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A vast anti-Catholic conspiracy?

March 26, 2010 | 11:04 am

No doubt some anti-Catholics are reveling in reports that the future Pope Benedict XVI was aware that a pedophile priest in Germany had been returned to ministry and that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger succumbed to a plea by an American abuser that he be allowed "to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood." But it's wrongheaded for defenders of the church to portray media interest in these questions as the result of prejudice.

Yet here is Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, a close advisor to the pope, telling reporters that there is "a conspiracy" against the Church. Meanwhile, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reacted to the New York Times report about the American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, by warning about "an ignoble attempt to strike at Pope Benedict and his closest aides at any cost."

And Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, the scourge of anti-Catholicism real and imagined, has decried "selective indignation" directed at the Catholic Church. Noting that the New York Times ignored an abuse case involving a rabbi, Donohue said: "Catholics aren't fooled."

The pope may have plausible deniability in the cases reported by the New York Times. But the best defense for the Vatican and its supporters is to contest the accuracy of these and other reports, not to accuse journalists (or activists) of selective criticism, let alone an ignoble conspiracy. Playing the anti-Catholic card just won't work. The sex-abuse scandal in the United States should have demonstrated that.

-- Michael McGough

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