Philip F. Lawler is editor emeritus of CWR.
The New York Times, with another front-page attack on Pope Benedict XVI, erases any possible doubt that America’s most influential newspaper has declared an editorial jihad against this pontificate. Abandoning any sense of editorial balance, journalistic integrity, or even elementary logic, the Times looses a 4,000-word barrage against the Pope: an indictment that is not supported even by the content of this appalling story. Apparently the editors are relying on sheer volume of words, and repetition of ugly details, to substitute for logical argumentation.
The thrust of the argument presented by the Times is that prior to his election as Pontiff, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not take decisive action to punish priests who abused children. Despite its exhaustive length, the story does not present a single new case to support that argument. The authors claim, at several points in their presentation, that as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Cardinal Ratzinger had the authority to take action. But then, again and again, they quote knowledgeable Church officials saying precisely the opposite.
The confusion over lines of authority at the Vatican was so acute, the Times reports, that in the year 2000 a group of bishops met in Rome to present their concerns. That meeting led eventually to the change in policy announced by Pope John Paul II the following year, giving the CDF sole authority over disciplinary action against priests involved in sexual abuse. By general consensus the 2001 policy represented an important step forward in the Vatican’s handling of the problem, and it was Cardinal Ratzinger who pressed for that policy change. How does that sequence of events justify criticism of the future Pope? It doesn’t. But the facts do not deter the Times.