April 9, 2010

What the New York Times does not translate

I have already said what I think about the whole thing: nothing can ever excuse the sexual abuse of a minor, as much as nothing can justify covering these abuses up, but claims against Pope Benedict’s handling of sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, in particular those according to which he declined to defrock a Milwaukee priest who molested deaf students, are groundless and brought in bad faith. Therefore, since the above mentioned claims have inspired some interesting reactions in the press, more than to repeat myself, I want to suggest some good readings on the subject.

The first is an article, issued a couple of days ago by the influential Italian political newspaper Il Foglio, in which the New York Times is criticized for relying on a computer-generated translation from Italian to English of important responses from the Vatican to the Milwakee sex abuse case. The failure to translate led the NYT to argue that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was protecting the sexually abusive priest.“Behind the accusations,” says Il Foglio’s senior writer Paolo Rodari, “there is a gross translation mistake.” Quite discouraging, to say the least. Read generous excerpts here.

The second is an April 2 piece by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. It’s an insightful and thoughtful look into what the whole thing is all about, a painful acknowledgement of the Catholic Church’s Catastrophe, but also a vigorous defence of the Pope. It’s worth reading and meditating on. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Some blame the scandals on Pope Benedict XVI. But Joseph Ratzinger is the man who, weeks before his accession to the papacy five years ago, spoke blisteringly on Good Friday of the "filth" in the church. Days later on the streets of Rome, the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported, Cardinal Ratzinger bumped into a curial monsignor who chided him for his sharp words. The cardinal replied, "You weren't born yesterday, you understand what I'm talking about, you know what it means. We priests. We priests!" The most reliable commentary on Pope Benedict's role in the scandals came from John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, who argues that once Benedict came to fully understand the scope of the crisis, in 2003, he made the church's first real progress toward coming to grips with it.
There are three great groups of victims in this story. The first and most obvious, the children who were abused, who trusted, were preyed upon and bear the burden through life. The second group is the good priests and good nuns, the great leaders of the church in the day to day, who save the poor, teach the immigrant, and, literally, save lives. They have been stigmatized when they deserve to be lionized. And the third group is the Catholics in the pews—the heroic Catholics of America and now Europe, the hardy souls who in spite of what has been done to their church are still there, still making parish life possible, who hold high the flag, their faith unshaken. No one thanks those Catholics, sees their heroism, respects their patience and fidelity. The world thinks they're stupid. They are not stupid, and with their prayers they keep the world going, and the old church too.

The third is an April 6 WSJ piece by Bill McGurn. He argues that claims that then-Cardinal Ratzinger declined to defrock the Milwaukee priest rely upon documents supplied by a leading lawyer in lawsuits against the Catholic Church. He charges that Laurie Goodstein, the author of the two New York Times articles, did not sufficiently disclose this connection and advises more “journalistic skepticism” about the narrative of an attorney who stands to make millions. In fact, Jeff Anderson, the attorney in question, has charged that Pope Benedict is the head of an “international conspiracy” to cover up crimes and evade the law. Read generous excerpts here.