Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

The Pope speaks 'for the first time'-- yet again

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 11, 2010

 Addressing the sex abuse crisis for the first time from the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI begged forgiveness on Friday… 

That's the opening line of a New York Times report on the Pope's homily during the closing Mass of the Year for Priests. Did your jaw drop as you read it?

Addressing the sex abuse crisis for the first time…

What? What?!! How many times in the last several weeks has the Holy Father addressed this topic? How could the Times-- which has micro-analyzed every papal statement-- convey the notion that the June 11 remarks were his first? USA Today, reacting to the same remarks, accurately conveyed the idea that we've heard the apologies before-- many times-- with the headline query:

Will Pope Benedict's apologies for abuse crisis ever be enough?

In a real sense, the apologies never will be enough. They cannot undo the damage wrought by abusive priests and their negligent (or complicit) superiors. But to suggest that the Pope had not previously addressed the issue creates the impression that the Pope is indifferent to the victims' suffering-- that he has been negligent himself.
Which is exactly the impression that the New York Times had busily creating for the past three months. So it's difficult to believe that the lead sentence was not crafted deliberately to encourage more criticism of the Pontiff. Take another look:

Addressing the sex abuse crisis for the first time from the seat of the Roman Catholic Church [emphasis added]

That qualifying phrase is critical, it seems. Just a few lines later the Times reporter, Rachel Donadio, having conceded that the Pope wrote a public letter on the topic to the Irish Church, and met with abuse victims in Malta, adds that today's mention was "the first time Benedict had mentioned the crisis from Saint Peter's basilica, the heart of the church itself, and on an occasion focused on priests."

So he wasn't really addressing the issue for the first time at all. He was addressing it for the first time under these particular circumstances.

Ah. Now I understand. Using the same logic, I can safely say that I am herewith criticizing the biased coverage of the New York Times for the first time. The first time today, that is.

If you read the sports pages regularly, every now and then you'll see a headline announcing that a local baseball star "broke the strikeout record." Read the story carefully, and you learn that the reality is more mundane than the headline suggests: the hometown hero only broke the record for left-handed pitchers…under 22 years old… in a day game… on a Tuesday… west of the Mississippi.

Why do sports-page editors write such overblown headlines? Because they want to create some excitement about the pitcher's performance. And why does the Times begin its story with such a misleading sentence? Because the paper wants to create the impression that Pope Benedict has been tardy in addressing the sex-abuse scandal.

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