NY Times Issues Another Slanted Attack Against Catholic Church

An analysis of the New York Times' response (a May 19, 2011 editorial) to the Vatican's recent clergy abuse guidelines reveals yet another ill-informed and skewed attack on the Catholic Church.

1. The Times writes that bishops once oversaw "hush payments to victims and relocation of abusive priests."

"Hush payments" are yet another popular falsehood in the reporting of the narrative of the clergy abuse scandals. They have become somewhat of an urban legend that the media continues to propagate.

The Honorable Patrick J. Schiltz, now a U.S. District Judge in Minnesota, has had as much experience as any individual with clergy abuse cases. Discussing the issue of settlements with victims, Judge Schiltz has said,

"I have been involved in hundreds of settlements, and I literally cannot recall one that required the victim not to talk about his or her abuse."

In the uncommon instances that there were secrecy components, Schiltz has noted that it was usually the victim who requested secrecy. "There is a reason why victims often sue as 'Jane Doe' or 'John Doe' and often seek protective orders from courts," wrote the jurist. "Victims are understandably concerned to protect their privacy."

As far as the issue of bishops relocating abusive priests: Yes, bishops indeed did not always remove abusive priests. That is a sad, undeniable fact. Yet there is another side to this truth that the media has not reported. Here is Judge Schiltz once again:

These stories were horrible because what the bishops did was often horrible. It should be noted, however, that something rather important was usually left out [in the media's] stories: In most cases in which a bishop decided to permit a priest accused of abuse to remain in ministry, the bishop was relying on the advice of a psychologist

On countless occasions, psychologists gave bishops terrible advice about abusive priests – and, of course, this bad advice led to terrible consequences for victims and the broader church. Yet these psychologists have gotten off scot-free in the media.

There is a lot more to these issues, and – again – Judge Schiltz sheds some very important light: "What the media missed in the sexual-abuse scandal" (highly recommended).

2. The Times claims that the Vatican should have an "unequivocal mandate" that Church officials notify law enforcement when clergy are suspected of abuse. Apparently the Times is unaware that the Church in the United States already has such a policy in place.

In addition, as the Catholic League keenly noted last July, the New York Times has no such policy itself applying its own employees who are suspected of crimes such as child abuse.

Hypocrisy? It sure seems like it.

3. The Times' editorial also has a glaring omission. It does not provide an example of an organization that is doing everything that the Times demands of the Church. Who, according to the Times, should be the Church's model for protecting children? The New York City Public Schools? No way. The Orthodox Jewish community in New York City? Uh-uh. The Los Angeles Unified Schools District? No.

The Times also refuses to acknowledge all of the measures that the Church has implemented in recent years to correct its wrongs, protect children, and reach out to harmed victims. Despite not a shred of evidence that those in the Church abused or "covered up" more than anyone, the Catholic Church in the United States has:

  • paid over $2 billion in settlements;
  • paid over $70 million in therapy for victims;
  • installed "abuse panels" in dioceses;
  • required yearly audits;
  • mandated intense screenings and trainings for all priests, seminarians, and employees;
  • extended countless apologies; and
  • adopted a "zero tolerance" policy that is so strict that a previously unblemished priest can be removed from ministry within just a couple of hours of a phone call to a bishop.

"The Catholic Church was at the forefront of this (addressing the problem of child abuse)," Andy Eisenzimmer, chancellor for civil affairs for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, told the National Catholic Register last year. "I am not aware of any other organization that is doing as much as we're doing, and at such a cost."

Indeed, the clergy scandals are a dark episode in the history of the Catholic Church. The harm to victims is immeasurable. Justice and compassion must be demanded for all victims of clergy abuse.

Yet all of the efforts in recent years have resulted in the fact that the Catholic Church may be the safest environment for children today – by far. Yet somehow you won't read this in the New York Times.