Sex abuse scandal: The Vatican’s push-back

Catholic officials launched a “public relations blitz” to defend the pope against allegations that he may have protected several child-abusing priests.

The Catholic Church is now practicing “the unholy art of spin,” said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. Shaken by new allegations that Pope Benedict XVI may have known about and protected several child-abusing priests when he was a cardinal, Catholic officials launched a “public relations blitz” to push back against his accusers. Benedict’s personal preacher, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, compared the pope to the Jews during the Holocaust—a victim of “collective violence.” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, conducting Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican with the pope at his side, said that Catholics weren’t “impressed by the petty gossip of the moment.” Petty gossip? said Andrew Sullivan in This is what the church is calling “indisputable cases where priests raped children, and the pope himself looked away, or actively enabled the abuse to continue to protect the reputation of the church.”

That’s a slur, said George Neumayr in The Washington Times, and the agenda behind it is obvious. Dowd and Sullivan are the leaders of a “secularist posse” of liberal elites who have seized on some 30-year-old cases to attack a traditional and conservative pope. To liberals, Benedict’s real sin is his refusal to ordain homosexuals and women. Rather than engage in a coverup, Benedict has confronted the abuse scandals head-on, said George Weigel in He has condemned “the filth” of priestly sexual abuse, and “sharply rebuked bishops” who failed to act decisively when the cases began coming to light. Those in the media who would smear him as leading a “global conspiracy of sexual predators” are gleefully indulging in “the last acceptable prejudice: anti-Catholicism.”

Take your head out of the sand, said Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. The abuse scandal—and efforts by the hierarchy to keep it secret—is “a rolling catastrophe” that has badly damaged “the reputation and authority of the church.” Rather than blame the media that brought these horrors out of the shadows, the old men in gilded robes should think of the real victims. First and foremost, of course, there are the thousands of children who were preyed upon, and who “bear the burden through life.” Also betrayed are the millions of believing Catholics in the pews, whom the world now thinks of as “stupid.” They “are not stupid,” and will keep their faith alive, “in spite of what has been done to their church.”

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