Many things are being shaken in the world, and within the Church there is much sifting. For example, the media's desperate straining to find evidence of Pope Benedict's complicity in a sexual abuse cases is so very interesting, and very revealing. That he is entirely innocent of cover-up or lack of prudence in these matters is ignored, while the little shreds of nuanced inference are whipped up into a global crisis without any basis in fact. It is innuendo, circumstantial "evidence." If such groundless allegations were brought into a courtroom, any sane judge would immediately dismiss the case and fine the accusers for contempt of court. The unjustly accused could easily file a libel suit.
Whenever the media goes into a shark-feeding-frenzy against the Church, their own radical bias is exposed. For example, the number of school teachers accused of sexual abuse of the young, during any given year, is usually about 10 to 20 times higher (one recent article claimed the figure is closer to 100 times higher) than the number of accusations against priests. It would be interesting to know the statistics about sexual abuse by journalists. Inevitably, when a teacher or journalist is found guilty of a sexual offense, the media reports it as an isolated case (if it is reported at all), and their attitude could summarized as, "That man (or woman) did a bad thing and should be punished." No one suggests that the institution of journalism is inherently corrupt and should be dismantled and rebuilt according to whatever sociopolitical theory is currently popular. Similarly, no one even thinks of, let alone disgorges oceans of ink and electronic text, calling for the dismantling and recreating of the education system.
If a priest commits the same offense, the media instantly launches a full scale psyche-war. Moreover, if sins of persons associated with the Vatican are stripped bare in the naked public agora, the war gets hotter. There are thousand of employees at the Vatican, and they hold all manner of diverse opinions on a wide variety of topics. Being human, they are also capable of much that human beings are capable of, if they should fall from grace. Any honest journalist knows this, and the disregarding of this fact is clearly a case of other agendas operative in their reporting. Josef Goebbels' Reich MInistry of Propaganda or Josef Stalin's organs of Disinformation would have been immensely proud of current media behaviour. Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) enjoys no such power, and would never want it, never use it. Like Christ, like the Church, he chooses to be weaponless before the shrill irrationality of human malice.
The sins of a small number of clerics are shameful, indeed evil. Yet the vast majority of pastors and consecrated religious are innocent, living heroic lives day by day, year after year. Why, then, this phenomenal obsession, one might say this hungry voyeurism, on the part of the media? The violation of normal journalistic standards is nothing other than a radical prejudice in action. As is the case with all bigots, they justify it to themselves and to their audience as a defense of truth. Truth, they should be the first to know, is the first victim of such double standards.
In the midst of these crises let us not be easily shaken. Let us keep our eyes focused on the true horizon, the coming victory of Jesus over the entire cosmos. As we approach that great Day, there will be much that will test our faith. Yet every test is an opportunity for growth, for strengthening, for purifying us as the Bride is made ready to meet the Bridegroom. That day may be near or it may be yet distant, but in every age and every generation we must stay sober and alert, and in a state of confident expectation.
Grace and peace be with you in ever greater measure,
Michael D. O'Brien