Blogosphere reactions to the New York Times piece

When I saw Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger’s 4,000-word article on Pope Benedict and the sex-abuse scandal in the New York Times this morning, I knew it would be a big story — but I didn’t have the time then to do anything other than link to it in my morning round-up.

Since then, others bloggers have taken the time to go through its claims — and they are not impressed.

First, Mollie Hemingway of GetReligion:

It just reads like a hit piece and I’m truly disappointed in it. And not just because I so admire Goodstein’s body of work. A piece of this length with that kind of absolutely inflammatory lede better back it up well. It doesn’t even come close. In no way did the story live up to its big-talking promises at the beginning. And that’s because the reporting didn’t support those claims.

R. R. Reno at First Thoughts:

Implied verdict #3: Ratzinger was part of a cabal of leaders in Rome who blocked reform—and did so out of a tender, irrational, and irresponsible regard for legalistic protections of accused clergy.

Evidence for verdict #3: It turns out the Roman authorities tend to assume innocence rather than guilt, giving the benefit of doubt to accused priests. The 1983 code of canon law established a five-year statute of limitations for accusations against clergy. (John Paul II subsequently extended it to ten years after the victim’s eighteenth birthday.) Moreover, the Vatican resisted efforts to substitute administrative judgment for a full ecclesiastical trial for defrocking clerics accused of sexual abuse.

And finally, Michael Sean Winters for National Catholic Reporter:

[R]eading and re-reading the Times’ article, noting its length and the definitive, dare we say it, infallible tone of the article, it is hard not to conclude that the authors went in with an agenda, and gussied up the “evidence” to make the point they desired to make. That is not reporting. Goodstein and Halbfinger’s writings might warrant a spot on the opinion pages of the Times, but they are misplaced in the news section.

It speaks to the weaknesses of the Times piece that these three writers from all over the spectrum are unified in their criticisms of it. The combined effect of their rebuttals is devastating; be sure to read them all.


Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

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