A former editor for Newsweek slammed the New York Times for their recent attempts to link the Pope with Church sex abuse cover up and charged that the paper created its “own version of the scandal as if they had discovered something new.”
Kenneth Woodward, former religion editor of Newsweek, argued in an April 28 Commonweal article that the NY Times has not been “fair” in its “all-hands-on-deck drive to implicate the pope in diocesan cover-ups of abusive priests.”
Woodward began his commentary by suggesting that that lawyer Jeff Anderson, the “nation's most aggressive litigator,” who has a financial interest in prosecuting the Church and who provided documents to the NY Times on the Fr. Murphy abuse case in Milwaukee, should have had a “co-byline” in the paper's coverage of the scandal.
Not only did the NY Times fail to mention that Anderson has already received more that 60 million in settlements from the Church to date, said Woodward, they have also unfairly zeroed in on abuse committed by Catholics priests over other groups. Recent stories on sex abuse scandals within other organizations were given much less coverage and were buried “deep inside” the paper as opposed to the front page, Woodward claimed.
The former Newsweek editor continued in his article to liken the NY Times to the Catholic Church in the sense that the paper resembles the Church in “size, organization, internal culture, and international reach.”
Although the NY Times is not distinct in that it “rivals the Catholic worldview,” said Woodward, what makes the paper unique is its scope and influence.
“Again like the Church of Rome,” he explained, “the Times exercises a powerful magisterium or teaching authority through its editorial board. There is no issue, local or global, on which these (usually anonymous) writers do not pronounce with a papal-like editorial 'we.'”
“Like the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” Woodward added, “the editorial board is there to defend received truth as well as advance the paper’s political, social, and cultural agendas.”
“The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ.”
Woodward then criticized the current executive editor of the NY Times, Bill Keller, who Woodward claims has described himself as a “collapsed” Catholic.
“As executive editor, Keller is now responsible for front-paging journalistically questionable stories that attempt but never quite manage to make the pope personally complicit in the clergy-abuse scandal,” Woodward underscored. “He apparently thinks that Jeff Anderson has handed over the ecclesiastical equivalent of the Pentagon Papers.”
The former Newsweek editor then clarified that he is “not suggesting that the scandal is merely media-driven, as some at the Vatican have argued. There would be no stories if there had been no history of abuses and cover-ups in the first place.”
However, he added, “I am saying that the Times has created its own version of the scandal as if they had discovered something new.
“They haven’t,” Woodward charged. “Until they do, I remain a dissenter in the pews of the Church of the New York Times.”