Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The NYT’s weak hatchet job on Benedict

posted by Rod Dreher

When I opened up my morning New York Times and saw a giant, above-the-fold story on how Cardinal Ratzinger’s office had the authority all along to deal with the sex-abuse crisis, and not just since the early part of the last decade, my first thought was: they must have some sort of big, bad smoking gun to merit this kind of play.
I read through all 4,000 words of the thing, and … there’s not that much to it. The real gist of the story is how the incredibly tangled legal culture of the Vatican and its sprawling bureaucracy tended to keep the right hand from knowing what the left hand was doing, and contributed to impeding reform and swift action against clerical abusers. This is the heart of the real story:

Nicholas P. Cafardi, a Catholic expert in canon law who is dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law, said, “When it came to handling child sexual abuse by priests, our legal system fell apart.”
There was additional confusion over the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases — or whether there even was one, given the Vatican’s reaffirmation of the 1922 and 1962 papal instructions. Many bishops had believed that they could not prosecute cases against priests because they exceeded the five-year statute of limitations enacted in 1983, effectively shielding many molesters since victims of child abuse rarely came forward until they were well into adulthood.
Mr. Cafardi, who is also the author of “Before Dallas: The U.S. Bishops’ Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children,” argued that another effect of the 2001 apostolic letter was to impose a 10-year statute of limitations on pedophilia cases where, under a careful reading of canon law, none had previously applied.
“When you think how much pain could’ve been prevented, if we only had a clear understanding of our own law,” he said. “It really is a terrible irony. This did not have to happen.”

Understand, it’s not that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, is blameless here. It’s rather that what the Times has found is an example of how a moral imperative — dealing firmly and effectively with the problem of child-molesting priests — got obscured and smothered by the fog of bureaucracy. That’s an important story, indeed a tragic one. But it’s not the story the Times apparently wants the reader to take away from its reporting, as evidenced by this astonishing passage of editorializing within the story itself:

During this period, the three dozen staff members working for Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were busy pursuing other problems. These included examining supernatural phenomena, like apparitions of the Virgin Mary, so that hoaxes did not “corrupt the faith,” according to the Rev. Brian Mulcahy, a former member of the staff. Other sections weighed requests by divorced Catholics to remarry and vetted the applications of former priests who wanted to be reinstated.
The heart of the office, though, was its doctrinal section. Cardinal Ratzinger, a German theologian appointed prefect of the congregation in 1981, aimed his renowned intellectual firepower at what he saw as “a fundamental threat to the faith of the church” — the liberation theology movement sweeping across Latin America.
As Father Gauthé was being prosecuted in Louisiana, Cardinal Ratzinger was publicly disciplining priests in Brazil and Peru for preaching that the church should work to empower the poor and oppressed, which the cardinal saw as a Marxist-inspired distortion of church doctrine. Later, he also reined in a Dutch theologian who thought lay people should be able to perform priestly functions, and an American who taught that Catholics could dissent from church teachings about abortion, birth control, divorce and homosexuality.

This is incredibly unfair, even tendentious, designed to lead the reader to the conclusion that Ratzinger busied himself being “God’s Rottweiler,” as his enemies have called him, attacking favorite causes of liberals, while letting abused children hang. My longtime readers know that I have not hesitated to criticize Benedict over his handling of the scandal, when I thought that criticism was warranted. It’s hard for me to conclude, though, that this massive Times story today is meant as much more than an unfair, and ideologically-driven, attack on the Pope.
Let me say it again: I do not think this Pope has done nearly enough to fix the problems within the church related to the scandal, though he has done far more than his predecessor. I think he is handling the matter fairly poorly, and only looks good by comparison to previous popes, including John Paul II. For all that, it’s hard for me to avoid the conclusion that the Times took the nugget of a good story — how the Vatican’s bureaucracy and otherwordly mindset worked to prevent urgent and necessary action on behalf of abuse victims — and tried to turn it into a millstone to hang around Benedict’s neck. This is very poor journalism. I leave it to Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion to take you through the particulars. Her conclusion:

It just reads like a hit piece and I’m truly disappointed in it. And not just because I so admire [reporter Laurie] Goodstein’s body of work. A piece of this length with that kind of absolutely inflammatory lede better back it up well. It doesn’t even come close. In no way did the story live up to its big-talking promises at the beginning. And that’s because the reporting didn’t support those claims.
This could have been an illuminating story about how dysfunctional the Vatican is or how confusing it can be when you have competing statutes in canon law. All of that is newsworthy and valid. There are plenty of Catholic scandals to report on. And the desire to advance the story by connecting it to the Vatican is fine, even if the complete lack of context in these stories is unfortunate. But no matter how much you want to have a hot story, you can’t let accurate reporting become a casualty.

UPDATE: Michael Sean Winters at the (liberal) National Catholic Reporter, which has been highly critical of the bishops and the Vatican for its handling of the sex abuse crisis, lays into the Times report hard. Excerpt:

This morning’s New York Times “expose” regarding then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s role in the Vatican’s response to the clergy sex abuse crisis exposes more than it intended. It exposes the fact that the authors, Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger, and their editors, do not understand what they are talking about and, at times, put forward such an unrelentingly tendentious report, it is difficult to attribute it to anything less than animus.
The article put me in mind of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” One or two mistakes are to be expected. The friend I consult on environmental matters tells me that when she reads the Times on the subject, she assumes they will get it wrong. But a slew of such mistakes raises doubts. Ignorance is a scarcely less heinous crime for a reporter than bias. You be the judge.



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Robert C

posted July 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm


Rod are you really that surprised in this circumstance? The Times has a discernible history of misrepresentation of the truth. Carnards are not simply a dish served in their cafeteria.



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sdf

posted July 2, 2010 at 1:34 pm


Rod,
I understand that the Vatican cannot use accurate language without doing more PR harm to itself than good, but nothing is stopping you from doing so. Can we stop using the word “pedophilia” and the phrase “child sexual abuse” to describe these outrages? The vast, vast majority of them were pederasty, plain and simple.



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John

posted July 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm


I’m not sure it’s all as unfair as you make out. It’s not all that uncommon for overzealous protection of doctrine to make people less aware of other faults and sins withiin a religious organization, so that may be a fair point for the Times to make on some level.
The other question I have is why, regardless of the church’s own laws, did not anyone in authority report instances of child sexual abuse to the civil authorities, which St. Paul tells us in Romans are established by God for our own protection and good? It sure looks an awful lot like the whole system was working to keep things in-house and thus quiet, and that this institutional sin is what allowed many individual sins to continue.



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Robert C

posted July 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm


“for overzealous protection of doctrine” ?
Tu Quoque I say. Laurie Goldstein is a reporter working for a newspaper in New York city with an extraordinary liberal bias and a discernable agenda, nay “docrine”. Mny of her articles on the topic were based on slanted and prejudiced sources and reek of poor journalism. She has a sourceable history of liberal pontificating. Examples:
http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/11/christians-urged-to-boycott-glenn-beck/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/25/us/politics/25faith.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&sq=religion&st=cse&scp=1



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Erin Manning

posted July 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm


Rod writes, “Let me say it again: I do not think this Pope has done nearly enough to fix the problems within the church related to the scandal, though he has done far more than his predecessor. I think he is handling the matter fairly poorly, and only looks good by comparison to previous popes, including John Paul II.”
All due respect, of course, but I’ve heard you and others say this–yet when asked what, specifically, the pope should be doing, the answers usually involve the wholesale firing of bishops in whose dioceses cases of abuse ever occurred; aside from that, there’s no concrete idea of what the pope needs to do, or should be doing, that he hasn’t done/isn’t doing at present.
I can agree that there are some bishops whose immediate retirement ought to happen–but how does that “fix” things? Or is there some other specific course of action that observers think ought to happen which is not happening?
(I can already predict that some of the answers to my question will involve the names of Law and Mahony. Can we stipulate for the sake of argument that both men should have been stripped of their ability to function as priests–e.g., laicized–and then arrested, charged with criminal acts, and sentenced to spend the rest of their natural lives in American prisons or executed or whatever punishment seems appropriate–and then still answer my question without reference to them?)



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John

posted July 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm


Robert C.
I’m not saying the writer isn’t biased. I’m saying she might well be biased and still be making a valid point, thus my uncertainty about it being as unfair overall as portrayed in the post.



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Irenaeus

posted July 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm


When I saw the story late last night, I was concerned regarding how you might run with it. Glad to see you saw it largely for what it is, this time. A couple things:
(1) A main source is retired auxiliary bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Sydney, Australia. He’s so heterodox that even Archbishop Mahony forbade him in 2008 from speaking in his archdiocese of Los Angeles.
(2) From Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s blog:
The real problem is that [the NYT] absolutely get[s] wrong the 1962 document Crimen sollicitationis…
Two points.
1) As is clear from Crimen sollicitationis 1-2, the jurisdiction of the then Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (SSCSO, the name of the present Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or CDF until 1965), only covered solicitation in the context of confession/internal forum, and not other delicts. That is why there are relatively few cases handled at the SSCSO and CDF until the whole system was overhauled.
2) The jurisdiction of the SSCSO/CDF was not immediate. The first instance or immediate jurisdiction remained in the diocese. The SSCSO would only have called a case to Rome if their were some compelling reason, for example, depending on whether the Holy Office even knew about it, or if the diocese couldn’t deal with it. The dioceses had immediate jurisdiction.
I suppose you could object that Rome should have wanted to deal with every case. Consider that back then is not right now. Tools of communication are very different now. Given the reasonable principle of subsidiarity, there was great reason to leave the cases in the dioceses. As the situation, and communications, changed, Rome could get more directly involved and informed. But, until the Church’s procedures were changed, that was how they handled things.
These points are crucial, for on them rests the mantra that “all along Ratzinger and the CDF did nothing”.



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James Spitalere

posted July 2, 2010 at 3:32 pm


I think the real story is that, while Ratzinger managed to closely deal with matters of doctrinal differences, but somehow constant, pervasive sex abuse slipped through the cracks. While you can show, over and over, that statistically, priests are not rapists more often than any other group is, those other groups are indeed exposed to repercussions for their actions.
The bureaucracy involved in dealing with child rapists is complicated? Then it’s the Church’s job to simplify them – not just to punish the perpetrators, but to protect further victims. Period.
It is a disgusting disgrace that the same person who had actually presided over an instance of child rape – as Ratzinger did – without reporting it to the authorities, and in fact allowing the priest to continue to preach and rape more victims, is still the spiritual head of a global church as large as Roman Catholicism. Yes, some complaints against the Church go too far. I am, as an atheist, especially guilty of this, and I recognize that. But I grew up Catholic, I still love the Church, I know many, many great men who are priests and who, if I still used religious terminology, I would say are filled with “Grace,” and it disgusts me that the same church I grew up with and they are a part of has this evil lurking inside it.
I’m kinda all over the place, and I apologize. But it’s a very valid argument to point out Ratzinger’s priorities in this. He says he’s very much against abusive priests – and I believe him, his work against Maciel is testament to that – but it obviously isn’t high on his to-do list.
Basically, when you’re as driven as Ratzinger is, you don’t get to just shrug and say “I didn’t get around to it” with an issue like this.



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Grumpy Old Man

posted July 2, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Face it. Most Jews hate and fear Christianity. The Times is owned by Reform and irreligious Jews. Naturally they’ll take advantage of this scandal to bash the Catholic church.
How much coverage have they given to the rife child abuse among the ultra-Orthodox? Here, e.g.



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Irenaeus

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm


James, to the contrary, the record shows that it *is* high on his *to do* list.
The latest: Michael Sean Winters of the rather liberal and dissenting Nat’l Catholic Reporter lays into the Times piece:
This morning’s New York Times “expose” regarding then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s role in the Vatican’s response to the clergy sex abuse crisis exposes more than it intended. It exposes the fact that the authors, Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger, and their editors, do not understand what they are talking about and, at times, put forward such an unrelentingly tendentious report, it is difficult to attribute it to anything less than animus.



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hlvanburen

posted July 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm


Erin Manning: “I can agree that there are some bishops whose immediate retirement ought to happen–but how does that “fix” things? Or is there some other specific course of action that observers think ought to happen which is not happening?”
Ms. Manning, perhaps I can answer this by asking you a question. Let us say that we have an administration (Republican or Democrat, it does not matter) in which a high level official commits an act so atrocious, so demeaning and damning that it not only brings ill-repute upon the administration and his office, but also upon the institution of our government and even our nation.
Let us further say that when the President (again either Democrat or Republican), when made aware of the problem, simply transfers that person to another area of the government, perhaps ambassador to Guam. Would you consider that a suitable and appropriate punishment for the actions and its repercussions?
Leaving the two previously named individuals out of the equation, let us address the other people, known and unknown publicly, who fit three categories:
1) Clerics who have committed acts of child abuse,
2) Bishops and others who have failed to act in a timely manner to remove abusive priests from office, but otherwise have done nothing to impede investigations or cover up, and
3) Bishops and others who, knowingly and with intent, provided cover for abusive priests by moving them from one diocese to another, and when discovered at having done this worked to impede investigations.
I trust we can stipulate that those in category #1 should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as soon as their actions come to light, and that the Church has a responsibility to cooperate with secular legal authorities in these investigations and prosecutions. Would you agree?
I also trust that in the case of those in category #2 who were lax in their oversight but otherwise committed no crime should merely be “taken to the woodshed” so to speak for their lack of attentiveness or inadvertent delay in reacting to accusations. Ineptitude is not criminal, but the Catholic hierarchy may consider it deserving of a reassignment.
It is the third category that becomes troublesome. Because, as in my earlier example, these individuals and their actions not only bring damage upon the victims and the local congregations, but they also damage the institution of the Catholic Church and, to some extent, the public view of Christianity. It is this category that, to me at least, seems to be where the Church has failed to exercise appropriate leadership.
What should be done? Those found to be in this category should be removed from their pastoral/supervisory duties, stripped of their authority, and placed in the same status as Father Maciel of the Legion of Christ. This is something that, at least by my understanding, the Church (and specifically the Vatican authorities) can and have done in many other circumstances, many of which involve doctrinal issues.
Going back to my government analogy, a President who seemed unconcerned about the actions of his subordinate or who seemed to be more interested in protecting said subordinate than in dealing with the actions of that person would, quite rightly, be pilloried in the press and in public commentary. This would no doubt continue until such time as the President fired the individual in question. The longer the President delayed the more loud and frenzied would be the voices calling for him to act.
This is, in part, what we are seeing here. Yes, this story in the Times is old news. Many of these stories are old news, with only a small bit of real “new revelation” in them at times. But I contend that one reason these stories continue to percolate to the top of the pile is because the Pope and other leaders in the Church have done little to deal with those Bishops who have been shown to belong in the category #3 of our example above.
Now, to take the names of Law and Mahony from the table for just a moment. You and I agree on what should be done with these two men. Can you also agree that if the Pope did that, or even if the Pope took these two men and stripped them of authority and responsibility, “sentencing” them to a life of prayer and repentance, it would not only be appropriate punishment but it would also be a very visible, very tangible sign that the Pope finally “gets it”?
The Pope has issued many positive statements on the abuse scandal. He has taken many positive steps regarding changes in structure and policy to make sure this never happens again. But as long as those who aided and abetted abusers under their supervision are not made to stand for their behavior in a very public manner, there are those such as myself who see this as a sign that all the talk, all the new policy, all the new training, is simply CYA.



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thehova

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:02 pm


A bit OT, but when I was in Rome I took a tour of the Vatican. My family hired an English tour guide who obviously wasn’t a fan of the Catholic Church.
She argued that Pope Pius XII participated in the Holocaust. Her argument didn’t seem to have a lot of substance to it.
When I returned home I read the top seller, “Hitler’s Pope”. It’s similar to the NYtimes article. The author makes a bold claim: Pope Pius XII deserves some responsibility for the Holocaust. But the facts just don’t support the use of such language. Even the author acknowledges that Pope Pius XII had little knowledge of what was going on and little power to do anything.
It is alarming to think that many Vatican visitors might accept her claim that the pope played a big role in the Holocaust.



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Robert C

posted July 2, 2010 at 9:04 pm


The examples cited relevent to the American government is absurd since situations like this have occured in secrecy through many administrations. Wwe can hardly get them held accountable for war crimes. The closet they came to sex crimes brought to task was Lewinsky and the blue dress.
Thank you Irenaeus for your very clear explanation of the lines of responsibility.



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RAN

posted July 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm


I think that most of the articles like this serve primarily to obfuscate the situation rather than enlighten it. If the bishops have a priest that they suspect of sexually abusing anyone, they should take that information to the civil authorities and let them handle it. If the bishop fails to do this, then he should be arrested and charged as accessory to the crime, put on trial, and if convicted he should be sent to prison. That goes for the pope, too.
All of these problems have happened because the Catholic clergy are trying to regulate themselves. Obviously, they are incapable of doing that. We don’t let any other organization regulate themselves, so why should the Catholic Church be allowed to do it? The Catholic Church shouldn’t have a policy of dealing with pedophile priests other than turning them in.
I am catholic, and I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is corrupt from its head all of the way down to its toenails. Furthermore, there is no way that the laity are going to be able to change that. Consequently, government needs to step in and regulate them. That’s the only way children in the Catholic Church are going to get any protection.
The only relevance past actions of the Vatican (which this article focusses on) have is that they should be used in lawsuits against the Catholic Church. While (as one poster above noted) the number of priests involved in sexual abuse is small, the number of bishops involved isn’t small. All of them were doing it. Consequently, it’s pretty hard to argue that covering up abuse wasn’t Vatican policy. And it’s also pretty hard to think that people who apparently thought this type of behavior was acceptable are going to be able to eliminate it.



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Goodguyex

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:24 am


RAN writes ”
Furthermore, there is no way that the laity are going to be able to change that. Consequently, government needs to step in and regulate them. That’s the only way children in the Catholic Church are going to get any protection.”
The goverment can not effectively regulate a one car funeral. I used to respect and like government but I now almost detest it just like the founding fathers did. I now think the biggest idolatry is love of government. Government has no place running churches and any religious group and churches have to be careful with there dealings in government and politics. There is a place but it is limited.
We are heading for a monumental social and economic collapse and all this crap about government needing to “protect children” is shrill smoke.
People are voting in present time to try to send more children to Catholic schools for many reasons.



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Goodguyex

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:53 am


When are the people on these blogs going to accept the fact that Robert Mahoney and Bernard Law are not going to jail? After both are dead maybe?
And another thing that needs to be accepted is that the priest pederests and the truly enabling bishops of the past 50-55 years have all but passed from the scene and those not removed from ministry or resigned are almost all either in the graveyard or the Alzheimer’s units.
I suppose storys become myths. I was told by a Baptist friend that the Catholic Church sells indulgences and forbids Catholics from reading the Bible.



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hlvanburen

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:33 am


Goodguyex: “When are the people on these blogs going to accept the fact that Robert Mahoney and Bernard Law are not going to jail?”
Given that this Pope seems unwilling to even remove them from their current postings I’d have to say that the idea of them ever facing ANY kind of punishment for their actions, from either the Church or secular authorities, is virtually nil. At least the Pope told Father Maciel to go to the corner and think about how badly he behaved. It seems that he lacks the will to do even that that to Law and Mahoney.
In the case of Cardinal Law, all that Pope Benedict needs to do is accept the retirement request that Law was required to give at age 75, almost four years ago.
So, Goodguyex, it’s quite clear that these two men are not going to jail, and it has been clear for quite some time. The only question that remains is what, if anything, is it going to take for Pope Benedict to do any kind of rebuke of these men for their active enablement of abusers under their supervision. It is within his power to remove them from their current assignments.
Is that too much to ask?



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hlvanburen

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:40 am


Goodguyex: “We are heading for a monumental social and economic collapse and all this crap about government needing to “protect children” is shrill smoke.
People are voting in present time to try to send more children to Catholic schools for many reasons.”
Ummm…you may want to take a look at those statistics again, Goodguyex.
http://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/07/16/hard-times-push-catholic-schools-toward-crisis/
“In a trend intensified by growing economic troubles, declining enrollment in Catholic schools across the nation is forcing many of those schools to close. Compared to 10 years ago, Catholic school enrollments have plummeted by nearly 20 percent. From New York City to Sacramento, Calif., Catholic schools today are facing the double peril of rising costs and falling revenues.
“The total number of students enrolled in U.S. Catholic schools for the 2008-09 school year was 2,192,531, according to data from the National Catholic Educational Association. But the decline has been steady. In the 1998-99 school year, enrollment was 2.6 million, and it was 2.4 million in the 2003-04 school year.”
http://www.allbusiness.com/society-social/families-children-family/14615146-1.html
“Jun. 11–The Archdiocese of Baltimore will attempt to stem a decade of decline in its schools by asking all its parishes to help fund local Catholic education and creating a centralized system that leaves parish priests with a diminished role in making education decisions.
“After 16 months ofstudy, a panel on Catholic education issued recommendations Thursday that attempt to stabilize a dwindling system that has closed 28 of its schools, or 40 percent, since 2000″
asumag.com/dailynews/milmontpark0121/
“Pennsylvania Catholic school falls victim to declining enrollment
Jan 21, 2009 10:27 AM
“Only a year ago, the parents and parishioners at Our Lady of Peace in Milmont Park, Pa., celebrated saving their small Catholic school. The rescue proved short-lived. They learned this weekend that the school would close in June because of a drastic decline in enrollment. In 2000-01, the school had 262 students. This school year, enrollment has fallen to 121 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.”
If, as you contend, people are voting with their feet, they seem to be voting against the Catholic Church. Now there are more reasons than just The Scandal affecting this, and I suspect the economic pinch is foremost in that. But, contrary to your statement, enrollment is declining and schools are being closed.



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hlvanburen

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:58 am


I came across these articles as I was searching past archives about the reassignment of Cardinal Law to Rome. As our host is often fond of saying, read all of the articles. Not only do they give some insight into just how bad Cardinal Law really behaved, they also set the record quite straight on how consistent Mr. Dreher has been in his condemnations of those responsible for The Scandal.
Given the descriptions of Law’s actions they are quite relevant to the discussion of what needs to be done regarding him and those like him who enabled abusers.
The first article, dated April of 2002. old.nationalreview.com/dreher/dreher041502.asp
The second article, dated December of the same year.
old.nationalreview.com/dreher/dreher121302.asp



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Rob

posted July 3, 2010 at 5:34 am


Seriously Rod, one would think you were discussing issues the church had as an institution as if they weren’t actual child rape. It is mind boggling you have one iota of support. Revealing as well..



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Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 7:18 am


The seriousness of the problem aside, one easily could take the essay and the comments posted below and substitute any bureaucratic organization (governmental or private) and have a similar convo about difficulties of resolutioons, causation, etc. To some extent we have in some of the oil spill threads.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 3, 2010 at 9:47 am


Rob, it’s pretty funny that you would accuse me, of all people, of being too soft on the Catholic Church over the child sex abuse scandal. Clearly, you have absolutely no idea whom you’re talking about. Do you also consider the National Catholic Reporter, which has been out front in breaking news on the scandal, and in strongly criticizing the bishops for their actions and inaction, to be squishes because it (or rather, one of its columnists) believes the Times story was unfair?
It is morally wrong and even dangerous to believe that the awfulness of clerical abuse of children justifies saying and believing whatever one wants about the Church, no matter how unjust. Truth and justice matter, and to come to believe that we are justified by our emotional reaction in ignoring facts or interpreting them in tendentious ways because it involves people who have done a monstrous thing is bad.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm


I have deleted two comments, one likening the Catholic Church to the Nazi party, the other saying the New York Times is a nest of communist Jews. You’re welcome. Save that rhetoric for some other blog.



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kenneth

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:05 pm


“This is incredibly unfair, even tendentious, designed to lead the reader to the conclusion that Ratzinger busied himself being “God’s Rottweiler,” as his enemies have called him, attacking favorite causes of liberals, while letting abused children hang.”
How does the newspaper’s agenda or shabby editorializing make this an untrue statement? The preponderance of evidence shows this is exactly what Ratzinger was doing. He may not have consciously done so out of spite or malice or a personal political vendetta against church liberals, but that is ultimately irrevelant to the victims. He may well have had more personal outrage against abuse and certainly more attunement with reality than his predecessor, but he never once took a step to end it or expose it until it was politically safe to do so AND until the crush of public opinion forced his hand. Never. This was a willful failure of moral leadership, and one which has only partially been corrected.
I have to say that I’m surprised that Rod can still rationalize this as a problem of “Vatican bureaucracy and otherworldliness.” This is the favorite refuge of abuse apologists, right after they open with moral relatavism (our buggery rates are in line with the norm). We’re asked to believe that these good God-loving men just simply didn’t have the legal tools or knowledge of the world to respond effectively. And yet this supposedly blind lumbering bureaurocracy always found the means to respond to doctrinal violations halfway around the world within weeks if not days….
The otherworldly characterization is beyond ludicrous. Cloistered religious may be otherworldly. Bishops and popes, even the good ones, are about as “unworldly” as princes of Machiavelli’s day or modern-day presidents and prime ministers. The abuse problem is the direct result of a willful collusion of passive and active evil. To dance around that or softpedal it is to make excuses for it, and people who do that at this late date are as morally culpable in the problem as the men who ignored the abuse reports or browbeat the victims into signing confidentiality agreements.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm


I have to say that I’m surprised that Rod can still rationalize this as a problem of “Vatican bureaucracy and otherworldliness.”
Oh for heaven’s sake, Kenneth, you have been reading me for a long time. How on earth can you claim that I’m “rationalizing” the entire abuse scandal as simply a failure of the Vatican bureaucracy? You know better, or should know better. I’m simply saying that in the case of the particular story told by the Times, the spin the Times reporters put on the facts is tendentious. I certainly don’t want to deflect blame from people who deserve it, but I am working hard to understand what actually happened, as opposed to what it would suit my emotional preferences to believe happened. What I mean by that is that I don’t want to force the facts to fit a particular narrative. I don’t believe I have the full story yet, or anybody does. It may not emerge for years, or decades. Nobody who has read this blog for as long as you have can possibly believe, in all honesty, that I believe the scandal was merely a failure of procedure. I do not. It was first and foremost a failure of human compassion, courage and justice. But it strikes me as entirely plausible that a Byzantine legal culture within the Catholic church, in its complexity and abstraction, could have played a role in not only distancing the “judges” from the terrible reality of the thing.
I think what you fear is that by identifying procedural realities as contributing to the scandal, we are lessening the culpability of people. That could certainly happen if we aren’t careful, but the possibility of bad people capitalizing on that infromation to excuse the inexcusable doesn’t mean it isn’t true.



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Mike

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm


It would have been good had they called Fr. Thomas Doyle for a response: http://www.richardsipe.com/Doyle/2010/2010-02-01-Some_Conclusions_from_25_Years_of_Experience.pdf



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kenneth

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm


I would agree that the Times’ summary of “the real story” is somewhat premature and oversimplified, but the “nugget” of the story is certainly much worse than bureaucratic culture or otherworldliness, which no doubt were among the stew of lesser factors.
I believe you know that as well as anyone, but in calling out the pope’s attackers on their excesses, one usually winds up minimizing the crimes at hand. We will never probably know the full story, and I’ve no doubt that fairly innocent errors contributed to the problem, but yes, I do think there is a real danger that focusing on them does distract from the real moral culpability of the criminals and grossly negligent men involved. Minimizing the real issues, even unintentionally, fosters the dark damp environment that allows this rot to fester.
The NYT characterization of the issue may or may not be a fair and accurate assessment in light of the “full story” and facts, but based on what is known, it is not entirely unreasonable to assume that Ratzinger and others may have been acting in bad faith. Hatred and anger should not be allowed to color one’s judgement too much in this matter, but neither should charity.



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James Spitalere

posted July 3, 2010 at 9:33 pm


I took a theology class once, and we were learning about the early composition of the bible. We started talking about apocryphal gospels, and how weird they were insofar as they deviated from the traditional 4 in the bible, and I realized: had these apocryphal gospels made it in, we would be mocking the traditional ones in exactly the same way, so I asked under what criteria the four we have were chosen. A friend of mine answered – he knew that I wouldn’t accept this answer, but it was the Holy Spirit that made sure nobody made a mistake of that kind.
I think of that answer, and how chilling it is, when you think of the ways that the Catholic Church has been wrong throughout history – indulgences, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust (I think it’s a disgrace that that Pope is referred to as Hitler’s Pope considering how many Jews he attempted to save, but it’s still a fact that the Church never publicly went against the Holocaust, apparently for political reasons, and I consider that a failing, though not one that should be laid at the Pope’s feet) and now, with the sex abuse crisis. The Holy Spirit may be trusted upon to intervene to prevent catastrophic doctrinal error, but such moral failings as these get a pass.
This is not to say that the Catholic Church hasn’t been right – and done great things – in many areas. I went to Notre Dame, and every time I was frustrated with the school, or there were problems, I would look up at the portrait they had of former University president Hesburgh holding hands with MLK, and I would remember why I loved that place.
But God’s Rottweiler has somehow permitted many of those responsible for this crisis, both in America and abroad, to not only remain free, but to remain priests. I remember reading on this blog, a while back, a story of a group of nuns being broken up or something because they were not at all following Catholic tradition (I disagreed, but as a liberal atheist, that probably just proved Rod’s point). Ratzinger expressed a desire to clean house, return to a more traditional theology. But, in spite of his rapid action against those nuns, somehow bureaucracy, red tape, or whatever, prevents him from taking quick, decisive action against those involved in the sex abuse crisis.
Perhaps that’s because he, personally, covered up at least one such incident (seriously – if a teacher at a public school raped a child, and instead of jail was sent to a therapist, and then returned to teaching, those involved should (and totally would) be fired, if not jailed)
As such, I think it’s a valid point to consider if he, and the Church at large, are far more interested in doctrinal, conservative, culture-war issues, than actual ethics or principles. Because, allowing these monsters to go free means that you have none.



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hlvanburen

posted July 4, 2010 at 12:17 am


Rod Dreher: “I think what you fear is that by identifying procedural realities as contributing to the scandal, we are lessening the culpability of people. That could certainly happen if we aren’t careful, but the possibility of bad people capitalizing on that infromation to excuse the inexcusable doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”
No, it doesn’t. But in an organization desirous of returning to some form of healthy operation, having such procedural problems brought to their attention would bring a corrective response. We have seen quite a bit done with regards to those people who are in contact with children. For this the Pope and the Church should be commended.
The next step is for the Pope to remove the bad actors from positions of authority. We know that in most cases these folks will never see prosecution. The question is when will the Church institute any form of punishment against them.



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Michael C

posted July 4, 2010 at 6:50 am


What Kenneth and James Spitalere said, with one additional comment.
In the London, Canada diocese, the Church is still fighting every case up until the day before they are due in court, and then settling. a process that takes years. These cases are all about one priest who raped girls, who admitted his crimes, and went to jail.
This is not about the culpability of the Church, and working for the souls of the victims. This is about protecting the assets of the diocese.
Until that changes, The RCC is not doing God’s work on earth.



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