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NYT's Laurie Goodstein responds to NYC's Archbishop Dolan

New York Times religion writer Laurie Goodstein was one of the targets of Archbishop Dolan's recent blog post alleging anti-Catholicism on the part of The Times (as discussed in Father Imbelli's post below). I found the Archbishop's piece indiscriminate in its effort to tar his opponent, and think he missed an opportunity to be more effective by being more selective, and to be more just as well as more charitable. That was disappointing as his post was also one of those that gave license to many far harsher criticisms and helped to lower the quality of conversation.(Bill Donohue's omnibus attack on us "hypocrites" who thought the Archbishop less-than-convincing is worth the read if only for his jab at Commonweal: "a Catholic magazine on life support, faults Dolan for responding in a way that is 'not fruitful.' Nice to know that these writers object to the archbishop for writing. Maybe they prefer throwing bricks." I'm not sure what that means, but at least he considers Commonweal Catholic!)Dolan's piece was also surprising, in that he is known as media-savvy and someone with a reputation for engaging even those he considers critics on a personal level before resorting to the brickbats. That he hasn't done so, especially as the city's new archbishop, is strange to me. (My biases: Laurie Goodstein is a friend and a colleague on the beat, so my instinct is to defend her and journalists in general. As for Dolan, he wouldn't know me but I had interviewed the Archbishop in years past a couple of times and always found him, as others do, very open and engaging, and I was very happy to see him come to New York, where he seemed happy to be greeted with open arms--and glowing coverage in the Times. Hence my surprise at the tone and content of his roundhouse.)In any case, Laurie Goodstein has written a response to the Archbishop on Wednesday, posting it in the combox of his blog. (I guess the Archdiocese refused to print it in the newspaper?) The Archbishop has not responded, which again is unfortunate, as she took the time to engage him directly and personally, and I think a good deal more thoughtfully and charitably than he did. So I would certainly give her this round on points, if not a KO.Unfortunately her response is buried in the thread, so I cut-and-paste it here after the jump...

A Response to Archbishop DolanI am the national religion correspondent at The New York Times, and sent this letter to Archbishop Dolan yesterday. I would like to share it with the readers of his blog. Dear Archbishop Dolan, I was very disturbed to read your blog post about The New York Times, and about my work and that of my colleagues as anti-Catholic. You write as though the Catholic Church is some sort of special target, when in fact any institution that is accused of wrongdoing receives critical coverage and commentary. As you know, the Catholic Church is the largest religious institution in the world, and a quarter of Americans are adherents. The Catholic Church is a hierarchical church with a clear chain of accountability. It is only natural that it receives such scrutiny. As you acknowledged in your blog, there are recent developments in the Church that are well-worth discussing and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning. So when a newspaper undertakes this kind of coverage, it should not be seen as anti-Catholic. If so, we could equally be accused of being anti-Every religious group that we have called to task, and there are many. You cite Paul Vitellos front page story about sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community as evidence that the Times is anti-Catholic. Paul and I find it a hard argument to understand. The Times has written about the sexual abuse of minors by clergy of many faiths: Jews, Southern Baptists, mainline Protestants, Jehovahs Witnesses, Orthodox Christians, evangelicals. But the abuse story has been bigger for the Catholic Church simply because of the quantitative facts: there are more priests accused, more alleged victims, more countries involved, more settlements, more years since the problem first became public, more legal and financial consequences and simply more people affected. In mentioning my piece about a priest who had an affair with an adult woman, you imply that there was no reason to run a story now that is 20 years old. You neglected to acknowledge that this piece was written now because the priests son is dying of brain cancer, he believes the church and the priest have failed him, and because the priest was still serving in a parish where neither his parishioners nor his bishop had knowledge of his philandering until I began reporting. One of the women he was involved with was allegedly a minor, and at one point the priest suggested that a pregnancy he was responsible for be terminated by an abortion. I wrote the story because church officials have said privately to me over the years that priests who violate their vows with adult women are far more common than priests who sexually abuse minors. Also, I have also been contacted over the years by adult women in similar situations. I wrote about this woman because she was willing to go public with her experience and had the legal documentation and photographs to prove that this was more than a case of he said/she said. You claim that the Times ran this story instead of covering Afghanistan, health care and the Sudan, but as you know the Times is regularly full of stories about all these issues. And finally, you cite as anti-Catholic the coverage of Pope Benedict XVIs new structure for welcoming traditionalist Anglicans into the Catholic Church. The Times story did state clearly, as you pointed out, that the arrangement was a response to requests from some Anglicans. Certainly, the Vatican is welcoming these Anglicans, but many other Anglicans feel as if the church were making a bid for their allegiances. Our story used language reflecting these various points of view. Our coverage did not differ much from most of the media coverage, except that we were far more tempered than some. Archbishop Dolan, you and I have known one another since we first met in Rome in 1998 when you were rector at the North American College. We met again years later when I was doing a story about you and several others whom I dubbed Healer Bishops who were trying to help the church recover from the scandal over sexual abuse by priests. I am pained that your blog selectively overlooked all the articles in the Times that you and other bishops in the church have praised over the years because you found them fair, and there are many (including some about your appointment to the Archdiocese of New York). This is why I cannot accept your characterization of the Times as anti-Catholic. This weekend, I am going to the conference of the American Academy of Religion, the largest society of religion scholars, to receive their top journalism award for a three-part series I did last year on the Catholic Church. The subject was international priests serving in the church, and the series included stories about a Kenyan priest beloved by his Kentucky parishioners, an American vicar who selects foreign priests to serve in his diocese, and why so many young Indians choose vocations in the Catholic Church. To do these pieces, I spent many weeks in American parishes and a week living in a seminary in India. If the Times were anti-Catholic, why would it devote the reporting time and three consecutive front page stories to a fair and affectionate look at the contemporary Catholic Church? Sincerely, Laurie Goodstein National Religion Correspondent The New York TimesPosted By: Laurie Goodstein2009-11-04 2:42 PM


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"...exactly what is anti-Catholicism? Dislike of Catholicism, Catholic beliefs, Catholics themselves?ummm, all of the above.

That's a pretty high bar, Nancy! I think there's an argument to be made that if you ring just one of those bells you could qualify.

David, true, but regarding Catholics themselves, Catholic beliefs, and Catholicism, those bells should ring in unison. :-)

The public editor, as expected, is rather indulgent to the columnist because bland is not what Dowd does. As for the Archbishops complaint, the warning seems to be: just wait till you see the critical stories in the pipeline. These are only to be expected since the Archbishop has not done enough to please advocates. Therell be no more Friar Tuck coverage in the NYT. But Dolan, unlike Dowd, should just stay warm, flexible and not given to confrontation if he ever expects to be absolved from his sin of calling into question the judgment of expert journalists.

Gee, the Times wouldn't publish the letter I sent to all the New York legislators either. To whom should I complain? I tried to post it on the archbishop's blog but no go there either. Oh, well, here it is anyway:The following letter was sent to each New York state senator on September 8, 2009, by victims advocate Sister Maureen Paul Turlish.* * *Legislators of the New York SenateLegislative Office BuildingAlbany, New York 12247Dear Senator,The sexual exploitation of children is a major epidemic in our United States. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18 whether that abuse is committed by a parent, teacher, doctor, rabbi, priest, nun or stranger.It is a heinous and reprehensible crime against the body and soul of a child with serious and long lasting effects. Unfortunately, a percentage of individuals injured in this way cannot cope with some of these effects and take their own lives. Those parents lost their sons because their adult children could not get over it, could not get on with their lives and ended up taking their own lives.Such crimes are committed by individuals from all segments of society and they all cry out to God for justice.Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, Maryland described sexual abuse as murder of the soul and it truly is. It is fitting then, that there be no statutes of limitation, criminally or civilly, in regard to the sexual abuse of children, no matter who the perpetrators may be or what positions they may hold. Child abuse is the act of a coward bent on exercising his or her power and control over a helpless and pliant child.The egregious and heinous crime that childhood sexual is should propel those of us in public service and church ministry to do all we can to protect our children and hold those accountable who would shelter and protect the sexual predators who would harm them, no matter the cost in institutional reputation or credibility.In the state of New York it appears that leaders of the institutional Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox Jewish community are among those who believe that sexual predators should not be held accountable.Such behavior by any religious leader is outrageous and reprehensible.There are no reasons and no extenuating circumstances that could ever justify or rationalize any institution, public or private, or any religious denomination, not actively supporting their states attempts to bring childhood sexual abuse legislation into the 21st century.It is particularly egregious for the Catholic dioceses of New York and the New York Catholic Conference to be opposing accountability and transparency in regard to childhood sexual abuse when they promised accountability and transparency in 2002.Window legislation is not anti any particular group but it is very much pro-child. It forces records, if they exist and have not been destroyed, to be made available in a court of justice and hopefully into the public venue as well.Arbitrary statutes of limitation have protected sexual predators for too long. It is time they were removed. Delaware now has no statutes of limitation, criminally or civilly, in regard to childhood sexual abuse and their 2007 Child Victims Law also opened a two year window for bringing forward previously time barred cases by anyone, no matter what public, private or religious affiliation attaches.The time to protect all children is now.While New Yorks Senate Bill # S5893 is a rather modest bill when compared with Delawares it is, nevertheless, a brave attempt to hold all institutions accountable for their actions and in particular an institution which is a formal signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.I implore you, as a legislator in the state of New York, to be very wary about accepting claims made by members of any religious institution, their spokesmen or their representative conferences that would attempt to connect passage of Senate Bill 5893, the Child Victims bill with the closing of churches, parishes, social services or outreach programs because it simply is not true and no denomination has produced proof that would support the waves of disinformation that have been circulated in the media.Vicious opposition to the passage of any laws or the removal of any statutes of limitation regarding childhood sexual abuse of children has been the pattern employed by some leaders of the institutional Roman Catholic Church in a number of states including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Colorado.For any bishop to say that legislation like that now being proposed in New York threatens the church is as inflammatory as it is untrue. It shows that the bishops never really bought into the accountability and transparency that they promised through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops back in 2002.The hiring of public relations firms, lobbyists and law firms to push an agenda that hurts all children in an attempt to keep secret a conspiracy that put the protection of sexual predators within a religious institution before the protection of its children, has already cost dioceses across the United States hundreds of millions of dollars.Money, however, should not trump justice as the defining issue.Would any thinking person consider giving an organization, like the W.R. Grace Company, for example, a pass for the illnesses brought on by the asbestos contamination and radiation poisoning that generated over 200,000 lawsuits against a company that knew the damage that was impacting the lives of people and their families in different parts of the country because of their many philanthropic endeavors? Of course not. To even consider such an idea is obscene and well beyond the pale, as it should be.So too, there should be no accommodation in law that gives more protection to sexual predators of children and the enablers who conspired to protect them, then to the very real victims of childhood sexual abuse.It is unconscionable for religious denominations and their leadership to protect and enable sexual predators by refusing to support changes in the laws that would hold both the perpetrators and their enablers accountable.In all good conscience, I strongly encourage you, as a member of the New York Legislature, to support criminal and civil laws that are as strong as possible in holding accountable the sexual predators of our children together with any enabling individuals or institutions who were complicit in their protection.I have spoken before the Senate and House judiciary committees in support of Delawares 2007 Child Victims Law which removed all statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children as well as instituting a two year window for bringing forward previously time barred cases of childhood sexual abuse by anyone. I would be more then happy to testify in support of the Senate Bill # S5893 if this would be helpful.God bless you for all the work you do,Sister Maureen Paul TurlishVictims AdvocateNew Castle,

Clark Hoyt, the public editor, kicks the can down the alley. Unlike his usual sharp observations, he spends much of the column reprising Dolan's column (see it sort of gets published in the Times!). Though he is independent, I was led to observe this morning that he partakes of the Times culture sufficiently to miss the main points of the Vitello and Goldstein's (franciscan) story as seen by Dolan; Catholics get treated differently.Dolan was a panelist at the Nostra Aetatae Lecture at Fordham on Thursday evening. He did a good job--as did Chancellor Arnold Eisen (JTS) his dialgue partner. I would say from Dolan's personality and performance (as observed) that he will survive all of this, probably go on to get good coverage by the Times, and perhaps even become popular among New Yorkers, Catholics and not. Not that everyone will agree with him. He gave the impression that he does not expect that. Smart man!

Margaret says:"Clark Hoyt, the public editor, kicks the can down the alley." Hoyt declares that Dowd was "well within a columnist's bounds" but quotes James Martin saying that the column "was over the top in mocking the Pope."Sounds more like football than kick the can: a field goal -- over the top but well within bounds!

"over the top but well within bounds!" Let's take a look in slow motion on instant replay. Not only is Ms.Dowd over the top, she was never within bounds to begin with:

Too many bishops have lost credibility where it counts and that is with those who depended on them the most, the children, those victims of sexual abuse by some among their own episcopal ranks as well as ordinary priests. The USCCB promised Accountability & Transparency back in 2002 but have grudgingly given it since. Bishops have been especially slow in making public the names and locations of all convicted, known or credibly accused sexual predators among their ranks and many like Roger Mahony in LA, Lori in Bridgeport still have not complied with courts' orders to release files, records, testimony and depositions related to known abusers. A number of bishops of dioceses, like our own Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on the eve of going to trial in another misguided attempt to avoid responsibility for what they and their predecessors have done in enabling and facilitating felony crimes of sexual abuse, crimes that would have landed them in jail except for the vagaries of the then existing statutes of limitation. In Delaware today there are no criminal or civil statutes of limitation going forward on the sexual abuse of children. There also was a two year civil window for previously time barred cases of abuse - by anyone - which closed in July of 2009. However, the institutional Church thumbed its nose at the law by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on the Sunday evening before the DeLuca 8 trial was to begin. So much for accountability and transparency. It isn't about money, it's about accountability and transparency for the crimes and sins of the past. There is no doubt about it, it is truly a scandal but the scandal is about the abuse of power and authority in the institutional church. It is about the bishops' abuse of their power and their moral authority by their lack of anger, their lack of outrage, their lack of pastoral concern for the "least of the Lord's little ones." The bishops have yet to address or answer for their very real complicity, along with their predecessors, in protecting predators rather than victims. So individuals like the archbishop of New York will probably continue to find the chutzpah to complain about anti-Catholic bias much in the vein of Cardinal Bernard Law's tirade against the Boston Globe but most people will see it as more smoke and mirrors, a diversionary tactic at best. To most of the People of God such actions continue to be an embarrassment.

I thought Fr. Martin's comments in the Public Editor peice were quite reasonable and wonder why they were not alluded to here!

I also agree with Carolyn Disco's earlier statements especially about Dolan's mention of a "minority of priests." That "minority" underreported as it is, is responsible for the sexual abuse, molestation , rape and sodomy of thousands of children, many, of whom would never have suffered so if those bishops and other church officials had done what they were mandated to do by Canon Law and Civil Law.

I wish that our Bishops had the logic, pastoral concern and credability of Ms. Goodstein. Women priests were yesterdays concern. I support women Bishops.

Speaking of Church bashing; the is an interesting opinion piece at the Full Comment blog at the National Post titled:The two Catholic Churches by Philip Mathias the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) being bashed these days, as writer Michael Coren recently claimed on these pages? Coren even goes so far as to say that RCC-bashing is the last acceptable prejudice in Western society which suggests an element of base religious bigotry.On the other hand, is it possible that the torrent of criticism aimed at the Church is both fair and constructive?

...And then there's Tom Fox's editorial comment on what's anti-Catholic....