.- Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, granted an interview to PBS in which he analyzed the ongoing sex abuse scandal. Saying that the Church was caught off guard by the wave accusations, he pointed to the high profile government report in Ireland, media bias and lawyers as contributors to painting an unfair and unbalanced portrait of the Church.
PBS’s Margaret Warner noted in her interview, set to air on April 27, that “We've had people say to us that this is the worst crisis the church has faced in a couple hundred years,” and asked the cardinal if he concurred.
“It's a big crisis. I think no one should try to diminish that,” Cardinal Levada told PBS. “I think the crisis is particularly grave because priests are ordained to be good shepherds ... this is anything but being a good shepherd when you abuse children and you violate their innocence … So this is a crisis, if you will, that I think caught most of us by surprise,” he affirmed.
Noting that the American Church had been through the entire ordeal eight years ago, Warner wondered why recent events were surprising and why the Vatican had not been more prepared to deal with them.
“Well I think that there are two things involved in the current media attention,” said Cardinal Levada. “I think one is the situation in Ireland, where the report on the Archdiocese of Dublin triggered a lot of attention not only in Ireland but in Europe and then I think throughout the world.”
“The second frankly, I think, is, if I will say, a certain media bias,” Cardinal Levada stated. “I don't want to scapegoat anybody or have a conspiracy theory but I do think that the American media in particular, the question has been driven by information given by the plaintiff's attorneys who are looking for ways to involve the pope somehow.” He also noted that the media coverage has been rather unfair and hasn’t given a “balanced picture, a picture in context.”
“I haven't seen in the reporting much attention given to what the United States church has done,” he added. He focused on the “very concrete action” that the American bishops took when they were the focus of constant media attention in 2002.
“When you see the programs that have been developed, the educational programs for parents, for children, for all church workers, including priests and teachers, there is a real success story that I personally (think) we ought to be proud of and say this also can be a model,” the CDF prefect told PBS. “We're not proud that we had to create it but it can be a model for public schools, Boy Scouts, some of these other groups we're seeing now,” he added.
According to Cardinal Levada, when he was ordained a bishop in 1983, he had never heard of a case of a priest abusing a child. “But in what we've seen reported, it was going on. It was going on behind closed doors. Nobody was reporting it,” he explained. “And it took us a lot of time I think to understand how to deal with this.” He called the process of reacting to the first reports of priestly sexual abuse “learning by doing.”
In response to a question about the Church's credibility being undermined by the surfacing of new accusations, the cardinal noted that many abuse victims have been living with what happened to them for 20, 30, or 40 years, and that there is “no way you can tell a victim to come forward.”
At the same time, the American cardinal pointed once again to the U.S. bishops Dallas charter from 2002 as a model and said he continues to offer his assistance to his brother bishops around the world.