Looking Critically at the Attacks on the Pope

by Sal on April 13, 2010

in Media,Media Bias,Religion

There have been many attacks on Pope Benedict as of late in regards to his alleged handling of clergy sexual abuse cases during his tenure as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  Atheists around the world, intent on destroying the Church, are calling for his resignation, or in some quarters his arrest.  The state-run media is attacking him on all fronts, producing supposed “smoking guns” that purport to show him spiking the defrocking of a Priest who was involved in the horrific abuse of children.  If your only source of information was the Associated Press and New York Times, you’d think the Pope practically abused the children himself.

The problem is that, as we in the Conservative movement know too well, the media is trying to frame the narrative and take down the Pope to win a Pulitzer.  First, we must consider the source of these allegations – the New York Times, the Associated Press, and al-Reuters.  All three news outlets have an anti-religious bent in general, and are daisy-picking facts.  They also have a fundamental misunderstanding of the structure of the Catholic Church and the meaning of the hierarchy.

The Church is not structured like a corporation, where the Pope is the CEO and all Bishops work for him.  It is not like that at all.  Each Bishop in the church has primacy in his/her diocese.  The Pope’s functions (and, by extension, the Vatican’s functions) are typically limited to appointing Bishops, ensuring doctrinal fidelity, ratifying decisions made by groups of Bishops (such as national Bishop’s conferences), and providing clarification on matters of Canon Law.  Yes, the Church is governed by its own set of laws, which set the local Bishop as the main authority.  Appeal to the Vatican under Canon Law is like appealing to the Supreme Court – it cannot be done until the Bishop has first made a decision.

So let’s look at the supposed “smoking gun” that the AP has against Benedict.  That, as Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, they found a single letter bearing his signature which he states that a granting of laicization only occur after careful consideration of the “good of the Church.”  This is being portrayed by the media as then-Cardinal Ratzinger wanting to cover up the abuse for the good of the Church.  However, a digging into the facts does not support this conclusion.  Let’s look at them:

  • The case in question involved an abuser in the Diocese of Oakland, CA.  The case was very public, people knew about it, and the Priest was removed from ministry immediately, not reassigned to another parish to do more damage.
  • Up until 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did NOT have jurisdiction over sexual abuse cases, so Ratzinger wouldn’t have had any say in the matter.  The CDF also did not have jurisdiction over defrocking or granting a request for laicization of a Priest.  That decision rests in the hands of the local Bishop.
  • In this case, it was the abuser himself who petitioned for the laicization.
  • The only reason that a laicization case went before the CDF back in 1985 was because the petitioner would want to be excused from his vow of celibacy, and therefore be married in the Church.  It was likely this request that Ratzinger was responding to in which he stated that the issue should be looked at carefully for the good of the Church.
  • In the end, no one was hurt by Ratzinger’s letter or cautious approach.  The Priest was removed from duty, he was before a court of law in the U.S., and the only question to which Ratzinger was basically responding to was whether to grant the abuser’s request for full laicization.
  • So where’s the so-called “smoking gun?”

The state-run media cannot be trusted to get the facts straight.  This is shoddy journalism at best, and an all-out frontal assault on the Catholic Church at worse.  There’s a lot more detail on this elsewhere on the net, and good explanations on the issue, the structure of the Church, issues of Canon Law, and the inner workings of the Vatican can be found if one bothers to look.  The Anchoress, Michael Winters, and Phil Lawler have excellent articles on the subject.

So while the press tries to destroy what seems to me to be a very holy man, we should all take a step back and question the press the same way we question them when they attacked George Bush, or when they attack Sarah Palin.  There are child abusers in the Church, as there are in every profession; the evidence is strong that sexual abuse is no more prevalent among Catholic Priests than it is among other demographic groups.  Still, even one child abused is too many.  The abusers should be weeded out, thrown in jail, and removed from any positions where they can do further harm.  But to take a man who has dedicated his life to serving others and try to construe conspiracies where none exist, to re-write history in such a way that takes a good man and destroys his reputation, that is beyond reproach.  Pope Benedict is going through his own personal Calvary right now, thanks to the media outlets throughout the world.  We can only pray that God is with him, and that he comes out of this stronger than before.

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Budos World » Blog Archive » 4/14/2010 Sit rep
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