Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reportage: The First Victim

Having been involved (as a member of the loyal opposition) since before Easter in the roiling waters of the Catholic blogosphere with regard to the Vatican/child abuse issue, I was relieved to learn via Fox News yesterday evening that the Vatican had announced a straight-forward policy stating unequivocally that abusive priests should be reported to the proper authorities in accordance with local statutes. While victims groups have apparently not been fully satisfied with the language of this announcement, it was good enough to satisfy my jones for justice. I praised this move on the part of the Vatican on Twitter, as well as below here.

During this period of controversy I have taken part in interesting discussions of the issue at Vox Nova, and then (uncomfortably heated) at Disputations. In the aftermath, I became curious as to what—if anything— my erstwhile cyberbuddy, Zippy, was saying about the issue. So I zipped over to Zippy Catholic to take a peek.

Since, in my experience, Zippy is ever wont to have strong opinions on subjects that interest him, I was prepared to find that he’d had much to say on this issue. I was surprised to find that, while the topic did headline his latest post, it was brief to the point of minimalism.

Zippy’s header is self-explanatory; he thinks the public is being spun by an evil press corps. His only comment consists of what—to me anyway—is a non-sequitur: from what hat does the Zipster yank his “kittens?” The substance of his post is a link to an article at the blog, Philokalia Republic (PR). You may read the whole thing here, if you haven’t already linked to it from Zippy Catholic.

The author of the PR piece is in full agreement with Zippy that the news-hungry, but gullible, public is being spun by a biased press, determined—for obscure reasons of its own—to discredit the Catholic Church. These allegations are focused on these words:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, facing one of the gravest crises of his pontificate as a sexual abuse scandal sweeps the Church, indicated on Sunday that his faith would give him the courage not to be intimidated by critics. [emphasis added]

Although the PR post mentions the following disclaimer in the Reuters piece,

While he did not directly mention the scandal involving sexual abuse of children by priests, parts of his sermon could be applicable to the crisis he and the Roman Catholic Church are facing.

The pontiff said faith in God helps lead one "toward the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion."

PR goes on to discredit that disclaimer with the suggestion that,

That “could be" then becomes a basis for a load of inflammatory speculation as the Reuters writer presents himself as a reliable interpreter of these "signals."

Yes, it certainly does look as though PR has identified and brought to light the deployment of disinformation and spin-most-foul on the part of those anti-Eucharistic conspirators at Reuters:

The implication, of course, is that the Pope thinks the abuse allegations are "petty gossip" used to "intimidate" him. This is the hook most major media, including Reuters, used to attract readers and spin the story.

But, wait…

What PR has in turn failed to inform its readers about is this prior Reuters piece in which we learn that

VATICAN CITY, April 4 (Reuters) - A leading cardinal defended Pope Benedict at an unusual address [emphasis added] at the pontiff's Easter Sunday Mass, saying the Church would not be intimidated by "petty gossip" about sexual abuse of children by priests.

Wow. It sure does look like there was every reason to assume that the mention of gossip “in [the pope’s] own Easter address hours later [emphasis added] was meant to be taken as an allusion to the heated sexual abuse controversy--to receive some message concerning which the entire world had been waiting in anticipation for the pope’s Easter address.

The “leading cardinal” had softened up the pope’s audience by providing a talking point (no intimidation/influence) and a buzz-word (gossip) within the explicit context of the sexual abuse controversy. So just how, then, was any well-informed listener to take the pope’s subsequent use of those same words as anything other than an allusion to that same scandal?

To sum up, then, just who is zooming whom here? It looks to this Protestant heretic that the Catholic press is spinning its readership at least as hard, and with as little integrity, as the pagan press is spinning the general public.

Predictably, where there are shames to be shunted off into the shadows, and where there are axes to be ground, the Truth is the first victim led to the chopping block.


Teresa said...

Pope Benedict has been one of the most proactive people, both prior to becoming Pope and afterward, to combat this tragedy and unconscionable actions committed by pedophile priests within the Church.
It is justified to call out the Church as a whole or in a general sense and those Bishops who had the authority to advise on defrocking the pedophile priests, but didn't. The Pope, before 1997 or later, did did not have the authority to go over the heads of Bishops within the U.S., or even Bishopd in Ireland, or Bishops anywhere across the globe without the advisement of the Bishop himself. But, that is different now.

And, I will even say this, as genuine and a good person as JPII was, he failed to act in a proactive manner to stop the sex abuse cases. Actually, Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) wanted to defrock a priest in Europe and Pope John Paul II wouldn't allow him to do that.

Maybe in Pope John Paul II's case faith took preference over reality? Kinda a God will fix it approach?

I am posting a response to Kyle on this matter today.

Rodak said...

The point I was making with this post was not about the guilt, or lack of guilt, of the Pope or anyone else. My point was about the bias evident in Catholic discourse on the issues, both in the Catholic blogosphere and in the Catholic press.
If the situation, ugly as it is, can't be spoken of in real terms, then the problems, imho, will not be solved.

Teresa said...

I was trying to be unbiased when I admitting and coming to grips with the reality of Pope JPII in relation to the priest sex abuse scandals. I do agree that Catholics must face the reality by accepting that our leaders (Bishops screwed up) and led the flock astray. But, I think there is such a thing as harping on an issue much to the detriment of ongoing healing of the abused, and interfering in the Church affairs and impeding the Church's ability to properly taking care of the issues related to abuse when one article after another harps on the same case in an accusatory manner out of pure emotion or anti-religious motive towards one particular individual when the fault lies with many within the Church hierarchy. I wouldn't call defending the Pope as being biased. The fact is that the Catholic press has more access to the facts so when they hear unfounded claims they feel the need to be "biased" and defend the Church from wrongheaded attacks on people within the Church or the Church itself.
Their is a way to get at the truth properly and I don't think that most in the secular media are going about it in the correct manner. I make you a bet that the Catholic blogs you pointed to in your post would admit that there is a problem within the Church that has to be dealt with, but just not in the manner that the MSM is going about it.

Rodak said...

I wouldn't call defending the Pope as being biased.

Neither would I. But to defend the Pope by fabricating falsehoods and disinformation, whether through cynical disregard of the truth, or through careless ignorance of the facts, does not have the ultimate effect of defending the Pope, but rather leaves the Church vulnerable to even more criticism.

Teresa said...

I agree. People must look at the facts. But, a healthy amount of information is misleading and presented as fact by the MSM when they actually are not facts or telling the whole truth.

To be fair, that probably happens within the Catholic blogosphere also, to a degree.

Rodak said...

that probably happens within the Catholic blogosphere also

Yes, as my post unfortunately clearly shows.