Britain’s Sunday Times produced a prime piece of spin about the alleged role of Pope John Paul II in the priest sex abuse scandal. The story rests on a few summary facts about the cases of the late Cardinal Hans Groer of Austria, Polish Archbishop Juliuz Paetz, Legionaries of Christ founder Father Maciel, and Irish Bishop John Magee.
The facts are sparse but reckless hearsay and insinuation make up for that.
Here are two whoppers from the piece:
The most serious claims related to Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, an Austrian friend of John Paul’s who abused an estimated 2,000 boys over decades but never faced any sanction from Rome.
This incredible number of “2000 boys” is announced in the headline of the report. Where was this figure plucked from? I checked the Wikipedia entry for Groer and found the only authority cited for this figure is The Times itself.
In Europe there are signs of the faithful turning their backs on the church in large numbers. In Austria alone more than 20,000 Catholics left the church in March.
How on earth do they know that? How did they “leave”? Did they all write letters to the diocesan chancery?
I am certain that no diocese in the world has figures on how many Catholics stop coming to church in a particular month. The most I am aware of is an annual headcount of those attending.