Archive for the ‘Damian Thompspn’ Category

Quote of the Week: Thank you, Damian Thompson!

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

From Damian Thompson – April 19, 2010

“Correctly orientated worship, believes Pope Benedict, is a sine qua non for the operation of the redeeming love of Christ in the world. That is why his request that priests should say Mass facing a crucifix on the altar is so important to him; he would prefer that the celebrant faced eastwards, in the same direction as the congregation, but at least the central crucifix helps ensure that the consecration is not directed at the people, which would make it more like a Protestant shared meal than a sacrifice.

But Catholics should ask themselves: when did they last visit an ordinary parish church and see a priest observing the Pope’s wishes? Just as the correct orientation of the altar matters enormously to Benedict XVI, so the disregard of this reform tells us a lot about the fundamental disconnection between the Pontiff and his priests.

This disconnection is made possible by the immense power of the bishop and the diocese in the Church – a power that also made possible the sheltering of so many clerical sex abusers not just from the police but also from the Vatican. Much of this power is derived from Scripture: the diocese has been the fundamental unit of the Church since its institution. A crucial problem is that the Vatican – a tiny organisation, really, about the size of a middle-sized American corporation – has neglected its historic role of aligning Catholic bishops with their Pontiff. Benedict XVI wants to reform the Church; but how can he do so when the dicasteries (major departments) are run by cardinals and archbishops of widely differing degrees of loyalty and mental alertness?…”

For the whole article/blog post, go to:

 http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100035325/benedict-xvi-after-five-years-time-is-running-out-for-a-great-reforming-pope/ 

Damian Thompson publishes letter NY Times refused to publish

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

You stitched up the Pope and this is how you did it, law professor tells New York Times

By Damian Thompson

This letter was sent to The New York Times by Prof John Coverdale, professor of law at Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey. It wasn’t accepted for publication, you’ll be astonished to learn. Here it is:

Like many other people, I have felt in recent weeks that some news outlets have unfairly targeted Pope Benedict XVI in connection with sexual abuse by priests.

In part this is a question of emphasis, with daily coverage of what may or may not have been minor mistakes in judgment decades ago and almost no attention to the major efforts Pope Benedict has made to remedy what is undeniably a horrible situation.

With some frequency, however, I have observed what strikes me as deliberate distortion of the facts in order to put Pope Benedict in a bad light. I would like to call your attention to what seems to me a clear example of this sort of partisan journalism: Laurie Goodstein and Michael Luo’s article “Pope Put Off Move to Punish Abusive Priest” published on the front page of the New York Times on April 10, 2010. The story is so wrong that it is hard to believe it is not animated by the anti-Catholic animus that the New York Times and other media outlets deny harboring.

Canonical procedure punishes priests who have violated Church law in serious ways by “suspending” them from exercising their ministry. This is sometimes referred to as “defrocking.” (According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary to “defrock” is to deprive of the right to exercise the functions of an office. )

A priest who has been suspended may request that he be released from his vows of celibacy and other obligations as a priest. If granted, this petition to be “laicized” would leave the former priest free to marry. Laicization (which is altogether different from defrocking and which may apply to a priest who has committed no crime but simply wishes to leave the priesthood) is not further punishment. It is something a priest who has already been punished by being suspended might well desire, as do some priests who have committed no crime and who have not been suspended..

The priest who is the subject of the article had already been punished by being suspended long before his case reached Rome. He asked to be laicized. Cardinal Ratzinger delayed his laicization not his “defrocking” as the article incorrectly says. He had been defrocked years earlier when he was suspended from the ministry. All of this is clear without reference to outside sources to anyone who knows something about Church procedure and reads the article with sufficient care. It is anything but clear, however, to a normal reader.

My complaint here is not that the article misuses the word “defrock” but rather that by so doing it strongly suggests to readers that Cardinal Ratzinger delayed the priest’s removal from the ministry. Delaying laicization had nothing to do with allowing him to continue exercising the ministry, from which he had already been suspended.

Not only does the article fail to make these distinctions, it positively misstate the facts. Its title is “Pope Put off Move to Punish Abusive Priest.” [italics added] It describes Cardinal Ratzinger’s decision as involving whether the abusive priest “should be forced from the priesthood” [italics added]. Even a moderately careful journalist would have to notice that all of this is incompatible with the fact (reported in the second paragraph of the article) that the priest himself had asked for what Cardinal Ratziner delayed.

Had the facts been reported accurately, the article would have said that the priest was promptly punished by being removed from the ministry for his crimes, but that when he asked to be reduced to the lay state, which would have given him the right to marry within the Church, Cardinal Ratzinger delayed granting the petition. That, of course, would hardly have merited front page treatment, much less a headline accusing the Pope of “Putt[ing] off Move to Punish Abusive Priest.”

The second half of the article reports that the priest later worked as a volunteer in the youth ministry of his former parish. This is obviously regrettable and should not have happened, but he was not acting as a priest (youth ministers are laymen, not priests).

A careful reader who was not misled by the inaccuracies in the first part of the article would, of course, realize that his volunteering as a youth minister had no factual or legal connection with Cardinal Ratzinger’s delaying the grant of laicization. The article does not say in so many words that it did, but an average reader might well conclude that there was some connection when he is told that “while the bishop was pressing Cardinal Ratzinger to defrock Mr. Kiesle, the priest began volunteering in the youth ministry of one of his former parishes.”

Any one of these errors might be due to carelessness, but their cumulative effect, coupled with the decision to make this front page news accompanied by a two column photo of Cardinal Raztinger’s signature, strongly suggests to me that something worse than carelessness is involved. I urge you to look into whether some major news outlets have indeed been engaged in a campaign to vilify the Pope and into whether their desire to do so has caused them to slip below minimum standards of professional journalism.

Damian Thompson is Editor of Telegraph Blogs and a journalist specialising in religion. He was once described by The Church Times as a “blood-crazed ferret”. He is on Twitter as Holy Smoke.  Read his blog at:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/author/damianthompson/