Slowly the facts are starting to get through.
In today’s regular “The Pope and The Scandal” article in The Age, Paolo Totaro reports, amid all the other inuendo, that there may be some “nuance and context” required to understand the facts:
As always, nuance and context are easily lost in deeply emotional stories. John Allen in the very same paper [ie. the National Catholic Reporter – which had an editorial calling for the papal “disclosure”] argues succinctly that while there is an urgent need for answers, Pope Benedict has undertaken reform of the church’s response to sexual abuse among priests, and warns that the structures of the Vatican have meant he has only had direct responsibility in this area since 2001, or four years before he became Pope: ”One certainly can question how Ratzinger’s office handled those exceptional cases, and the record seems painfully slow and ambivalent in comparison with how similar accusations would be dealt with today …” he wrote.
”[But] to suggest that Ratzinger was the Vatican’s ‘point man’ on sex abuse for almost 25 years, and to fault him for the mishandling of every case that arose between 1981 and 2001, is misleading.”
Well, John Allen isn’t the only prominent journalist to try to get the facts out on this story. Others include Miranda Devine and David Gibson.
Our Miranda is daughter of the late great Australian newspaper man Frank Devine. Her piece in the Sydney Morning Herald (The Age’s northern sister) was published a couple of days ago and entitled “Evildoers, not Pope, to blame”. Some snippets (but please read the whole article):
The pursuit of the Pope reached absurd heights this week with news that atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have asked the Australian barrister Geoffrey Robertson to draw up a case to arrest Benedict XVI for alleged cover-up of paedophilia in the Catholic Church.
That these exhibitionist atheists should seize on the tragedy of child sexual abuse by a small minority of Catholic priests to pursue their vendetta against religion is stomach-turning. Dawkins has become shrill with excitement, describing the Pope as ”a leering old villain in a frock”.
He said the Pope ”should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice – the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gouging, truth-hating, child-raping institution – while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, around his ears”. From what deep cesspool of hatred do those words spring?
…It is the Catholic Church that has been most vocal about the breakdown of moral order, from paedophilia to abortion. And this has made it a target of those who object to moralising they regard as an infringement of their freedoms.
…The Pope may have made mistakes, but his letter to Irish Catholics last month could not have been more frank, humbly penitent, or condemnatory of predator priests and the bishops who failed to stop them.
…Yet the baying from atheists and fellow travellers for the biggest scalp of all has only escalated. …The struggle against religion has taken the form of a new religion. Its new priests ”find their greatest ideological enemies in priests, religious brothers, and sisters. They cannot physically destroy them (as was done in communist countries), so they try other methods.”
What is the motive: to destroy the credibility of the strongest moral voice left? Would the world be a better place without the Catholic Church? Without Christianity? That is the end point of this game, which should frighten everyone, whether religious or not.
David Gibson, on the other hand, is an American. Not particularly conservative as far as I can make out, like Allen he too has a better clue of what is going on in the Eternal City than your average journo. He is the religion journo at PoliticsDaily.com author of a couple of books on the Pope and the Church “The Rule of Benedict” and “The Coming Catholic Church”. No Vatican toady, you can read what he has to say in a couple of articles online: At NJ.com, there is a short edited interview (“Pope Benedict XVI and the church pedophile scandal: Q&A with David Gibson”) and in the Washington Post there is an article called “Five myths about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal”. In the latter article, his five “myths” include:
1. Pope Benedict is the primary culprit in the coverup of the abuse scandal.
2. Gay priests are to blame.
3. Sexual abuse is more pervasive in the Catholic Church than in other institutions.
4. Media outlets are biased against the Catholic Church.
5. The crisis will compel U.S. Catholics to leave the church.
In the interview, Gibson says the “new” factor in this latest round of stories is that it
touches on the credibility of the pope. We haven’t had that in a long time. The last time was with Pius XII and the allegations that he did not take sufficient action to protect Jews during the Holocaust, and that was 60 years ago.
He also says that there is “no evidence that there are more pedophiles in the Catholic Church than in other institutions, such as teaching or the Boy Scouts” and that “[s]ince bishops revamped the seminaries in the early 1980s and introduced better psychological screening, abuse in the Catholic Church has dropped sharply.” When asked whether the pope will resign, he replies:
No, the pope won’t resign unless something cataclysmic happens. But will he be permanently wounded in terms of credibility, that’s the big question. This has been a very tough stretch for the pope, and how much he recovers from it, I don’t know. He remains the pope and over time he may recover, but this has done his reputation grievous harm.
Well, that is what our prayers are for, I guess.
On the Bertone comment, by the way, there was a rather puzzling article in The Age yesterday by Tablet journalist and one time press secretary for the Archbishop of Westminster, Austen Invereigh. The article was headed “Cardinal error to conflate homosexuality with paedophilia”. That headline was rather at odds with the piece itself which, while saying the Cardinal was imprudent in his comment, nevertheless manages to get the facts of the matter out on the table. Worth reading in full.
So. We have a long way to go on this, but we are relieved to find that not all who work in the print media are as blind to “nuance and context” as others.
Update: Following Pastor Weedon’s link in the com box led me to this piece in The Guardian from April 15: The mob should lay off. The pope is innocent | Jack Valero. It is as succinct and factual a case for the defense of the Holy Father as you could ask for.