Culture & Religion
March Sun 28, 2010
Usually, we can all turn to the New York Times and the Washington Post with a reasonable degree of assurance that their writers and editors are top-notch journalists, who ferret out facts, put those facts in a proper context, and truly enlighten a reader’s understanding of whatever event is being reported on in the pages of their newspapers. Yesterday, not so much.
The New York Times’ article, by the usually reliable Laurie Goodstein, was not only unsupported by the documentation the paper cited, it seemed unrelated. From the documents the Times provided it seems abundantly clear that there was a monster priest, Father Murphy, in Milwaukee who abused dozens and dozens of deaf children, and that when this came to light in 1974, he was retired from ministry. Twenty years later, in 1996, a different charge was made against the priest, that he had granted absolution for sexual sins in which he was complicit. This was referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which was headed at the time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. To be clear – and this is important because the Times’ article seems to elide the charges – Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF had no jurisdiction over abuse claims in 1996. Charges of sexual abuse only became the CDF’s responsibility in 2001. To suggest that Cardinal Ratzinger was not taking the charge of sexual abuse seriously is not just interpretatively wrong in this case but factually wrong: The charge of sexual abuse was not in front of him.
Let’s take an example from another story in yesterday’s paper to illustrate what I can only deem a certain tendentiousness in the Times story. Yesterday – and the day before – we learned of threats and acts of vandalism against members of Congress. Those threats were referred to the Justice Department and, specifically to the FBI. It is hoped the FBI will catch those responsible. One such case involved the cutting of a gas line at the home of a congressman’s brother. This, perhaps, necessitated calling the Environmental Protection Agency because the leaking gas might have caused some damage. But, if the people who cut the gas line, or threw a brick through a window, or called to threaten the life of a congressman and his children, if they are not caught, I am not going to blame the EPA, I am going to blame the FBI. In the Times’ article, they are trying to blame the EPA.
The case from Milwaukee was sent to Ratzinger because the charge of violating the confessional is reserved to the Holy See. By 1996, however, the priest in question was dying and Ratzinger recommended that the authorities not take any steps; nature had already taken its course and ended the possibility of a future threat and Sister Death was about the claiming the perpetrator for herself.
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