I believe the continuing attacks by the media on the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have become manifestations of anti-Catholicism. The procession of articles on the same events are, in my opinion, no longer intended to inform, but simply to castigate.
The sexual molestation of children, principally boys, is horrendous. This is agreed to by everyone, Catholics, the Church itself, as well as non-Catholics and the media. The Pope has on a number of occasions on behalf of the Church admitted fault and asked for forgiveness. For example, The New York Times reported on April 18, 2008 that the Pope, “came face to face with a scandal that has left lasting wounds on the American church Thursday, holding a surprise meeting with several victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Boston area….‘No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,’ the Pope said in his homily. ‘It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention.’”
On March 20, 2010, The Times reported that in his eight page pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, the Pope wrote, “You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry…Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.” The Pope also “criticized Ireland’s bishops for ‘grave errors of judgment and failures of leadership.’”
The primary explanation for the abuse that happened — not to excuse the retention of priests in positions that enabled them to continue to harm children — was the belief that the priests could be cured by psychotherapy, a theory now long discarded by the medical profession. Regrettably, it is also likely that years ago the abuse of children was not taken as seriously as today. Thank God we’ve progressed on that issue.
Many of those in the media who are pounding on the Church and the Pope today clearly do it with delight and some with malice. The reason I believe for the constant assaults is that there are many in the media and some Catholics as well as many in the public who object to and are incensed by positions the Church holds, including opposition to all abortions, opposition to gay sex and same-sex marriage, retention of celibacy rules for priests, exclusion of women from the clergy, opposition to birth control measures involving condoms and prescription drugs and opposition to civil divorce. My good friend, John Cardinal O’Connor, once said, “The Church is not a salad bar, from which to pick and choose what pleases you.” The Church has the right to demand fulfillment of all of its religious demands by its parishioners, and indeed a right to espouse its beliefs generally.
I disagree with the Church on all of these positions. Nevertheless, it has a right to hold these views in accordance with its religious beliefs. I disagree with many tenets of Orthodox Judaism – the religion of my birth — and have chosen to follow the tenets of Conservative Judaism, while I attend an Orthodox synagogue. Orthodox Jews, like the Roman Catholic Church, can demand absolute obedience to religious rules. Those declining to adhere are free to leave.
I believe the Roman Catholic Church is a force for good in the world, not evil. Moreover, the existence of one billion, 130 million Catholics worldwide is important to the peace and prosperity of the planet.
Of course, the media should report to the public any new facts bearing upon the issue of child molestation, but its objectivity and credibility are damaged when The New York Times declines to publish an op-ed offered by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on the issue of anti-Catholicism and to offer instead to publish a letter to the editor, which is much shorter and less prominent than an op-ed.
I am appalled that, according to The New York Times of April 6, 2010, “Last week, the center-left daily newspaper La Repubblica wrote, without attribution that ‘certain Catholic circles’ believed the criticism of the Church stemmed from ‘a New York Jewish lobby.’” The Pope should know that some of his fellow priests can be thoughtless or worse in their efforts to help him. If the “certain Catholic circles” were referring to The New York Times, the Pope should know that the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., is Episcopalian, having taken the religion of his mother, and its executive editor, Bill Keller, is also a Christian.
Enough is enough. Yes, terrible acts were committed by members of the Catholic clergy. The Church has paid billions to victims in the U.S. and will pay millions, perhaps billions, more to other such victims around the world. It is trying desperately to atone for its past by its admissions and changes in procedures for dealing with pedophile priests. I will close with a paraphrase of the words of Jesus as set forth in John 8:7: “He [or she] that is without sin among you, let him [or her] cast the next stone…”
- Edward I. Koch