When the media gets it wrong about Francis


Tell me what is wrong with these two excerpts from this week’s news:

From Newsday:

Francis, 78, a Jesuit from Argentina, is moving in a similar direction, McCartin said. He has overhauled the Vatican bureaucracy, encouraged open debate within the church, instituted a mechanism for removing bishops who covered up the priest sex-abuse scandal and adopted a simple lifestyle as pope, trying to emulate his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. (emphasis mine)

From the NY Times:

Francis is not the first pope to have addressed the issue of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy, but he has drafted new rules giving prosecutors more leeway in the cases, allowing criminal charges to be applied to Vatican employees anywhere. He is also the first pope to take action against superiors accused of covering up for priests(emphasis mine)

Have you guessed? Are you stumped? Okay, okay. I’ll tell you.

Francis hasn’t taken action against superiors who covered up for abusing priests nor has he instituted a mechanism for removing bishops.

Allowing KC/St. Joseph Robert Finn to resign three years after a conviction for child endangerment or allowing Archbishop John Nienstedt to resign in the wake of a huge sex scandal is NOT a mechanism. Unless “allowing complicit bishops to freely resign with full rights, power, and honors—and no punishment, accountability, or shame” is a mechanism, of course.

These men have not been publicly sanctioned. Francis has said NOTHING publicly about how these men allowed criminals to wreak havoc on the children in their dioceses. They were not forced out of their jobs. There was never a public reason given by the Vatican for accepting the resignations.

These men are still bishops with full rights and honors. They still preside over important functions. They still command the respect of lower-ranking priests.

And what about Cardinals Mahony and Law? They are living very posh and cushy lives and exert a huge amount of power.

So there you have it: There has been no action and there is no mechanism.

And it’s time for the media to stop saying that there is—or at least ask the tough questions.

(In the case of the Vatican commission: that is a wait and see. My prediction? They will be stonewalled, just like every diocesan lay review board in the United States. But I respect the commission members deeply and will do everything I can to help)

So, now what?

You can write the NYTimes to ask for a retraction.

You can write Newsday, but since the excerpt was a summary of a quote, a retraction isn’t really an option. But it’s okay to ask for clarification.

And if you do write, be nice. Being a journalist is tough work these days.



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