Thursday, March 25, 2010

Incendiary journalism

So, the scum that crawled out of pond water and eventually animated itself enough to become the New York Times puts up a misleading, stupidly-written, and ugly hit piece pointed at the pope. Their colleagues at the Associated Press soon follow, and retain all the egregious wrong impressions of the NYT piece.

It's not that the real story isn't ugly enough. A priest of the diocese of Milwaukee named Father Murphy abused deaf children, allegedly 200 of them. He did this in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite being investigated by civil authorities (read: police) he was never charged with this crime; he was also moved by the present archbishop, Abp. Cousins, away from the school and to Superior, WI in 1974. Archbishop Rembert Weakland finally got around to writing about the matter to then Cdl. Ratzinger in 1996; by that time Murphy was elderly and ill, and had had a stroke. Murphy himself wrote asking to be spared a canonical trial; this was granted, and Murphy died in 1998. (A prior discussion about a canonical trial went nowhere because more than twenty years had passed since the allegations were made, which put the case at the time beyond the Church's statute of limitations at that time.)

Not content with the ugliness of the actual story, though, the yellow journalists are conducting an orgy of incendiary journalism. The pope canceled a priest-abuser's trial! Uncaring pontiff leaves deaf children crying! Abuser gets off scot-free due to callous Vatican inaction! (Etcetera ad vomitum.) The little matters of things like facts, details, and timelines are swept aside in all the passion to use the Scandal to attack Pope Benedict. Again.

And there are already alarming signs that their tactics are having an effect. In the comments below one of those news articles, commenters were calling for violent acts against the Pope, against priests, even against Catholics generally.

No one is denying that sex-abuse scandals happened, that they were more widespread than many at first believed, that the Church did not in every instance manage to deal effectively with the wicked perpetrators, or that some internal policies dealing with incidents like these were in dire need of changes. But this particular instance shows the failure of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and of the local civil authorities; it does not indicate what the enemies of the Church are determined to find--some evidence that the Catholic Church at the highest levels winks at child abuse and covers it up as some sort of institutional policy, or that the pope himself cares nothing for abused children.

The peddlers of this scurrilous gossip-rag stuff should be ashamed of themselves, but I have a feeling they won't be, not even if some of the mob they raise goes off and does something like this at some point. But in this latest attempt to sling whatever muck they can at the Vatican, the media's bottom-feeders have shown their hand a little too plainly. This has never been about protecting innocent children from abuse. It has always been about trying to bring down the Church.


Magister Christianus said...

We need to pray for Pope Benedict and all our leaders, Christian and secular alike, every day. Here is a link to a prayer for the Pope.

Anonymous said...

No, this is not about bringing down the Church.

Stop that. That's playing into the hands of Satan.

This is about rooting out the evil that resides in the Church.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the highest level of authority, the office of the Pope, was aware of ongoing abuse and worked towards covering it up and keeping it secret.

Sorry, but there is NO defense here. This is not something cooked up by the New York Times. This is real. It happened. It's evil. And it has to be brought to light.

Anonymous said...

Still, we need to continue our prayers, and to seek guidance. Many of us were hurt. Jesus saves.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Although I haven't read the story, and it probably wouldn't have caught my eye as a priority, from your description, it does sound like the facts are quite enough, without an overlay of finger-pointing. I am a firm advocate of statutes of limitation, for many reasons, not only the problems of a fair trial, but also the fact that people do change. I recall a story of a couple arrested in Oklahoma who had walked away from a prison farm in Louisiana some thirty years previous, married, raised a family of exemplary children... and some idiot in the Louisiana prison system said "We can't let them off the rest of their sentence just because they lived a law abiding life for thirty years." Why in the name of God not?

I know, Father Murphy gave little sign of repentance or living an exemplary life, nor was his crime a single incident. But I recognize the pattern of journalism -- its the same style as the reporters who get a cheap thrill out of front page headlines every time someone is granted parole -- as if that was not the purpose of having a parole commission. I've helped more than one person convicted of entirely evil homicides secure parole -- AFTER many years in prison.

Father Murphy may not have changed -- but a sick old man two year's away from death? What difference would it make to put him on trial? That is not the gravitas of what the church, or its officers, should be held accountable for. It is a banal distraction to pick over such details.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, I truly appreciate this. The kind of conversations I've had about it today have gone like this:

Me: Here are the facts, etc., and all the CDF could have done was forced a man near death to attempt to prepare a defense and attend a trial.

Just about everyone else: You're only saying that because you're a Catholic and you refuse to recognize the evil, etc. and so on.

So it's like a breath of fresh air to come here and see such a rational and reasonable opinion from someone who isn't Catholic and can't be accused of covering for the Church. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to write it.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Aside from the fact that I have (obviously) my own beefs with The Press, I live in an area where almost anyone can step out of their front door during election season, and see that about half their neighbors have the opposite yard sign from their own. Somehow we continue to talk to each other. Plus, I grew up in a neighborhood where most of my playmates were Catholic, some going to public schools, some going to parochial schools. People are highly complex, as we were meant to be, and issues that arise in our political life are highly complex also. Not recognizing all the relevant nuances is highly irresponsible, especially on the part of those whose job it is to keep us informed.

Lauretta said...


I would say that, yes, we would allow an elderly abortion provider be allowed to live out his remaining years in peace if he had repented. We have a staunch ally in a former abortion provider, Bernard Nathanson. I have not heard anyone say that he should be prosecuted or shunned or anything.

We are mainly concerned about repentance and reparation to those harmed--to the degree possible. In the case of Dr. Nathanson, he repented and now gives of himself to try to expose the lies of the abortion industry, making reparation for the wrongs that he committed.

If we continue to focus on only the Church with this issue, we are going to miss most of the abuse that children suffer. We need to hold schools, scout groups, etc. to the fire to the same degree in the public eye as the Church has had done to her. Not to mention that most abuse occurs withing families--especially children not living with adults who are not their parents--meaning boyfriends, step-parents, etc. Every person I know who had been abused, except for one or two was abused by a family member. As a culture, let's begin looking at the whole problem, not just a small part of it.

Red Cardigan said...

Lauretta, I've just deleted the Anonymous comment you were replying to (but I'll leave your response, which is quite charitable).

Anonymous, you crossed the line by directly calling someone evil. We don't do that here. You're free to criticize ideas; you're not free to attack other commenters directly.

Red Cardigan said...

Ah, Ian, now I see where your beef with me lies.

I will amend the post to make sure that Aquinas and More gets the credit you clearly want it to have.

What I MEANT, and what I STILL MEAN, is that a portion of the sales proceeds goes, not to Faith and Family directly, but to

What people then ask is:

--does F&F get the whole amount OF THAT PORTION of the proceeds which collects?

--Or does, a Legion affiliate, take "its share" of the amount before giving the rest to Faith and Family?

I hope this makes clearer what I was saying, but as I said, I didn't mean to slight Aquinas and More by not giving them the full credit for being the store facilitating this arrangement. That will be corrected pronto.

The Monk said...

Red Cardigan -
Interesting discussion! Do you see any similarities with the way the Vatican treated Fr. Maciel?

I agree with your perspective on this post.

Do you ever wonder if those who relentlessly criticize the LC/RC without ever pausing to take a breath (not you!) ultimately harm the Church? I think some of the blogs I scan contribute a fair share of yellow journalism... Is there a fine line between justified criticism and (pardon me!) obsession with the negative aspects of MM and the LC?

Anonymous said...

The "I'm an old man in bad health and I'm repentant" argument does indeed suck and we ought to toss it out. However, was that the basis of forgoing the canonical trial? From what I have read and can gather, he made a frankly decent legal argument in that prior to Cd. Ratzinger's direct involvement, there was no canonical provision to waive the statute of limitations. So if (and I fully grant I could be mistaken on the facts, so please correct me if so) he or his legal counsel said something to the effect of, "Look, you are trying to get us on new legislation, and that ain't how the law works." well, that sucks big time, but that is how it is under the principle of give the Devil benefit of law". I'm totally on board with the idea that Church officials dropped the ball while the case was still within the limitations, and those responsible ought to be held accountable, but that doesn't excuse the sloppy reporting we are seeing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for bad link. Try this.

Barbara C. said...

If the civil authorities were involved and never pressed charges, then why would the Church have been expected to handle it. Hasn't the big beef been that the Church tried too often to handle things without involving the civil authorities?

A lot of Catholic clergy did make some really bad decisions regarding abusers partly out of ignorance of the problem and partly to cover the reputation of the Church. But when it comes to the media, at times it seems like the Church just can't win no matter what she does.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I wouldn't assume that National Catholic Reporter is highly popular here, but Rod Dreher posted a quote from the ever well informed John Allen which seems relevant to this discussion:

"Yet as always, 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."

I thinks that summarized what is wrong with the press coverage. Scandal is not red meat for journalists to chomp on like ravening dogs. There are facts, there are reasonable conclusions to be drawn, there are serious lessons to be learned. As Romishgraffiti observes, there were serious errors made when action could have been taken, which is the point. What happened to a man on the verge of dying, or didn't is small potatoes at best.

Jeannette said...

Some people disregard what John Allen has to say because of the rest of the NCR; they shouldn't. He's well-respected.
"Shouldn't you be off doing something else besides this anti-LC stuff?" has been one of the pro-LC arguments right from the beginning. No, I think Paul and Juan are heroes for the work they've done for the Church. And I believe that God called me to help bring out the truth about the Legion, too. I have to say, I've learned much about the Catholic Church that I wouldn't have otherwise, about REAL Consecrated Virgins, and REAL Catholic spiritual direction, etc. I don't think I could have lived with myself if I hadn't begun warning people about the Legion back in the fall of 2005.
Just for the record, when did you stop thinking that Maciel's victims were liars?