NCR Dumps on Pope Francis

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) criticized Pope Francis: “Francis' commitment to abuse survivors in question.” The substance of the article was even harsher than the headline. This follows on the footsteps of two critical articles by the New York Times (here, here), unlike any it has published about Pope Francis. Not only did other mainstream media recently criticize the pope, but a key cardinal did as well.

First, NCR heaped praise on the victims of clerical abuse - uncelebrated Christian martyrs - and said: “Any reform that has happened in the church is due to their courageous resolve. The hierarchy was caught in its lies and humbled, but not before unknown numbers of believers were driven out of the Catholic Church. The scandal has cost the church moral authority, credibility and billions of dollars.”

NCR stressed that the victims’ testimony has been reliable, unlike that of the Church: “History has shown that the great number of survivors were telling the truth.” This is a gross understatement. Australia’s Royal Commission recently found that less than 10% of witness’s testimony was either false or unverifiable/unproven. (This is an unfortunate compound category, developed for legal purposes. Almost none of the charges were actually false.) That some charges are unverifiable should not be surprising, given that the cases involved priests abusing children in private, years ago, with no forensic testing. The surprise is that convincing evidence was obtained for the vast majority of cases, suggesting that priests were careless, and confident their position would protect them. Conversely, NCR noted that “bishops, diocesan lawyers and church officers denied their [the victims’] charges,” - consistently lying or otherwise misrepresenting the truth.

NCR summarized the situation:

“Within the space of four days, Pope Francis twice slandered abuse survivors. On the papal flight from Peru Jan. 21, he again called testimony against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros Madrid "calumny." Despite at least three survivors' public accounts to the contrary, he also again said he had not seen evidence of Barros' involvement in a cover-up to protect notorious abuser Fr. Fernando Karadima.

These remarks are at the least shameful. At the most, they suggest that Francis now could be complicit in the cover-up. The script is all too familiar: Discredit the survivors' testimony, support the prelate in question, and bank on public attention moving on to something else.”

While Pope Francis repeatedly said there was no evidence, much of the same evidence that led to the conviction of Karadima also implicated Bishop Barros in covering up the crimes. While the judge was forced to dismiss the case against the bishop due to the statute of limitations, the judge specifically noted the credibility of the charges against him.

NCR says more about Pope Francis’ assertion of “no evidence”:

The insistence with which Francis defends Barros is mystifying. Three separate journalists on the papal flight gave the pope opportunity to say why exactly he believed the bishop instead of the survivors accusing him. The second journalist to ask Francis about Barros on the flight was a Chilean woman. As she spoke to the pope, her voice cracked with nervousness at questioning the church's top leader. She asked: "Why are not the victims' testimonies proof for you? Why do you not believe them?" The pope gave no satisfying answer, only repeating a claim of "no evidence" against the bishop.

Pope Francis has a strange relationship with evidence and reason. On one hand, he simply rejects eyewitness testimony from several sources, even when those eyewitnesses have been found credible by many experts. But on the other hand, he has absolutely no doubt that Mary, mother of Jesus, was not only a virgin, but that she was immaculately conceived, even though the evidence for these claims is far weaker than the convergent eyewitness testimony of these abuse cases.

A few months ago, John Allen, editor of CRUX and long-time Vatican reporter, was openly wondering about Pope Francis’ Teflon coating: “Can anything burst Pope’s media bubble? Nah, probably not.” While it’s too early to tell, there have been loud popping noises from some major media.