Saturday, April 10, 2010

That letter from Cardinal Ratzinger...

...has been headlined everywhere. Now get the facts.

Phil Lawler is an American journalist. This is from his column. Because what he says is so important, I'm simply reprinting it here. Read on:

"We're off and running once again, with another completely phony story that purports to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in the protection of abusive priests.

The "exclusive" story released by AP yesterday, which has been dutifully passed along now by scores of major media outlets, would never have seen the light of day if normal journalistic standards had been in place. Careful editors should have asked a series of probing questions, and in every case the answer to those questions would have shown that the story had no "legs."

First to repeat the bare-bones version of the story: in November 1985, then-Cardinal Ratzinger signed a letter deferring a decision on the laicization of Father Stephen Kiesle, a California priest who had been accused of molesting boys.
Now the key questions:

• Was Cardinal Ratzinger responding to the complaints of priestly pedophilia? No. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the future Pontiff headed, did not have jurisdiction for pedophile priests until 2001. The cardinal was weighing a request for laicization of Kiesle.

• Had Oakland's Bishop John Cummins sought to laicize Kiesle as punishment for his misconduct? No. Kiesle himself asked to be released from the priesthood. The bishop supported the wayward priest's application.

• Was the request for laicization denied? No. Eventually, in 1987, the Vatican approved Kiesle's dismissal from the priesthood.

• Did Kiesle abuse children again before he was laicized? To the best of our knowledge, No. The next complaints against him arose in 2002: 15 years after he was dismissed from the priesthood.

• Did Cardinal Ratzinger's reluctance to make a quick decision mean that Kiesle remained in active ministry? No. Bishop Cummins had the authority to suspend the predator-priest, and in fact he had placed him on an extended leave of absence long before the application for laicization was entered.

• Would quicker laicization have protected children in California? No. Cardinal Ratzinger did not have the power to put Kiesle behind bars. If Kiesle had been defrocked in 1985 instead of 1987, he would have remained at large, thanks to a light sentence from the California courts. As things stood, he remained at large. He was not engaged in parish ministry and had no special access to children.

• Did the Vatican cover up evidence of Kiesle's predatory behavior? No. The civil courts of California destroyed that evidence after the priest completed a sentence of probation-- before the case ever reached Rome.

So to review: This was not a case in which a bishop wanted to discipline his priest and the Vatican official demurred. This was not a case in which a priest remained active in ministry, and the Vatican did nothing to protect the children under his pastoral care. This was not a case in which the Vatican covered up evidence of a priest's misconduct. This was a case in which a priest asked to be released from his vows, and the Vatican-- which had been flooded by such requests throughout the 1970s -- wanted to consider all such cases carefully. In short, if you're looking for evidence of a sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, this case is irrelevant.

We Americans know what a sex-abuse crisis looks like. The scandal erupts when evidence emerges that bishops have protected abusive priests, kept them active in parish assignments, covered up evidence of the charges against them, and lied to their people. There is no such evidence in this or any other case involving Pope Benedict XVI.

Competent reporters, when dealing with a story that involves special expertise, seek information from experts in that field. Capable journalists following this story should have sought out canon lawyers to explain the 1985 document-- not merely relied on the highly biased testimony of civil lawyers who have lodged multiple suits against the Church. If they had understood the case, objective reporters would have recognized that they had no story. But in this case, reporters for the major media outlets are far from objective.

The New York Times-- which touched off this feeding frenzy with two error-riddled front-page reports-- seized on the latest "scoop" by AP to say that the 1985 document exemplified:

…the sort of delay that is fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal in the church that has focused on whether the future pope moved quickly enough to remove known pedophiles from the priesthood, despite pleas from American bishops.

Here we have a complete rewriting of history. Earlier in this decade, American newspapers exposed the sad truth that many American bishops had kept pedophile priests in active ministry. Now the Times, which played an active role in exposing that scandal, would have us believe that the American bishops were striving to rid the priesthood of the predators, and the Vatican resisted!

No, what is "fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal" is a media frenzy. There is a scandal here, indeed, but it's not the scandal you're reading about in the mass media. The scandal is the complete collapse of journalistic standards in the handling of this story."


Unknown said...

Once upon a time there were newspapers that reported the news. Now in the U.S. most newspapers belong at the grocery check out along side the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News. Americans have been given a steady diet of tabloid pablum that they can no longer stomach the truth, because of their addiction to fabricated rubish. So, to publish stories that are truthful and serve the public good would be tantamount to financial suicide in an industry which has lost so many subscribers recently. Because it is the Church and Christ's vicar, Pope Benedict, the frenzy is greater because men love the darkness more than the light, and despite the horrid sex abuse scandal, the Church is the light; the City on the hill, who calls all men, women and children to live moral, faithful, holy lives. I've noticed that cockroaches will flee in every direction when the light is turned on, so too do those who willingly live debauched lives when the light is switched on. Auntie Joanna is right, be well informed, and pray, pray, pray for the Church and the Holy Father. Also pray for the weaker among the faithful that they will not stray; and for those who , write the lies and those who believe the lies that they may be pierced in their hearts and be converted. As Divine Mercy Sunday is upon us remeber that Christ's mercy is infinite and for all who seek it.

Elizabeth said...

We've had a few newspaper articles here in Canada. One newspaper had to close down its comments section because of the abuse heaped on the Church leaders.
That particular article stated that "the Pope "may" have been involved in protecting priests in the United States and other countries when he was the "top" bishop in Germany"
How can you respond to something like that?
The Church here in Canada has had protocols put in place since the early 1990's to deal with the sexual abuse of young children. We had a letter from our new bishop before Christmas outlining the steps that the diocese has taken.
But will people listen? I don't think so. The Pope has apologized to victims, met with victims, and said he's willing to meet with more of them in the future. The Church has offered counselling for victims, paid out millions of dollars, taken steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again. If people don't already believe that then no amount of apologizing or repentance will make any impression. Besides I don't think the Church should put on a show of repentence just to placate people. Many of whom will believe what they want to.
I believe that prayer is the answer. The abusers were a small minority in the Church. There is more to the Church than that. The statement that the Church will disappear in 20 years has been made many times before. We are going through a period of trial and necessary purification and God who loves the Church will bring good out of this. We can offer the suffering that we are undergoing and unite it with his suffering on the Cross. As much as we care God cares even more.

Manny said...

This has been such an unfair attack on the Pope. Joanna I want to commend you for putting out all the refuting evidence. Frankly this whole issue has been a slander against the church from the beginning. There is no evidence to suggest that R.C. priests engage in this behavior at any higher rate than the general population. This could be going on with journalists at all these holier-than-thous news media. This is a human problem, not a church or priest problem.

torchofthefaith said...

Dear Joanna

Thank you so much for sharing this excellent article.

This information will prove most helpful in defending the Holy Father.

We've blogged on it too to spread the word!

In Christ
Alan and Angeline