Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Does The Press Wear A Funny Hat?

The recent efforts by "truth-seeking" journalists to leave no rock unturned in hopes of finding any thread that remotely connects Pope Benedict XVI to "cover-ups" of sexual abuse by Church authorities has demonstrated once again that the only thing that matches the levels of their invective against the Catholic Church is their ignorance of the Church and its workings. They frame the unfolding "scandal" with the same familiar narrative structure that they have so often employed with politicians. The problem with this approach--one of many--is the Pope is not a politician and serving as an effective Pope is not a popularity contest best measured by approval ratings. They've also been quick to pounce on anything that reinforces the story they want to tell and reluctant to report facts that contradict the conclusions they're all too eager to reach.

In today's WSJ, William McGurn has a piece on this shoddy journalism called The Pope and the New York Times:

A few years later, when the CDF assumed authority over all abuse cases, Cardinal Ratzinger implemented changes that allowed for direct administrative action instead of trials that often took years. Roughly 60% of priests accused of sexual abuse were handled this way. The man who is now pope reopened cases that had been closed; did more than anyone to process cases and hold abusers accountable; and became the first pope to meet with victims. Isn't the more reasonable interpretation of all these events that Cardinal Ratzinger's experience with cases like Murphy's helped lead him to promote reforms that gave the church more effective tools for handling priestly abuse?

That's not to say that the press should be shy, even about Pope Benedict XVI's decisions as archbishop and cardinal. The Murphy case raises hard questions: why it took the archbishops of Milwaukee nearly two decades to suspend Murphy from his ministry; why innocent people whose lives had been shattered by men they are supposed to view as icons of Christ found so little justice; how bishops should deal with an accused clergyman when criminal investigations are inconclusive; how to balance the demands of justice with the Catholic imperative that sins can be forgiven. Oh, yes, maybe some context, and a bit of journalistic skepticism about the narrative of a plaintiffs attorney making millions off these cases.

That's still a story worth pursuing.

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