As Pope Benedict XVI faces increasing criticism over the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal, one of his most vigorous defenders is going on offense. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, took out a full-page ad in Tuesday's New York Times, arguing that the newspaper is trying to create the impression of a "pedophilia crisis" in order to undermine the Vatican's moral standing on gay marriage and abortion. In fact, says Donohue, the church faces a "homosexual crisis," because most boys sexually abused by priests were "post-pubescent." Is he out of line? (Below: Watch Donohue explain his accusation on CNN)
Donohue's "smear the gays" tactic is textbook: This old ploy of stirring up homophobic fears is the same one used by Karl Rove in George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, says Maureen Dowd in The N.Y. Times. Sure, it works sometimes, but it's still just a cynical PR trick. And if the scandal "mostly involves men and boys," that’s largely because "priests for many years had unquestioned access to boys."
"Should there be an inquisition for the Pope?"
The Times is doing the smearing here: One thing's for sure, says George Weigel in First Things, the Times really is out to smear Pope Benedict and the church. The paper has used "tabloid sourcing and innuendo" to suggest that the Pope, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, blocked sanctions against Father Lawrence Murphy, "a diabolical Milwaukee priest" who abused 200 deaf children decades ago. The paper's own reporting proved that wasn't true.
The Church's actions speak for themselves: You have to give Donohue high marks for creativity — blaming the gays is a "novel defense," says Jason Linkins in The Huffington Post. Trouble is, it still doesn't explain why, for decades, Catholic authorities around the world and in the Vatican devoted "massive efforts to cover up these crimes" instead of punishing the abusers and ministering to the victims.
"This 'blame the gays' defense of the Vatican basically makes no sense at all"