Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cui Bono? Another NYT Smear Attempt

Source: Memo to Pope Described Transfer of Pedophile Priest -,

Catholic Culture : Latest Headlines : Munich case: facts do not support link to Pope,

German archdiocese disputes pope story – This Just In - Blogs,

Pope Benedict Transferred Paedophile? | Blogs |,

VIS-Press releases,

Scandal still not enough to threaten the Pope -Times Online,

Catholic Culture : Latest Headlines : New York Times again seeks to link Pope to abuse scandal,

Cardinal Ratzinger acted powerfully against abusers, says Archbishop Vincent Nichols – Telegraph Blogs


2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The NYT, determined to paint Pope Benedict XVI as responsible for enabling abusers now resurrects another already debunked story to try to say that one Father Hullerman, who was sent to stay on Church property while undergoing treatment for pedophilia tendencies, was knowingly released to pastoral duty with the consent of now Pope Benedict XVI.

The truth is different.  The extent of the now Pope Benedict XVI was involved was to allow a priest from another diocese to stay at a rectory while undergoing treatment.  It was Father Gruber who allowed him to help out at a parish.

It is tragic indeed that back in these days, it was widely believed that a pedophile could be cured through therapy and through moving him to another parish away from the problem.  [A common belief was the interest was in a specific target.  It was not recognized that such individuals were interested in whoever fit a fetish].

Even though Rev. Gruber admitted that it was his own authority that the priest was allowed to help at a parish [NOT release from treatment], the NYT seems determined to place the blame on the Pope.

The latest claim of the NYT is:

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope and archbishop in Munich at the time, was copied on a memo that informed him that a priest, whom he had approved sending to therapy in 1980 to overcome pedophilia, would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys in another parish.

An initial statement on the matter issued earlier this month by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising placed full responsibility for the decision to allow the priest to resume his duties on Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, the Rev. Gerhard Gruber. But the memo, whose existence was confirmed by two church officials, shows that the future pope not only led a meeting on Jan. 15, 1980, approving the transfer of the priest, but was also kept informed about the priest’s reassignment.

Yes.  THAT is the extent of their "evidence."  A claim that two unnamed individuals claimed such a document exists.  We do not know who these individuals are, whether or not they would be in a position to know or whether they are trustworthy, or if their recollections are accurate.  [This doesn't mean I accuse these individuals of

Let's Look At the Evidence… Hmm, wait… Let's Look For The Evidence

Let's consider some problems with the claim.  What we have is the NYT relying on the claim of two unnamed "church officials" that a memo exists which claims now Pope Benedict XVI led a meeting which approved of the priest's transfer.

The Archdiocese of Munich says this article is false, stating:

"'The article in the New York Times contains no new information beyond that which the archdiocese has already communicated concerning the then archbishop's knowledge of the situation of Father H.'

"Thus the archdiocese confirms the position, according to which the then archbishop had no knowledge of the decision to reassign Father H. to pastoral activities in a parish.

"It rejects any other version of events as mere speculation.

"The then vicar general, Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, has assumed full responsibility for his own erroneous decision to reassign Father H. to pastoral activity".

Speculation is a good word here.  The NYT is guilty of Begging the Question here, making assumptions which need to be proven and not accepted as proof.

The NYT is reporting on what it claims was in the memo with no proof that the now Pope Benedict XVI received it or read it, or even if it says what they claim.  The NYT alleges that the now Pope led the meeting returning the priest to ministry.  However, they provide no proof of it.  This is entirely conjecture based on a memo, which the NYT claims to exist but does not have.  (Unlike their debunked claims of Milwaukee where the documents they cite don't support what they claim, the NYT does not even have this memo they base their claim on to begin with).

One needs to prove what is said before making an accusation.  Yet the NYT and others have printed this story without such proof.

Cui bono? (Who Benefits?)

What strikes me in this case is that the NYT is determined to make a case with shoddy journalism with the purpose of discrediting the Pope and the Church.  Once upon a time, innuendos like this would not be even accepted by the NYT for printing.  Now the assumption is that "The Church can't be trusted, so they need to prove their innocence.  Nowadays, one merely needs to start with a headline "The Catholic Church Denies Allegations…" and this will lead people to think it is the Church which is concealing information and the allegation is already fact.

How far we have fallen from the days when before a front page story was released, the facts were solidly in place

The benefit which seems to be gained by this story is revealed by a reporter of the London Times (not to be confused with the NYT) commenting on this story.  Ruth Gledhill writes:

The latest scandal coming out of Germany is not enough to threaten the Pope or the Church. But on top of a succession of damaging revelations it can only increase the damage being done to its moral authority on the world stage.

I am inclined to believe this is the actual intent of these stories which seek to link the Pope to these abuse incidents.  Given the stand the Pope makes in favor of directing the world to Christ, denouncing immorality and relativism, it seems that some would seek to discredit him.

It seems to be working.   On the various comments on the online articles, there seems to be a common mantra: The Church can't be trusted anymore.  I see many ad hominems where the invocation of sexual abuse is made as a retort (irrelevantly) to whatever issue the Church speaks on.

Not Seeking to Hide Evils Done

I do not write this to seek to whitewash those individuals who had done abuse or tried to cover it up.  It does seem that in many cases certain bishops did attempt to kick the problem under the carpet to avoid a scandal appearing in their diocese.  That view was a terrible injustice to those who suffered.

It does seem that, in the past, recidivism was not understood well and it was believed such individuals could be "treated" and returned to the world.  We now know this view was wrong.  However, before condemning those who followed this advice in the past, one needs to assess whether it was out of kilter with the practice of the time, not whether it was out of kilter with the practice of today.

We do not fault Civil War doctors for not practicing 21st century medicine.  We don't blame doctors from the 1920s for not prescribing penicillin.  We know NOW that if this knowledge had been in existence then things would have been better.  We also recognize medicine then did what it could to save lives based on the knowledge it had.

The sexual abuse scandal is in the same predicament.  We can look back on past practices and recognize that, if what we knew now was known then, things would be different.  However it makes no sense whatsoever to claim that one should have known then what we only later learned.

Given the actions Pope Benedict XVI has taken against the sexual abuse crisis, it seems unreasonable to assume he was indifferent in the past and suddenly changed.

I think Archbishop Nichols has said it best:

What of the role of Pope Benedict? When he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he led important changes made in church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18, the case by case waiving of the statue of limitation and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders. He is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words.

Such actions speak against the accusation of the Pope's detractors.

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