To Whom Shall We Go?

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.

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75 Responses to “To Whom Shall We Go?”

  1. Mary Gagliano says:

    Thank you Archbishop
    It saddens me that always the catholic church gets attacked.
    especially it being this solemn holy week may the Good Lord bless our Church for
    most likely more persecutions to come.
    God Bless-
    Mary NY

  2. David J Hunt says:

    Archbishop Dolan,
    This article is spot on. Especially the title: “Will you also go away?” “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

    God love you!

    -Pope St. Leo the Great, pray for us!

    -St. Augustine, pray for us!

    -St. Francis, pray for us!

    -St. Dominic, pray for us!

    David Hunt
    Southeastern WA

  3. Bill Brown says:

    I just read your blog and Maureen Dowd’s column, and I am sorry, Archbishop, she has the better of it. I have admired you since you came to us in Milwaukee, but your latest statements read like the old “circle the wagons” response that the Church has employed for far too long. Among everything else, this line that the Pope didn’t know what was happening in the office he headed violates the primary rule that the boss is responsible for the things that happen. Knowledge maybe not, but responsibility definitely. Instead, you and the Vatican sing “not his fault” and look at all the good he did. I can understand why you don’t like the topic, but these are failings of the Church itself, for far too long, and lame defenses and blame shifting lost any meaning long ago.

  4. Mariyn says:

    God bless you, Archbishop Dolan! Thank you, thank you, thank you for standing up for our Church and our Holy Father. It is no coincidence that the world is going after the Church in these unsettled self-indulgent times. You are in my prayers. A blessed Holy Week and happy Easter to you.

  5. Louis T Luca Jr says:

    God Bless you Archbishop Dolan for your excellent defense of our Holy Father.
    Isn’t it odd how all these attacks are taking place during Holy Week. It’s
    appropriate that Satan and his followers are following in the footsteps of the High Priest and his Pharisees and the New York Times (Pontius Pilate) at this time, but
    as Jesus said, ‘my Church will survive the ‘end times.’ I would like to ask the
    Gurus of the NY Times, ‘To Whom Would You Go.’

  6. waldo says:

    Thank You Archbishop Dolan. We catholics are no afraid of the truth. In our limitations as human beings we live by what, The scriptures tells us “The truth will make you free”. Do not stop answering the NYT. You are doing very well. Do not forget that we have to put an end to dissenting priests an nuns that do not believe in the gospels as the Catholic church understand, but they are free to malign the church.


  8. TLMom says:

    Thank you, Archbishop Dolan for courageously defending the Holy Father and our Catholic Faith. Your fidelity is inspiring. God bless you!

  9. Neil Bakker says:

    Thank you very much, your excellency. You put so eloquently into words, what needs to be said. God Bless you, Archbishop, and all you do for the Catholic Faith!

    Neil Bakker
    Archdiocese of Saint Paul – Minneapolis

  10. Peggy Summers says:

    Thank you Emma. Well said.

  11. Patrick says:

    Viva Il Papa!

  12. Danny says:

    The damage control continues… You really think a few short years of apologies and one year worth of reforms in 2009 makes up for the abuses all the children (and parents) have had to endure, as well as the continued concealment/deflection by the Church? All of them placed their trust in the Church and were stung by it. The Church should be out on hands and knees, trying to support these individuals. At least, my vision of Jesus would be.

    God bless.

  13. Don G. says:

    To all of you who have written to this thread and defended the Church I must say my jaw is on the floor. Not for having defended the Church. I know you love the Church. You should love the Church and you have every right to defend it. But I want to ask a few questions and I am curious to hear how most of you would answer this…

    If the NY Times or any other media had not come out about the sex abuse scandal…do you think the Church would have come out on her own about all of this?

    Don’t all of you expect the Church to be held to higher standards…just as the Church requires of all of her follwers?

    Lastly and most importantly…where is your outrage for these unspeakable crimes and their cover ups? It is this that has truly stained the name and reputation of the Church.

    And what of all the indefensible children and their families whose lives have been destroyed and they get no second chance??

    Where is your Christianity in all of this??? I don’t understand??

    Until good people (like I am sure most if not all of you are who post on here are) demand better…sadly nothing will ever change…nothing.

    I pray for all of you and for the Church.

    A Happy and Blessed Easter to all.

  14. Fabio Juliano says:

    Archbishop Dolan has a published a balanced and thoroughly honest article. There have been grievous events in the past, and in many instances they were not dealt with wisely, because the hierarchy of the Church overrelied on spiritual solutions, such as prayer and penance, when the perpetrators had distanced themselves so far from God as to not allow His grace to change them. Now, however, the hierarchy has heeded the mistakes of the past and made the necessary changes. I very much doubt there is today any social, academic or religious institution where children are safer than in the Catholic Church.

    As to the media, perhaps they should check their ambition to destroy Christ’s Church and remember this verse:

    “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

    St. Matthew 16:18

  15. Joseph says:

    Archbishop Timothy, you represent us all so well. You say what must be said and address it clearly and directly. I have been in your company now several times, and your ability to be frank, honest and sincere has shone thru. May God continue to bless you abundantly as you continue, what oftentimes appears to be a “crusade” against those who would challenge the Church forever. Your defense of our Holy Father in the attacks made against him are obviously unwarranted, and must be fought vigorously.

    May all the blessings of the Risen One be with you!

  16. Fabio Juliano says:

    I feel that I must respond to the comment by Ms. Emma Clery above. She accuses Archbishop Dolan of responding to a “perceived threat” with “obfuscation”, when the New York Times and the rest of the media are just fulfilling their role to report on the world “under a hermeneutic of suspicion”.

    However, the gist of His Excellency’s exceptionally well-reasoned opinion is that the New York Times is not treating this matter with any fairness or objectivity. He is, therefore, responding sensibly not just to a perceived threat but to outright hostility and libelous defamation.

    As to the contention that it is somehow “insensitive” towards the victims to question the New York Times’ motive in rehashing this story, that simply makes no logical sense. The local press reported on this story more than adequately when it came out, for which we should be thankful, as the victims of the wolf in sheep’s clothing were entitled to have their story told, to just compensation and to all of our prayers. But it is hard to imagine how they are being helped by pretending that this is a new issue or that Pope Benedict XVI is involved.

    Finally, the comment that it is “a challenge” for women to “try” to be “faithful Catholics” does seem to be an insinuation about sort of mistreatment of women by the Church. I cannot imagine to what Ms. Clery may refer, and while I sincerely pray that this sister of ours is not considering one of some 33,000 schismatic churches in existence, ultimately only God could stop her from doing so.

  17. Angela Sullivan says:

    I was disgusted by The New York Times SLANDER of Pope Benedict XVI Who, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest Pope’s we have ever had. I am a person who is very familiar with sexual abuse of children, as a student of psychology, I can honestly state that this is an epidemic, and The New York Times has failed to report the obvious. The highest amount of sexual abuse occurs among Parents and their own children.The New York Times has used “sexual abuse” as an excuse to attack the Church instead of reporting accurately on this terrible situation in our society. Jesus had his Judas, as Thee Church will have hers. The Church is being crucified for the sins of OTHERS, as Our Lord was. One only has to look at our Society and the Media Culture. Hollywood in my opinion is a haven of Pedophilia, the biggest promoters. The Holy Father has done everything to purify the Church, I personally believe that the state of the World is such due to us Catholics, We must Love The Bride Of Christ, not crucify her. I will pray for The Holy Father and The Bride Of Christ, The Catholic Church.

  18. Todd says:

    As this Holy Week draws to a close with Easter, I am reminded that Christ told His disciples that if the world hates them it is because they hated Him first. He said that they would be delivered into the hands of those who would also kill them. The vicar of Christ and his Church aren’t any different today than the Church was 2000 years ago as far as being subject to persecution is concerned. Our Holy Father has been a great ambassador in the ecumenical sense of reuniting Christians. I believe that the enemy isn’t sitting idly by as Anglicans prepare to be received into full communion with the Roman Church. The media in this case is just another marionette manipulated by a master puppeteer.

  19. Osvaldo Vallone says:

    Bravo, Archbishop Dolan!!!!!!

  20. Patrick Stinson says:

    Your Excellency, Archbishop Dolan: The current situation is one more reminder of why all the faithful need to pray for the Holy Father and all priests, particularly in this Year of the Priest and continue to do so even after the special year ends. The devil will always target priests hoping to snare a few and scatter their flock. The devil will also feed the pride of journalists to goad them into seeking investigative renown over adherence to fair reporting standards and spin the most destorted versions of the facts to do the most damage possible over the widest area. The battle between good and evil with the fate of individual souls in the balance is a constant struggle that will not end until Our Lord comes again in glory.

  21. Sabrina says:

    I thought your blog entry was excellent. Dowd and her ilk are arrogant and self-serving. I seriously question whether they truly care about the victims of child sexual abuse or if they are merely jumping on an opportunity to run roughshod over Catholics. I find it just incredulous that they seem to think that each and every single Catholic is to blame for the sins of a few…and then of course to them the only answer is for the Church to cease to exist. Some of them definitely have a hidden agenda…and the NY Times and other papers allow it. In my archdiocese, Portland, our bishop John Vlazny cancelled his subscription to the Oregonian because they published an anti-Catholic cartoon. If the Oregonian had done that with a Muslim, they would be putting their lives in danger. Yet, they think it’s ok to take a poke at the Church and we’re not to say a mumblin’ word? All 1 Billion of us are supposed to hang our heads in shame and walk out to join some fundamentalist church or perhaps join up with the secular humanists who want to destroy any sort of spirituality in this world? What a sick fantasy some of them have. No, if anything, we Catholics need to stay stronger than ever…and while we do continue to insist on keeping the church Pure and ridding them of those priests, and religious who would wilfully disobey God’s law and corrupt the innocenct…but we also need to be supportive of those priests and religious who are doing their very best to obey God’s law and honor their vow of chastity/celibacy…and I for one will be staying to do just that.

  22. Mitchell Brousard says:

    Thank you Your Excellency,

    I had an idea in my prayer today (for whatever it might be worth): I would suggest Your Excellency and your brother bishops call for a boycott of the NYT and their advertisers. Their advertisers can be listed on the web and folks can look them up with, perhaps, suggestions of alternative vendors they can patron.

    Perhaps it could begin with the New York Times Company and their affiliates.

    From what I recall, the archbishops of Philly and New York did this in regard to immoral movies in the 1930’s with great success. I threw idea out there on Facebook today and our fellow Catholics loved the idea. We’re all pretty tired of this stuff.

    Continued Prayers,

    Mitchell Brousard

    P.S. My own suspicion is all of this attention has something to do with a desire to silence the bishops regarding the health care bill.

  23. Cindy Schwirtz says:

    My prayers for our Blessed Pope Benedict. Watching EWTN on Good Friday shows that our good and loving Pope has aged since I saw him in Rome last June. Satan is at work here as usual and all of these news stations should be ashamed for their cruel and relentless attacks. Let’s all pray for our Pope and all the clergy!

    In Jesus and Mary,

    Cindy Schwirtz

  24. Peter R. says:

    I agree with Danny, avoiding the fact that the abused have been given a cold shoulder only adds injury to insult.

  25. Great Post, I was wondering did you hear that Israel has banned the Ipad? seems the signal strength is a violation or so they say.