Anti-Catholicism and the Times
by Patrick J. Buchanan
"Anti-Catholicism," said writer Peter Viereck, "is the anti-Semitism of the intellectual." It is "the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people," said Arthur Schlesinger Sr.
If there was any doubt that hatred of and hostility toward the Catholic Church persists, it was removed by the mob that has arisen howling "Resign!" at Pope Benedict XVI.
To American Catholics, the story of pedophile priests engaged in criminal abuse of children, of pervert priests seducing boys, is unfortunately all too familiar. That some bishops covered up for pedophiles and seducers and enabled corrupt clergy to continue to prey on boys was equally disgraceful.
But to American Catholics, this is an old story. The priests have been defrocked, some sent to prison, like John Geoghan, who was strangled in his cell. Bishops have been removed. "Zero tolerance" has been policy for a decade.
Pope Benedict came to America to apologize for what these men did. And no one has been more aggressive in rooting out what he calls the "filth" in the church. And as the recent scandals have hit Ireland and Germany, why the attack on the pope here in America?
Answer: The New York Times is conducting a vendetta against this traditionalist pope in news stories, editorials and columns.
"Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys," blared the headline over a Laurie Goodstein story that began thus:
"Top Vatican officials -- including the future Pope Benedict XVI -- did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys ...
"In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee's archbishop at that time."
Facts Vs. Media
That diabolical priest, Lawrence C. Murphy, was assigned to St. John's School for the Deaf in 1950, before Joseph Ratzinger was even ordained.
Reports of his abuse of the deaf children surfaced in the 1950s. But, under three archbishops, nothing was done. Police and prosecutors were alerted by parents of the boys. Nothing was done.
Weakland, who became archbishop in 1977, did not write to Rome until 1996.
And as John Allen of National Catholic Reporter noted last week, Cardinal Ratzinger "did not have any direct responsibility for managing the overall Vatican response to the crisis until 2001. ... Prior to 2001, Ratzinger had nothing personally to do with the vast majority of sex abuse cases, even the small percentage which wound up in Rome."
By the time Cardinal Ratzinger was commissioned by John Paul II to clean out the stable, Murphy had been dead for three years.
Yet here is Times columnist Maureen Dowd's summation of the case:
"Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed 'God's Rotweiler,' when he was the church's enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys."
In Goodstein's piece, Weakland is a prelate who acted too slowly. The controversy over his clouded departure from the Milwaukee archdiocese is mentioned and passed over at the bottom of the story. It belonged higher.
For Weakland was a homosexual who confessed in a 1980 letter he was in "deep love" with a male paramour who shook down the archbishop for $450,000 in church funds as hush money to keep his lover's mouth shut about their squalid affair.
According to Rod Dreher, Weakland moved Father William Effinger, who would die in prison, from parish to parish, knowing Effinger was a serial pederast.
When one of Effinger's victims sued the archdiocese but lost because of a statute of limitations, Weakland counter-sued and extracted $4,000 from the victim of his predator priest.
Dreher describes Weakland's tenure thus:
"He directed Catholic schools ... to teach kids how to use condoms as part of AIDS education and approved a graphic sex-education program for parochial-school kids that taught 'there is no right and wrong' on the issues of abortion, contraception and premarital sex. He has advocated for gay rights and women's ordination, bitterly attacked Pope John Paul II, denounced pro-lifers as 'fundamentalist' and declared that one could be both pro-choice and a Catholic in good standing."
Speaking of sex-abuse victims in 1988, Weakland was quoted: "Not all adolescent victims are so innocent. Some can be sexually very active and aggressive and often streetwise."
Just the kind of priest the Times loves, and just the kind of source on whom the Times relies when savaging the pope and bashing the church.
As the Catholic League's Bill Donahue relates, 80 percent of the victims of priestly abuse have been males and "most of the molesters gays."
And as the Times' Richard Berke blurted to the Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association 10 years ago, often, "three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals."
Is there perhaps a conflict of interest at The New York Times, when covering a traditionalist Catholic pope?
Response to Cardinal Ratzinger's 1985 Letter to Bishop Cummins of Oakland -- By Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
OPINION, April 12 /Christian Newswire/ -- Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder and editor of Ignatius Press, and publisher of Catholic World Report, submits the following and is available for interviews:
A response to Cardinal Ratzinger's 1985 letter to Bishop Cummins of Oakland
By Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
The so-called "stalled pedophile case," blame for which has been laid at the feet of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, had nothing to do with pedophilia and everything to do with strengthening marriage and the priesthood.
Here's what was happening in 1981, when Bishop Cummins of Oakland first wrote the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asking that one of the priests from his Diocese of Oakland be dispensed from his promise of celibacy.
Well, first, what was not happening.
The letter came a week before Cardinal Ratzinger had even assumed his duties as prefect of that congregation. This is a very important office of the Roman curia. It handles a variety of cases worldwide, mostly having to do with defending and promoting doctrinal integrity in the Church. There's a lot of work to do, and it takes time for someone to become fully engaged in its activities.
But much more pertinently here: By 1980 the effects of the sexual revolution on marriage and the priesthood had been devastating. In 1965 there had been 59 marriage annulments granted by Rome to American couples. By 2002, there were more than 50,000 annulments per year in the U.S. alone. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of priests were asking for dispensations from their promise of celibacy in order to be able to marry.
The Catholic Church holds the marriage vows to be indissoluble. Even an annulment, contrary to a widespread misconception, does not dissolve those vows. It is a declaration that because of some impediment, there never was a valid marriage in the first place.
Priestly ordination is also "indissoluble," in the sense that a validly ordained priest never ceases to be a priest.
And here's the rub. It was literally scandalous in the Church that priests, who had been prepared for eight to 10 years for their ordination (which would be permanent, irreversible) and their promise of celibacy (which also has the character of a solemn promise before God), were, in the 1970s, being so easily dispensed from their promise of celibacy.
Married Catholics said to themselves: If a priest, who is so well prepared for his commitment, can so easily be dispensed from it so that he can marry, why can't we be dispensed from our commitment so that we can remarry?
When John Paul II was elevated to the papacy in the fall of 1978, he immediately changed the policy on priestly dispensations. I remember at the time that many of us were amazed that the very large number of dispensations under John Paul II's predecessor, Paul VI, suddenly were reduced to almost zero. It was almost impossible to get a dispensation in 1980.
What was John Paul's intent? To restore the integrity of the priesthood and of marriage. These commitments are permanent. A priest may be removed from ministry, but he will not be given a dispensation to marry. Priests are to be made to take their commitments with utmost seriousness. They will be an example to married couples to take theirs seriously also. When a priest makes a promise of celibacy, it's forever; when a couple make vows of marriage, it's forever.
This is the decisive context of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to Bishop Cummins. It is not a smoking gun. It did not mean that Ratzinger was not taking the priest's sins seriously. (He called the accusations "very serious" [gravis momenti].) It meant that he, following the policy of John Paul II, was taking the priesthood and its commitments very seriously.
And again, this entire affair had nothing to do with preventing further abuse by this priest. That had already been done, or should have been done, by the local bishop.
A final, minor but significant point of translation: The translation being used by the media of an important part of Ratzinger's letter is: "your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible". This has been rightly interpreted by some to mean that Ratzinger was saying that the bishop should keep a watchful eye on the priest. The original Latin makes that even clearer: "paterna...cura sequi" which means "to follow with paternal care." We get the word "persecute" from the Latin "per- sequi." "Sequi" is much stronger then "provide."
There is a completely mistaken first premise underlying all this criticism of the Holy Father in the media. The premise is that "defrocking" has anything to do with protecting victims and preventing further abuse.
First, the media needs to know that according to Catholic teaching, Holy Orders is a sacrament which leaves an "indelible mark"; in layman's terms, once ordained a priest, a man is always a priest. The word "dispensation" is used in the correspondence because that is what happens technically: the priest is dispensed from his obligation of celibacy. In a sense, this works in the opposite direction from protection: a restraint is being removed.
Further, as if to prove this point, the priest in question continued to abuse children after he was "defrocked" and had married. QED.
Secondly, nothing at all prevents a bishop from removing a priest from all ministries, from removing his faculties, from reporting him to civil authorities. There is no need even to inform Rome about this. The only reason (until 2001, or before then in cases of abuse of the sacrament of confession) that the case needed to be sent to Rome is if the priest appealed the bishop's actions.
Thirdly, why was the CDF involved anyway? That was not the congregation that handles abuse cases, except where abuse of Confession has played a role. I believe the CDF was involved in cases of dispensation from celibacy. (Though you would think that should be under the Congregation for Priests.) But, again, dispensation has nothing to do with preventing further abuse. It may appease the sense of justice on the part of victims. But at the same time, it normally takes eight to 10 years to become a priest. It's not a club one joins. It is a very serious thing to dispense a priest from celibacy, and there needs to be a careful process to protect innocent priests.
Fourthly, there are definitely cases of priests who have been falsely accused. Especially the American media ought to be sensitive to the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Civil law requires that to be done in a court of law. A bishop can, and in many cases, should take action against a priest before there is any canonical trial.
Finally, let's compare this to the difference between a criminal and a civil trial. Criminal trials can be expedited, but even then in all but the most grievous cases, a criminal defendant is a free man until convicted. In the case of priests, the "punishment" of removal from ministry can be applied immediately by a bishop even before there is any canonical trial, which is like a civil trial. How long do civil trials take in this country? I know of trials that have dragged out for more than seven years.
If Ratzinger took part in "stalling" a "pedophile case," as has been claimed by some media outlets, the worst one can say is that he wanted care taken in a canonical trial. And, let's not forget, this wasn't "punishment" at all from the priest's point of view. He had asked to be dispensed.
Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. is founder and editor of Ignatius Press, and publisher of Catholic World Report. This piece first appeared on the Ignatius Blog, Ignatius Insight. For interviews related to this opinion piece, please contact Christine Schicker of The Maximus Group at 404-610-8871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To: National Desk & Opinion Editors
Contact: Christine Schicker, The Maximus Group, 404-610-8871, email@example.com
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ASSOCIATED PRESS GETS WISE ADVICE
Catholic League president Bill Donohue offers the Associated Press (AP) some words of advice:
What a fabulous story the AP has today on 30 Catholic priests accused of abuse who were transferred or moved abroad. AP put some money into this investigative report: it spans 21 countries in six continents. Now consider the following:
· In October 2007, AP released a report on sexual misconduct committed by public school teachers and found 2,570 cases over a five year period. In fact, it's much worse than this. As AP disclosed, "Most of the abuse never gets reported." [My emphasis].
· Why does most of the abuse go unreported? "School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession."
· What happens to molesting teachers? "Too often, problem teachers are allowed to leave quietly. That can mean future abuse for another student and another school district." Indeed, it happens so often it is called "passing the trash" or the "mobile molester."
· Moreover, "deals and lack of information-sharing allow abusive teachers to jump state lines, even when one school does put a stop to the abuse."
Advice to AP: Do a story on the "mobile molesters," using the report on priests as a model, i.e., don't just write an article—name the names of the teachers, principals and school superintendents. Also, track down molesting teachers in Maine where it is illegal to make public the cases of abusing teachers. Go back to California and Hawaii where AP was stonewalled in 2007 from getting hard information on molesting teachers, and this time do your own investigating. For more advice, call my office.
Contact Michael Oreskes, the AP official who oversees investigative reporting: firstname.lastname@example.org