April 6, 2010

A MEDIA LITERACY VIEW OF CHURCH SEX ABUSE SCANDAL NEWS REPORTING


The Wall Street Journal also has an op-ed piece today about lawyer Jeffrey Anderson's
involvement. http://www.bridgeportdiocese.com/talk.3.31.2010.shtml

The Holy Father That I Know

by the Most Reverend William E. Lori, S.T.D., Diocese of Bridgeport, CT
March 31, 2010

It is Holy Week, that time out of time, when we remember the most
important events of all time: Jesus' suffering, His crucifixion, and
His conquest of death. The world, of course, is filled with
distractions. In this holy season some, especially the news media,
want us to focus instead on the supposed failures of our Pope,
Benedict XVI. The New York Times is again leading the attack, now
accusing the Holy Father himself of being complicit in "the widening
sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church." I want to share with you my
reflections about this subject.

It appears that the timing of these articles is calculated. The March
25 New York Times story suggesting that then-Cardinal Ratzinger
permitted a known offender to continue in ministry for almost thirty
years was based upon documents provided to it by Jeffrey Anderson, an
attorney who has received over $100 million suing Catholic
institutions and who is now suing the Vatican itself. Mr. Anderson
received these documents in discovery in December 2008. Why did he
wait until now to hand them over to the Times? Was it to help his suit
against the Vatican? Was it to coordinate with claimant groups
protesting in the Vatican on the very day of the Times report? Was it
to promote legislation friendly to plaintiffs' lawyers such as we are
fighting here in Connecticut and elsewhere? Was it to sully the
holiness of this week? We don't know. We do know that Mr. Anderson
controlled the timing, and the Times helped.

The truth is that there is no widening problem of child sexual abuse
in the Catholic Church, at least not in our country. A comprehensive
"Causes and Contents" study conducted by the John Jay College of
Criminal Justice showed that, by the early 90s, this problem was
largely corrected because many bishops already had in place safe
environment programs and zero tolerance policies. In 2002 the U.S.
bishops took additional steps to reach out to victims and to ensure
the safety of children and young people by issuing their landmark
Charter and Norms. For our Church serving almost 70 million American
Catholics, there were six allegations of childhood sexual abuse by
priests occurring in 2009. No other institution working with children
gets close to this level of safe environment.

Let us now focus on the stories in the New York Times regarding
Reverend Lawrence C. Murphy, the deceased Milwaukee priest who was
accused of molesting young people during the 1960s and 70s when he
headed a school for the hearing and sight impaired. To be sure, his
heinous behavior was utterly reprehensible and destructive. At the
same time, however, the Times' story incorrectly reports that Cardinal
Ratzinger was complicit when, "instead of discipline," Father Lawrence
Murphy was "quietly moved" to the Diocese of Superior where he
continued "working freely with children in parishes" for twenty-four
years until he died in 1998. The police looked into the allegations
regarding Father Murphy in 1974 and apparently found insufficient
evidence to take any action. Nevertheless, Murphy lost his job as head
of the school for the hearing and sight impaired in 1974. The
documents the Times itself posts show that his removal was not "quiet"
but that the police were informed, that there were protests and
leafleteering, and that there was "disclosure and public humiliation
in 1974."

Finally, the Times states that Murphy was "never disciplined." This
simply is not so. The Times does not tell its readers that, shortly
after new allegations came his way in 1993, Archbishop Weakland
promptly suspended Murphy's faculties and ordered him to cease all
public ministry, all unsupervised contact with children, and all
contact with persons, places, and situations giving rise to
temptations. The Times either hid the fact that Murphy was disciplined
by suspension of his faculties because it did not comport with the
story it wanted to tell, or because Mr. Anderson withheld the
documents from the Times that detailed this discipline.

In fact, if the New York Times had bothered to check with Father
Thomas Brundage, JCL, the Judicial Vicar for the Archdiocese of
Milwaukee from 1995-2003, they would have been found that at the time
of his death, Father Murphy was still a defendant in a Canonical trial
(an internal trial conducted by the Church) in Milwaukee for the
crimes of sexual abuse and solicitation within the confessional. Thus,
the New York Times either was less than forthcoming in stating that
Murphy suffered no discipline, or Mr. Anderson, through selective
document disclosures, played the New York Times like a fiddle. The
shameless and reckless assertions by the Times and other media outlets
that then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, somehow
interfered with the trial by the church are categorically false. Fr.
Brundage, who was the presiding judge of the Canonical trial, says
unequivocally "with regard to the role of then Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in this matter, I have no reason to
believe that he was involved at all. Placing this matter at his
doorstep is a huge leap of logic and information."

Here's what I know about Pope Benedict XVI and sexual abuse. As
detailed by John Allen of The National Catholic Reporter, when
Cardinal Ratzinger became the Vatican's "point man" on the problem in
2001, he personally reviewed hundreds of files. He then wrote the
bishops of the world that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith would henceforth handle all sexual abuses cases involving
priests. Under his leadership the Congregation provided bishops with
crucial direction and support in canonically removing offending
priests from ministry. In most circumstances, the Congregation
approved direct administrative actions so that bishops could
discipline and remove priests without the delays of full canonical
trials.

In 2002, I assisted in writing the Charter and Norms for the
Protection of Children and Young People. I was also one of the four
U.S. diocesan bishops who went to Rome to secure approval of the
Norms. I personally witnessed the pivotal and positive role that
Cardinal Ratzinger played in helping the American bishops to respond
to the sexual abuse crisis. Thanks to Cardinal Ratzinger the United
States Norms won approval from the Holy See. Together with the Charter
for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Norms have helped
the U.S. Bishops to bring about a true culture change in the Church.
State of the art safe environment programs have been developed.
Countless victims have been assisted. Priests who posed a danger to
young people are out of ministry. Dioceses cooperate closely with law
enforcement officials (contrary to yet another faulty op-ed piece in
the New York Times). The Congregation also helped bishops of other
countries deal with the sexual abuse crisis. When he became Pope,
Benedict XVI made resolution of the abuse problem a priority. Instead
of attacking this Pope, we should be thanking him for helping the
Church confront this crisis in a way that benefits victims, the
Church, and society.

There is an additional problem with the New York Times report worth
mentioning. It states that Father Murphy "also got a pass from the
police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims." This
clause is the entire comment that the Times gives to the failure of
the one government entity that had the greatest power to conduct an
investigation and remove an alleged sexual perpetrator from being
around children. The Church has no search warrants or prisons. The
police do. When government fails to manage the risk of sexual abuse,
the New York Times and other media too often give government a pass.
If we really care about protecting children, then the fourth estate
needs to focus its spotlight on those institutions with the greatest
problems. In January of this year, the U.S. Department of Justice
reported that one out of ten young people incarcerated in
government-run detention facilities were sexually victimized by their
guards during the single year of 2008. This represents 2,370 victims.
Where was the Times report? And the number of sexual abuse victims in
public schools dwarfs the problem in juvenile detention facilities.

The Times sued our Diocese to acquire privileged documents from court
files so that it could re-publish stories of long settled sexual abuse
cases that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet it ignores that
since 1992 in Connecticut alone, 112 Connecticut public school
teachers and coaches have lost their license to teach because of
sexual contact with students; and since 2006, 19 foster parents paid
by the State of Connecticut have been disciplined for sexually abusing
the children in their care. Where's the outrage and the calls for
resignations? Having the Pope and the Catholic Church bear the entire
blame of childhood sexual abuse may benefit the trial lawyers and
serve the agenda of their media partners, but it does nothing to
protect children today. Transferring billions from Catholic dioceses,
religious orders, and their charitable and educational ministries in a
time of economic crisis only creates new victims. It is time that
Church-bashing give way to responsible reporting and even-handed
public policy.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. It puts things in perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In my parish, St. John the Evangelist in Goshen, NY, the first major pedophile scandal materialized in the early nineties. The priest in question, "Father Ed" had been molesting boys in their early teens. To say that the parishioners were traumatized by this would be an understatement. They were devastated. Then something wondrous happened....

    Father Ed was eventually replaced by Father Trevor Nichols. Father Trevor had been an Anglican in merrie old England when he converted to Catholicism. On becoming a Catholic was transferred to Saint John's - WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO DAUGHTERS! A married priest! WITH TWO KIDS!

    You want to hear the punch line? Our little parish did not implode. The sun did not fall from the sky. Huge cracks did not appear in the earth's surface. In fact, it was nice having them. They were - and are to this day - deeply beloved by the people of St. John's.

    Allowing priests to marry would transform the Catholic Church. Having a married priest and his lovely family in our midst certainly transformed the people of St. John's.

    http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

    Tom Degan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous10:46 AM

    I'm happy to hear that the new priest, Father Nichols, is a good priest. However, I fail to see what his story, or your emphasis about his being married with two kids, has to do with the original post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Most abuse cases happen in families and the perps are usually married, male and upper-class.

    The primary unifying factor in all of this is moral relativism and therefore, Liberalism.

    So, the Catholic Church shouldn't become more Liberal, which would make things worse. Look at the Anglicans, they have more problems with sex abuse than Catholics. We should instead get rid of the Liberals and Homosexuals employing tried and true methods.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ok I really enjoyed this article. My little sister sent this to me. And it does put another view (truth)to the story. Thank you to my sister. And as to the Times and other publications start giving the whole story so others can make educated opinions. I truly believe the reason newspapers and magazines around the country are losing readers is because they are not telling the truth. They have an agenda. And Religious beliefs have no place in an Liberal world.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi,

    My name is Rev Robert Wright, Editor for Christian.com, a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the entire Christian community an outlet to join together and better spread the good word of Christianity. Christian.com has many great features like Christian TV, prayer requests, finding a church, receiving church updates and advice. We have emailed you to collaborate with you and your blog to help spread the good word of Christianity. I look forward to your response regarding this matter. Thanks!


    Rev. Robert Wright
    rev.robertwright@gmail.com
    www.christian.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I enjoyed reading this article.It open the mind of the readers to a know said of the story.

    ReplyDelete