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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.

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So the story wasn't about B16 at all?Here is yet another cardinal lashing out at the press: http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2010/04/church-treated-unfairly-by-...

From the Hoyt article: "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.According to Wikipedia there are somewhat less than 1.5 Roman Catholics worldwide.

I generally find Hoyt a fair-minded arbiter of the war between the Times and its readers (or at least those who complain about particular stories). I think he falls a short on this one for all of the reason this blog has discussed over many posts.

Hoyt says, "...it would be irresponsible to ignore the continuing revelations," and then refers to the NYT's publishing a front-pager on the Munich/Hullerman case the following day as evidence that they aren't just dogging the pope. But the Munich story was already making headlines, if not in the NYT, when they ran that Murphy story, no? At the time I assumed the NYT ran the Murphy story when it did to take advantage of the momentum from the Munich case -- otherwise, why dig it up? What prompted Goodstein's "reporting inquiries," since it plainly wasn't curiosity about how this old-news case was handled at the local level?Hoyt's arguing that the NYT is just "following the story," and not actively seeking to dig up dirt on the pope. What seems to be missing from this is an explanation of why the Murphy case was news -- that it would have been irresponsible not to report -- if the point was not to implicate the pope. Because he's also insistent that it doesn't implicate the pope in any concrete way. He writes, "The Times article did not establish what role, if any, Ratzinger played, saying only that communications about the case were addressed to him and that his deputy intervened. Thats a long way from saying Ratzinger did." Fine, but it was Ratzinger's name on those documents that made the story imperative for them to run with at that moment, right?

A huge factor in the Times story is the definitive clarification that the problem is not an American problem but really a worldwide problem. Rome has gotten away with this for years without contest until this time. It is really hard to fault the times when Rome continues to minimize the matter moving penance to the faithful and still covering up the hierarchy except when the press undresses them. So the "well-documented pattern of denial and cover-up" is the thrust of Hoyt;s remark and decidedly incontestable. Further, I contend that we devolve into provincial thinking when we protest this coverage. Our energies should be centered on reforming the structure of the church where the problem lies.

No, Mollie, none of the Murphy documents had anything with Ratzinger's signature. The only Ratzinger signature regarded the Kielse case in CA.

The Ignatius Press website is derisive of a piece The New Yorker that suggests that Abp Rowan Williams is a more distinguished theologian than the Pope. The following paragraph is notable:"As many as a thousand conservative Anglo-Catholic priests are now said to be weighing Benedicts offer, which the Vatican called an apostolic constitution. No one, of course, can predict how many of them will accept it, but the magnitude of the pedophilia scandals that have shaken the Roman Catholic world since the invitation was issued will almost certainly deter some of their parishioners. In November, Williams had mentioned to me a number of Anglicans he knew who thought that in the long run, it would be nice to have some sort of primacy, but not the way things areand thats not about the present Pope. Today, with Benedict in eerie denial of his role in covering up those scandals, the Pope has become a very large part of the way things are. Two weeks ago, Williams spoke publicly for the first time about a colossal trauma for Roman Catholics, in particular about the distress of Irish priests whose church was suddenly losing all credibility. It was a pointed but sympathetic comment and not, as much of the press saw it, a long-simmering response to the Popes attempted incursions onto the Archbishops turf. But it was a reminder of what defecting Anglicans would be getting into. "Eerie denial of his role in covering up those scandals" jumps the gun, in several ways.http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/26/100426fa_fact_kramer?curre...

As Bill Mazzella pointed out, it is hard to object to the news coverage when Church leaders minimize and cover up this scandal. How else are we to learn about what's happening and address it? And haven't these recent articles encouraged some positive changes? The various bishops resigning, the Vatican moving to begin to address this institutionally? Would that have happened without the press? Is the objection that some of this might be "old news"? I've been wondering lately how we as Catholics are supposed to tell this story to the next generation of Catholics. Assuming the problem gets fixed, are we then supposed to pretend it never happened? That doesn't seem right. My own children are too young to know anything about this scandal. What exactly am I supposed to tell them about all of this someday? If we don't tell our own story, it will be left to the newspapers and others to tell it for us.

Hoyt's position would make sense if this was a story about "a well-documented pattern of denial and cover-up," but it wasn't. It wasn't even news, let alone page one news.

As you sow, so shall you reapThere would not be much of a story to follow were it not for the cover up. The press knows that Bishops lie, why would they presume that the Bishop of Rome is any different?

Whether you mean it or not, going after the NYT looks like another way of minimizing if not denying the incidence of abuse. It's true that in some measure the "abuse story" has been with us for more than a decade, but it's also true that the Church has largely prevented the awful details of individual cases from overtaking the coverage. This case presented a rather thorough report, you might say, of how exactly an abuser embedded himself within the Church and how the Church in its various manifestations responded or failed to respond. It named names and gave details. If it isn't news to you, I am sure it was to an awful lot of other people. It certainly was to me.

The Roman Catholic Church and the New York Times are two institutions of enormous international influence, and rightly so. What a pity they don't understand each other better. What a pity they don't understand themselves better, most especially the Church.

A problem of some posts here is the continuing identification of the (c)hurch, as a colleague calls it, with the hierachy.See the letters to the Editor on the Kristof op-ed.Barbara is right on target and Bill M."s point is germane.I think Hoyt's perspective is genuine, if one is no timbedded in the view of, whether intende dor not, protecting a Roman(ita) centered Church.

Is it possible that the Roman-centered Church is and has been making some big mistakes and the New York Times coverage has also been mistaken? The rules of logic would suggest that's a possibility.

No, Mollie, none of the Murphy documents had anything with Ratzingers signature.That's true, but I didn't say "signature" -- I said his name, as the one to whom the documents were formally addressed, is presumably the factor that motivated the NYT to report on that particular case on that particular day.

The other day I checked out an old movie I saw at the library - All the President's Men. It showed how the reporters of the Washington Post investigated the Watergate cover-up. I think we're so lucky we have a free press and that it's motivated, for whatever resaon, to ferret out the truth.

I like that word, "ferret"; it gets at some of the issues here.

It is also true, I think, that stories develop over time. This was certainly the case in Boston. For generations, public officials and Church officials turned a blind eye to abuse by priests. They were even hubristic enough to keep thorough records of their practice in shifting abusers from place to place. Were it not for the Boston Globe, I don't think the story would have come to light at all. But the story started with only a handful of cases, and the full story of the cover-up--at least as full as it's known so far--emerged over time. So, yes, newspapers sometimes do "jump the gun," though they try to avoid doing so for reasons of professional responsibility and, I assume, legal liability. (And in Boston, the Church's response was aggressive attacks on the motives of the reporters. Plus ca change...) As to a cover-up that reaches "to the Pope's door," well, that's true of Maciel, isn't it? In short, while the NYT coverage hasn't been perfect, I think it is the press to whom we need to look for any real accounting of the extent of the crisis, not the magisterium. Myself, I want the press to exercise Watergate-level caution, but the integrity of the Church, at present, seems to hinge on aggressive and thorough reporting. This could change if the bishops really wanted to address the roots of this problem. No sign of that yet, except perhaps with the resignations of the Irish bishops.

Gluttons for rhetoric!! Read the responses to the public editor on the Times's comment page (123 at my last count): http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/opinion...

I too like being compared to a ferret; ferrets eat rats! What strikes me about the Hoyt column and the back and forth in all these threads is that they seem to miss the larger point: namely, that the Vatican has portrayed Ratzinger/Benedict as a crusader against sex abuse by clergy. The stories that the Times and others have reported show that is clearly not the case, at least not before 2001 at best, more accurately 2003-04. So the stories are about getting a complete picture of the record of the head of an institution with a long-running problem and a longstanding resistance to any disclosure and change except under extreme duress. That's pretty basic truth-telling journalism. What's the problem with that?

No, the Vatican portrays Benedict as a crusader since 2001 and as out of the loop before 2001.

A Spanish Catholic magazine I ran across yesterday had the headline "Vatican inflexible against pederasty."

Margaret, the coverage would be even more accurate if the Church provided more of the underlying factual detail. It does not. Hence, the need for the press, and the defense of its own imperfections, often lie in the same place -- the unwillingness of the target to be exposed.

Joseph O'Leary, I don't see any place that the Vatican has spoken of the pope's failures before 2001. More importantly, he hasn't spoken of them.The other problem, of course, is that he has not held bishops to account even since becoming pope, except under external pressure in the case of a couple of Irish bishops (so far).

Hmm. How might I stop this thread in its tracks? The NY Times, like it or not, is resourced to provide the best journalism any north american newspaper can provide. And it consistently delivers. I think Father James Martin has the correct take. On NPR: 'Primarily, it's an issue of the culture of the church, the clerical culture that had privileged the concerns of priests over the need to care, the pastoral need to care for the most vulnerable.' If I am right, the rest of this constitutes nonsense. Case closed.

" This case presented a rather thorough report, you might say, of how exactly an abuser embedded himself within the Church and how the Church in its various manifestations responded or failed to respond. It named names and gave details."Barbara --A very important point about a perp and his relationship to a higher up who not only defended the oerp but promoted him. I'll say it: there have been rumors for years of active homosexuals among the curial bishops. Are the rumors true? If they are and if one considers the possibility of blackmail. that might cast an even uglier shadow across the whole sordid mess. Sadly, given the behavior of the curia over the last several decades, it seems to me this line of enquiry *should* be pursued by the press. Of course, the rumors may be false. But in that case, one would think the curia would have sense enough to meet the sub voce accusations head on. One does not expect much sense from the curia, however.

Mr. Gibson - agree with your observations completely. Along the lines of "All the President's Men", I saw "The Most Dangerous Man: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" last nite. Since my masters in history thesis was on the US misgovernment in Vietnam from 1945-1963 and I heard Ellsberg speak at SLU in 1973, it was great to relive those experiences.Like the former movie, would suggest that US government decisions in Vietnam are analogous to what we are seeing in Rome and sexual abuse. The US supported the Viet Minh during WWII against the Japanese; supported the UN; and the goals of WWII in terms of self-determination for all peoples. Yet, starting with Truman, five successive presidents lied about US involvement in Vietnam costing an est. 2 mil Vietnamese lives and 58,000 Americans. But, during this period, McNamara as Sec. of Defense became convinced that the war was wrong and commissioned the Rand Corp. to do the Pentagon Papers - 7,000 pages of how the US government hid, lied, covered up and made a succession of wrong decisions based on typical patterns of behavior - domino theory, political expediency, etc. In the process, Ellsberg realized that "Principle" and "Conscience" had to come before career and all the little decisions we make to compromise our goals, face reality, etc.Point being - we have no Ellsberg in Rome - Ratzinger may be the closest thing but he seems to have adopted another persona since the student unrests in the late 1960's. If he does become another "McNamara"; wonder where the records are? And given studies such as the Irish government reports, doubt that there is any one study that details the levels and cases across all the world's dioceses. What does come home is the pattern over 25 years of mounting crisis country by country and literally no to minimal response from Rome and in fact delays, push back, canon law manuveurs, etc. to protect the "institution" - not unlike US policies towards Vietnam. At one point in the movie, you realize that the Vietnam decisions had nothing to do with the Vietnamese - quote: "This war is 10% about Vietnam; 20% about US soldiers, and 70% about US politicians."T. Doyle might be the closest thing we have to Ellsberg but only for the US Church. John Allen and company (O'Leary) can try to show that Ratzinger changed in 2001 but the documentation doesn't seem to support that - and there is very little documentation. He may have started to change when made Pope but even his current actions indicate an inability to confront/change the "prevailing culture" - he is part of that culture. I am also reminded of Weakland's autobiography - beyond his own sexual relationship, the last three chapters of his book are sad.....he appears to be bewildered by how to address the issue of sexual abuse; he complains that you can not stop them from complaining; he shows his frustration with Rome, but ultimately his book ends with no resolution of the issue - the pain, suffering continue and seems perplexed and unable to address this crisis.

As far as transparency in concerned look at the fact that Rome now says that it will take another five years before the Vatican files on Pius XII can be opened to the public. This is a statement of an organization which lies a lot. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/7... truth about Pius XII on the Jews and Nazis has a parallel to the discussion here. It is always the preservation of the hierarchy and empire that is paramount. The Jews, Romero and the abused children are secondary. The empire must be preserved.

I also liked The Pentagon Papers (James Spader as Ellsberg) - Ellsberg wrote an online review of it - My Thoughts on 'The Pentagon Papers' Movie

"Joseph OLeary, I dont see any place that the Vatican has spoken of the popes failures before 2001. More importantly, he hasnt spoken of them."I think it would have cleared the air if in his letter to the Irish Bishops he had added the phrase, "I, too, have made mistakes." But it should be noted that the Vatican does not admit any failures of the Pope before 2001 for the simple reason that Vatican critics have not proven any such failures. Those who spoke freely of "smoking guns" two weeks ago are now speaking of "indicators" -- the characteristic step back when a rash accusation fails to stick. Kung's rash declaration has been dismantled by many critics, and has not been seriously defended.The cases that were supposed to provide smoking guns were: Murphy (outrageously headlined by the BBC in a way meant to suggest that Benedict had turned a blind eye to the abuse of deaf boys while it was going on), Kiesle, the Regensburg choir, Castrillon Hoyos, Hunnermann -- have I forgotten any? Ratzinger has positive pre-2001 records on the Groer scandal, according to Groer's successor Schoenborn.Three resignations of Irish bishops have been accepted (Murray, Magee, Moriarty), two more are still pending. There was also Comiskey a few years ago. All of these are good and competent men the loss of whose services will impoverish the church.

Note that in intervening to get Groer punished, Ratzinger seems to have stepped out of his own role in a quite unorthodox way. This does suggest that his anger about "filth" goes back a long way. Also, though I am highly critical of the document banning gay seminarians, it should be noted that it was one of the first acts of the pontificate, pushed through I am told by Benedict himself (not by Cardinal Grocholewski); it was a drastic and very unpopular step intended to abort one dimension of the abuse scandals; and the roots of that action on Benedict's part must go back a long way. There is a painful irony here: those who acclaim Benedict as a purger of the church are often enthusiasts for that anti-gay-seminarian document, but they do not mention it for fear of spoiling their case. Those who denounce Ratzinger as a do-nothing are often also fierce opponents of his documents on homosexuality but they do not mention it for fear of spoiling their present polemical case. So, amazingly, the document has not been mentioned at all in the present controversy!

The original article by Laurie Goodstein begins by breathlessly informing us that "Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy was an American priest accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys over 25 years. Several lawsuits have been filed against the church for failure to act in the matter. According to church files top Vatican officials - including the future Pope Benedict XVI - did not defrock Father Murphy even though they were warned repeatedly by several American bishops." Chronology is not clarified, and then only for the benefit of the careful reader, until the 6th and last paragraph. Students of journalism are told to get the essence of their story out in the first paragraph, which is what most readers will read. The article left most readers with the impression that Benedict XVI had knowingly and deliberately failed to prevent a priest from molesting 200 boys (a speculative figure by the way), whereas a correct account would be that he may have been behind Cardinal Bertone's refusal to have a canonical trial of the priest when he was dying 22 years later. But that would not make such a hot story.http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/lawrence_c_...

To the consternation of my liberal friends I have now posted a defense of Benedict against the New York Times: http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/04/the-scapegoating-of-b... I see that Bilgrimage is plugging the line that any call for understanding of pedophiles or ephebophiles, such as that of Timothy Radcliffe OP, is equal to condoning sexual abuse of minors: http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2010/04/pedophilia-ephebophilia-and-pries...

"But it should be noted that the Vatican does not admit any failures of the Pope before 2001 for the simple reason that Vatican critics have not proven any such failures."What you gratuitously assert I can gratuitously deny. But facts back up Vatican failures before 2001. The only distinction is that we did not know the details about the abuses in Europe when the Vatican declared the crisis an American problem. The Vatican has stonewalled confronting the abuse crisis for a long time and there is an abundance of evidence about it. Rome and Ratzinger bear responsibility for repressing information about pedophilia in the American church. The Ratzinger CDF which ruled with an iron hand did nothing about this growing scandal which Greeley, Doyle, Berry and others clamored about.http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/1986_05_04_Friendly_RomanCatho...

It turns out that the Vatican (or people in the Vatican) first heard of Murphy's crimes in 1995, not 1996 as previously reported. http://www.snapnetwork.org/snap_statements/2010_statements/042210_vatica... says: "The Pope's lawyer [Lena] blames Wisconsin bishops for hiding Fr. Murphy's crimes too long. But when the Vatican knew of the devastation, it stayed silent and did little. So it doesn't matter whether the Vatican kept secret a day after or a decade after the rapes happened. What matters is that the Vatican, in fact, knew of child sex crimes and did little or nothing to protect the vulnerable or heal the wounded."A decade after? Actually 21 years after. The crimes were already on public record when the Vatican first heard of them in 1996. "Protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded" here means punishing the priest 22-24 years later.

But it should be noted that the Vatican does not admit any failures of the Pope before 2001 for the simple reason that Vatican critics have not proven any such failures.I agree. The Vatican is reactive, not proactive. It hides its failures and will not admit to anything until the press exposes it in plain view. That's why it is fair for us to connect the dots. I find the Hullermann case in Munich most compelling to show that Pope Benedict, in the past, acted no differently from the typical bishop in cover-up and secrecy.But these discussions are becoming repetitive. For the present, commenters (I included) seem to have exhausted their potential for original thoughts on this crisis.

The Vatican has stated that prior to 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger's office would not have been in charge of cases dealing with pedophilia.According to this article in The New York Times, "two police departments and the district attorney", were aware of the accusations but failed to address them. I wonder how often such accusations failed to be addressed when reported to the authorities?http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/us/27wisconsin.htmlJust F.Y.I. http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfn?id=629

A few footnotes:-the distinction between abuse of children and teens rises up again here.Sex abuse is a crime committed by misuse of power to people of all ages ( Isee SNAP is trying to gather stats on abuse of adults.)-It's said the Pope is going to offer a broad (world wide?) apology -for his own failures? What wil the apology mean?Will it change our perception of the "possibilities" in media reporting?-It's also reported the Pope may not go to England after all. What does that mean as the discussion/ reportage moves on?Finally, I tip my hat to David Gibson "the ferret."While there are surely some emotional overlays in the discussion of what has happened and how it's reported, I think David continues to do an outstanding job both in his posts here and over at Politics Daily.

There is something to David Gibson's observations about the press and the Vatican. I would add this, though: just as a talk-radio host can choose which guests he allows on the air, and can always get in a last word after the caller has hung up, so a public editor can choose to which critics he responds. Hoyt, istm, rounded up a handful of relatively ineffective responses to the original article, and proceeded to point out their weaknesses. Okay as far as it goes. But in my opinion, the response that really took the wind out of the NY Times' sails on this story, and made credible George Weigel's judgment that the story is now "thoroughly discredited", was Michael Sean Winters' blog post at America on 3/26. After reading Winters' incisive analysis, it's impossible, istm, not to see the original story as a failed attempt to smear the pope. That is not to say that we didn't learn useful and distressing things from the story and its follow-up. But the lasting impression is that the NY Times attempted to tar the pope, and muffed it.

Jim,Weigel said

in a story claiming that, as cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF], Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, had prevented sanctions against Father Lawrence Murphy

But the story didn't say that. The Times story begins

Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused BoysBy LAURIE GOODSTEINTop Vatican officials including the future Pope Benedict XVI did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal. . . .

The Times never says what the pope did or didn't do. It only says he received the letters. The Times also does not allege that anything was at stake other than appearances. It does not claim that if Murphy had been defrocked, it would have prevented children from being molested. On the other hand, Michael Sean Winters says

The case from Milwaukee was sent to Ratzinger because the charge of violating the confessional is reserved to the Holy See. By 1996, however, the priest in question was dying and Ratzinger recommended that the authorities not take any steps; nature had already taken its course and ended the possibility of a future threat and Sister Death was about the claiming the perpetrator for herself.

Winters actually does attribute to Ratzinger something ("Ratzinger recommended . . .") that the Times does not.Those who are upset about the Times coverage seem to be concerned that only one incident was reported, and that the Times does not say, "However, look at everything Cardinal Ratzinger and now Pope Benedict XVI has done since this story." The "problem" with Clark Hoyt's assessment of the coverage by the New York Times is that Hoyt is looking at it as a journalist, and others -- understandably or not -- are looking at it as Catholics who don't like seeing anything the pope does portrayed in a less than glowing light. It is Weigel and Winters whose pieces have been discredited, not the Times coverage. Every pertinent document was made available on the Times. You didn't even have to read the story.

What the church needs if a Vatican version of Watergate's "deep throat."Unfortunately, considering the nature of the crimes and abuses under endictment, said title raises images that may not be suitable for small children, women and sensitive men. And horses in the streets.

David: "The Times never says what the pope did or didnt do." It does, actually: that first sentence from the article, which you quoted, says the pope "did not defrock" Murphy.The problem with Clark Hoyts assessment of the coverage by the New York Times is that Hoyt is looking at it as a journalist, and others understandably or not are looking at it as Catholics who dont like seeing anything the pope does portrayed in a less than glowing light. I don't think that's right, at least not in my case. I'm interested in Hoyt's analysis precisely because he's examining the story as journalism, independent of the positive or negative impact it has on the Church or how angry it makes Catholics. I don't want to see the bishops or any other Church spokespeople attacking the media; I want to see them examining the failures of Church. But being hard on the NYT is Clark Hoyt's job. And I'm disappointed in what he came up with because, as media criticism, I think it's pretty weak.

It does, actually: that first sentence from the article, which you quoted, says the pope did not defrock Murphy.Mollie,Well, I did not defrock Murphy, either! Nobody defrocked him. What I meant was that the Times coverage does not say Ratzinger made any decisions, gave any orders, or intervened personally in any way, as Hoyt points out when he says, "The Times article did not establish what role, if any, Ratzinger played, saying only that communications about the case were addressed to him and that his deputy intervened." It seems only fair to me, since Ratzinger was the man in charge, who received the correspondence, to say he did not defrock Murphy. It's not an accusation. It's just a fact. The CDF did not defrock Murphy. But being hard on the NYT is Clark Hoyts job.No, I think his job is to be as frank and candid in his assessments as possible. He is the public editor, he's not the prosecutor. He is there to give an independent judgment, not to make a case against the Times when he believes they have done the right thing. I don't really want to rehash the whole thing, but I don't see how the story was unfair. And some key points that were disputed have been clarified, so we do know that Weakland was overruled by Bertone and told to stop the trial. A lot of the CDF's defenders said it didn't tell Weakland what to do, it only made observations, and Weakland stopped the trial. But we now know Brudage's initial comments on the whole matter were incorrect.

"The Times never says what the pope did or didnt do. It only says he received the letters."David - then why mention him before even coming to the predicate of the very first sentence of the story?

David then why mention him before even coming to the predicate of the very first sentence of the story?Jim,Because he (a) received the correspondence, (b) was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handled the case, and (c) he is currently the pope. As I have said before, if somebody writes to Obama at the White House asking for something to be taken care of, and Rahm Emanuel handles the matter in a way that is open to criticism, do you think it's unfair to explain who Obama is and that Rahm Emanuel works directly for him?

I asserted that Ratzinger's critics have not proven their case against Ratzinger. Bill Mazzella answers:"What you gratuitously assert I can gratuitously deny."This is a double fallacy, in that it presupposes -- without proof -- that my assertion is gratuitous, and that is then gratuitously denies it instead of pointing to the facts that would refute it.True, Bill goes on to cease being gratuitous by pointing to facts:" But facts back up Vatican failures before 2001."Of course. But they also show Ratzinger fighting other people in the Vatican on the Groer and Maciel cases, though he was not then in charge of such matters; The Tablet pointed that out in an interesting editorial recently."Rome and Ratzinger bear responsibility for repressing information about pedophilia in the American church. The Ratzinger CDF which ruled with an iron hand did nothing about this growing scandal which Greeley, Doyle, Berry and others clamored about."Again, this presupposes, quite incorrectly, that the CDF was in charge of sex abuse issues. It wasn't, until 2001. Is it not possible that Ratzinger was so annoyed with the poor handling of those issues in the Vatican that he asked John Paul II to put him in charge of them in 2001?So Bill, what you are doing here -- unless you offer proof -- may be a form of scapegoating. Ratzinger looks like the juiciest target for blame, but he may be precisely the wrong target.Meanwhile, I note that Bill DeHaas has not withdrawn his apparently libelous claims about Cardinal Brady.

I think I am probably not alone in having finally gotten tired of defending the Church or the Pope in this matter when, presumably, if he really wanted to prove the NYT wrong he has the means to do so -- release additional records or materials related to the disposition of cases. We have no idea whether Bill is scapegoating because the target has no inclination and no real incentive to set the record straight when legions jump to his defense giving him the full benefit of the doubt without knowing what the rest of the story might be. I really marvel at how people can play the same game over and over, until the next revelation comes out and God knows what that will be. This is how abusive relationships work, until the wildly pathologic just seems like another normal day.

Barbara - you are correct. The pattern for 25 years has been first one document; then another, etc.O'Leary - you can defend and spin your theories all you want; none of us really knows but eventually enough documentation will be released to confirm the age old pattern. You run the same risk as G. Weigel, First Things, EWTN, etc. who held Maciel and others up as the next saint. Even John Paul the Great - my guess is that history will not treat him well given the crisis of sexual abuse; the litmus test for naming orthodox bishops not leaders; etc.I think I will line up with the pattern being negative not positive. If he had nothing to hide, we would know about it. It will just take time and sadly outside agents rather than the church itself will have to expose the truth.

But we do know about positive steps Ratzinger took -- do they not figure at all on your balance-sheet?"If he had nothing to hide, we would know about it" -- that way lies paranoia!

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