Scandal time

March 29, 2010

I have been going back and forth over whether I ought to post anything about the sex abuse allegations against the Church that have been flying in the news over the past few weeks.  On the one hand, I have nothing new to add, so there is not much point in my saying anything.  On the other hand, certain claims, especially those allegedly implicating Pope Benedict XVI as enabling or covering-up abuse, appear to have crossed the line between edgy journalism and calumny, and the more people who draw attention to that fact the better.  So I could do my small part.

But, as it turns out, Nick Milne at The Daily Kraken has beat me to it.  He has a nice round-up of links to several of the most irresponsible accusations that have appeared (courtesy the reliable Christopher Hitchens and the redoubtable New York Times), along with links to detailed rebuttals of those accusations.  If you’ve read the one, you owe it to yourself to read the other.  To their credit, the New York Times has also run at least two criticisms of the original hit piece they published.

For the record, I am not opposed to journalists exposing wrong-doing in the Church.  On the contrary, wrong-doing should be brought to light, and those responsible should face suitable punishment, and the press can have a legitimate role in that process.  But when people start making the kind of claims that have been made in recent weeks about Benedict XVI — claims contradicted by the journalist’s own documentary evidence — one begins to suspect that something other than disinterested investigation is going on.  We must remember that there are a great many people who dislike the papacy for reasons of their own, and experience shows that they are not above using the biggest stick they can find, such as a sensational falsehood, to beat the Pope of Rome on his silvery crown.  When that happens, it behooves men of good will to rise to his defence.

So thanks, Nick, for collecting those links together.

One article to which Nick does not link is an essay by George Weigel that gives some background to the present controversies.  From what one hears in the news, one is likely to think that the Catholic Church in particular has a problem with sexual abuse — that is, that abuse is more prevalent within the Church than without it. One might even believe that the particular perversion afflicting the Church is principally that monstrosity pedophilia.  Indeed, I expect these are among the most common misconceptions about this whole crisis.  In fact, there is no evidence to support the former claim, and some evidence that contradicts it; and there is good evidence that the latter claim is false.  Reading the articles to which Nick links should help to clear up such misunderstandings.

UPDATE: More developments, confirming the sloppiness of the original piece that ran in the NYT.

In the meantime, may I suggest to like-minded readers that we pray for the Holy Father during this holy season.


Incidentally, doing my work for me is not all that The Daily Kraken has been up to.  Last week Nick was on the ground at the now infamous non-appearance of Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa, and he wrote a fascinating first-person account of the evening’s events.  It has stirred up a hornet’s nest, and is currently riding high on the WordPress hit parade.  I guess quite a few people have strong opinions about Ms. Coulter.  Before last week, I had no idea who she was, and I still don’t really know.  I gather she is one of those odious personalities who cultivate their own fame by making outrageous remarks — a kind of right-wing Howard Stern.  Well, Nick has the low down.

4 Responses to “Scandal time”

  1. Christina A. Says:

    Craig, without having done any reading myself here…(so this may be repetition)…Fr. Raymond De Souza, Columnist for the National Post and Chaplain for the Queen’s University Newman Centre and pastor of the Wolfe Island parish has a few articles posted about this topic on his website here:

    He did preach about this situation on Sunday at mass, you’ll have to get details from my husband though.


  2. cburrell Says:

    Yes, Fr. de Souza has been a sane voice in all of this. An article of his, published at National Review, rebutting the claims of the NYT is one of the articles to which Nick Milne links, and that same article is reproduced at Fr. de Souza’s site (here). I also liked this one, which was published in the National Post.

  3. Adam Hincks Says:

    Notwithstanding the low standards of journalism in the NYT’s most recent series, there is this important consideration.

  4. cburrell Says:

    Noonan is almost always worth listening to. Obviously she knows the insides of news-rooms far better than I do, so I am inclined to take her word for it.

    Still, the press reaction to Benedict’s election and, especially, his Regensburg address convinced me that there are some journalists — maybe not many, but enough — looking for a chance to paint this pontiff in dark tones. I really don’t know how else to account for what was written about him.

    Anyway, the reticence to which Noonan refers is probably at low ebb in a self-confident and self-consciously secular and liberal newsroom like that at the NYT. They know who their readers are. The fact that that paper in particular wields such influence means that they ought to be held to high journalistic standards, and soundly criticized when they fall short.


    Returning to the original topic of the post: John Allen, whom I consider to be the most reliable and astute Vatican journalist writing in English, had a very good interview on the Charlie Rose Show last week talking about the scandals. (It is about 15 minutes in duration, and well worth the time.)

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