Who once believed the clerical sexual abuse crisis was an anti-Catholic media campaign?
Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, there was a time when Ratzinger saw the sexual abuse crisis as an anti-Catholic media campaign. John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter wrote this week:
Ratzinger’s attitude toward the crisis at the time can perhaps best be gauged from comments he made on November 30, 2002, during an appearance in Murcia, Spain, at a conference organized by the Catholic University of St. Anthony. During a Q&A session after his talk, Ratzinger was asked: “This past year has been difficult for Catholics, given the space dedicated by the media to scandals attributed to priests. There is talk of a campaign against the church. What do you think?
“This was Ratzinger’s reply:
In the church, priests are also sinners. But I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower. In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than one percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information or to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church.
Making Ratzinger’s defensive tone all the more striking, his comments came after a summit between Vatican officials and American cardinals, as well as officers of the bishops’ conference, in April 2002 to discuss the American crisis, a meeting in which Ratzinger participated.
For the record, in claiming “less than one percent” of priests were guilty, Ratzinger was relying on an analysis by writer Philip Jenkins, published in the mid-1990s, of the Chicago archdiocese. In the end, the U.S. bishops’ own study concluded that accusations have been lodged against 4.3 percent of diocesan priests over the last 50 years, and some critics regard even that total as under-reported.
Of course he changed his mind, Allen explains. Read the entire piece here.
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