1. Religion & Spirituality
Scott P. Richert

Clerical Sexual Abuse: The New York Times Strikes (Out) Again

By July 19, 2010

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In the run-up to the Vatican's release last week of its new "Norms on Most Serious Crimes," the New York Times continued its months-long effort to lay the responsibility for the decades-long clerical sex-abuse scandal at the feet of Pope Benedict XVI.

On July 2, the Times published an article, Church Office Failed to Act on Abuse Scandal, purporting to "show" that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been given authority over sexual-abuse cases in 1922, despite the "claims" of Pope Benedict's supporters that the CDF (which Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger headed from 1979 until his election as pope in 2005) only received such authority in April 2001.

Remarks by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at the release of the new norms indicate that the Times may have stumbled onto a technical truth. As Father Lombardi put it:

In 2001 the Holy Father John Paul II promulgated a very important document, the Motu Proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela", which gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responsibility to deal with and judge a series of particularly serious crimes within the ambit of canon law. This responsibility had previously been attributed also to other dicasteries [Church offices], or was not completely clear.

In other words, the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela may have been as much about clarifying where the responsibility for sexual-abuse cases lay as it was about transferring the responsibility for such cases. As Times reporters Laurie Goodstein and David M. Halbfinger write:

Yet throughout the '80s and '90s, bishops who sought to penalize and dismiss abusive priests were daunted by a bewildering bureaucratic and canonical legal process, with contradicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions in Rome, according to church documents and interviews with bishops and canon lawyers.

No one who has followed the scandal would claim otherwise, and the Times essentially admits that some bishops who wanted to do the right thing inadvertently did wrong because they didn't understand what canon law required. Unfortunately, that single kernel of truth is pretty much all that can be found in Goodstein's and Halbfinger's article. The rest of the piece is composed of (at best) misrepresentation of facts, as well as commentary disguised as reporting.

Take the article's central claim:

The office led by Cardinal Ratzinger, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had actually been given authority over sexual abuse cases nearly 80 years earlier, in 1922, documents show and canon lawyers confirm.

Goodstein and Halbfinger use this assertion (which, as Michael Sean Winters points out, at least one canon lawyer not interviewed by the New York Times disputes) to damn Cardinal Ratzinger for "never assert[ing] that authority, failing to act even as the cases undermined the church's credibility in the United States, Australia, Ireland and elsewhere."

Yet the Times' own acknowledgment in the same article that there were "contradicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions in Rome" undermines Goodstein's and Halbfinger's attempt to blame Pope Benedict for failing to assert an authority that no one was quite sure he had. Or, rather, an authority that everyone agreed belonged to "other dicasteries," chief among them the Roman Rota.

Indeed, Goodstein and Halbfinger admit the truth later on in their article: After having claimed that "documents show and canon lawyers confirm" that the CDF had the authority all along, the reporters write that "canonists were deeply divided on whether the old instructions or the 1983 canon law—which were at odds on major points—should hold sway."

In that sense, it is little more than an historical curiosity that documents have been unearthed that indicate that the CDF may have held authority over such cases from 1922 on. Until the late 1990's, no one--and certainly not Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger--believed that the CDF had such authority. That should be obvious even to the most cursory observer of the scandal, let alone to a New York Times reporter tasked with covering it. After all, why would Cardinal Ratzinger spend years lobbying Pope John Paul II to transfer authority over such cases to the CDF if he believed that the CDF already had such authority?

Goodstein and Halbfinger simply ignore that question. Instead, they argue that Cardinal Ratzinger had a "different focus" and "priorities"--priorities which, their commentary disguised as reporting makes clear, they consider bad. That those priorities--for instance, combating heresy and upholding the Church's traditional understanding of the role of bishops in the hierarchy of the Church--were clearly acknowledged by all as essential roles of the CDF makes no difference. Pope Benedict should apologize for holding different priorities 20 years ago than the reporters and editors of the New York Times hold today.

To drive that point home, Goodstein and Halbfinger make deliberately misleading claims, such as the following:

Cardinal Ratzinger also focused on reining in national bishops' conferences, several of which, independent of Rome, had begun confronting the sexual abuse crisis and devising policies to address it in their countries. He declared that such conferences had "no theological basis" and "do not belong to the structure of the church." Individual bishops, he reaffirmed, reigned supreme in their dioceses and reported only to the authority of the pope in Rome.

Note what the Times' reporters have done. If you take out the bolded portion of that paragraph, what Goodstein and Halbfinger have written is correct. In the 1980's and 90's, there was a controversy within the Catholic Church over the canonical status of national bishops' conferences, which had taken on a life of their own and begun to act as if they were intermediary institutions between the pope and individual bishops. Confusion reigned, because policies made by such conferences were regarded by many bishops, priests, and laymen as normative, even when they had no basis in canon law or liturgical norms.

In most cases, the contentious policies concerned the liturgy and the practice of other sacraments, such as Confession. But Goodstein and Halbfinger, by including the bolded material in their paragraph, give the wholly untrue impression that the controversy over bishops' conferences had something to do with clerical sex abuse. Either Goodstein and Halbfinger are deliberately trying to mislead, or they have been deliberately misled by one of their sources.

The latter possibility cannot be ruled out, since the Times has previously admitted that ambulance-chasing lawyer Jeffrey Anderson, who has made over $60 million through civil suits against the Catholic Church, fed Laurie Goodstein the story of Fr. Lawrence Murphy while Anderson was secretly planning to file a lawsuit against the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI, using the Murphy case as its basis.

How much of Goodstein's and Halbfinger's article comes directly from Anderson? We have no way of knowing, because the editors of the Times, who insist that the Catholic Church should be "transparent" in Her affairs, aren't about to hold their reporters to the same standard. Yet it would surprise no one who has followed this controversy over the last ten years or more to find that Anderson's lawsuit against the Vatican and Benedict will use the 1922 grant of authority to the CDF to bolster Anderson's claims.

The New York Times makes much out of the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger's cover letter to the 2001 motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela states that the 1922 grant of authority (restated in the 1962 document Crimen sollicitationis) remained "in force until now." But such language tells us only that Cardinal Ratzinger won the battle in 2001 to have the authority explicitly and solely attributed to the CDF. Having done so, he pointed back to the 1922 and 1962 documents to provide added weight to that authority. The cover letter proves nothing more than that.

Well, except for one more thing: It gives the lie to the New York Times' claim that Cardinal Ratzinger was "part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction." If the future pope had wished to avoid any responsibility for handling clerical sexual-abuse cases, why did he lobby for years to have the authority granted exclusively to the Church office that he headed up? Goodstein and Halbfinger never address that question, nor did the New York Times editorial board in its July 9, 2010, editorial "The Pope's Duty," in which it attempted to lay the clerical sexual-abuse crisis at Pope Benedict's feet and deigned to tell the Holy Father how to do his job.

There's a reason why neither the reporters nor the editors address that question: The answer doesn't fit into their prepackaged narrative. More than any other member of the Vatican hierarchy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger saw the problem and pushed the Church toward a solution. In the words of Bishop Philip Wilson of Australia, whom Goodstein and Halbfinger quote (though, oddly, without mentioning his first name) and then promptly ignore:

"The speech he [Cardinal Ratzinger] gave [at a Vatican meeting on clerical sexual abuse in 2000] was an analysis of the situation, the horrible nature of the crime, and that it had to be responded to promptly . . . I felt, this guy gets it, he's understanding the situation we're facing. At long last, we'll be able to move forward."

Cardinal Ratzinger did get it; Pope Benedict does get it; and the Catholic Church is moving forward--no thanks to the reporters and editors of the New York Times, who, it seems, will settle for nothing less than the resignation from the papacy of the man who most fully understood and addressed this crisis.

Unfortunately for the editors and reporters of the New York Times, they continue to swing and miss.

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July 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm
(1) Emmanuel Ologu-Ogbangwo says:

Please, let someone help me: what is the business of The New York Times in this matter? Are they catholics? I understand they want the Holy Father to resign; has Catholic Church become a political party? Did they participate in his election? Now, what has happened to the countries that have legalized same-sex marriages, prostitution, and other vices? Has the New York Times called for the resignation of their presidents? I honestly suggest we ignore these punks. They just don’t have any job to do!!!

July 21, 2010 at 9:13 am
(2) Petel2 says:

More gibberish by this church. I do agree that it was not just Ratzingers fault, but the fault of popes before him too.
This religion has gotten away with the worst crimes against humanity, the cover ups. Had the children received help, many would not have committed suicide and others not mentally ill today. Seems the vatican with its popes, bishops and cardinals, big grown men, care about itself over the lives of small children.
This is no different than if a criminal hiding away in a protected country justifying such horrible crimes through many twists. Point is that those few clergy who were wiling to uncover the truth have been demoted and shamed by this organization.
We must remember one important issue; all documents were of cover up and secret and NONE to help the children. If this religion cared for the child, then among these ridiculous documents of 1962 and Ratzingers letter of 2001 to ensure victims are denied civil rights to protect the RCC first, there would be clear documents to help the child.
Why were there no documents that stated; get the child immediate medical attention, tell the parents so they can care for the child and tell authorities to protect other children. Why? Because this church thinks they are far better and more important than a child’s destroyed life. People should be disgusted. As a victim of this horrible organization, sodomized from ages 8 to 10, once gang sodomized by four priests at once, I find this pope and other popes disgusting.
After all, why would the author above need so many words to prove facts? Because it requires lots of words to manipulate and scheme, twist and turn, to fool others.
Facts don’t take so many words and as a victim, I applaud the Times and other media willing to stand up for victims. Most crimes were of pedophilia, and that is FACT – small elementary school children. Then again the vaatican plays gmes of ignoring the children’s destroyed lives. They ignore the fact that violent childhood trauma causes a physical change in the brain. The vatican claims abortion is bad yet ignore the fact that violent trauma causes life long suffering resulting in a life expectancy of 20 years less.
Thank you NY Times, from a victim that knows the truth.

July 21, 2010 at 9:17 am
(3) Petel2 says:

Thank you NY Times. Exposing the crimes of this organization takes courage since the truth will cause many devout on a selfish-salvation trip to attack you. From a victim.

July 21, 2010 at 9:29 am
(4) Petel2 says:

And to Emmanuel.
You say “Now, what has happened to the countries that have legalized same-sex marriages, prostitution, and other vices?” How about this; severely traumatized children will many times become gay, become prostitutes and, yes, engage in vices too. Your religion and its sin list is so far from understanding humanity. Your religion knows nothing of humanity, please stop pretending. Take a lesson in psychology and you will find that many of your declared sins are those who were children denied lives. Yes, trauma causes exactly what you stated, not free will. Many of these children were denied the ability to proper reasoning in later adulthood due to physical brain malfunctions caused by the abuse. Now you need to harm them again? With your sin lists? Maybe you should consider the cause to mental illness, caused by your churches unwillingness to help the child in need. You are sick and disgusting. Such cruel punishment to these children’s lives and you torment them again.

July 21, 2010 at 9:42 am
(5) Petel2 says:

And with regard to the ambulance chasing attorneys. Had it not been for these attorneys, victims as myself would still carry this in silence – rejected by your religion. Even though most victims, myself included, have received nothing, we still applaud the gracious work of these attorneys. After all, who else will stand up for the victims – we sure know the RCC won’t.
I find it insulting that some devout will actually state look “we offer victims therapy”. No they do not, only few who were less damaged. You see the worst cases will not be known unless these attorneys are able to get to court.
Let me use some of your religious logic; Attorneys are doing Gods work and God is rewarding them with money so they can continue.
How about your bragging of catholic charities. Most people don’t know the truth; MOST IS PAID FOR BY OUR TAX DOLLAR, GRANT MONEY. And you wouldn’t do it if it were not profitable, look at all the non-profitable hospitals, churches and schools you have closed. In fact getting grant money allows you to be all over the world to waving your catholic flag – marketing with our tax dollars. Then again I’ve noticed how much you people brag of your good works, how humbling and christ-like.
The truth is ugly and so is your religion.
A victim who knows the truth.

July 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm
(6) Emmanuel Ologu says:

Many thanks, Petel2. Your points are clearly understood. But as a victim, what were the actions of your parents since you were a child? Did they report your unfortunate experience to the law authorities? Or they just sat and hoped the Cardinal and Pope will “mystically” hear or know everything? That was not only wrong but very stupid. The Church is not above the State. All crimes have their consequences. Nobody is preventing any catholic priests who offend the laws of any land from being arrested and prosecuted. My dear Pestel2, lets get this point clear: nobody is saying that there are no sinners in the Roman Catholic Church. As a matter of fact, we’re all sinners and even the Pope acknowledges that everyday. You, also, know that sins are different from crimes. The point is that any CRIMINAL – Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest, Laity, etc, – must be compelled to face the law. That is the universally fact: but what is amazingly stupid and disgusting (using your language) is to ask the Pope to suffer for some one’s else crime. Why must the Pope resign because of crimes committed by a priest or bishop? This is ridiculous!! The Times can as well ask Obama to resign because of the rising crimes in the United States. And that goes for all national Presidents. And in Nigeria, for instance, The Times should ask my President to resign because of rising incidence of kidnapping, robbery, corruption, and others? So, what are they waiting for? Why the Pope? Why not the Heads of Anglicans, Baptists, Adventists, Islam, Lutherans, Methodists, Jehova Witness, and the rest? Or is the “almighty” Times telling us there are no criminals in those religious organizations? You guys are just jealous of the Holy Roman Catholic Church but we are used to it. It was this same evil attitude that drove the Church to Rome in the first place (see Acts 23:11). You go ahead and enjoy your evil campaign against the Church but be assured that you will never succeed. You know why? Because, Jesus did not resign because Judas Iscariot misbahaved!!!!!!

July 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm
(7) Petel2 says:

As a child severely traumatized, you are unable to come forward to let anyone know. Not only was I threatened by those who sooodddomized me (total of 5 from ages 8 to 10), but they sent down diocese priests to threaten me again.
Ever wonder why the 29 yr old girl Jaycee, the girl abducted at age 11, never asked for help or even escaped? In fact some say she might have been 50 or 60 before coming forward. It was not the physical captivity because she could have left at any time. It was the mental captivity, same as victims as myself. Remember, there are many priests dressed in black around you most every day in schools and churches. Children severely traumatized will experience a physical change in the brain. The child no longer lives a normal life. Needed brain functions do not develop properly, constant fear is around every corner. Could you imagine living a childhood as that? Later in adulthood, mental illness sets in causing even more damage. In fact the more violent the pedophile, the longer it requires the victim to come to terms with it, some never do and die with the mental illness caused. There is no time period when a victim is able to come forward. It is the mental illness caused by the abuse which prevents victims from coming forward. In other words you could ask the child and later adult, have you ever been rrraped? They will firmly say no and not access their past, the brain function will not allow it. Triggers to help the brain come to terms is sometimes when others come forward, sometimes this is not enough. Other cases are those who have children. As a means to protect their child they must deal with the past, the brain now allows for admission.
Victims of severe trauma will lose the ability to concentrate which is why never go on doing well in school. Others get into trouble as a form off escape. Sad part is that when you come to terms with it, you look back to realizing you never lived your childhood and adulthood, you were robbed. That is one of the worst traumas of all and then you are left knowing you must live the rest of your life with mental illness. Now to hear the vatican with so many deflections? Imagine what difference it would have made in my life if the diocese sent down people to help me instead of to threaten me? They didn’t though. Today, once of those who sodommmmmizewd me is a bishop in New York State, who protects other peds.
This whole clergy abuse thing does not address the victims and lost lives. The vatican and the church has done nothing to offer help. In fact I was denied even therapy because the very bishop who soddomizzzed me was the one who approved it. All cover ups and no honesty.

July 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm
(8) Petel2 says:

Why the pope should pay for these crimes? Because the pope helped orchestrate the cover ups. In 2001, Ratzinger wrote a letter to all bishops demanding they adhere to the Crimes of Solicitations document. That document was designed to keep the secret, keep silence and threaten when needed.
In addition, his 2001 letter stated to “extinguish” all cases of abuse at least until the victims reaches the age of adulthood plus 10 years. The reason for that was that if they could hold victims off for that period of time, then statutes of limitations would now protect the church, the pedo and deny the victim their civil rights. That is right, they denied help to the child traumatized and now the mentally ill adult is denied by them again.
Show me kindness. Show me among all these documents where one document existed which stated; get the child immediate medical attention, tell the parents so they could care for their child and tell authorities to protect other children. There were none, proof alone that the child’s life was not their concern. Their concern was protecting their own reputation first, lead by ratzinger.
Today this church pays top notch lobbyists to stop laws that would expose the pedos and help the victims. When does this organizations cruelty end. Isn’t a life long of mental illness enough difficulty to live with? Must your religion continue damaging us? When will you be happy. when we are all dead and destroyed?

July 23, 2010 at 6:47 am
(9) Emmanuel Ologu-Ogbangwo says:

It is alright, Petel2. I, personally, share your sympathy. It is utterly heart-breaking to learn that such magnitude of child abuse exist in THE HOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. This is not only alarming by also disgraceful. I apologize on behalf of the Holy Father and all the faithfuls.

You said the guy that you sodomnized is now a Bishop in New York State. Why hide his name? I suggest you publicize his indentity because that is the only way to expose evil. If these wicked souls are not only publicized, nobody gets to know about it and their wickedness continue.

One important point I am trying to make, my dear Petel2, is that the Church may not be blamed for such vices. The members of the Church that are involved in such shameful and sinful acts should be held responsible. And any Bishop or Cardinal or Pope that covers-up such sins/crimes will, in addition to facing Our Lord Jesus Christ on the last day, be made to face the law. Like I said earlier, no Church – repeat: no Church – is greater than the State! Now, how do you explain some churches appointing renowned HOMOSEXUALS as Bishops? See what I mean: devil has invaded all the churches, including The Holy Roman Catholic Church. We should be blamed for this because we are not praying enough. We should continue to pray and pray without ceasing. In addition, everybody should be encouraged to expose and possibly institute legal charges any priests that gets involved in serious crimes. What is bad is bad; not only before man but before The Almighty God.

Once again, I apologize on behalf of The Holy Roman Catholic Church for whatever pains inflected on your personality. I, personally, share in your grief.

Thanks and God bless


July 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm
(10) Petel2 says:

And the parishioners donations enable the organization to deny victims by paying lobbyist to stop laws that would help them.

Without the cash from parishioners, at least the victims would have a fighting chance. They don’t as enabled by donations.

There are enough other organizations to donate to if you really think the RCC helps others. I will tell you though, catholic charities is paid for primarily through grants, our tax dollars. If it were not profitable, their drop it in a heartbeat. Just as they dropped hospitals, schools and churches that were not profitable.

Donate money and you help damage victims. All victims want is the truth be told. That includes the cover ups by the pope, cardinals and bishops. You and others deny them.

Then again, why not deny them, after all many committed suicide and others mentally ill due to the abuse.

Victims are sick and tired of phony “We are sorry” without the action. Hot air is all. Hot air that helps the RCC escape and the victims to continue suffering.

July 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm
(11) Herbert says:

“Woe to Assyria, my rod in anger,” we read in Isaiah 10:5. Chapter 10 of Isaiah reveals that is happening. God is using the media and civil law enforcement agencies to root out the evil in His Church. However, if they become arrogant or overbearing in the process, they too will have to answer to God. God will restore His Church. The remnant, purified, will shine.

July 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm
(12) Petel2 says:

Well Herbert, your organization continues to harm those abused as children – again and again. More than likely, your organization will escape thanks to the many donations by the parishioners.

Your organization is a lie, full of deceit. It has destroyed human life. Many victims committed suicide and others mentally ill today. They suffer and the your church gas done nothing to help them, but to destroy them further.

Your post does not scare anyone, rather it is another post exhibiting deflections and more denial to those your organization continues to harm.

Continue pouring vinegar in their wounds, your truth shows.

August 11, 2010 at 3:43 am
(13) Esther Temwani says:

May i also apologize on behalf of the catholic church for the abuse you went through. Really it is such a shame. As my Brother in the Lord Emmanuel said, please expose the bishop who abused you so that this vice may be stopped. There are no sacred cows let him be brought before the courts of law. I am a proud catholic and spread the gospel by sharing with my community on various issues affecting our church.I hope you find it in your heart to forgive so that the process of healing can be manifested in your life. God bless .

August 11, 2010 at 6:47 pm
(14) Eustelle says:

God knows everything and also help His only Church to make everything clear to those who are against His Church. And He can also punish those who are against His commandment. Its not Holy Father’s fault so please don’t talk about it again and again but lets us pray for the forgiveness and for the strongest faith to God’s servants so that they can win against devil’s temptation.
God be with us always.

September 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm
(15) Petel2 is a fraud says:

Petel2, sorry, but your lies and distortions are slung all across the internet to see. You lie and distort the public factual record so much that, sorry, I don’t believe and of your assertions about what happened to you personally.

September 29, 2010 at 1:24 am
(16) Petel2 says:

As usual, there are those that need to deny us, as if we haven’t been denied enough since being sodomized as small children.

The truth hurts some, I hope victims keep coming out telling our stories. I believe most people believe us.

September 29, 2010 at 7:08 am
(17) Petel2 says:

Here is who the RCC pedos and their protectors want to harm again.


After all, it’s OK they harmed children and hide from the crimes because others did it too.

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