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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post media writer
I had to chuckle when a top Vatican official accused the New York Times of being in “attack mode” against Pope Benedict. I believe the proper term is reporting.
The Vatican has been in a bubble for so long that ordinary journalistic scrutiny feels like a smear. I believe the media in general have treated the Pope with appropriate respect, even as they raise troubling questions about his lack of past action against pedophile priests. When you carefully examine stories like those in the Times, they are carefully written and based on documents and interviews. They don’t conclude that then-Cardinal Ratzinger looked the other way while abusive priests were transferred or went unpunished; the articles simply examine the circumstantial evidence, including correspondence sent to his office.
These stories are not being driven by any animus toward the Catholic Church or Pope Benedict. But they are animated in part by a sense of revulsion that priests who abused young boys, including deaf boys, were either shipped off to other parishes or allowed to remain in their posts. Rather than express remorse for these horrifying lapses, the church has adopted a blame-the-media strategy that has backfired and perpetuated the story. These news accounts are not “petty gossip”; they are deadly serious.
I do think there’s a legitimate question as to whether the media are using 2010 standard to judge misconduct that took place decades ago. But that argument is being lost in the Vatican’s broadsides against those who are trying to uncover the painful truth.
Howard Kurtz is The Post’s media reporter, writes the Media Notes column and does a daily blog for washingtonpost.com.