When an unknown and powerless group of bureaucrats from the United Nations somehow managed to question officials from the Vatican about the issue of sex abuse in the Catholic Church for several hours, the mainstream media was naturally more than willing to herald the event, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland.
But as is so often the case, the media missed the forest for the trees, reporting the subject with notable inaccuracy and a glaring lack of perspective.
A solution in search of a problem
The most egregious problem with the media's coverage of the UN-Vatican face off was that the issue was presented as if sex abuse is still a significant problem in the Catholic Church today. As we have relayed countless times before, it simply isn't, as much as haters of the Church may wish it to be otherwise.
In truth, in the United States, contemporaneous accusations against priests are extremely rare, and on average, only 8 allegations are even deemed merely "credible" by review boards each year.
Moreover, nearly half of all priests accused in recent years are long ago deceased, and the vast majority of accusations against priests allege activity that took place many decades ago.
But this context was sorely lacking in all the media coverage that we examined.
The mainstream media: SNAP's enablerThe mainstream media once again turned the event into another free publicity event for the anti-Catholic group SNAP, led by its radical founder Barbara Blaine, and an allied group called the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), represented by the daffy Pam Spees.
In fact, this was SNAP's and CCR's second attempt to garner international media attention over old sex abuse claims. As we reported last June, the International Criminal Court (ICC, aka "The Hague") roundly rejected the pair's wacky petition to prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican officials for purported "crimes against humanity" for their handling over decades-old abuse allegations.
The groups' effort was clearly a silly publicity stunt, as the ICC quickly recognized. But since the stunt gained the desired publicity, the groups then apparently decided to try the UN committee in hopes of obtaining even more media attention.
Following the sessions between the UN committee members and Vatican officials, SNAP and CCR presented a long and rambling "live stream" video, which only a die-hard bigot could possibly have seriously appreciated.
In fact, at times SNAP's Blaine appeared so discombobulated by the whole experience that she no longer made any sense in the video. At one point, Blaine uttered:
"I think we have to judge Pope Francis by his behavior, not his actions."
(18:40 on the video)
The media coverage was equally inaccurate and off point. After the Vatican released the statistic that it removed 400 priests over a recent two-year period, many mainstream outlets picked up on the breathless reporting by the Associated Press' Nicole Winfield, who appeared confused about whether the Catholic Church has the ability to jail any of its 400,000 priests worldwide.
Apparently trying to suggest that the Vatican's defrocking of abusive priests was still not a sufficient penalty, Winfield darkly wrote:
"The maximum penalty for a priest convicted by a church tribunal is essentially losing his job: being defrocked, or removed from the clerical state. There are no jail terms and nothing to prevent an offender from raping again."
Winfield may want to familiarize herself with the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Obviously, no organization has the authority to "jail" any of its employees, and unless a priest is a residing citizen of the Vatican, it cannot "jail" anyone.