The Archdiocese of Denver has responded to international reports of sexual abuse and cover up by the Catholic Church in three countries by posting a paragraph on its website not about sexual abuse or coverup or administrative responsibility but about what it calls a “media frenzy.” Archbishop Chaput, the U.S. representative on a special team appointed to investigate a high-profile pedophile priest this year, has yet to address the scandals directly. His office failed to return messages yesterday.
If the comment threads at the Catholic websites he is sending readers to are any measure, though, Chaput’s or the archdiocese’s paragraph criticizing the media will fail to satisfy the restive flock, which seems to be looking for leaders to confront the issue instead of dodging it.
Chaput is not shy to speak in the public sphere on controversial issues. Indeed he has written a book arguing that it is a Catholic obligation to do so. Chaput was one of the loudest Catholic voices in opposing health reform. He went to Texas recently (Texas!) and critiqued Pres. John Kennedy’s reading of Catholicism as a non-controlling factor in his approach to public policy.
One of the troubling aspects of the unsigned Archdiocese paragraph on the scandals is that it refers readers to a piece written by George Weigel, a formerly staunch defender of powerful corrupt pedophile Marcial Maciel, the deceased head of the Catholic Legionaries of Christ and the man Chaput was appointed to investigate last year. Weigel defended Maciel in the face of damning testimony and substantial evidence, more of which comes to light with each passing day.
Writing at First Things, Weigel does no better in his defending the Church against the latest storm, blaming sources and the media for attacking the Church and dodging the issue itself: the rapes and the coverups.
Many of Weigel’s Catholic readers see the flaw. The media is good and bad but the Church in this case has been woefully bad and that’s what matters to them, Catholics who time and again have to learn of these transgressions from the media because the Church hierarchy won’t speak of it.
This from a commenter named Gina:
I don’t know where everybody else lives, but in the northeast here in the US, I see articles about child abuse at the hands of teachers, parents, clergy from other denominations, etc, in the media on a fairly regular basis. Therefore I don’t buy into the argument that the media doesn’t really care about child abuse because otherwise it wouldn’t hammer only the Church. Where I live, the media simply does NOT limit its coverage of child abuse to the Catholic Church.
The problem is that our Church claims to be the the truth and the light, to have its moral authority handed down by Christ himself, to be the religion through whose intercession every person who ever lived on this earth will be saved. When our Church points fingers and cries, “Other religions do it, too! Our percentages of child abuse are no greater than anybody else’s! Why don’t you look at THEM? Conspiracy!”, people jeer because it doesn’t really matter what everyone else in the world does, does it? What matters is that we proclaim we are the One True Church. We should be held to a MUCH higher standard than schools, dysfunctional families, and other religions. Moreover, we have a much more defined hierarchy in this institution, leading right up to the Pope himself, than any of the other religions, schools, etc, have, which gives greater credence to the accusations of wide-spread systemic cover-up.
Of course anti-Catholics will jump on this story to push their own agenda. And sorting through all of the media stories on this scandal requires using reasoning and objectivity that can be very hard to maintain given the visceral reaction so many of us have to this horrible abuse of children.
But the Church’s continuing cries of “Conspiracy! We are so persecuted by the media!” really have lost their meaning, especially when you have men like Cardinal Martins claiming such while telling us we shouldn’t really be very scandalized by the covering up and shuffling of pervert priests by bishops. It’s what every family does, after all, isn’t it? Hide their “dirty laundry”? Which does make you wonder about just what kind of “family” our Church is, with this attitude being exhibited by top Vatican officials.
And here is the “media frenzy” paragraph posted by the Denver Archdiocese today:
Making sense of a media frenzy
March 30, 2010 – Recent heavy coverage of sex-abuse allegations in Europe by the New York Times and other secular publications has understandably sparked both anger and confusion. Unfortunately, much of the coverage and commentary has been flawed. George Weigel, in a column titled “Scoundrel Time(s)” published March 29 on First Things online, examines these recent reports in their full context. Raymond J. de Souza critiques the recent Times coverage in an editorial published on National Review online, using the same documentary evidence made available by the Times in conjunction with its original story. And finally, George Weigel and Jay Scott Newman examine the timing and motives of commentary in the Washington Post. Click here to read.
That’s all well and good but the crimes remain. These aren’t “allegations” anymore, not in Ireland. The way things are progressing, Pope Benedict may be subject to criminal charges of conspiracy should he ever set foot in the United Kingdom or in Ireland– or in Germany or the Unites States. If Archbishop Chaput thinks this is about media conspiracy or made up frenzy he is wrong, like the clergy has been wrong on this matter again and again and again.