Saturday, March 13, 2010

Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice at the Times of London

All Christians everywhere ought to be insulted and upset by the scandalous and misleading headline in the Times of London today.

The headline blared "Pope Knew Priest was Pedophile but Allowed Him to Continue with Ministry." Even the story itself contradicts this headline! Yet there it is!

The Times is displaying religious bigotry designed to stir up religious hatred. Imagine a secular news organization doing something that Christopher Hitchens would have you think only religions did!

Damian Thompson explains:

"There is international outrage in Catholic circles over a headline in The Times this morning that many people regard as utterly misleading and part of the newspaper’s reliably biased coverage (reinforced by vicious cartoons) of anything to do with Pope Benedict XVI.

The headline, over a story by Richard Owen, reads: “Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry.” A universally admired Catholic journalist contacted me this morning and accused The Times of (and I am toning this down for legal reasons) an extremely serious error of judgment.

Another respected commentator, the American journalist Phil Lawler, takes the headline to pieces on This is what he has to say:

Count on the London Times to offer the most sensational coverage of a news story involving the Catholic Church. The headline on today’s report by Richard Owen screams:

Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry

That’s grossly misleading, downright irresponsible. The reporter runs ahead of his evidence – standard procedure for a Times journalist – but even Richard Owen does not allege anything to justify the headline.

Here’s what we know: While the Pope was Archbishop of Munich, a priest there was accused of sexual abuse. He was pulled out of ministry and sent off for counseling. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger was involved in the decision to remove the priest from his parish assignment – got that? remove him. He also approved a decision to house the priest in a rectory while he was undergoing counseling. We don’t know, at this point, whether the priest could have been sent to a residential facility, to take him out of circulation entirely. That might have been a more prudent move. We don’t know whether he was kept under close observation. But we do know that he was not involved in active ministry.

Then the vicar general of the Munich archdiocese made the decision to let the accused priest help out at a parish. That vicar general, Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, says that he made that decision on his own, without consulting the cardinal. The future Pope never knew about it, he testifies. Several years later, long after Cardinal Ratzinger had moved to a new assignment at the Vatican, the priest was again accused of sexual abuse.

A grievous mistake was made in this case; that much is clear now, and the vicar general has sorrowfully taken responsibility for the error. Could you say that the future Pontiff should have been more vigilant? Perhaps. But to suggest that he made the decision to put a pedophile back in circulation is an outrageous distortion of the facts. The AP story carries a very different headline:

Pope’s former diocese admits error over priest

That’s not so eye-catching. But the headline fits the facts."

Tito Edwards of American Catholic has a nice round up of news and reactions from around the web here. As an Evangelical, I want my Roman Catholic friends to know I am praying for them and their chief pastor at this time.

First they came for the catholics . . .

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