Dolan on ’60 Minutes’ Sunday

Speaking of Archbishop Dolan, the archbishop of NY will be profiled Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

Dolan has, of course, been extremely critical of the mainstream media’s coverage of the Catholic Church, focusing his ire on the NYTimes.

When people think of the mainstream media, they often think of CBS News right alongside the mighty Times. And everyone knows that “60 Minutes,” maybe my all-time favorite television show, edits their segments very precisely.

But how do you say no to Morley Safer?

I’ll be mighty curious to see how it goes. My guess is that the thrust of the segment will be “These are difficult days for the Roman Catholic Church, but the archbishop of New York is a fresh face who is comfortable in front of TV cameras and is quite willing to discuss the pain caused by the sex-abuse scandals.”

Something like that.

The press release from CBS News opens with this:

*****

CBS News)  Calling the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal “hideous” and “nauseating,” New York’s Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan says the scandal “needs to haunt” the church for some time to come.

In the wide-ranging interview, Dolan also discusses his past role as the archbishop of Milwaukee, his current mission and the state of the church in America with “60 Minutes” correspondent Morley Safer. The profile of the leader of New York City’s two-million-plus Roman Catholics will be broadcast Sunday, March 20 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Asked if he feared the impact of the scandal would go on forever, Dolan replies, “In some ways, I don’t want it to be over, because…this was such a crisis in the Catholic Church that in a way, we don’t want to get over it too easily,” he tells Safer. “This needs to haunt us.”

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More information will be available about the interview, including Safer’s impressions, on 60minutesovertime.

Archdiocese planning another ‘realignment’ of parishes

Back in 2005 and 2006, I wrote a lot about the Archdiocese of NY’s plan to “realign” parishes.

I thought it was an important story. The church was looking at all sorts of demographic data — including the worsening shortage of priests — and might make some tough decisions about how to better allocate resources.

I wrote about a giant, 50-person committee overseeing the planning, about lay involvement in the planning process, whatever I could think of.

But when Cardinal Egan finally dropped the big plan in March 2006, it was a bit of a let-down. Only 15 parishes were targeted to close — and most of them were barely breathing.

People I spoke with were surprised that regions of the archdiocese were not touched, even though several churches appeared to be stagnant or worse.

There was a sense among some that the archdiocese deferred the hard choices until…a later date.

That date may have arrived (not today, but soon. Maybe.).

Archbishop Dolan has initiated a new planning process he’s calling “Making All Things New.” Yes, he’s presenting it as an opportunity to prune the archdiocese and make it stronger.

The planning process is well underway. Even though I’m no longer the religion guy here, I write about for tomorrow’s JN/LoHud.

Interestingly, the archdiocese has begun passing out surveys at weekend Masses, trying to get a sense of what people know and think about the pretty serious challenging facing their church in New York.

The first question/statement reads like this: “I am aware of the current situation facing the Archdiocese, particularly with such issues as the decline in Church attendance, shortage of priests, decreased financial stability, etc. For me this is a serious issue.”

The choices for the respondent are strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree.

Who would strongly disagree that these things are serious issues?

Many of the question/statements ask point-blank about the possible closing or merger of parishes.

Dolan not yet a cardinal, but a president

So Archbishop Dolan was today elected the next president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He needed a 50 percent majority and won on the third vote, according to Catholic News Agency. He won out over Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, who had the inside track as vice president since 2010.

Although the VP usually gets the top job, Kicanas has been considered unusually vulnerable. Many conservative Catholics considered him to be too liberal, while others criticized his past handling of sex abuse.

As president, Dolan will be easily the most visible Catholic leader in the U.S. Of course, as archbishop of NY, he was already right up there.

Among other things, Dolan will help set the tone for the church’s position on numerous church/state issues, including how Catholic politicians who go against church teachings should be received by the faithful.

Richard Barnes, executive director of The New York State Catholic Conference, which lobbies in Albany on behalf of Dolan and NY state’s other bishops, issued this statement: “We at the New York State Catholic Conference are thrilled with the election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan as the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The U.S. Bishops made an inspired choice in electing Archbishop Dolan, who we in New York already know as a compassionate shepherd, a gifted preacher and a brilliant historian. The natural joy he exudes in his vocation has been an inspiration to millions of Catholics in the Empire State since his appointment as Archbishop of New York. We know he will bring to the national conference these same great gifts. We are so pleased to be able to share him with the entire country for the next three years.”

UPDATE: More reactions:

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life: “Both Archbishop Dolan and (VP) Archbishop Kurtz have been unequivocal in their defense of the unborn, which for our ministry is the primary focus. They have welcomed and encouraged the work of Priests for Life, and for that we are grateful.”

The American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi Gary Greenebaum: “Archbishop Dolan’s election is another significant step in furthering the positive and evolving relationship between Catholics and Jews in the United States.”

One fed-up archbishop

Archbishop Dolan is angry.

It comes through loud and clear in is latest blog post, up today.

Once again, he’s not happy with how his church is being portrayed by the media. But this time he’s not going after the New York Times, his target several times in recent months.

Instead, he’s going after “a prominent Catholic journal, published in New York,” “a newspaper on Staten Island” and an “Irish newspaper” for unfairly criticizing the church hierarchy.

He doesn’t like the journal’s steady criticisms of bishops and the pope, how the Staten Island newspaper blamed the “autocratic, aloof, mean, clandestine archdiocese (Dolan’s words)” for the mosque controversy and the Irish’s paper’s blaming of the “nasty, money-hungry, mean-old (Dolan again)” archdiocese for the closing of a Catholic school.

Dolan writes:

*****

Who likes criticism?  Nobody.  But I figure it comes with the job, and have to face it when it’s legitimate.  That happens often enough.

But I don’t like seeing “the archdiocese” blamed for something not its fault.

*****

Upon his arrival in New York, Dolan was widely praised for knowing how to work with the media.

But he seems increasingly exasperated by media coverage of his church.

Dolan, O’Malley to draw on Irish roots

The  Roman Catholic Church in America was founded and built by Irish priests and nuns and brothers and laypeople.

It was long identified as an Irish church of sorts — until it started transforming into an Hispanic church in many parts of the country.

So it seems somehow fitting that Archbishop Dolan and Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley will play key roles in the Vatican’s response to the debilitating sex-abuse crisis in Ireland.

They are among nine prelates who will investigate what went wrong and seek ways to prevent future scandals.

Dolan will lead a study of Irish seminaries and the broader issue of priestly formation in Ireland. He is a former rector of the North American College, the elite seminary in Rome for American priests-to-be.

O’Malley will investigate the troubled Archdiocese of Dublin.

Both archbishops have experience at trying to unravel and deal with sex-abuse scandals.

O’Malley, in particular, is as well-versed as anyone. As a bishop, he had to face terrible scandals in Fall River, Mass., and Palm Beach, Fla., before taking over for disgraced Cardinal Law in the eye of the storm, Boston.

Dolan had to clean up a mess in Milwaukee before he came to NY.

Dolan released this short statement over the weekend:

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I am happy to accept the Holy See’s invitation to serve as a member of the upcoming apostolic visitation to the Church in Ireland, with special attention to their historic seminaries.

My love for the faith of Ireland, and my own background in priestly formation, make me grateful for this assignment, and I look forward to close cooperation with my brother bishops, priests, religious, and the faithful of Ireland.  I await further information and instruction from the Holy See on the specifics and timing of the visitation.

*****

No runs, no hits, no errors?

After a day off…

I feel like I should at least acknowledge the NTY’s long, page one Sunday story about the Archbishop of New York and how he dealt with sex abuse in St. Louis and Milwaukee.

When I picked up the paper, I probably had the same reaction as a lot of folks: Oh boy. I wonder what they got on Dolan.

I read it all the way through and came out thinking: Not much.

I realize that these things are in the eye of the beholder, but I thought the story gave one a good sense of the very difficult situations that Dolan faced. The main anecdote, about an allegation of abuse in St. Louis, left me without any clear sense of what Dolan should have done.

In the end, although Dolan said and did a few debatable things, I thought the story made him look pretty…good.

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, not surprisingly, saw the article as a failed “hit,” noting that it was largely ignored by other media.

On the Commonweal blog, veteran journalist Paul Moses concluded “No runs, no hits, no errors.”

In the comments section, former Commonweal boss Peggy Steinfels more or less agreed: “I thought the reporter managed to convey the hard places in which Dolan found himself over the years.”

Dolan did blog about the NYT on Sunday, but didn’t mention that day’s article by Serge Kovaleski.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests — SNAP — usually responds to major media reports about abuse. SNAP was featured prominently in Sunday’s article, but I don’t see any statement from the group on their website.


Are charter schools competition for Catholic schools?

When Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., allowed the city a couple of years ago to convert several troubled Catholic schools into charter schools, many were surprised.

To save the schools, Wuerl was allowing them to give up their Catholic identity.

Now Archbishop Dolan is planning to launch a bunch of initiatives to save Catholic education in New York. He announced his intentions during a recent speech, printed as an op-ed in the NY Daily News:

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We must rediscover a sense of boldness. We’ve got to get dramatic. We’ve got to have some fresh thinking. Our new strategic initiative, Pathways to Excellence, is going to do just that. Let me give you the broad outlines of what’s to come.

First, I feel that the greatest priority of my work is to find, train and keep our principals – because if you have a first-class principal, you have a first-class school.

Second, we’re going to propose entering into partnership with our Catholic colleges and universities. Unfortunately very often we Catholics don’t have our act together, so that we don’t ask our universities to work with our high schools or high schools to work with our grade schools.

Third, we have to take a look at questions of governance. We have to ask the question of whether the current model of Catholic education is the best one. Now, most of our schools are parochial – run by a parish. More and more pastors, parents and principals are telling me that those days are over. We need a shared responsibility for recruitment, maintenance and subsidies of our schools.

Next, we need to face that some schools will probably have to close – not to cut away further at Catholic education, but to strengthen it in the long run. I’ll borrow from Jesus; he observes that the best way to get a vine to grow and grow strong is sometimes to prune back a branch.

*****

Notice, no word of charter schools.

The Economist magazine, of all place, notes that charter schools represent a new, secular competition for Catholic schools:

*****

Overwhelmed by its burdens, the Washington, DC, archdiocese converted seven of its schools to charter status in 2008. This means that the taxpayer picks up the bill and students pay nothing, but that the school can no longer operate as a religious establishment.

Could this work in New York? Archbishop Dolan rules it out, as he believes the Catholic element is what makes his schools succeed. Unfortunately for the Catholic schools, charters have adopted many of the same practices, including uniforms, discipline and the promotion of a clear set of values. That means that they have started to attract the pupils who might have gone to Catholic schools. “They are killing us,” says Sister Catherine.

*****

That’s Sister Catherine Hagan, the principal of St. Mark the Evangelist School in Harlem.

It’s very interesting, at least to me, that charter schools are adopting some of the qualities that have made Catholic schools unique and successful (without the Catholic part, of course).

One more aside: Dolan also wants to focus on enrolling more Hispanic kids in his schools.

In demographic terms, this would seem to be a key to the long-term health of Catholic education in New York.

Only 4 percent of Hispanic kids now attend Catholic schools, which is kind of amazing.

Good Friday, the ‘Coffee Haggadah’ and the Catholic-media showdown

A few things today after a day off:

First, two Good Friday items. For the last decade, the largest non-denominational Protestant service in the region has been held in Westchester, usually at the Westchester County Center. I covered the “Westchester  One in Praise” service a couple of times and saw thousands gather on Good Friday — mostly evangelicals and Pentecostals, a racial and ethnic mix.

This year’s 7:30 p.m. service will be at Mount Vernon High School. The featured speaker will be Dr. Carolyn D. Showell of First Apostolic Faith Church in Baltimore.

What else? Last year, I visited the Peale Center for Christian Living up in Pawling to write about their annual Day of Prayer on Good Friday.

I sat in the back of a chapel at the home of Guideposts magazine and watched a few dozen people read prayer requests from strangers and then pray for them. Rotating teams of staff and volunteers prayed for something like 16,000 people between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

If you want to know more or might want to send in a prayer request for this year’s 40th anniversary Good Friday Day of Prayer, go to www.Ourprayer.org.

Second, Passover. Someone gave me a copy the other day of a Maxwell House Haggadah. I found myself wondering how a coffee company wound up creating the most popular Haggadah in the U.S., used by countless families at their seders over decades.

I came across a short article from Moment magazine that answered my questions.

Here is the opening:

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In 1923, when Maxwell House Coffee signed on with the Joseph Jacobs Advertising agency in New York, it was already a legend. Theodore Roosevelt supposedly drank a cup in 1907 at the Nashville hotel for which it was named, proclaiming it “good to the last drop.” Fortune smiled even more on the brand when Jacobs conceived a plan to entice American Jews to serve the coffee at their Seders. First, he lined up a prominent rabbi to assure Jews that coffee beans were not forbidden legumes but fruit. Then he convinced his client to underwrite America’s first mass-marketed Haggadah. When it appeared in 1934, free with the purchase of a can of coffee, the Maxwell House Haggadah swiftly revolutionized how American Jews celebrated Passover.

*****

So there you go. Producing a Haggadah — and a good one — was good for business.

Kraft, which now owns Maxwell House, still produces the Haggadah. One million copies were printed in 2009 for distribution through supermarket chains like ShopRite.

Rabbi Burton L. Visotsky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC, notes: “Local custom ruled liturgy. Maxwell House did more to codify Jewish liturgy than any force in history.”

Being something of a coffee snob, I haven’t had a sip of Maxwell House in a long time. Now I find myself wondering what it tastes like.

Third, an international conflict grows over the recent media coverage of various sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.

Several reports that have called into question the past decision-making of Pope Benedict have unleashed passionate defenses of the pope and increasingly  harsh criticism of the media — especially the New York Times.

Most of the criticism has focused on extensive NYT reporting about a late Milwaukee priest who allegedly molested close to 200 boys at a school for the deaf, where he worked from 1950 to 1974. While no one seems to dispute that the priest, Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, was a monster, the Times’ contention that the pope — then Cardinal Ratzinger — was slow to react in 1996 has created the firestorm.

Archbishop Dolan, who defended the pope after Palm Sunday Mass by comparing attacks against him to the persecution of Jesus, now writes on his blog about “diatribes” against the church and the pope.

He concludes with this GREAT soundbite:

*****

Let me be upfront: I confess a bias in favor of the Church and her Pope.

I only wish some others would admit a bias on the other side.

*****

Meanwhile, a Milwaukee priest who presided over a canonical criminal trial involving Murphy, has stepped out in the Catholic media to complain that he has been widely misquoted — even though he was never interviewed by a journalist.

“As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing from a sense of duty to the truth,” writes Father Thomas Brundage.

Brundage writes that Murphy was guilty of “unmitigated and gruesome crimes.” But he takes the Times to task for all sorts of things, which I can’t fully summarize here.

Among other things, he writes:

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With regard to the inaccurate reporting on behalf of the New York Times, the Associated Press, and those that utilized these resources, first of all, I was never contacted by any of these news agencies but they felt free to quote me. Almost all of my quotes are from a document that can be found online with the correspondence between the Holy See and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In an October 31, 1997 handwritten document, I am quoted as saying ‘odds are that this situation may very well be the most horrendous, number wise, and especially because these are physically challenged , vulnerable people. “ Also quoted is this: “Children were approached within the confessional where the question of circumcision began the solicitation.”

The problem with these statements attributed to me is that they were handwritten. The documents were not written by me and do not resemble my handwriting. The syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements, yet I am credited as stating them. As a college freshman at the Marquette University School of Journalism, we were told to check, recheck, and triple check our quotes if necessary. I was never contacted by anyone on this document, written by an unknown source to me. Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that the New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take the time to get the facts correct.

*****

On NationalReview.com, Raymond J. de Souza also dissects the Times’ coverage of the Ratzinger connection.

“The story is false,” he writes. “It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.”

Finally, Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and prominent historian of American religion, suggests on ReligionDispatches.org that Catholics who are “disgruntled” by scandal go Episcopalian.

He notes that the Vatican has reached out to conservative Anglicans who are fed up with their church’s leftward drift.

Balmer writes:

*****

So what do we learn from these developments over the past five months? Consider the evidence. I gather that the lesson from the Vatican is that homosexuality, even on the part of those in loving, committed relationships, is sin, must be exposed to the light of day for its shamefulness and must never be countenanced. It’s okay, however, to turn a blind eye to pedophile priests, to reassign them quietly to do harm elsewhere or simply to ignore the problem.

I’ll take my Episcopal Church, warts and all, any day.

Archbishop Dolan vs. the Times, Round 3 and counting

I wrote the other day about media coverage of sex abuse in the Catholic Church and claims from some — including Archbishop Dolan — that the coverage has an anti-Catholic slant.

His main concern, as he wrote on his blog, is that the media focus on abuse in the Catholic world but largely ignore abuse in the larger society.

Dolan was not done.

image_xlimage_2010_03_R1433_DOLAN_POPE_3292010Yesterday, after Palm Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dolan defended Pope Benedict XVI from media reports connecting the pontiff to sex-abuse scandals in Germany and the U.S. The Vatican has also been quite unhappy with some of the reports.

Dolan, as he tends to do, used strong, unambiguous words: “And Palm Sunday Mass is sure a fitting place for us to express our love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.”

…now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus…

That’s the New York Times he’s talking about there, folks.

According to the AP, Dolan got a 20-second standing ovation from the packed cathedral.

You get the feeling this isn’t over. Dolan has shown that he is quite comfortable charging anti-Catholicism in the media — especially the Times — and he does not take kindly to attacks on his Holy Father.

Here are his remarks in full:

(AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

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“May I ask your patience a couple of minutes longer in what has already been a lengthy — — yet hopefully uplifting — — Sunday Mass?

“The somberness of Holy Week is intensified for Catholics this year.

“The recent tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin, has knocked us to our knees once again.

“Anytime this horror, vicious sin, and nauseating crime is reported, as it needs to be, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame anew, and sincere Catholics experience another dose of shock, sorrow, and even anger.

“What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else has been the leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs.

“Sunday Mass is hardly the place to document the inaccuracy, bias, and hyperbole of such aspersions.

“But, Sunday Mass is indeed the time for Catholics to pray for “ . . . Benedict our Pope.”

“And Palm Sunday Mass is sure a fitting place for us to express our love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.

“No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI. The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made — — documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors — — could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.

“Does the Church and her Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI, need intense scrutiny and just criticism for tragic horrors long past?

“Yes! He himself has asked for it, encouraging complete honesty, at the same time expressing contrition, and urging a thorough cleansing.

“All we ask is that it be fair, and that the Catholic Church not be singled-out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency, and family in the world.

“Sorry to bring this up … but, then again, the Eucharist is the Sunday meal of the spiritual family we call the Church. At Sunday dinner we share both joys and sorrows. The father of our family, il papa, needs our love, support, and prayers.”

Are the media picking on the Catholic Church?

Headlines about sex-abuse scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church seem to be everywhere these days.

And that means that media coverage will be widely critiqued — and often judged to be anti-Catholic.

In fact, none other than Archbishop Dolan, on his Facebook page, when writing about a NYT article about a scandal in Germany, alleges that his church is getting singled out:

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What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

That, of course, is malarkey. Because, as we now sadly realize, nobody, nowhere, no time, no way, no how knew the extent, depth, or horror of this scourge, nor how to adequately address it.

The sexual abuse of our young people is an international, cultural, societal horror. It affects every religion, country, family, job, profession, vocation, and ethnic group.

*****

Dolan also argues that the church is getting little credit for all that it’s done to correct past problems.

Just this week, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference announced that its annual report card on sex abuse “shows the fewest number of victims, allegations and offenders in dioceses since 2004.”

In 2009, dioceses across the country received 398 allegations. 71% of the allegations involved incidents from 1960 to 1984. Only SIX allegations involved children under the age of 18 during the year 2009.

Dioceses spent more than $21 million for child protection programs including training, background checks and salaries for compliance staff, according to the report.

Referring to the church’s policies on sex-abuse, adopted in 2002, Cardinal Francis George, president of the Bishops Conference, writes: “The Charter is causing a cultural change in the U.S. Catholic Church, one I hope will permeate all areas of society.”

The church’s efforts to turn things around are why Dolan also writes:

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We Catholics have for a decade apologized, cried, reached out, shouted mea culpa, and engaged in a comprehensive reform that has met with widespread acclaim. We’ve got a long way to go, and the reform still has to continue.

But it is fair to say that, just as the Catholic Church may have been a bleak example of how not to respond to this tragedy in the past, the Church is now a model of what to do. As the National Review Online observes, “. . . the Church’s efforts to come to grips with this problem within the household of faith — more far reaching than in any other institution or sector of society — have led others to look to the Catholic Church for guidance on how to address what is, in fact, a global plague.”

As another doctor, Paul McHugh, an international scholar on this subject at Johns Hopkins University, remarked, “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.”

That, of course, is another headline you’ll never see.

*****

Dolan couldn’t have been happy to see today’s NYT, which features a front-page article about a late Wisconsin priest who molested hundreds of boys — while the Vatican did not react to pleas from several bishops to do something.

It’s one of those stories that leaves you shaking your head. How could it happen?

So, is Dolan right that the Catholic Church is being picked on and not given credit for its reforms? It’s a tough case to make when the pope is apologizing to the people of Ireland for decades of abuse and Germans are up in arms about scandals there.

Sure, the church is trying to turn things around (although some advocates for victims would say that some bishops and dioceses are still dragging their feet). But Catholics and the society at large are still only coming to terms with decades of abuse and how it happened.

I, for one, find it hard to buy the argument that sex-abuse outside the Catholic Church gets ignored by the media. It’s a case I’ve heard for the last decade.

Dolan notes that there has been much more abuse in public schools than in churches. It’s true, BUT each school system is responsible for what its employees do. There is no national school board that sets policies on abuse or can shuttle abusive teachers around.

When an abusive teacher is arrested in, say, Tulsa, the media there cover it. But the rest of the country has no interest. So, while there is extensive coverage of abuse in schools and other walks of life, the coverage does not feel tied together like coverage of abuse in the hierarchical Catholic Church.

When Jeanine Pirro was the Westchester DA and regularly busted men for seeking under-age sex partners via the Web, the Journal News put just about every case on Page One. But these were “local” stories that the national media would not have picked up on.

This week, a sex-abuse trial in Portland, Ore., involving the Boy Scouts of America revealed that the Scouts have kept confidential NATIONAL files on suspected abusers among its troop leaders. The trial has received extensive media coverage all across the country — as have past trials involving sex abuse in the Boy Scouts.

Sex abuse does get covered in all areas.

I want to share an email blast I got today from Father Thomas Berg, a priest and head of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person. He deals often with the media and has this take on the recent coverage:

*****

You may have seen the front page (above the fold) story in today’s New York Times by Laurie Goldstein regarding Vatican inaction on a Milwaukee priest accused of sexual misconduct.  My take (and I know the author) is that while NYT is definitely taking aim at Pope Benedict and smells blood in the water, Goldstein’s real message was more about a culture of inaction and of hushing up abuse cases in order not to tarnish the image of the Church and to “avoid scandal”.   That internal culture and its attendant modes of operation certainly do need to change; they were, for all intents and purposes, still the m.o. in the late 90’s when these reports reached the Vatican. It may be the case that, at the time, then Cardinal Ratzinger was still working under those received ways of (in)action; but I believe the truth about Benedict is that his whole m.o. on how to handle these things underwent a real metamorphosis in the early part of the new decade of 2000.  Although lengthy, I encourage you to read the following article by John Allen which makes a compelling case for that sea change in mentality in Cardinal Ratzinger who became, in Allen’s words,  “a Catholic Eliot Ness” after becoming Pope in terms of handling high profile abuse cases. The question now is how the Pope will handle things from here and will he be true to his past.

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Read that John Allen story. I praised it just the other day.