Weigel: NY Times trying to discredit Church using sex abuse

Weigel: NY Times trying to discredit Church using sex abuse

George Weigel, scholar and biographer of Venerable Pope John Paul II.
George Weigel, scholar and biographer of Venerable Pope John Paul II.


In an article published on Monday, noted Catholic scholar George Weigel condemned the recent media treatment of Pope Benedict XVI, particularly by the New York Times, as part of a larger agenda to take “the Church down” and discredit its moral authority. Weigel also praised the Holy Father's “determination to root out” what the Pontiff previously called “filth in the Church.”

Weigel began his First Things article by arguing that the media has recently portrayed the Catholic Church as “the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young,” when in fact, it is “by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today.”
“According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests,” he asserted, “a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).”

Weigel argued that the media is not interested in these facts, however, and that the recent deluge concerning Pope Benedict is more “about taking the Church down – and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy.”

“For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors,” he added, “then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.”

A prime example of media distortion, according to Weigel, is the coverage of the New York Times, whose reporters and editors have “abandoned any pretense of maintaining journalistic standards.” In the papal biographer's view, an article published on March 25 “demonstrated just how low those determined to bring the Church down were prepared to go.”

In a front page article last week, the New York Times claimed that the Holy Father had prevented sanctions against Father Lawrence Murphy, a Milwaukee priest who abused an estimated 200 deaf children several decades ago. The allegations against the Pope in the March 25 article were “simply not true,” said Weigel, “as the legal papers from the Murphy case the Times provided on its Web site demonstrated.”

The scholar also took issue with the fact that the New York Times used the scandal-ridden former Archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland and the sex abuse settlement attorney Jeff Anderson as two “implausible” and “disqualified” sources. Weigel then called the the paper's “descent into tabloid sourcing and innuendo” even more “offensive” given Pope Benedict’s “determination to root out what he once described as the 'filth' in the Church.”

Weigel concludes his piece by stating that though the Vatican is improving in responding quickly to media attacks, “it could still do better.” He advised a more thorough explanation on canonical procedures and a time line of how the Archdiocese of Munich dealt with an abusive priest who was under then-Cardinal Ratzinger's jurisdiction.

George Weigel added one other useful change as he closed: “elementary fairness from the global media.”

To view the full article, visit: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/03/scoundrel-times