Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Insight from Fr. James Martin

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Father James Martin, SJ has an excellent response to Bill Keller’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times about celibacy.  Father Martin is right:  “Overall, the article is rife with lazy stereotypes and flat-out guessing. (“The apostles had wives.” Really? Peter did–but all of them? Guess I missed those mentions of Zebedee’s daughters-in-law.)

Ironically, Keller likes Pope Francis a great deal and speaks of his overall approach to the church approvingly. But he somehow missed the fact that Jorge Mario Bergoglio took a vow of chastity when he made his first vows as a Jesuit in 1960, and made a promise of celibacy at his ordination in 1969. In short, he has been living celibately longer than Keller has been away from the church. Does the Pope strike anyone as a sad and lonely guy?”

You can read Father Martin’s article here.

Insights from Robert P. George

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

This Sunday’s New York Times Book Review has a glowing review of Professor Robert P. George’s excellent new book, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism.  Kay S. Hymowitz, the reviewer, adroitly notes that the book is “more than anything a plea for liberty of conscience, or more, specifically, for religious liberty.  Religion, [George] reasons, should be thought of as ‘conscientious truth-seeking regarding the ultimate sources of meaning and value’ and, therefore, ‘a crucial dimension of human well being and fulfillment.’”

The timing of this review was particularly serendipitous as it ran during our observation of the Fortnight for Freedom However, Professor George is a friend of mine, and I find his insights to be always timely and on target!

Many Thanks to John D. Feerick

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Professor John D. Feerick, former dean of the Fordham Law School, wrote the following letter to the editor of the New York Times last week, in response to their “Church Whistle-Blowers” article.  As far as I can tell, the Times has not published the letter, but it was so good, I asked for his permission to share it with you.  My thanks to him for his insightful observations and for his allowing me to publish the letter here.

To The Editor:

Laurie Goldstein’s article, “Church Whistle-Blowers Join Forces on Abuse”, [May 20], prompts me to recall my service from 2002 to 2007, by appointment of Edward Cardinal Egan, as a member of a committee in the Archdiocese of New York asked to examine allegations of child abuse against priests.  I devoted, as did other members, considerable time to this responsibility.  We carefully reviewed allegations of abuse and made recommendations to the Cardinal of appropriate action.  I experienced how rigorously and diligently each case was handled by the staff and committee.  I also participated with the committee in making certain that the Archdiocese had in place a strong policy encouraging anyone with an allegation to report it to the proper civil authorities and had protocols with the District Attorneys in all 10 counties of the Archdiocese to handle such cases.  I found this work to be exceedingly difficult but was proud of the steps taken by my Church and the independence it gave to the committee.

John D. Feerick,
Professor of Law and former dean of Fordham Law School

Assault on Religious Freedom

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Today, I came across Michael Goodwin’s column in the New York Post on the recent media coverage of the health care mandate. I would like to share it with you. Here is an excerpt:

Do the New York Times’ attacks on the Catholic Church have any limits? Do the paper’s editorial writers have any sense of decency?

To judge by the latest screed, the answers are no and no.

Under the Monday headline “The Politics of Religion,” the paper’s editorial page called lawsuits by 43 Catholic groups, including 13 dioceses, “bogus” and “a dramatic stunt, full of indignation but built on air.”

The suits aim to stop the federal government from forcing religious organizations to provide free contraception, abortion drugs and sterilization services as part of ObamaCare. The plaintiffs, including New York’s Cardinal Dolan and the University of Notre Dame, say the requirements are “immoral” under Church teaching and claim the mandate violates their religious liberty.

You can read Michael Goodwin’s column here.

To Whom Shall We Go?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Because of all the inaccuracies in the recent coverage of the Catholic Church in the New York Times and other publications, appearing in news articles, editorials, and op-eds, I was tempted to try my best to offer corrections to the multitude of errors. However, I soon realized that this would probably be a full time job.

It is a source of consternation as to why, instead of complimenting the Vatican and a reformer like Pope Benedict XVI, for codifying procedures long advocated by critics, such outfits would instead choose to intrude on a matter of internal doctrine, namely the ordination of women.

But, correcting the paper is not what really matters. What is important is the well-being of God’s people, especially of His little ones.

The bottom line is that the Holy Father, the Vatican, and the Church universal regards with the utmost seriousness the heinous and sinful crime of child abuse and is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that justice is served and that such abuse never happens again.

If critics want to say, “It’s about time,” fair enough. But for critics to continue their obsessive criticism of Benedict XVI, claiming that he just “doesn’t get it,” is simply out of bounds.

The norms released last week by the Holy See take what have been standard practice for several years, especially here in the United States, and made them formally part of Church law.  You can read the norms here, and an explanation by the Vatican’s press officer, Father Frederico Lombardi, here.

This is very important. It’s not merely administrative housekeeping as some have said, or procedural updates. The offenses listed — child abuse, use of child pornography, and abuse of a mentally disabled adult — now carry the weight of the most serious of crimes against the very heart of the Church.

These norms speed up the processing of cases, allow qualified individuals who are not priests to serve on tribunals, require that the sexual abuse of a mentally handicapped person be treated as gravely as that of a minor,  extends the time in which penalties are applicable, and confirm that child pornography is not only a grievous sin but a church crime.

These are serious advances and clearly lay out Pope Benedict’s ongoing firm commitment to providing justice and healing for the victims of abuse in an effective, timely, just and compassionate manner.

The Church is, contrary to media reports, ahead of her time. As Dr. Paul McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and internationally recognized expert in child abuse has said, “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.”

That the Church is indeed doing this is the real story here.

It is fair to say that decades ago the Catholic Church was an example of what not to do when dealing with sexual abuse of minors. However, now it is fair to say that the Catholic Church is an example of what to do about a crime found in every religion, every profession, every culture, and many families.

Make no mistake, Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church are at the forefront of addressing the problem of clerical abuse but, even more, of addressing abuse wherever it occurs in society.

And that won’t change no matter how much some in the media try to slant the truth.

Ken Woodward and Church of the ‘Times’

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

For more than a week, many of my friends have been encouraging me to read an article by Ken Woodward that appeared in the most recent Commonweal magazine.  I didn’t get to read it until today, but I must admit that what I had heard is true:  the article is excellent.

As you may know, Mr. Woodward was the religion editor at Newsweek magazine for many years.  His piece, entitled Church of the ‘Times’ examines not only how the paper has covered the sexual abuse crisis confronting the Catholic Church, but also what Mr. Woodward calls the Times’s worldview.  Here’s Mr. Woodward:

No question, the Times’s worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times unique—and what any Catholic bishop ought to understand—is that it is not just the nation’s self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church….

…The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ. As the paper’s first and most acute public editor, Daniel Okrent, once put it, the editorial page is “so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.” Okrent’s now famous column was published in 2004 under the headline “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” and I will cite Okrent more than once because he, too, reached repeatedly for religious metaphors to describe the ambient culture of the paper.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take the advice of my friends and read the entire Church of the ‘Times’ for yourself.

To Whom Shall We Go?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

In some ways, Holy Week is hardly the time I would choose to make the following comments.  Still, the matter is so pressing that I feel compelled to address it.

Last week I asked for some fairness in the seemingly unappeasable criticism of the Church over the catastrophe of clergy sexual abuse.

Not to my surprise, if anything, it has only gotten worse, especially in the interminable headlines about the Pope himself.

Last fall I wrote in this blog about anti-Catholicism in the New York Times and other media, providing a list of contemporary examples. A few tried to slap me back into place, suggesting that I stupidly believed the Church to be immune from scrutiny.

Baloney!  The Church needs criticism; we want it; we welcome it; we do a good bit of it ourselves; we do not expect any special treatment…so bring it on.

All we ask is that it be fair and accurate.

The reporting on Pope Benedict XVI has not been so.

The first reports were about a shameful priest in Germany three decades ago.  I weighed in on that coverage last week.

The second story, sprayed all over the New York Times this week, and predictably copied by the world’s press, is groundless.  (I am grateful for Father Raymond de Souza’s excellent piece posted at National Review Online which goes through the story point by point.)

The report accuses Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of preventing a priest whose sins and crimes can only be described as diabolical, one Lawrence Murphy, from facing proper penalties in the Church for the serial abuse of deaf minors.

While the report on the nauseating abuse is bitterly true, the insinuation against Cardinal Ratzinger is not, and gives every indication of being part of a well-oiled campaign against Pope Benedict.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

  • The New York Times relied on tort lawyers who currently have civil suits pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Holy See, who are aggressively supporting the radical measure right now before the Wisconsin legislature to abrogate the statute of limitations on civil cases of abuse, and who have high financial interest in the matter being reported.  Hardly an impartial source…
  • The documentation that allegedly supports these sensational charges is published on the website of the New York Times; rather than confirming their theory, the documents instead show that there is no evidence at all that Cardinal Ratzinger ever blocked any decision about Murphy.  Even a New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, calls this charge “unfair” in his column of March 29.
  • We also find on the website a detailed timeline of all the sickening information about Murphy, data not “uncovered” by any reporter but freely released by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee a number of years back, and thoroughly covered at that time by the local media in Milwaukee.  One wonders why this story, quite exhaustively reported in the past, rose again this very week.  It is hardly “news.” One might therefore ask: Why is this news now? The only reason it is news at all is because of the implication that Cardinal Ratzinger was involved. Yet the documentation does not support that charge, and thus they should have no place in a putatively respectable newspaper.

Nothing in this non-news merits the tsunami of headlines, stories, and diatribes against the Church and this Pope that we have endured this past week.

There was legitimate news last week that should have received much more attention than it did. It was the annual independent audit report on American dioceses on compliance with our own tough Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. For those who profess to be so interested in the welfare of the young, the news should have been trumpeted as stunning progress. Catholics deeply disturbed by lurid tales of wicked behavior twenty or thirty years ago might have been surprised to discover:

  • The Church has had in place strict protocols and preventative measures to stop this from happening again. Last week’s audit reported that six million children in our schools and religious education programs underwent safe environment training – that’s 96% of the children in our care. Background evaluations were completed on two million priests, deacons, seminarians, educators, employees and volunteers.
  • Last week’s audit reported that there were six (6) credible allegations of sexual abuse of current minors for the entire year, in a Church of more than 60 million members.  Though one would be too many, the percent is dramatically lower than experts tell us is the sad national average, and is only known because the Church is transparent in reporting.
  • In the spirit of no good deed goes unpunished, the false allegations of last week have obscured the good work that the Cardinal Ratzinger did at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and as Pope. Beginning in 2001, as ably described by respected journalist John Allen, and also mentioned recently by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Cardinal Ratzinger brought about a profound change in how sexual abuse cases were handled. The details are many, but the effect was clear. It became easier to remove priests who have committed these crimes from ministry very quickly, and often, dismissed from the priesthood altogether. Since his election, Pope Benedict has repeatedly demonstrated that even high-ranking priests are to be held accountable, and has not minced words about the failures of his brother bishops – both here in the United States and just last week, in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

This failure to report in similar detail today’s successes and yesterday’s failures suggests the bias I wrote about last fall. This is also about simply telling the truth, or more to the point, about peddling falsehoods to destroy the Holy Father’s good name. It needs to be called what it is – scandalous.

Let me be upfront: I confess a bias in favor of the Church and her Pope.

I only wish some others would admit a bias on the other side.

A blessed Holy Week.

Vatican Statement on “Murphy Case”

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Many of you have undoubtedly seen or heard about the story that appears on the front page of today’s New York Times concerning a priest from Wisconsin who sexually abused hearing impaired children in the 1970’s, and the response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, when this matter was brought to their attention in the late 1990’s.  You may not have seen the entire statement released by Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican spokesman, regarding this matter.  Here it is.


VATICAN CITY, 25 MAR 2010 (VIS) – Given below is the complete text of the English-language declaration made yesterday, 24 March, by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. to the New York Times:

“The tragic case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, a priest of the archdiocese of Milwaukee, involved particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from what he did. By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Fr. Murphy violated the law and, more importantly, the sacred trust that his victims had placed in him.

“During the mid-1970s, some of Fr. Murphy’s victims reported his abuse to civil authorities, who investigated him at that time; however, according to news reports, that investigation was dropped. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was not informed of the matter until some twenty years later.

“It has been suggested that a relationship exists between the application of ‘Crimen sollicitationis’ and the non-reporting of child abuse to civil authorities in this case. In fact, there is no such relationship. Indeed, contrary to some statements that have circulated in the press, neither ‘Crimen’ nor the Code of Canon Law ever prohibited the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement authorities.

“In the late 1990s, after over two decades had passed since the abuse had been reported to diocesan officials and the police, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was presented for the first time with the question of how to treat the Murphy case canonically. The Congregation was informed of the matter because it involved solicitation in the confessional, which is a violation of the Sacrament of Penance. It is important to note that the canonical question presented to the Congregation was unrelated to any potential civil or criminal proceedings against Fr. Murphy.

“In such cases, the Code of Canon Law does not envision automatic penalties, but recommends that a judgment be made not excluding even the greatest ecclesiastical penalty of dismissal from the clerical state. In light of the facts that Fr. Murphy was elderly and in very poor health, and that he was living in seclusion and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that the archbishop of Milwaukee give consideration to addressing the situation by, for example, restricting Fr. Murphy’s public ministry and requiring that Fr. Murphy accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts. Fr. Murphy died approximately four months later, without further incident”.