After publishing an article last week that incriminated the U.S. apostolic nuncio by suggesting he regularly insults an alleged victim of clerical abuse in Washington D.C., Politics Daily removed the “disquieting” article and expressed regret they had published it.
On May 7, Annie Groer of Politics Daily wrote that a 67-year-old alleged sex-abuse victim named John Wojnowski accused Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., of verbally assaulting him at least 15 times in the last 20 months.
According to Wojnowski, Archbishop Sambi has called him an “idiot,” a “loser” and a “fetid pervert” among other things during his walks on the street of the nunciature in Washington D.C. where Wojnowski protests.
Wojnowski, who claims he was molested in 1958 yet repressed the memory until 1997, has picketed the Vatican embassy for the past dozen years. The protestor often carries signs, the most recent of which reads, “Sociopaths Hide Pedophiles. Vatican Hides Pedophiles.” According to Groer, Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., said that Wojnowski has been offered counseling and other assistance numerous times, although he claims he doesn't “have time for it.”
The protestor provided Politics Daily with what looks like a detailed account of the days and times that Archbishop Sambi has allegedly insulted him. Wojnowski claims that the archbishop has made his remarks in his native Italian, which Wojnowski claims to speak as well.
Groer wrote that despite her numerous “requests” for comment on these charges, Archbishop Sambi “has chosen to remain silent” and has not responded to her. Groer then concluded her article saying that Wojnowski “would like Pietro Sambi, the Pope's man in Washington, to stop calling him names.”
A week after the article ran, Politics Daily writer Carl M. Cannon, a senior Washington correspondent who initially approved the incriminating piece, explained that the story has since been removed and expressed regret that it had ever been published.
Cannon wrote on May 15 that that in “hindsight,” the “disquieting story” did not “rise to our own threshold of fairness.” He added that the article did not initally note that it was the archbishop “who helped arrange for the first-ever meeting between a pope and victims of clerical sex abuse when Pope Benedict visited Washington in 2008.”
“In political journalism,” Cannon continued, “Sambi's silence almost automatically generates a presumption that Wojnowski's account is true: The archbishop didn't even deny it! Upon reflection, however, it occurred to us that other explanations are as likely.”
“For one,” he continued, “the hierarchy of the church is not steeped in the customs of post-Watergate U.S. journalism, and does not necessarily subscribe to the dictum in American politics to immediately respond to every attack.”
“Archbishop Pietro Sambi's reticence might just as well stem from a general reluctance to engage the mass media,” the senior correspondent observed. “Or perhaps his silence is motivated by feelings of Christian charity, instead of contempt, toward a troubled protester.”
“We don't know the answer,” Cannon conceded. “We don't know, in fact, that the story is wrong. But we're not sure it's right, and we wish now that we had not published it.”
Cannon added that although the editor in chief for Politics Daily has since decided to remove the story, it “probably won't be the last word on this subject.”
However, he noted, “this mea culpa should be a part of the record too.”