church for it’s opposition to abortion. Now the sex abuse scandal has become the latest excuse to argue for changes, not only in how the Church deals with pedophile priests, but in all the social teachings of the Church.
Witness the duplicity of the media on matters of social mores. Soon after Benedict became Pope and the “Pope Benedict XVI is a Nazi!” hysteria died down, the Vatican issued a decree reiterating the ban on homosexuals in the priesthood. The New York Times howled, charging that the decree was mean-spirited and an exceptionally harsh measure against “wayward priests.” As of late, some reporters have tried to make a distinction between pedophilia-abuse of pre-pubescent children, and ephebophilia, which indicates a sexual interest in sexually mature young men. Regardless of the age of victims, these acts are criminal and must be met with swift civil and canonical punishment. However, some psychiatrists have linked some of the acts to admitted homosexual tendencies among priests. The New York Times is now outraged that this connection is even made. This comes after scores of seminarians have complained of a “homosexually charged” atmosphere at American seminaries. No surprise, the New York Times edit board wrote in support of an ACLU-backed 1st amendment defense of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which maintains a forum on which pedophilia and how to get away with it is discussed. NAMBLA is represented in gay pride parades around the U.S. Surely even Lisa Miller could acknowledge a connection between some instances of abuse of teen boys and homosexuality. Leave it to the media to deny any isolated-case correlation between homosexual activity and pedophilia while also defending the 1st amendment rights of a group of homosexual men that “simply discuss” pedophilia. One can judge for himself whether the Church has some issues with its moral credibility, but in any event, the New York Times is hardly in a position to pontificate on moral failures of others.
Moral teachings do not and should not, change with the fads, and yet the liberal elite in America seems to think the day is coming in which homosexual “marriages” are sanctified by the Church, sexual morality is left to self-interpretation, and abortion becomes morally permissible. In essence, Liberals have made religion about validation of and reconciliation with their beliefs, which the counterculture of the 1960s has ingrained in the societal fabric of America. The Church has survived countless crises, and as long as Benedict, who drew criticism from the clergy for condemning the “filth in the priesthood”, remains vigilant in rooting out the past practices of secrecy and complacency, the Church will emerge stronger than ever. The actions of men, including priests and bishops, and even popes, are fallible. The moral teachings of the Church are not. Attacking the Church for standing up more life and the traditional family, suggesting fundamental changes in timeless moral teachings will rid the Church or any other institution of the mental sickness and moral depravity of pedophilia only shows the true feelings of the media. For them it is not about the victims or justice or purification of the Church. It is about the war of secular liberalism on institutions that question or oppose their actions, and for that reason, and that reason only, they are trying to make the abuse not about a handful of criminal men, but about the entire Catholic Faith.