Thursday, March 25, 2010

The New York Times and the Roman Catholic Church

The New York Times has the Pope in its cross-hairs. See Rachel Donadio, Pope May Be at Crossroads on Abuse, Forced to Reconcile Policy and Words, New York Times (March 26, 2010). The Times plainly has little use for the Pope.

I doubt that the Times' "revelations" -- in the past and most assuredly in the future -- will garner a Nobel Peace Prize for the paper. But I suspect that the Times does have a Pulitzer Prize in mind. Perhaps it has even grander things in mind: Perhaps it wants to discredit a religion that it sees as misogynous, homophobic, and reactionary. (I wonder: Is the Times aware of the Roman Catholic Church's vast array of social services for the poor and the downtrodden?)

I suppose I'm a curmudgeon. I don't believe that the unfolding campaign of the New York Times or the 2002 campaign of its junior sister -- the Boston Globe -- against [Catholic] "clergy sex abuse" are exemplars of investigative journalism. Both the Times and the Globe seem to swallow every morsel thrown their way by plaintiffs' tort lawyers. These news organs do not look at the evidence or reports of abuse with any significant degree of skepticism. For example, almost no claim of "long-repressed but recovered" (and financially-rewarding) memories of sexual abuse by priests seemed to be sufficiently outlandish to make the Globe wonder, "Could that really be?"

A footnote: On January 15, 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected the appeal of the defrocked priest Paul Shanley, a former priest whose conviction for abuse rested at least in part on "repressed but recovered memories." Shanley was at the epicenter of the clergy abuse scandal that exploded in Boston in 2002. An interesting and revealing footnote to this sad story is that back in the 1970s and 1980s both the Boston Globe and the New York Times criticized as homophobic the Boston Archdiocese's efforts to reign in the activities of Shanley, the "street priest" (as he, the Globe, and the Times then characterized him). The Catholic hierarchy, it seems, is damned if it doesn't and damned if it does.

I think someone ought to write a book called The Scandal of the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal. This book -- if someone had the courage to write it -- would tell the scandalous story of shoddy and systematically-biased reporting by Amertican news media about actual and alleged sex abuse by Roman Catholic clergy members.

Sometimes I genuinely fear for freedom of religion in this country. I think it's time for Catholics -- but not just Catholics -- to fight back at the current assault on the Catholic Church. I tend not to be an alarmist but I'm beginning to think (now & then) that the future of Catholicism in America really is at stake. And, as I said before, b'gosh, I'm not even Catholic! (Perhaps I'll convert to Catholicism just to show my sympathy and support.)

But when I reflect on matters, I think the Catholic Church will survive this assault. It has survived harsher assaults. I think it will do so again -- because, whether the New York Times knows it or not, the Roman Catholic Church is populated with millions of people who not only mean well, but also do well. That the Church's members and leaders sometimes fall down and do terrible things is, of course, undeniable. But I don't know any serious-minded person -- whether inside or outside of the Church -- who has said or thought that all of the members of the Roman Catholic Church are without fault or sin. I suppose the same could and must be said of any organization or association run by human beings -- including, yes, even the New York Times.

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The dynamic evidence page

It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

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