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Coverage of the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal had focused on Ireland and Germany and other parts of Europe lately, until The New York Times started revisiting old American cases, trying to find a link between church coverups of pedophile priests and the Vatican disciplinary office once led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

After nearly a week of making general statements in the pope’s defense, church officials are now specifically taking aim at the NYT, pointing out what they see as errors, carelessness and bias in the investigative reporting, columns by Maureen Dowd (who has called for an “inquisition for the pope“) and other op-ed pieces.

Whispers in the Loggia, a Catholic blog, has posted the response from Cardinal William J. Levada, the former San Francisco archbishop who now holds Ratzinger’s previous Vatican position. He concludes:

I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s “disturbing report.” But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his “successor” Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today, I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.

Religion News Service and Catholic News Agency also have stories about Levada’s denunciation of the NYT; GetReligion has summarized some of the other critiques of the coverage, too. Meanwhile, the New York Daily News is reaching out to Catholic readers upset at its competitor, with an editorial calling for “fairness for the pope.”

Last but not least, Catholic News Agency reports the Rev. Gabriele Amorth, an Italian exorcist, says Satan is behind “the recent defamatory on Pope Benedict XVI, especially by the New York Times.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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