Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

fightI think the thing that is most repulsive about the current media feeding frenzy on Pope Benedict XVI is the appalling combination of slovenly malice with the sheer self-congratulatory demand that Catholics should be gratefulfor their vendetta against him. 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 an ill-documented campaign to malign Benedicton the flimsiest of pretexts while ignoring the actual corruption.

 

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 Catholics do not issue fatwas. Similarly, the grotesque interviews with such experts as Sinead O’Connor and papal-assassin wannabe 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.

Similar, of course, is the rabid and demented hatred from the usual suspects such as Maureen Dowdand Christopher Hitchens. But since these people are simply living out their ideological bigotries as they are paid to do, one can hardly expect much else. Like Trig Truthers, they just can’t help themselves.

What really disappoints, however, is the supposed “news”: that great machine for selling beer and shampoo in between breathless tales of sex and gore, punctuated by trivia and adoration for abortion, militarism, Caesar, and Mammon. First, we got the completely inaccurate headline from the London Times: “Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry,” a claim that sells beer and shampoo, but doesn’t especially comport with reality.

Shortly thereafter, we get some extremely egregious bad reportage from the New York Times trying and executing Benedict for, well, not very much, while studiously overlooking the actual villain of the piece (who, being a gay martyr, is automatically good and a reliable source of dirt on their common enemy, the pope). Said reportage did not even bother to include any input from Rev. Thomas Brundage, who was the judicial vicar overseeing the proceedings against Rev. Lawrence Murphy. Result: So great was the haste to get the dirt on Benedict that the Nation’s Journal of Record tripped over its own feet in its clumsy malice and missed the real story — that the culprit in failing to do something about Father Murphy was a) the cops who did not bust the creep and b) Bishop Rembert Weakland, who dragged his feet every step of the way.

But Catholics must not complain about this. On the contrary, it would be journalistic malpractice for reporters to ignore the non-story that they themselves have whipped themselves into a frenzy about concerning the Monster in Rome. Any Catholic who objects to the media kangaroo court is an apologist for priestly abuse. Because, you see, there was real abuse, you know. Ergo, Benedict is guilty of whatever a hysterical editor is saying today.

And so, the media flits from one charge based on flimsy or false evidence to another. They already know he’s guilty. The guy’s a Nazi, after all. So it’s just a matter of throwing enough mud, hoping some sticks, and meting out the rough frontier justice he deserves but will never get, sinceheroic UK lawyers will never really be able to arrest and try him, as all right-thinking people know should actually happen. So instead he will be tried, found guilty, and executed in the media by the time-honored method of making stuff up and misconstruing every syllable reporters and editors can find.

Not that there aren’t real problems with Benedict’s learning curve on sexual abuse back in the 1990s. John Allen (who actually knows what he’s talking about) is basically right to describe Benedict undergoing a “conversion” once he began to grasp the magnitude of the problem around 2001-2002. A conversion means “converting from” as well as “converting to.” The “from” he converted from was the common episcopal culture, which tended to think that abuse was not that common, that it was treatable, that the media was out to get them (true), that their first duty was mercy to the pervert rather than to the victim, that basically it was “being handled” and there wasn’t that big of a problem.

In short, Benedict seems to have given about as much thought to the matter as you and I did before the Long Lent of April 2002 began. Indeed, I remember thinking (when the story started to break at that time), “Didn’t we deal with this ten years ago with the Rudy Kos thing?” Allen’s description strongly suggests that Benedict (who only encountered abuse cases when they involved the confessional, until he was ordered to take on all the abuse cases in the Church in 2001) simply had no grasp of the dimensions of the problem. In this, he appears to be largely like you and me.

From Allen’s description of things, it would appear Benedict encountered the phenomenon relatively rarely until he started to get the full picture and get sick to his stomach in 2001. Before that, he seems to have treated it as part of the workaday steeplechase of problems the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had to handle with sundry other troubles from all over the globe, but not as a crisis that was a cancer on the Church. Given his limited access to facts, that doesn’t shock me.

Ironically, we laity (encouraged by the press) behave in much the same limited way when it comes to sex abuse in the Church. Just as pre-2001 Cardinal Ratzinger only knew of a relatively few cases of sexual abuse, due to his limited access to the facts, so we tend to only know of or care about those children the media deem to be usefully Catholic while simply turning a blind eye to the much larger dimensions of the problem globally that have nothing to do with the Catholic Church. Sexual abuse of children is a global epidemic that extends far beyond the clergy or the Church. And, as far as I can tell, the only institution on the planet that is dealing with the problem is the Catholic Church, with Benedict leading the charge. So naturally, we brilliant and holy laity happily attack one of the few leaders on the global stage who is instituting reform: a reform that appears to be starting to work already.

I believe that “Benedict is an evil monster” is not an adequate explanation for him or his papacy and that, basically, the narrative about both hasn’t really changed since the media decided to undertake its annual “Smash Christianity for Holy Week” campaign a couple of weeks ago. That campaign has largely consisted of attempts to declare Benedict a monster and criminal for being carbon-copied on a memo about a priest in Europe who was not under his jurisdiction, and for some bogus complaints about his supposed attempts to thwart justice for a dying pervert priest in the United States. It is transparently weak, yet that has not stopped the press from concocting a smear campaign against him. All part of the normal Holy Week pattern.

Here, after all the hysteria has settled, is where we still are. As Allen relates, once the “filth” (Benedict’s word) started pouring out of his fax machine in 2001, he started to comprehend the problem within the Church and became a zealot for cleanup (more so, alas, than his predecessor). So attacking him after his “conversion” on the depth and gravity of the abuse crisis seems to me to be obviously counter-productive.

In addition to this is the remaining problem, which Allen also points out: namely, the frustration many people feel about Benedict’s not going around lopping off the heads of bishops who behaved like morons and worse when confronted with criminal priests. For reasons similar to the frustration felt over the Church’s failure to run around excommunicating pro-abort politicians, I think this is and has always been a largely delusional quick fix that efficiency-minded Americans will go to their graves believing. It is highly unlikely, in my view, that Benedict is going to go all Innocent III on us and start micromanaging dioceses all over the world. So while he has been much more aggressive in kicking out pervert priests, he seems to me to be following the same pattern as his predecessor in that he is not booting bishops who were morons — only bishops who were themselves criminal perverts.

Some take me to be saying that the pope can’t kick out idiot bishops. In fact, I merely say, “I don’t think he will,” for much the same reasons one can rather easily divine from reading a document like Ut Unum Sint: because he does not, any more than his predecessor, see himself as the CEO of Catholicism, Inc., and does not see it as his job to usurp the global episcopacy. That, at any rate, is how I read his actions.

Someone might ask, “Couldn’t he get rid of two or three of the worst ones?” I suppose so. He could, in theory, get rid of anybody he likes. But will he? I’m skeptical. Especially since the moment he does this, the claim becomes, “That’s just a token response! Get rid of this one and that one and the other one, too!” Before you know it, the pope becomes what Americans least of all want him to be: the Grand Interferer who is trying to tell us how to run our local diocese and who doesn’t understand our unique and wonderful Us-ness, etc. The Eastern Church will be happy to explain how much the patriarch of Rome has never had the right to micromanage all the particular Churches in this way.

A favorite trope at such a juncture is to point to Bishop Jacques Gaillot and his exile to Partenia. Whenever I see this, I’m reminded of science-fiction author Michael Flynn’s dry rejoinder to the claim that Galileo was one of the many scientists persecuted by the Catholic Church: “Name two others.”

In the same way, I’ll see your Gaillot and raise you a Milingo. The fact is, we remember Bishop Gaillot because he is rare. The norm with idiot bishops is more like Bishop Milingo. The guy was as crazy as Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock,and it still took years before Rome was finally ready to get rid of this lunatic who gave them nothing but headaches. They didn’t even do that to the English bishops who all plumped for King Henry VIII. And we seriously expect Benedict to start smiting the global episcopacy hip and thigh?

In addition to this, there is another, radically unconsidered possibility here, particularly in the case of somebody like Benedict, who does not strike me as the monster the media so eagerly makes him out to be: namely, that the real institution that should be dealing with criminals harshly is not the one tasked with bearing the mercy of God to the most desperately wicked. I know this will be unpopular, but think about it: Isn’t it, well, odd that so many people are longing for the Church to become the Rambo of vengeance in this morality play? Does anybody volunteer for this demonstration of divine wrath when it’s their own sins on the line?

Speaking only for myself, I prefer a world in which the cops take care of the jailing, and the Church takes care of the forgiving. So, while it has definite drawbacks, I basically like a Church that is slow to throw even a nut-job like Bishop Milingo under the bus. I like a Church that is slow to excommunicate, slow to damn.

Conversely, I like a justice system that actually prosecutes and jails criminals. I think that the solution to many of these problems remains what it has always been: If we laypeople think that somebody like Father Murphy belongs behind bars, then hey! We own all the cops, guns, lawyers, courts, and jails. But, in fact, we laypeople opted to do nothing about Father Murphy when we knew all too well what sort of creep he was. Instead, we are bizarrely eager to believe the New York Times when it reports, without knowing what it is talking about, that Benedict is somehow responsible for the guy, even though the judicial advocate of his trial (who was gung-ho to get Father Murphy put away) says:

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.
So where are we? Well, as far as the claims that Benedict was complicit in abetting abuse, that he somehow “hid” abusers, or reshuffled them, or was himself an abuser, there is nothing but libel and not a jot of evidence despite all the energy the MSM has poured into smearing him. All there is is his reluctance to fire idiot bishops. And while I would like to see Benedict start inflicting some sort of penalties on bishops who behaved so irresponsibly for so long, at the same time, I’m skeptical that will happen and not 100 percent sure it should. It may well be that he has chosen the better part by being merciful.
Like everybody, I have my doubts and struggles with the Church’s doctrine of mercy. But I have no doubts about the Annual Easter Media Feeding Frenzy on the Church. It only serves to muddy the water with its malicious calumnies, its absurd claims that Benedict is a pervert, its grotesque color commentary from assassin wannabes, and its grossly inept reporting that is transparently aimed at whipping the public into a frenzy of hatred against him for patently false charges. Indeed, the frustrating thing for me about the press’s recent vendetta against Benedict is that their insistence on latching on to anything and everything as grounds for demanding his head makes it very difficult to find the “middle ground” of common sense regarding the reforms that really do need to happen.
In short, for all their moralistic posturing about The Children, the MSM seem to have no actual interest in the good of victims who are not usefully Catholic, much less the good of the Church. The only real focus appears to be self-congratulatory posturing and a thirst for Benedict’s blood. So after a couple of weeks of shoddy journalism about the Murphy case, this week we are instructed that Benedict, who labored to fix a broken bureaucracy, is guilty, guilty, guilty . . . of laicizing two priests after lengthy canonical trials right in the middle of pushing to streamline a complex Vatican bureaucracy so as to facilitate more speedy outcomes. That’s it. That’s all. Per Rev. John Zuhlsdorf:
  • Again, the abuse took place decades ago.
  • [Father Murphy] was suspended.
  • There was a canonical trial. It was referred to Rome, the CDF, because it concerned a case of the confessional.
  • It was determined that he should be dismissed from the clerical state.
  • The priest appealed.
  • The appeal process was drawn out for several years because the laws and canonical process of these clerical cases was being overhauled.
  • Cardinal Ratzinger was the one who led the charge for the changes to streamline the process.
  • When the new procedures went into effect, the Holy See moved swiftly to dismiss him from the clerical state.
  • Once again this is a case of lawyers for victims who gave the documents (obviously incomplete) to the Associated Press.

So the latest cry from the scolds and accusers is that Cardinal Ratzinger could not work miracles as he tried to laicize a couple of bad priests. Nevermind that the priests were not reshuffled, nor that Cardinal Ratzinger had no jurisdiction over them, nor that he never tried to hide their crimes, nor that he labored to laicize them in a crappy system he was trying to fix. All we need to know is that he should resign — for The Children. Forget his efforts at reform. We’ve got some people who need to feel good about posturing, no matter the disastrous consequences.

Benedict will remain where he is till the end of his papacy: in the white-hot glare of media hostility from jackals who give not a tinker’s damn about him, the Faith, or abused children who aren’t usefully Catholic. The net result of the press’s vendetta against Benedict is going to be twofold. First, it will poison against him and the Church the great mass of Know-Nothings who get all their info from TV and water-cooler talk. He will go down in history as That Pope Who was a Nazi Pervert or Something Like That among the sort of people who get all their information about the Church from E! and The Da Vinci Code.

Meanwhile, it will harden Catholics who care about the Church from believing anything the MSM says — even when, like blind pigs, these journalists find an actual truffle of news about a real pervert or real episcopal malfeasance. But nobody will ever call to account the MSM jackals who smear people with outrageous slanders for the sin of being Catholic and actually believing what the Church teaches (which is Benedict’s real crime). That reckoning will have to be put off for a higher court at a later time.

Mark P. Shea

By

Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • Hank Christopher

    “In addition to this is the remaining problem, which Allen also points out: namely, the frustration many people feel about Benedict’s not going around lopping off the heads of bishops who behaved like morons and worse when confronted with criminal priests. For reasons similar to the frustration felt over the Church’s failure to run around excommunicating pro-abort politicians, I think this is and has always been a largely delusional quick fix that efficiency-minded Americans will go to their graves believing.”

    “…behaved like morons and worse…” The bishops who transferred the pedophiles from parish to parish were accessories to the crime. They should be behind bars.

    What abortion is to the unborn child, pedophilia is to the living child: the destruction of human life.

  • Tito Edwards

    Mark,

    A fine article.

    Keeping the MSM accountable is the best we can do (outside of prayer).

    Outside of countering their lies and libelous articles with excellent articles such as this one, we can all rest easy at night knowing that the gates of Hell shall never prevail.

    That and God will judge them in due time.

  • I am not Spartacus
  • Austin

    Benedict dealt rather quickly with Maciel, once he became Pope, in spite of the support Maciel had among some Cardinals. A very competent and surprisingly swift course of action. Yes, the media fails to mention this. John Paul, for some reason, had a blind spot with Maciel and refused to deal with him. Benedict got the job done.

  • Rob Hyde

    I agree with your article but you have one error. The documents on the Times website make it clear that Murphy continued to minister after leaving his post at the deaf school in 1974. A letter from the Diocese of Superior, where he was living at his family’s lake cottage, states that he was working as a “pastoral associate” at a local parish.

    Since his abuse record was not public he was also able to abuse others, the Times has found adults who allege abuse after 1974. All this shows how necessary the present policy of the charter is in the USA and how it should be extended worldwide in the Church.

  • Laura K

    A wife who loves her husband will not believe slanderous stories about him. In her love for him she will always stand by and defend him until the evidence irrefutably proves otherwise.

    As a Catholic who loves her Church, I have the same reaction. The charges weren’t enough to convince me that the News was true and my Church was false. But enough charges were leveled that I started to feel the need to check the facts, but I did so with the assurance that there were explanations out there that needed to be exposed.

    Your article was one of the better ones I’ve seen about laying out the basic chronology of the issue. But one aspect of the evil was glossed over. You said that Catholics who object to the media’s coverage are trying to excuse the sin, but I’ve heard worse: Catholics, by remaining Catholic, implicitly endorse the wholesale abuse of children. This modern donatism is gnawing on the periphery of our ranks and files who somehow maintain that the sins of a remote priest affect one’s personal spiritual life and the efficacy of the sacraments which buoy that life.

    Our parish brought in about 10 catechumens at the Easter Vigil. I couldn’t help but think of them as somewhat heroic, boarding what is being called a sinking barque. Fortunately Love is blind to these baseless attacks, which for all their fury, still render the gates of hell impotent against Christ’s Body.

  • Tom Piatak

    An outstanding piece.

  • No Gs Today

    The bishops who transferred the pedophiles from parish to parish were accessories to the crime. They should be behind bars.

    What abortion is to the unborn child, pedophilia is to the living child: the destruction of human life.

    Mr. Christopher,
    I know it has been pointed out to you in a previous article’s combox the error in these two statements, which you continually repeat.
    1. It is the role of *law enforcement* to put people behind bars- not the Church. If bishops in question are found guilty of being accessories to these crimes *in a court of law*, then they will be put behind bars. The Church has no authority to throw people in the slammer. The legal system does. And, as we’ve seen in the Murphy case, the legal system did nothing about the issue when it was brought to their attention in the 70s.

    2. There is no difference between an “unborn child” and a “living one”. Unborn children are, in fact, alive. You keep making a distinction between the two where none exists.

    3. Abortion ends a human life. Sexual abuse, though horrifying and destructive beyond imagining, does not end a life. It alters it forever, yes, but it does not end it.

  • Nick Palmer

    Mark, another great IC contribution to the ongoing outrage over the assault on the Church and Pope Benedict. You do your usual great job of gathering, organizing, and tying together an extraordinary amount of information in cogent fashion.

    Unfortunately, the targets of the media’s assault will never see your work, nor that of Peggy Noonan at the WSJ nor others trying to present the truth. What’s really going on is a battle for the hearts of the uninformed — by far the majority of people. There, especially outside of Roman Catholic circles, we seem to be losing, badly.

    Ask your average person on the street to describe the situation. You’ll not hear anything substantive. Yet you will hear dark allegations and misinformation. Here in Boston one of our more popular conservative radio jocks, Jay Severin, is on a rampage against the Pope. Jay is normally a thoughtful guy, but like many in society he brings his biases and lacks the time (or inclination) to get the facts. His rants are making him unlistenable.

    The idea behind the assault is simple. Most people simply don’t have the wherewithal to get the truth. If those folks see and hear the same sound bites often enough, then by definition they are “true.” We see this with the current Ratzinger/Benedict-Murphy uproar, likewise with the pope’s youth allegiances and Regensberg. How many Americans believe that Sara Palin said, “I can see Russia from my house,” rather than attributing the quote to its real source, Tina Fey. Heck, the legend of John Ashcroft and the nude statue remains “big humor” to the Bill Mahers of the world.

    It’s great for well-meaning folks like Mark to speak out. I fear, however, that their voices only reach those ready to hear.

  • Brian English

    “I like a justice system that actually prosecutes and jails criminals. I think that the solution to many of these problems remains what it has always been: If we laypeople think that somebody like Father Murphy belongs behind bars, then hey! We own all the cops, guns, lawyers, courts, and jails. But, in fact, we laypeople opted to do nothing about Father Murphy when we knew all too well what sort of creep he was.”

    Another bizarre aspect of the Murphy case that the media appears to have absolutely no interest in is the fact that Murphy was investigated by law enforcement in the 70s and no charges were ever brought.

    You would think that the story of how the people who actually had the auhority to put this menace behind bars dropped the ball would be fairly compelling. Somehow, Murphy being laicized (which obviously would leave him still free to abuse) became the most important issue.

  • Bruce

    If we decide that the Pope is ultimately responsible for pedophiles in the Church because he is the head of the Church, then why not blame the President for pedophiles in the schools? He is in charge of the Department of Education so he should know about every case and be held personally responsible!

    Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But the analogy is the same.

    I remember when I was in High School in the late ’60s and early ’70’s that we had three male teachers who were openly involved with female students and the Board of Ed basically blamed the students for the affairs. No disciplinary action was taken and two of the teachers have since retired after long careers. What is the difference?

    I agree with the Archbishop of Ireland who is trying to clean up the problems in that country when he says that irresponsible statements in the media and by high profile leaders like Archbishop Williams of Canterbury undermine the efforts of the MAJORITY of the clergy to eliminate this problem. Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury should remember the abuse of indigenous children in Canada by Anglican Missionaries and public officials should remember the abuse by school teachers before they attack the Church.

    “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone!”

  • Jasper

    excellent article Mark, you’re right on.

  • Michael Walsh

    Peggy Noonan’s egregious column on this issue in the WSJ solidifies her role as the America’s premier self-hating Catholic.

    Noonan has taken a stand with those in the mainstream media who see themselves as the force of “creative destruction” who will recreate the Catholic Church in their own secularist image.

    Sad to watch.

  • Danjaal
  • Nick Palmer

    Michael,

    I’m afraid I don’t get your strong reaction to Peggy Noonan’s article. She had four big points:
    1) Large institutions run the risk of hubris
    2) Many in the Roman Catholic hierarchy were either blind to or dismissive of sexual predation by priests especially in the 70s, 80s, and 90s; some of this is understandable, but some is completely unacceptable [although I take Bruce’s well-made points about the organizational challenges of an organization the size of the RC Church]
    3) The press were actually late to get involved, with the Boston Globe Democrat finally getting to the story (much as it pains me to say so)
    4) The hubris and its aftermath have left serious harm in their wake — first to victims, second to the vast, vast majority of religious who are true to their vocation, and third to the Roman Catholic laity

    Much as it pains me, I can’t take issue with any of the above. It goes some way to explaining why the current lies and distortions are finding willing journalists and credulous readers. Does it justify the journalistic malpractice? Not by a longshot. The press is rife with Catholic haters — both non-Catholic and Catholic alike. In fact, I think Ms. Noonan is too easy on her brethren of the pen. But, a self-hating Catholic? My read is that she’s more a saddened Catholic.

  • georgie-ann

    i guess you have to be “older” to realize how “new” pulling the veil is off concealed sexual practices for all to see and admit to,…

    we heard about “dirty old men” who might be lurking around in the movie theaters, but unless you actually ran into one, what young innocent person could really imagine what that was?,…i couldn’t/didn’t,…i think imagined a Bowry bum,…

    and yet, “it” was going on in families i actually had visited frequently and “never knew,”…

    we heard rumors about Appalachia, but that was far away,…some teenagers “made mistakes,”…some girls had a “D&C” procedure (whatever that was),…it became a little bit obvious in college that some teaching assistants were just waiting for their chance to “hit on” new female students, but even this was somewhat subtle–suggestive but not overly compelling,…pornography was becoming more flashily displayed on the newsstands,…birth control pills were a new “choice,”…

    but i didn’t ever really run into a “dirty old man” until i was studying abroad in Paris, and “they” were all over the place there!,…flashing young women in plain daylight and the whole bit,…it was pretty yucky,…

    by comparison today, i’m just as appalled at the invasion of our children’s innocence right in their own homes by the MSM, TV, etc.,…children are being subtly programmed to be/become sex objects/symbols, sexualized psychologically and physically, by the examples “shining” before them,…pornography reeks ubiquitously on computers nation-wide,…

    collectively, we are rapidly descending into a roiling snake pit of vice and sexual appetite “gone wild,”…sooooo, the huge amount of media outrage and frenzied self-righteous Pope-persecution that is going on right now, strikes me as being a bit “odd” in this context,…”methinks the lady doth protest too much,”…

    one “brilliant” thing i learned from Al-Anon (advisers to those with an alcoholic in the family), was that what the “perpetually outraged accuser vehemently accuses others of doing/being, is exactly what they themselves are guilty of doing/being,”…

    not to minimize the seriousness of child sexual abuse–it’s a disordered horror of maximum proportions–and even worse at the hands of deceptive, supposedly “trusted” community members,…

    but the “hidden cat” is out of the bag, and “it” is and has been everywhere,…vile predators on the innocent have existed from time immemorial,…dark “uncontrollable” urges have compelled many to perform these despicable deeds over and over again,…and with “no end in sight,”…child prostitution is now a famous tourist attraction in Indonesia, Brazil, India,…

    eventually the finger-pointing will have to expand its target,…God is not mocked,…let’s be glad that responsible cleansing is coming to the Catholic Church finally,…and let us pray that deliverance will come to children world-wide as the true horror of all this sinks into our collective awareness,…

    dear God,…please forgive us of our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness,…Amen

  • Angela Lessard

    I agree with Mark’s article, and it is a useful counterbalance to Noonan’s, though, like Nick, I find it hard to disagree with her. I think she is right about the press being slow on this story. Back 25 years ago or so, when I was more involved in the world of what might be called Catholic gossip, I heard rumbles of the abuse stories, the court cases and quiet settlements. Reporters must have heard these as well, but they sat on them. Most of the cases discussed now happened before that time.

    The one thing that strikes me in all the discussion about this is how everyone, NOW, with hindsight, thinks it should have been so easy to deal with all these cases. Moving priests from one parish to another, when it was known that they were guilty, was obviously the wrong call. But I doubt that in practice it was often so cut and dried. The mobs with pitchforks need to quiet down and think about what they would have done if they became aware that a son was an abuser, or was accused of being an abuser. Is running to the police the first thing they would have done? Alerting the media? Protecting reputations, of individuals, of victims, of the Church, and quieting scandal are not bad things. Just look at the stream of vitriol pouring out of every corner in the comboxes of the world, and tell me scandal is a good thing. It apparently has required law suits and media attention to get the bishops to deal more sensibly with the situation, but it was not malice or indifference, in most cases, that characterized their actions before.

  • John28

    Thanks for the article Mark, the more I find out about this case the angrier I become.

    Although this type of attack is nothing new for the NYT and other secular outlets I feel like they are getting worse, like the attackers are emboldened by

  • Nick Palmer

    Very wise thoughts, Angela. We should be harsh in our judgement of such heinous behavior, but remain aware of the organizational and institutional context in which it played out. Bruce’s earlier comment, too, bears on your insights.

    As a 25+ year strategy consultant, I’ve worked with organizations ranging from a 250-person paper mill to the largest global multinationals. The Roman Catholic Church is far more like the latter than the former, but with even less-rational governance than most corporations. Information is diffuse. People protect their friends, tending to discount negative or disturbing information. People change jobs. Others are overworked and delegate important decisions based on imperfect knowledge.

    What were the signs in 1970? One bishop in diocese A sees a case. It seems isolated. Another in diocese B sees one or two over a few years. Who collects the information? Who looks for trends? Is this a topic of discussion at bishops’ meetings?

    With hindsight, we can put the pieces together into a logical whole. At the time, however, it was far from logical or whole.

    Then we get into a “did” versus “should” discussion. There is no question in my mind that the Church hierarchy reacted much too slowly, and in many cases ineffectively. For a host of reasons apparent and hidden forever. We should judge these offenders severely, as the crimes were so awful. Yet, we cannot risk becoming a witch-hunting mob.

    It seems, from what I’ve seen and read, that then-Cardinal Ratzinger did, indeed, step up and address this issue forcefully. But for the press with its agendas, and the lawyers with theirs ($$), it will never be enough.

    The real victims, as Ms. Noonan noted, are those who suffered at the hands of the perverted predators. We should constantly pray for their recovery, as the Church should work for it.

  • dad29

    Another thought….

    “Defrocking”, while appropriate, is SECONDARY to any disciplines rendered by the local Bishop (and cops and DA, if applicable).

    IOW, the foofoodust about ‘delays’ in ‘defrocking’ is just that: a shiny object on the sidewalk! Go!! Chase it!!

    The territorial Bishop is responsible for governing/ruling his Diocese, not Rome. Stopping perp/predators is the job of the Bishop, whether he likes it or not.

    Ripping off the collar is a good thing to do, but it does NOT stop perps.

  • Rick

    Mark,
    Good piece. Very well put.

  • Thomas Paine

    One of the beauties of the scientific method is that all ideas are subject to criticism; nothing is defined as infallible; beyond question. This is beautiful, as it leads to an ever increasing understanding of objective truth, rather than an insular circling of the wagons in defense of some cherished, if misguided, belief that may serve an explanatory purpose, but in no way is reflective of objective reality. Truth by Decree is a medieval oxymoron.

    It is simply not true that *all* of the mainstream press is on a blood-hunt for Benedict

  • Phil Atley

    In the Shea article, I think the summary taken from Fr. Zuhlsdorf applied not to the Milwaukee Fr. Murphy case but to another case, High Dudgeon for which is just now revving up via AP, in Arizona. The NYSlimeswas in charge of High Dudgeon for the Milwaukee Murphy case.

    The whole business is already grossly confused, so it would be good not to tangle things up even more.

  • Mark P. Shea

    I think the summary taken from Fr. Zuhlsdorf applied not to the Milwaukee Fr. Murphy case but to another case,

    Right.

  • Brandon

    Your slandering of the pew sitter at an SSPX Chapel as an anti-Semite is revealing in itself…about as ridiculous as the insinuation that all priests are closet perverts.

    No credible Catholic excuses the abuses because “others have done it.” You obviously are either not understanding the point or are deliberately distorting it to attack. The outrage is over the malicious and “fling shit against the wall and see what sticks” attacks against this Pope. The media has it in for the Church, because Scandal sells and they have an agenda. It reminds me of the distortions during the Bush Years, a President I had no great love for. Everything was spun in a negative fashion because they couldn’t stand the man. I didn’t like him much either, but come on….fair is fair. The New York Times has employed plagiarists and has shown a tendency towards yellow journalism before.

    For the record, I don’t bear ill will towards those who have exposed genuine abuse and corruption…and THIS POPE has lead the charge in these reforms, a fact that is conveniently ignored because the intelligentsia resented “Catholic meddling” in the Prop 8 Campaign and the Health Care Debate. I don’t think the attackers counted on the swift response from the Catholic world, and were probably taken aback by it. The Church is no longer going to take character assassination, innuendo and smearing disguised as a “search for the truth”

  • John

    I think Angela Lessard’s post is very well thought out. I know of one holy and wonderful priest (in MA) who was falsely accused of abuse in the 1990s. Not only did it break his heart, it broke all of our hearts to have to watch him endure it. Fortunately (!) he was already retired and did not have to live with the shame of suspension and “zero tolerance.” But Angela’s point is that we are really only NOW beginning to understand the persistent danger that child abusers (or whatever you wish to call them) present and only NOW have the experience to know the “sensible” reactions that our bishops should make. Wouldn’t it also follow that our own reactions (or the NYT’s) should be “sensible” and not hysterical? My own inclination is that whenever a parent learns that someone has abused his or her child, his first call should not be to the bishop, but to the police.

  • Brian English

    “It is simply not true that *all* of the mainstream press is on a blood-hunt for Benedict

  • Mena

    Folks, stand up to these attacks and call them what they are: unfair disgusting political hit jobs. These media organizations are truly “smear merchants.”

    Their attack strategy is simple: exploit a few bad eggs and then call for the restructuring of the whole organization. Use the few failures to discredit the whole.

    Liberals have done this for years against large corporations, with huge financial and public relations success. It works the same way each time: You find a weakness in an organization, exploit it, publicize it, sue it for millions, and declare the whole organization to be discredited beyond repair. You then appoint your own agents to be the new board members and executives to take over the organization and remake it in your own image and control. It works every time, but ONLY if the organization gives in to the initial attacks. Organizations like Toyota and Walmart have learned NOT to give in to the bully attacks, and they build up huge resources to defend against attack.

    We Catholics must form a united front to defend our church and call out these media warriors for their Crusade against us. We must not give in to their lies, slander, and gossip, nor even their opportunistic exploitation of our few failed clergymen.

    We must simply stand up to them, defend ourselves, and they will have no way to proceed against us.

    Stand up for yourselves, sons and daughters of God and His church.

  • cathyf

    Bishop Rembert Weakland, who dragged his feet every step of the way.

    I’m sorry, but I think that you are doing to Weakland what the NYT is doing to Benedict. I’ve read what Jimmy Akin calls the “smoking gun memo” and what it shows is a picture of all of them — the 3 American bishops and the CDF brass — trying, in good faith, to figure out how to fix a mess left by their long-deceased predecessors.

    The foot-draggers were in the Congregation for the Clergy and in the Roman Rota, and it appears to have been Weakland’s idea to do an end run around them and go to CDF. Who, in fact, did everything that they could under the jurisdictional constraints that they faced, but also offered lots of practical advice about what the bishops could do on their own authority as bishops of Superior and Milwaukee. This demolishes both your argument about Weakland and the NYT’s argument about Benedict — Weakland was doing everything he could think of to help the victims, and looked to Ratzinger’s CDF as an ally. Whatever else Weakland did in his life, in this he showed excellent judgement.

  • cathyf

    Whatever else Weakland did in his life, in this he showed excellent judgement.

    Sorry, but just to clarify the pronoun — by “this” I mean looking to Ratzinger’s CDF as an ally.

  • hyperbar

    As John28 wrote-

    “Although this type of attack is nothing new for the NYT and other secular outlets I feel like they are getting worse, like the attackers are emboldened by

  • directlyreferential

    If we decide that the Pope is ultimately responsible for pedophiles in the Church because he is the head of the Church, then why not blame the President for pedophiles in the schools? He is in charge of the Department of Education so he should know about every case and be held personally responsible!

    The analogy is nowhere near absurd. The Belgian government’s coverups, bungling and criminal incompetence in the case of Marc Dutroux — a violent paedophile — brought protests which nearly caused it to fall.

  • Nick Palmer

    Brian, I was thrilled to read your 9:15 post this morning. It is a direct strike. And, it saves me doing a less-skillful job of debunking a specious argument.

    Thanx!

  • Michael

    Speaking only for myself, I prefer a world in which the cops take care of the jailing, and the Church takes care of the forgiving. So, while it has definite drawbacks, I basically like a Church that is slow to throw even a nut-job like Bishop Milingo under the bus. I like a Church that is slow to excommunicate, slow to damn.

    Then you are either in the wrong Church or you are lying or you are willfully ignorant of codified Roman Catholic dogma and its history. Methinks thou dost protest too much.

    As for “the cops take care of the jailing” the Church formally teaches that its laws are above civil law (“no law is above our law”) and that the civil authority must bow to the spiritual authority (“wield the sword at the behest of the priest”). There is not enough space for all its Papal and Conciliar decrees related to this topic. If the Church is that concerned about civil authority, why continue to protect Cardinal Law from civil action in the US?

    Slow to excommunicate? even Vatican II contains two anathemas while fully affirming the scores of anathemas in Trent. The list of “grave [mortal] sins” if fully taught would damn without hope (apart from absolution) most likely 95% of American Catholics (and 99% of European Catholics).

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Weakland’s actions in this case are indefensible. By his own admission to the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8588025.stm), he knew about the Murphy case soon after he became archbishop in 1977. He had a psychologist’s report on Murphy excruciatingly detailing the abuses in 1993. Yet he took no canonical action against him until 1996 and that only after a threat of public exposure. Yes, his predecessors Cousins and Meyer were also at fault, most especially Cousins who could have done something much earlier and much more than shuffle him off to a remote town in the Superior Diocese.

    But Weakland’s actions were like his last name — weak. He appointed as the judge in the case a young priest, ordained barely 10 years and a canon lawyer for even less than that. This is not to slight Father Brundage, who did a yeoman’s job under the circumstances. But Weakland should have gotten in someone who had much more experience. Weakland also did not keep a close eye on Murphy who is alleged to have committed other abuses while in Superior. It’s not even clear that he had suspended Murphy’s priestly faculties and forbidden him from presenting himself as a priest, which were actions he could take without a trial, and especially forbidden him from hearing confessions. And if he had done so, and Murphy had violated that ban, then there should have been further penalties applied, perhaps even financial.

    No, cathyf, Weakland was not at all honorable in this case. And certainly his interview with the BBC, which passively lays the blame for the delay at the feet of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, gives lie to your statement that he looked to “Ratzinger’s CDF as an ally.”

  • Don Schenk

    Back in the 1970s a local priest where I live–an Episcopalian–was defrocked for the thing he had for young boys, but kept on the Episcopalian diocese’s payroll as a janitor and “youth minister.”
    Finally, in 1994 he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for all the boys he molested while serving as an Episcopalian youth minister. Neither our local Episcopalian bishop nor Archbishop Ramsey in Canterbury had to apolgize for the their own priest-pedophile being kept oon their payroll because the MSM is very good at being “discrete” in cases not involving Catholics.
    And the conservative media has been trying since September to alert the country about Obama appointinhg Kevin Jennings, the founder of “GLSEN,” the “Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network” (an outfit that hands out Gay Bar directories and instructions on techniques like “fisting” to high school students) to be the Department of Education’s “Safe Schools Czar,” despite the fact that in 2004 the US Department of Education estimated that the abuse problem is “at least 100 times worse” in the public schools than in the Church.
    So why is the MSM so outraged by B16 but not Obama?

  • thomas in Canada

    Speaking only for myself, I prefer a world in which the cops take care of the jailing, and the Church takes care of the forgiving. So, while it has definite drawbacks, I basically like a Church that is slow to throw even a nut-job like Bishop Milingo under the bus. I like a Church that is slow to excommunicate, slow to damn.

    Then you are either in the wrong Church or you are lying or you are willfully ignorant of codified Roman Catholic dogma and its history. Methinks thou dost protest too much.

    As for “the cops take care of the jailing” the Church formally teaches that its laws are above civil law (“no law is above our law”) and that the civil authority must bow to the spiritual authority (“wield the sword at the behest of the priest”). There is not enough space for all its Papal and Conciliar decrees related to this topic. If the Church is that concerned about civil authority, why continue to protect Cardinal Law from civil action in the US?

    Slow to excommunicate? even Vatican II contains two anathemas while fully affirming the scores of anathemas in Trent. The list of “grave [mortal] sins” if fully taught would damn without hope (apart from absolution) most likely 95% of American Catholics (and 99% of European Catholics).

    I think you are ignorant of modern Catholic teaching and practice, which does NOT put church law above civil law in the way you present it. In any case there is no church law defending pedophiles from civil law.

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