From First Things, a great overview of the machinations occurring around the sex abuse in the Church, and the holy grace under pressure marking our Holy Father’s response, now and in the past.
“On March 25, the New York Times published a now thoroughly discredited front-page story suggesting that Joseph Ratzinger, while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had willfully impeded sanctions against a clerical sexual abuser in Milwaukee who had preyed on the deaf children in his care.
“Taking that date, and that calumny against Benedict XVI, as an arbitrary American ground zero in the latest round of assaults depicting the Catholic Church as a Rome-based global criminal conspiracy of perverts and their enablers, where do things stand, two and a half weeks into what at first seemed poised to become a scandal as devastating as the Catholic Church in America’s Long Lent of eight years ago?
“It’s not 2002. During the Long Lent, the press played an important role in dragging into the light of day awful things the Church had failed to confront, or had confronted ineptly. The shame of that period still stings, as do the wounds suffered by victims. Yet 2010 is not 2002, and that is in large measure due to 2002.
“Despite the ignorance and tendentiousness displayed by too many journalists and commentators in recent weeks (including Catholic commentators seeking another opportunity to revive the Revolution That Never Was—or, in the case of Patrick J. Buchanan, to revive the Golden Age That Never Was), the facts are slowly getting out, thanks in part to the unprecedented studies and audits authorized by the bishops of the United States in the wake of the Long Lent.
“Reasonable people whose perceptions are not warped by the toxin of anti-Catholicism or who are not pursuing other (often financially-driven) agendas now recognize that the Church in the U.S. and Canada has bent enormous efforts towards cleaning up what Cardinal Ratzinger called in 2005 its “filth,” to the point where the Catholic Church today can be empirically shown to be the safest environment for young people and children in North America. The paralyzing drumbeat of one ghastly new story after another that went on all during 2002 has not been repeated. What we now have is, largely, the recycling of old material, usually provided to the press by contingent-fee attorneys whose strategic goal is to build a public “narrative” of conspiracy that will shape American courts’ decisions as to whether the Vatican and its resources can be brought within range of U.S. liability law.
“The realization among serious Catholics that this is not 2002 and that things have changed dramatically since 2002, has led to a far more confident effort to fight back against misrepresentations such as those the Times perpetrated on March 25. There is a danger here: to recognize that this is not 2002 cannot blind us to the fact that there are wounds that remain to be healed, reforms of priestly formation that remain to be completed, bishops whose failures remain to be recognized and dealt with, new norms for the selection of bishops to be implemented, and accounts rendered as to why the Vatican, prior to Ratzinger’s taking control of the issue of clerical sexual abuse in the late 1990s, was sometimes sluggish in its response to scandalous behavior by priests and deficient leadership by bishops.
“Assuming, however, that Benedict XVI has set in motion processes that will lead to all those lingering issues being forcefully addressed, a serious question can now be credibly posed: Are those most vigorously agitating these abuse/misgovernance issues today genuinely interested in the safety of young people and children, or are they using the failures of the past to cripple the moral credibility of the Catholic Church in the present and future? That question would have rightly struck many people as a dodge in 2002. It cannot be credibly regarded as a dodge today, because of what the Church has done since 2002 (and, indeed, since the 1990s, when the plague of abuse within the Church began to recede).”