Fox News photoWhen the U.S. bishops crafted the best program in the Catholic Church to protect children and clean out corruption in the priesthood in the 2002 Dallas Charter, Bishop William Lori not only helped write it, he was one of four bishops who took the Charter to Rome for approval. He knows sense from nonsense, and has seen enough of the latter in the New York Times lately.

Bishop Lori responds to the relentless assaults on the Catholic Church and the Pope in the Times.

It appears that the timing of these articles is calculated. The March 25 New York Times story suggesting that then-Cardinal Ratzinger permitted a known offender to continue in ministry for almost thirty years was based upon documents provided to it by Jeffrey Anderson, an attorney who has received over $100 million suing Catholic institutions and who is now suing the Vatican itself. Mr. Anderson received these documents in discovery in December 2008.

 Now, some pointed questions:

Why did he wait until now to hand them over to the Times? Was it to help his suit against the Vatican? Was it to coordinate with claimant groups protesting in the Vatican on the very day of the Times report? Was it to promote legislation friendly to plaintiffs’ lawyers such as we are fighting here in Connecticut and elsewhere? Was it to sully the holiness of this week? We don’t know. We do know that Mr. Anderson controlled the timing, and the Times helped.

Bishops Lori systematically dismantles the arguments at the center of the Times’ attacks, as other authoritative voices have continually over the past several weeks, which have been covered here.

Then he turns to the attempted smears of the pope, himself.

Here’s what I know about Pope Benedict XVI and sexual abuse. As detailed by John Allen of The National Catholic Reporter, when Cardinal Ratzinger became the Vatican’s “point man” on the problem in 2001, he personally reviewed hundreds of files. He then wrote the bishops of the world that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would henceforth handle all sexual abuses cases involving priests. Under his leadership the Congregation provided bishops with crucial direction and support in canonically removing offending priests from ministry. In most circumstances, the Congregation approved direct administrative actions so that bishops could discipline and remove priests without the delays of full canonical trials.

This may be repetition, but the baseless, groundless, tendentious charges against Benedict have planted bumper sticker slogan ideas in people’s minds. So a fortified response is necessary. Lori provides talking points to answer questioning points.

I personally witnessed the pivotal and positive role that Cardinal Ratzinger played in helping the American bishops to respond to the sexual abuse crisis. Thanks to Cardinal Ratzinger the United States Norms won approval from the Holy See. Together with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Norms have helped the U.S. Bishops to bring about a true culture change in the Church. State of the art safe environment programs have been developed. Countless victims have been assisted. Priests who posed a danger to young people are out of ministry. Dioceses cooperate closely with law enforcement officials (contrary to yet another faulty op-ed piece in the New York Times). The Congregation also helped bishops of other countries deal with the sexual abuse crisis. When he became Pope, Benedict XVI made resolution of the abuse problem a priority. Instead of attacking this Pope, we should be thanking him for helping the Church confront this crisis in a way that benefits victims, the Church, and society.

One thing that stands out in most of the bishops’ responses to this attack led by the Times is the polite civility with which they respond to reckless disregard for truth and journalistic integrity, to put it politely. And that’s the point…..one side of this battle is engaging with charity and clarity. The other side if flailing without self-control or reason.

Thus, the New York Times either was less than forthcoming…or Mr. Anderson, through selective document disclosures, played the New York Times like a fiddle. The shameless and reckless assertions by the Times and other media outlets that then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, somehow interfered with the trial by the church are categorically false.

Let the record show. And let it show that “the paper of record” no longer is….nor has any regard for the facts.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....