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:

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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.

Sex-abuse headlines just keep coming for the Catholic Church

During the past week alone:

1. A grand jury simply hammered the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a new report, saying that “not much has changed” in the way officials handle allegations of abuse. An indictment charged three priests and a school teacher with abusing minors during the 1990s and accused a former high-ranking official of the archdiocese with looking the other way. The defenders were arraigned Friday and granted bail.

2. A prominent lawyer for victims of abuse suggested that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee moved tens of millions of dollars off its books to shield the money from victims’ lawsuits. The lawyer, Jeffrey Anderson, has been one of the church’s harshest critics. Archbishop Dolan, who was running the show in Milwaukee during the time period in question, said Sunday that the charge was “ludicrous.” Dolan could be deposed.

3. The NYT Magazine on Sunday ran a sweeping overview of the ongoing crisis in Ireland, where the church is trying to recover some of its former influence and authority. The article, by former Putnam County resident Russell Shorto, notes that regular Mass attendance in Ireland fell by 50 percent between 1974 and 2008.  The abbot of a Benedictine monastery in County Limerick told Shorto:

“Ireland is a prime example of what the church is facing, because they made this island into a concentration camp where they could control everything. And the control was really all about sex. They told you if you masturbated, it meant you were impure and had allowed the devil to work on you. Generations of people were crucified with guilt complexes. Now the game is up.”

No matter what your perspective, you have to wonder where it will end. Will the Roman Catholic Church recover? What would recovery look like?

It so happens that a neighbor of mine was telling me the other day that she has such deep resentment toward her church that she finds herself rooting against the church. She still goes to Mass.

Religion story of the decade, anyone?

I mentioned recently that the Religion Newswriters Association had voted for the top religion stories of 2009 (featuring Obama in Cairo).

But I haven’t seen anyone weigh in on the top religion story of the decade.

Until now.

Religion scholar Mark Silk is professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford. And he’s editor of “Religion in the News,” an excellent thrice-yearly journal about media coverage of religion.

img07On his blog, SpiritualPolitics, Silk (that’s him) names what is clearly — to my mind, at least — the religion story of this unnamed decade:

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What was the biggest religion story of the decade? Unquestionably, the story of how American Catholic bishops, aided and abetted by civil authorities and mental health professionals, had systematically covered up the abuse of children by priests. This was big news locally in every Catholic diocese in the country. It became, because the USCCB was forced to confront it, a major national story. And it sparked rolling international coverage that, as this year’s revelations in Ireland attest, continues to play out. Given the breadth and depth of the coverage, I’m prepared to make the case that there has never been as big a religion story in the history of modern journalism–and that given the parlous state of journalism today, we may never see anything on its scale again.

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A simple, powerful case.

To my mind, the sex-abuse scandal was one of the most most talked-about stories of the last decade, behind only 9/11, the ongoing war on terror, and the recession.

In 2002 and 2003, people wanted to talk about it wherever I went.

To this day, it comes up in conversation all the time.

Why? Because people can’t believe that it happened, that bishops allowed it to happen.

Silk makes the case that the scandal has been largely forgotten and that the church is anxious to put the whole nasty matter behind it:

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But somehow, the entire thing has faded from national consciousness. There was not a peep about it in the NYT’s year-by-year wrap-up of the decade in the Week in Review last Sunday: Nor did Phillip Niemeyer’s Op-Chart, “Picturing the Past 10 Years,” so much as allude to the scandal. When Pope Benedict met with victims of abuse during his visit in 2007, there was appreciation yes, but also a sense that the county was so over that story. A lot more attention was paid to what the pope was wearing–Prada or no Prada? Pedophile priests? Been there, done that.

That’s certainly the vibe coming from the Catholic bishops, who recovered their mojo in the health care debate this year. With the help of a forgetful public, reminders of the late unpleasantness are brushed aside as so much finished business.

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Even Silk doesn’t mention the surest proof that the scandal has faded from public consciousness: the lack of media coverage given the demise of the Legionaries of Christ.

tjndc5-5scjixfmdmsrdd37exx_layoutIn a small nutshell: Pope John Paul II was enamored with the Legionaries, a fast-growing, very traditional Catholic order of priests that was founded in 1941 in Mexico by Marcial Maciel. The pope ignored allegations by about a dozen former seminarians that Maciel had sexually abused them.

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI publicaly retired Maciel from ministry, without saying why. But it was obvious.

This past February, the Legion itself disclosed that Maciel had fathered children and lived a “double life.” The Vatican is now investigating the order.

The whole story is set out in journalist Jason Berry’s video “Vows of Silence.”

One can argue that the tale of Maciel and the Legionaries is a microcosm of the larger sex-abuse scandal. Allegations of abuse were made and the church — in this case, the POPE — either looked the other way or ignored the evidence. What did he know? When did he know it?

I keep wondering whether the Maciel case will affect John Paul’s otherwise glowing reputation as the late pontiff zooms toward sainthood. It sure seems to be a dark stain on his pontificate. But hardly anyone knows about it.

The religion story of the decade still inspires curiosity, but no more.