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Times public editor on sex-abuse coverage

I was wondering when the public editor at The New York Times, Clark Hoyt, would deal with the avalanche of criticism over the paper's stories that examined Pope Benedict XVI's handling of clergy sexual abuse cases. Now, he has. He concludes:

Like it or not, there are circumstances that have justifiably driven this story for years, including a well-documented pattern of denial and cover-up in an institution with billions of followers. Painful though it may be, the paper has an obligation to follow the story where it leads, even to the popes door.

Hoyt focuses on the article that attracted the most controversy, a March 25 story on the case of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, the Milwaukee priest who admittedly molested dozens of deaf boys and possibly as many as 200. I largely agree with Hoyt's response to those who assailed The Times (although, as I posted earlier, I do think there were some journalistic problems with the March 25 story). The column lacks Hoyt's usual nuance, though. While The Times has been effective in examining then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's role in a number of individual cases, it has not done well at putting those cases into the context of his overall handling of the issue. Ratzinger did begin to respond to the sexual-abuse issue at a certain point, so the early cases go only so far in following the story "to the pope's door." This is something Hoyt might have picked up on.One other point: Hoyt refers erroneously to the "archbishop of Brooklyn." The head of the Brooklyn diocese, Nicholas DiMarzio, is a bishop. During the chrism Mass, he had called on priests to "besiege The New York Times. Send a message loud and clear that the Pope, our Church, and bishops and our priests will no longer be the personal punching bag of The New York Times. It was a poor choice of words.


Commenting Guidelines

No one denies that the church has failed miserably, including above all the Vatican (even if not everyone agrees on how the failure is to be remedied and even if not everyone agrees on the premises to the rage against abuse of minors and the automatic draconian measures prescribed -- instant defrocking and mandatory reporting etc.). But it is childish to be obsessed with pinning convictions of wrongdoing on Ratzinger personally, especially given that sources as respectable as The Tablet think that he figures as an abrasive agent of reform within the Vatican on this particular point (though again I would not agree with all his actions, such as the ban on gay seminarians that he pushed through.)

You can argue that as head of the institution that has failed, Ratzinger should resign. But did you call on John Paul II to resign? Why not? Because he was not a fashionable scapegoat. Pretty much everyone agrees that the Church's record in handling cases of abuse is better under Ratzinger -- he scores 3 to JP2's -1, someone estimated. Calling on him to resign actually goes against the alleged purpose of defending children (since an African or Latin American pope is not guaranteed to be better at that). In any case, Ratzinger is 83 so we need to be thinking calmly and rationally about the future of the church, not fomenting a painful situation with polemics that have no bearing on anyone's welfare.

More press malfeasance, apparently: Benedict is supposed to have said, "the faithful must place absolute trust in their clergy." Can anyone find the original? I found a report that suggests that what he actually said was that we need priests in whom the faithful can have absolute trust:"Benedict, in remarks to the public in St. Peter's Square Sunday, told priests they must "fight for the defense of the flock," defend their charges from "evil" and ensure that faithful can place "absolute trust" in their pastors."Bill Mazzella says the Benedict can easily defend himself if he wants to, yet rejects any defense as craven apologetics.

Here is a report on the unsavory Castrillon Hoyos -- Benedict's prejudice against Liberation Theology and his liturgical medievalism links him closely with Castrillon.

Bloggatores, si non vultis vos adsociare turbo calumnatorum, prudenter vigilate! Exemplum dabo:"The memo was sent out in March following a brainstorm session by four junior Foreign Office staff who make up the Papal Visit Team. The official memos suggests the Pope opening an abortion ward; spending the night in a council flat in Bradford; doing forward rolls with children to promote healthy living and performing a duet with the Queen (changing the British national anthem from God save the Queen to God save the world). The ideas doesnt stop here. The clever gentlemen suggests the Pope should launch a new brand of condoms called Benedict, the memo also proposed that the Pope should announce sacking of dodgy bishops, sponsor a network of AIDS clinics, bless a gay marriage and conduct a training course for bishops on child abuse allegations."

oops, turba!

and calumniatorum

Collegium Baliolense insignae Universitatis Oxoniensis erubescit hodie: promoveamus talem vulgaritatem et ignorantiam, sed quaeramus judicium sobrium et maturum.

Episcopi Americani laudant Papam:

If he had nothing to hide, we would know about it that way lies paranoia!No, that way lies rational expectations based on years and years of revelations. Cynical, maybe, paranoid, I think not. Eventually credibility runs out and people stop giving you the benefit of the doubt. Does the Pope deserve credit for actually taking abuse seriously? Of course. But the old pattern of trying to avoid transparency or bullying the press for daring to cross the Church still seems to take over at crucial moments.

Concedo quod Papa debet aperte loqui de erroribus suis. Vide impedivit promotionem Krenn, conoscens indolem pederasticam eius, sed non potuit persuadere Johannem Paulum II ut removisset Groer, alterum pederastem, ab episcopatu.

The NY Times has a new article today, examining the future Holy Father's role in the Cardinal Groer case. Perhaps it merits a separate post?

Fr. O'Leary: ten consecutive posts is at least eight too many. Please do us all the courtesy of composing your thoughts and then hitting "submit." Otherwise we'll have to start pruning (beginning with anything not in English).

Or how about this Op-ed by Larry Lessig in today's NYT: of you know that I am not a fan of extending statutes of limitation, but I do take one very important lesson from this editorial about the Church's response to abuse, and that is, if the Church had acted sooner with the view of protecting and helping abuse victims, it would not find itself in the position of relying on civil statutes of limitations to completely avoid responsibility, and the cost of assuming some responsibility would likely have been far lower. The Church now finds itself in the position of having to rely on some of the most hard-nosed and uncharitable doctrines of the secular justice system, which does sometimes deem it the best outcome that someone have no redress for uncontested wrongs.

Barbara beat me to it - the oposition to SOL reform remains very strong in several States I've mentioned before and I think Prof. Lessig's argument underscores my difference with Jim as to what justice means here.I also note the number of continuing episcopal resignations in Europe .Would that the American hierarchs would have been as manly as these to step forward and step aside post 2002 (and I don't mean a Law like resignation to a more comfy powerful position.)My question is this:did the failures in the US to step aside (as well as the promotion of a number of enablers) hapen under Roman direction and is the battle gainst SOL reform, so united and strong, orchestrated from there as well?Some may continue to defend the Roman center as "gettimg it." My view is that anny such "getting" is partial.

I found this on a web site urging reform of laws on child abuse to extend the statute of limitations.

Why Must We Reform the SOLs? Child sexual abuse is a larger national problem than we, as a society, anticipated. Research has shown that as many as one in four women and one in five men suffered abuse as a child and that almost 90% of abuse never gets reported.Those that do come forward find themselves barred by the legal technicality of a statute of limitation. Considering how long victims often take to find the courage to speak out, the statute of limitations are woefully short and act as an arbitrary barrier to justice.

In New York, advocates of SOL reform seek a change in the law so that the statute-of-limitations clock doesn't start ticking until the alleged victim is 23, effectively allowing legal action until age 28. It also opens a "window" for one year during which there is no statute of limitations for any cases, no matter how old.It strikes me that if the statistics are correct (1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys suffering abuse as children), we have a strange situation in which between 20% and 25% of Americans have grounds for a lawsuit until they reach the age of 28. If the problem really is of this magnitude (and I am wondering if it is) it seems to me there are a lot more important things to do than extend the statue of limitations. The obvious (and most difficult) one is to lower the abuse rate. The next would be to create a climate in which those who were abused were much more likely to come forward when it occurred than to keep it to themselves to the age of 28 (or never disclose it at all). I do think SOL reform is largely aimed at the Church and is unfair. Particularly bizarre is the idea of the "window," since if it is necessary for the sake of justice to let people bring cases that are decades old for a period of one year, how can it be fair to reimpose the old, allegedly unfair restrictions after that one-year-period is over?

I think SOL legislation is aimed mainly (as per the cited how many percentage wise are shut out from seeking redress) at rectifying inequity towards this vcohort of victims (who have difficulty coming forward in the time frames originally set!Many on the isde of SOL legislation argue its about victims and child protection. How it is aimed mainly at the Church needs some kind of factual base. That perception, I think, is grounded in the reca;citrance of the Church in oposing such laws -which seems to provide an inferencd they have much to both hide and (self)protect.

Mollie, 10 communicationes successivae non constituunt excessum grave, quia scribebam in 9 horis nocturnis (in America, diuturnis in oriente).

Sorry, no. You posted five comments in 32 minutes. Everyone else manages to put 30 minutes' worth of thoughts into one comment. You need to do the same, regardless of who might be awake to interrupt you.

Question: will PO'Leary only post in Latin from now on and if so why? And why should we bother with that???

I think it's because on some other thread I wrote: This blog sees the participation of a number of academics in the humanities. They feel comfortable quoting Latin without translation and they sometimes have arguments about topics way above my head. They have fun trading arcane historical anecdotes to each field its own style of entertainment! Its not designed for the general public, although everyone is welcome to join if they wish to. We are lucky that they let us listen to their sometimes learned discussions.(Sorry for quoting myself)