Just as I started typing this post, I heard a perfect story with which to begin it. The famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, was on a camping trip with his friend, Watson. At four in the morning, a conversation commenced:
Sherlock: “Watson, are you awake?”
Watson: “I am now.”
Sherlock: “Open your eyes; tell me what you see.”
Watson: “Well, Cosmologically speaking, I see the Milky Way Galaxy spanning the sky overhead. Astronomically speaking, the Pleiades are visible in the Constellation Taurus. Meteorologically speaking, a few upper level cirrostratus clouds are forming in the west. Ontologically speaking, the Universe is just as it was yesterday, and all seems well. Umm . . . What do YOU see, Holmes?”
Sherlock: “WATSON! They’ve STOLEN our TENT!”
To some people the obvious is just not obvious enough. By “Catholic news” in my title, I do not mean news FROM the Catholic Church, but rather news ABOUT it. What should be covered in the secular news media’s reporting of Catholic news doesn’t always seem to make the cut. An example is the Fortnight for Freedom held in many major cities across the U.S. In the Catholic on-line world, the buzz about these rallies has been extensive. In the mainstream news media, it is as though this is all taking place in some alternate universe. I saw little in the mainstream press., and even less on the cable news networks. What is going on here?
If these rallies promoted radical feminism to protest Catholic pro-life movements, the news media would have made them look as though a cultural tsunami were taking place. I hope you can see through this. I wrote of the news media’s glaring duplicity In “Separation of Church and Penn State: A Media Double Standard,” and it’s worth revisiting especially with the recent news out of Pennsylvania.
The news media’s blatant omissions in regard to the Catholic Church are as slanted as its acts of commission – which are just too prolific to count. When the secular news media does write about events surrounding the Catholic Church, the result is too often disastrously distorted and exaggerated, or an outright lie.
Personally, I prefer the outright lies. They are easy to debunk, and most people who do their own thinking find the agendas behind them to be transparent. The distortions and exaggerations are more of a challenge, and depend on people being-aware of the actual facts to refute them.
One of the more glaring but subtle examples was described last year in “Cable News or Cable Nuisance? Gloom and Doom in America’s Newsroom.” You might recall that TSW reader Dorothy Stein sent the story to me along with a comment she had placed on the website of CNN. A CNN commentator told the camera with a straight face that “100,000 victims of sex abuse by priests gathered in protest at the Vatican and were denied an audience with the Pope.” Dorothy Stein’s clarification to CNN was ignored, but the true number of protesters, she pointed out, was 30, not 100,000, “though one can see how easy it is to confuse such numbers,” she chided. The news media counts on readers to be stunned into ignorance by the sheer volume of such stories; stunned enough to not look too closely at the details.
FROM THE NATION’S NEWSPAPER
Another example came earlier this month in USA Today, a newspaper that, until now, had given the impression that it at least wants to treat Catholics and their Church fairly. In an article about the Philadelphia trial of Monsignor William Lynn (“Case reignites sex-abuse crisis,” June 9), USA Today published a claim that there have been “more than 16,000 victims” of child sexual abuse by priests in the United States since 1950.
In a published letter to the editor in USA Today (June 12), Suzanne Cyr of Rye, New Hampshire used that number to call for anti-Catholic public alarm asking, “What would our political leaders do if more than 16,000 children had died from some other negligent behavior perpetrated by an adult?” Another published letter by Bernice Durbin of Crossville, Tennessee concluded that Catholic priests “don’t deserve First Amendment protection.”
I could not believe I was reading this in the nation’s second largest daily newspaper. Could you imagine the backlash if USA Today gave a platform to someone declaring that Jews, or Muslims, or African Americans no longer deserve First Amendment rights and freedoms? As I wrote in “Honoring Father Norman Weslin,” those who have claimed to advocate for victims – some real, but many feigned – have created a whole new set of victims by dismantling the freedoms and civil liberties of a single class of citizens: accused Catholic priests. The outcome of the trial of Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia is the result.
In a three-part series, “When Priests Are Falsely Accused,” I made what many called a compelling case for how money has grossly distorted claims involving Catholic priests. There are not 16,000 victims of sexual abuse” by Catholic priests as USA Today declared. There are 16,000 accusers, the majority of them adults, not children, and almost all of them anonymous. It is sad enough that prior to 2002, a number of young people accused a small percentage of Catholic priests of wrongdoing. It is profoundly sad that most of those cases were the truth and those victims must be compensated – and have been compensated.
After 2002, the onslaught of anonymous claims by adults and contingency lawyers cashing in on the Church’s practice of settling everything, regardless of truth or merit, brought as much shame to this picture as the sexual abuse itself. It cheapened and obscured the real claims of real victims, and greatly exaggerated their numbers. USA Today editors know this – or at least they have no excuse for not knowing it.
ARMED WITH THE SLINGSHOT OF TRUTH
The “David” taking on Goliath in my title for this post is without a doubt David F. Pierre Jr. His two books, Double Standard and Catholic Priests Falsely Accused have provided multiple and compelling examples of the malfeasance behind many of the claims against priests that surfaced subsequent to 2002. His site, The Media Report has been a powerful service to the cause of justice and truth. In his well documented “Bombshell Report” last year, David Pierre detailed the findings of a former Los Angeles prosecutor and FBI investigator who declared that a full fifty percent of the claims against priests have been false, financially motivated frauds. There is simply no excuse for the news media not to have access to and report on such clear evidence. As one Catholic writer concluded after reading The Media Report,
“Greed ranks right up there with lust among the Seven Deadly Sins.”
Subscribing to The Media Report, which is free, would go a long way toward bringing balance to the news media’s sometimes cloudy agendas. Here’s a glaring example: when I faced trial in 1994, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper had daily front page headlines about my charges and trial. They carried photographs of the 28 yr. old accuser on the witness stand treating every lie as though it were the gospel truth while printing his name. When a new appeal was filed outlining new evidence this year, the same newspaper buried it on page 10 in a three inch blurb, but cited none of the new evidence. The Media Report provided the sole real news coverage of the appeal in a February 20, 2012 profile entitled, “Exclusive Report: Alarming New Evidence May Exonerate Imprisoned Priest.”
I highly recommend spending some time at The Media Report’s new website. It provides a factual alternative to mainstream news of the Catholic Church that will make you wonder what planet some news editors have been living on. Its news reports are brief, and to the point. David Pierre has taken on the Goliath of our one-sided secular news media, and he deserves our moral support.
I’m giving USA Today the benefit of doubt on the story referenced above. On most days, I find its news coverage and editing to be just and fair, but its letters editor was asleep that day. Other papers have been so glaring in their anti-Catholic agendas that their coverage cannot be so easily dismissed as a fluke.
So I have to ask why any conscientious Catholic is still reading The New York Times, or The Boston Globe, or the Kansas City Star, or any number of secular newspapers and news outlets that openly promote anti-Catholic bigotry and have had an unimpeded penchant for doing so consistently for over a decade. As consumers of their product, those who subscribe tacitly endorse them and further their agendas. Morally, we simply cannot be half just, half truthful, and half faithful to our Catholic consciences.
DOROTHY IN THE LAND OF OZ
The secular news media isn’t at all alone in its distortions and agendas. There is no shortage of Catholics and Catholic writers using the sex abuse scandal to further some agendas of their own. It isn’t that they all tell a distorted or exaggerated story. It’s that too many fail to tell the whole story.
An example is an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal by David Gibson, a national reporter for Religion News Service. In “U.S. Bishops Still Stonewall on Sex Abuse” ( “Houses of Worship,” June 8, 2012) David Gibson compared the consequences for bishops with those for priests since the 2002 Dallas Charter was enacted. I cannot say that I disagree with him, especially with his description of the effect this has all had on the morale of priests.
David Gibson wrote of the United States Catholic Bishops that “accountability at the top remains unanswered.” He criticized the Bishops of Baker (Oregon) and Lincoln (Nebraska) who “thumbed their noses at the Dallas Charter’s mandatory audits.” The problem with David Gibson’s presentation is not what he has written, but what he left out. And for that, I’m giving the last word to TSW reader, Dorothy Stein who posted this comment on David Gibson’s WSJ editorial:
“Accountability to whom? To David Gibson? To the left-leaning news media capitalizing on the scandal? To SNAP and VOTF shamelessly exploiting it for their own agendas? I view the Bishops’ accountability very differently than does David Gibson. The Bishops of Baker and Lincoln may well be prophets in our midst for refusing to participate in the rules of this classic Puritan American witch hunt. There is another side of this story even more sordid than the first. I know David Gibson is aware of it, but like so many Catholic writers, he keeps a safe distance from it. By so doing, he lacks accountability to his readers. It’s the story of Catholic priests falsely accused, and it can be found at www.TheseStoneWalls.com/about/”
I’m pretty sure Dorothy Stein subscribes to The Media Report. If she doesn’t, I urge her to sign up. As for her comment, our friend, Father George David Byers would write on his Holy Souls Hermitage blog, “YlKES!” I, too, have learned a valuable lesson from all this: to stay on Dorothy Stein’s good side!