Catholic scandal: Are these guys reading the same news?

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t read something new about the worldwide, decades long scandal involving the Catholic Church and sexual abuse cover-ups.  What seems obvious to me is that there has been a persistent, consistent pattern of conspiracy–from the top down–to hide the wrongdoing of priests, and a resistance to and resentment of the idea that civil authorities might prosecute suspects who happen to be, um, employees of the Catholic Church.  Anyway…

IN…THIS…CORNER!  Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, who says in this week’s column (responding to a question about whether or not recent media coverage amounted to anti-Catholic bias):

The bias in the media is not against the Catholic Church. That is little more than face-saving defensiveness. The bias is against the abuse of children and young people by priests. The bias is against a systematic cover-up on every level of the Catholic hierarchy. The bias is against saying how deeply this abuse is regretted on one hand and on the other promoting Cardinal Bernard Law, one of the most guilty prelates in America, to a position in the Vatican where he will no longer have to answer questions under oath. The bias is against the way Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia was treated by the hierarchy of his own church after his report on clergy abuse in that country was so overt and honest, that it did not serve their cover-up needs.

It is not an anti-Catholic bias but a universal revulsion against this behavior across the world that finds expression in media coverage. There is also no rejoicing among other Christian groups, since this behavior in the Roman Catholic Church diminishes all Christians and hurts the cause for which all Christians work.

For this Church to pretend that they are somehow the victims of an anti-Catholic bias in the media is simply one more aspect of their unwillingness to see the depth of the problem.

AND…IN…THIS…CORNER!  Catholic League President Bill “Eye of Sauron” Donohue, who said in a press release earlier this month:

Every news story and commentary stating that the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is widening is factually wrong. The evidence shows just the opposite—it has been contracting for approximately a quarter century. Here’s the proof: the John Jay College of Criminal Justice—not exactly an arm of the Catholic Church—has shown repeatedly that the vast majority of the abuse cases took place from the mid-60s to the mid-80s. And the reports over the last five years show a rapid decline. The latest report, covering 2008-2009, shows exactly six credible allegations made against over 40,000 priests and tens of thousands of others working for the Catholic Church.

Almost all of the chatter about the alleged widening of the scandal is a direct result of media sensationalism. Here is a perfect example, taken from a Reuters story today. The headline reads, “Norway’s Catholic Church Reveals New Abuse Cases.” But what is new is not a new wave of incidents, rather it is an admission by the Norwegian Catholic Church of four cases of alleged abuse that it had not previously disclosed. Two of the cases date back to the 1950s; another dates back two decades; and the fourth one was based on “rumors.”

The same Reuters story opens by saying these four stories come “two days after it [the Norwegian Catholic Church] revealed that a bishop who resigned last year did so after abusing an altar boy.” That makes it sound like a Church cover-up. Only at the end of the story does the reader learn that the reason why this story did not emerge until this week is precisely because the victim initially asked that it not be made public.

There is no other religious or secular institution being cherry-picked by lawyers and the media like that of the Catholic Church. If what happened in the 1950s qualifies as news when it happened in the Catholic Church, then surely it would be news to learn of all those who were abused a half-century ago by ministers, rabbis, school teachers and others. But it will never happen—such news fails to make the media salivate.

So let me get this straight.  The Eye of Sauron thinks it’s less of a big deal because a lot of these atrocities were successfully covered up for decades (apparently there’s a statute of limitations on priestly abuse of minors).  It’s also less of a big deal because ministers, rabbis, school teachers, etc. sometimes commit similar abuse.  What’s different, Bill-o, is not just that priests were committing abuse, but that the Holy Hierarchy conspired to let them get away with it, seeing the reputation of the Church as a higher good than secular justice and/or the physical and mental well-being of the innocent children whose lives were ruined.

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