Stories from the Heart – March 2, 2010

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    First Topic – Keeping the record straight on Benedict and the crisis

    Intense scrutiny is being devoted these days to Pope Benedict XVI's history on the sex abuse crisis. Revelations from Germany have put his five years as a diocesan bishop under a spotlight, and a piece on Thursday in The New York Times, on the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy of Milwaukee, also called into question his Vatican years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Despite complaints in some quarters that all this is about wounding the pope and/or the church, raising these questions, John Allen argues, is entirely legitimate. Anyone involved in church leadership at the most senior levels for as long as Benedict XVI inevitably bears some responsibility for the present mess. Yet as always, the first casualty of any crisis is perspective. There are at least three aspects of Benedict's record on the sexual abuse crisis which are being misconstrued, or at least sloppily characterized, in today's discussion. Bringing clarity to these points is not a matter of excusing the pope, but rather of trying to understand accurately how we got where we are. John joins us.

    Second Topic – The New York Times, Mainstream Media and Pope Benedict XVI

    Seldom has Bill Donohue seen such delirium over an innocent man, namely Pope Benedict XVI. Christopher Hitchens, the rabid atheist, wants to know why the European Union is allowing the pope to travel freely. Perhaps he wants the pope handcuffed at the Vatican and brought to the guillotine. Margery Eagan of the Boston Herald, another big fan of the Catholic Church, says, "The Pope should resign." One looks in vain for a single sentence that implicates his guilt in anything. Then we have the Washington Post indicting priests by painting all of them as child abusers in a cartoon. There are many other examples of this kind of hysteria. No one has any evidence that he even knew of the case of Father Lawrence Murphy. Indeed, his office didn't find out until 1996 and then it did the right thing by summoning an investigation (it could have simply dropped an inquiry given that the statute of limitations had run out). No matter, the pope's harshest critics are blaming him for not defrocking a man whom he may never have heard of, and in any event was entitled to a presumption of innocence. Bill is here to make his case.

    Third Topic – The Pope and the Murphy case: what the New York Times story didn't tell you

    Multiple stories in the New York Times have suggested that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), under the direction of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, failed to act against a Wisconsin priest who was accused of molesting scores of boys at a school for the deaf. Is the story damaging? Yes. Should the Vatican have acted faster? Yes. Should the accused priest have been laicized? In all probability, Yes again. Nevertheless, before assigning all blame to the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI, Phil Lawler says there are some major factors to consider. He is here to point them out.

    Fourth Topic – Pope faces a “scourging by words”, says former student and publisher

    As nearly one billion Catholics enter Holy Week, their chief shepherd faces attacks in newspapers, blogs, twitter posts, and television and radio news. Unfortunately, the primary news sources repeatedly fail to report accurate timelines and crucial details. The impression is left that Pope Benedict XVI is part of the problem, rather than leading the way to solving it. Consequently, concerned Catholics and others are agitated and confused. Fr. Joseph Fessio says “Benedict the XVI is only infallible as an authoritative teacher of the Faith, not as an administrator. He certainly may have made some mistakes, even serious ones, in the 33 years since he was first made a bishop. But there is no evidence for the ones he’s being blamed for in the media; for those who know the facts, the evidence leads to just the opposite conclusion. Like the Master he serves, he’s also, after 33 years, being publically scourged, this time with words.” Fr. Fessio joins us.

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