April 1st, 2010
07:30 AM ET

Cardinal attacks New York Times over Vatican coverage

A top Vatican official has harshly criticized The New York Times' coverage of the Catholic sexual abuse crisis in a lengthy article posted on the Vatican Web site.

Cardinal William Levada, an American who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the newspaper "lacks fairness" and accuses the pope of "leniency and inaction" in dealing with abuse cases.

"I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on," Levada wrote in the article, dated March 26 but posted online late Wednesday.

Levada succeeded the pope in leading the congregation, which oversees Catholic doctrine and issues of faith and morals. When Benedict was in the role, Levada said, he helped enact new church legislation that greatly helped in dealing with abuse cases.

That new legislation included designating the sexual abuse of minors by clerics as "graviora delicta," or most grave crimes; streamlining the administrative process for judgments; and adjusting the maximum age of a minor to 18 to correspond with civil law in many countries, Levada said.

He said the pope's legacy with the congregation has benefited the entire Catholic church.

"It seems to me," he wrote, "that we owe Pope Benedict a great debt of gratitude for introducing the procedures that have helped the church to take action in the face of the scandal of priestly sexual abuse of minors."

Though Levada criticized the Times for a "series of articles" that lack fairness and are "rushing to a guilty verdict," the cardinal was particularly angered by a March 26 article about the abuse of as many as 200 deaf boys in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by the now-deceased Rev. Lawrence Murphy.

The Times alleged that top Vatican officials, including the future Pope Benedict, failed to discipline or defrock Murphy despite warnings from several American bishops.

In its article Thursday about Levada's remarks, the Times says its allegations "drew on documents obtained from lawyers suing the church that showed that Vatican officials had at first ordered a secret canonical trial, then asked the archdiocese to suspend it after the priest pleaded for leniency to Cardinal Ratzinger. Wisconsin church officials protested the suspension, but followed it."

Ratzinger later became Pope Benedict.

Levada also takes issue with a Maureen Dowd opinion piece accompanying the article, which he said displays the newspaper's "usual bias."

"Both the article and the editorial are deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness that Americans have every right and expectation to find in their major media reporting," Levada wrote.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki apologized repeatedly Tuesday night for the way his archdiocese handled the Murphy case, and he defended the Vatican, saying the mistakes were made by church officials and civil authorities in Milwaukee, not in Rome.

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Filed under: Religion • Vatican • World
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Michael Francis

    The neo-Marxist NY Times, whose reporting has become quite deplorable in recent memory, cemented its reputation yet again by printing that completely overblown front-page March 26th article. The Times has thrown their lot in with the lawyers trying to sue the Vatican and have the pope deposed, even though any reasonable person knows that some law firm in Miami can't simply tear down the 2000 year-old Catholic Church in a courtroom.

    The Church is made up of flawed individuals. Any organization that employs fallible men will have its sinners and saints. However this does not detract from its mission or beliefs, something that anti-theists and anti-Catholics have felt that they could attack and use the abuse crisis as justification. The pope is not Mussolini or Hitler, such comparisons are unfounded and are only used because the accuser simply and passionately against the Church, and not even because of the abuse scandal! You don’t see them picketing outside public schools that kept child-molesting teachers under the rug, yet they scream “Impeach the Nazi Pope!” and write virulent articles in their newspapers. The mass media is not helping the victims, only spewing anti-Catholicism and attacking the very people in the Church who have been a help.

    April 1, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. Liz

    I applaud the Times for their coverage of this subject. It is abhorent to me that the church continues to defend itself. Anyone who is defending the Catholic Church right now, is morally and spiritually gone off course. That includes members of the church, clergy and the leaders of the church. I can hardly believe that people still bring their children to mass, to school, to allow them to work as altar boys, or in any way come in contact with a priest. How many people have to suffer before people wake up?

    I don't want to hear that there are some priests in the church who are above reproach. That is irrelevant. There is NO trust that people can have in the church or their leaders and yet, the clergy and leaders are evidently the last to see that.

    After all the damage and pain and suffering that has happened to people at the hands of priests, do you hear the clergy or the leaders of the church, crying over these victims? Are they hanging their head in shame? No, they are rising in indignation to protect the perpetrators of these crimes and trying to cover their backsides. Does that not speak volumes about who they are?

    Last point, put yourself in the place of a young innocent child who has the misfortune to be abused by a priest in the Catholic Church. If you grew up after this abuse and discovered that it was a well known fact that this happened frequently in the church, that everyone on the planet was aware of it, wouldn't you be asking yourself, why did my family allow me to be anywhere near a priest? Why would they risk it?

    People must recognize that this will continue to happen and no one is going to correct it in the Catholic Church and anyone's apology is useless when the damage has been done. If someone is so confused that they don't realize that God gave children parents to protect them even from the clergy of the church, then they ought to examine their own understanding of God.

    April 1, 2010 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ed

    I'm catholic, although I'm becoming more embarrassed to actually say it out loud.
    My grandchildren go to a Catholic grammar school. Wonder if I should tell them to stay away from any priest?

    April 1, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jack Rance

    The Catholic church has a long and bloody history of murder, torture, physical and mental abuse and cover-ups.

    The reality is that between 60 and 80% of Catholic priests are gay, living with their own church-imposed shame and guilt and finding outlets for their sex drive wherever they can. This has gone on for decades as bishops cardinals and popes turn a blind eye or make token rebukes to guilty parties.

    How anyone with a shred of intelligence can believe in and support this corrupt, bloated, medieval organization boggles the mind.

    I hope the NY Times and the media in general continues to hammer the Vatican. And they should talk to some ex-priests to get the real story on what goes on – if they dare tell it.

    April 1, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tommy Sayles

    Shame on anyone who would attack the Times over the coverage the have given, It should be relentless and nonstop until we start to see real ownership of such a disgraceful revelation. And it is fine time the Pope step down and that the Church stop trying to influence matters around the World and handle what is going on in their own backyard. They are against homosexuality yet are OK with this type of behavior. God forbid the day that all these Men of the Catholic Church face God. I would rather be a homosexual than to be there saying I was an Agent of Christ and oh yea I molested a few of the male children Father. Get real people.

    April 1, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Carml

    It's really not so difficult: Child molesters are abhorrent breakers of the law. This is a matter for the police in any country, anywhere. If the organization won't stop these crimes, then society must.
    So far, the Catholic Church has proven to be completely inept, far less than truthful and perhaps criminally negligent in dealing with this issue. Shame – and more shame.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. Stan

    ....not only that, the Sun revolves around the Earth!!!

    April 1, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. Don

    William Levada and Joseph Ratzinger have been "caught" shielding pedophile priests; and now, are they are sorry for it–or, sorry for getting caught?!

    There can be no excuse for allowing abusive priests to remain in powerful positions, where they can continue to wreak sexual havoc on children.

    Shame on all those members of the Catholic Episcopate, who allowed and covered up the awful actions of evil, wretched, offensive priests; and shame on the rest of us Catholics, who refuse to hold them all accountable!

    If we, as a group, would redirect our Church tithes and gifts to charities outside Catholicism, it could make a difference in the activities and choices of our Catholicl hierarchy!

    April 1, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. Fredo

    The catholic church has violated the law by protecting child molesters, maybe it's time to a take a hard look at these individuals and the values they stand for. I believe that the church should be treated like any other organization (the somali pirates, the mob, the chechyan suicide bombers, the christian anti US militias, etc..), if some of it's members violated the law they should go to jail and if the organization protects them, than the organization should be treated like any other terrorist or criminal organization and totally taken out.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rich

    Catholic Church once again spending more time justifying its inaction instead of fixing problems. When will people realize the Church is nothing other than a corporation selling perceived salvation? I look forward to the Facebook App!

    April 1, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tom E.E.

    to post 1. stop apologizing for these men and the institution. we all know humans are flawed, but the RCC and many xtian orgs continue to float themselves above the rest of us as they claim to be speaking for, working for a Higher Power – that accroding to them has infused them with something more special than the avg Joe/Jane in the pews. its time they started acting like they preach.

    and its time for the avg Catholic to step-up and flood the Vatican, and all local Parishes, Dioceses withletters, emails, v-mails, etc with their outrage. Swamp them with emails, shut down their servers, send more letters than the Vatican Postal service can handle. Make your outrage known! stop supporting these miscreants...

    April 1, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. richard

    If i remember correctly the church teaches confession of sins. It is time for a public confession.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Robert Walther

    The Pope, his minions, the Cardinals, and all CEOs of banks should be guillotined immediately.

    April 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vera Lee

    The previous polish Pope was in power for dcades. Why was at that time no articles printed, no outcry from the news media? At that time the stories of abuse were more recent. Now we hear that the statute of limitation has set in. Because it was a Polish Pope. Now we have a German Pope, the stories are rampant. The German bashing and they are known to pay handsomely. I wonder how many of the alleged victims are smelling money? Why have they been so quiet over decades? The news media have a field day. A "German" Pope and Catholicism. We know from the Kennedy days how the Catholics are hated. An American tradition! On the Holiest Day Easter you bring out these stories. With the Scientologists you claim "there are two sides to the stories" but why not here? Shame on you "News Media"

    April 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |