Frontline on Catholic Scandal

sepia secretI missed the airing time on tv the other night, so I watched the Frontline program “Secrets of the Vatican” online this morning. A lot of journalistic work went into this. Some big people come off looking very bad. As you might expect, the Legion of Christ founder. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone gets especially hammered. And in light of this, why did Benedict XVI defend him so vigorously?  Surely he knew more than journalists.

Sex abuse victims recounting their stories was as excruciating as it I’ve experienced it in real life with people I know. The woman sued by Arch-Milwaukee for legal fees struck a chord with me. No wonder most cardinals were grim heading into last year’s conclave. Surely there were enough virtuous men among them to realize the significance of that gathering.

I’ve seen the program reviewed on a few sites, mainly secular outlets. America‘s blog is one exception. Absolute silence from the non-liturgy conservative blogs I checked.

I have this urge to take a shower after watching this program. None of it is really news to anybody watching the Catholic hierarchy over the years.

Did any of you readers watch it? If so, what was your assessment?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Church News, sex abuse and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Frontline on Catholic Scandal

  1. Liam says:

    I’ve recorded it to watch this weekend. At the risk of overemphasizing inside baseball, I am curious about other side of the Bertone angle: what about Sodano? Sodano has typically been reported to be the chief Maciel protector, and Sodano’s large and deep network was generally pitted against Bertone’s smaller one, except after Abp Scola of Milan (who is strongly associated with the C&L caucus) sought Bertone’s ouster and at the conclave last year Sodano and Bertone reportedly tactically united to block Scola’s election.

    • Liam says:

      PS: Further inside baseball context. The reportage last year was that Scola was the leader in the initial round of voting, with Cdl Ouellet of Quebec in second and Cdl Bergoglio in third, as it were, but that the Sodano-Bertone forces united to block Scola and Ouellet threw his support to Bergoglio, with other cardinals (including Cdl Wuerl) working to swing enough over to Bergoglio for a very decisive margin in the end. FWIW.

  2. Randolph Nichols says:

    Although much of the content was old news, particularly for those of us living in the Boston area, I had to leave the room a couple of times during this program. It was painful because I knew the accusations were, on the whole, true. For me Frontline clarified the context as to why Benedict XVI felt he had to resign.

  3. FrMichael says:

    I thought it was a poor piece of journalism overall. I missed the first section, the part about the Legion, so I have no comment regarding that. In its favor, I thought its portrayal of the Vatican Bank and Cardinal Bertone was accurate (as far as one can know by the press accounts up until now). The section on the gay clerical subculture of Rome was sickening but I have no reason to doubt its accuracy given the extensive Italian press reports about the phenomenon. Given PBS’s pronounced liberal bias, I thought it was an “auto-goal” for the pro-gay side in that the interviewed sexually active priest was calling for a change of doctrine on homosexuality, proving that he was a heretic as well as a hypocrite. The Italian reporter’s shock at witnessing perversion in the evening followed by a priest vesting in the morning for Mass probably didn’t have the desired effect of the documentary’s director. Instead of encouraging the Church to change doctrine, it made me want to conduct an auto-da-fe of whatever Lavender Mafia denizen I could find.

    On the negative side, one wouldn’t know from Frontline that Benedict had moved abuse cases to CDF toward the end of his time there and that laicizations for these crimes increased greatly under his watch at CDF and the papacy. Fr. Tom Doyle and attorney Jeff Anderson were interviewed uncritically, as was Cardinal Maradiaga. The latter especially surprised me given his comments a decade ago blaming the clerical sexual abuse crisis on the Jews, but Frontline was so gung-ho to find a prelate who was willing to knock Benedict and praise Francis that apparently that nasty history did not dissuade them.

    I was expecting a critical piece, no problem with that: the Church leadership has a lot to answer for. But this was as shoddy a piece of journalism in the mainstream media as I’ve encountered regarding the Crisis since it began.

  4. Jim McCrea says:

    I saw it. Even though a great deal of it … virtually all … is old news, the graphic presentations kept my attention throughout the entire show.

    Francis has a HUGE job ahead of him and unless he gets the cooperation of the hierarchy he is doomed to failure. I’m afraid too many will “wait him out” and then go back to their old ways when he is gone.

  5. B Jensen says:

    If you watch Public Television regularly you know that they replay episodes of Frontline until you’re ready to scream at your television “we’ve seen it 20 times!” But, this particular episode was not replayed after the month of its initial release. Certainly it hasn’t been replayed ad nauseum like other episodes. My initial reaction was that Frontline had clearly established that the overwhelming majority of sex abuse cases were tied to gay priests who were homosexual pedophiles. Frontline then established that the Church administrators in Rome were trying to cover up the scandal. Then Frontline made a strategic error in its attack piece; they demonstrated that many priests who worked as administrators at the Vatican were also homosexuals. This leads the viewer to an inescapable conclusion: homosexual pedophile priests were preying on defenseless young children and homosexual priests who worked at the Vatican conspired in an effort to cover up their crimes. Frontline and PBS know that the producers of this attack piece simply couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Only after it was released and viewed by the general public did it become obvious that this was an indictment of the homosexual community and a warning that the Church needs to be more careful about screening candidates for the priesthood. I’ve spoken to dozens of people, Catholic and non-Catholic, who drew the same conclusion after viewing this hit piece.

    • Todd says:

      I suspect Frontline, not being beholden (as much) to advertisers, is more inclined than other outlets to investigate and let the chips fall as they may.

      B, you have an interesting if not unique take. The main variation I’ve seen emphasizes that victims weren’t young children, but older adolescents. I wonder if in many cases we’re not dealing with people who are attempting to be neither hetero- or homosexual, but non-sexual–something distinctly different from celibate. And it doesn’t work out as well for those who lack maturity, or spirituality, or any sort of human integration.

      Your suggestion for more/better screening was certainly taken up in the 70s and 80s. But many conservative Catholics are rather critical of that, as it tends to sideline the more “pious” and perhaps immature candidates.

      I haven’t spoken to anyone about this piece outside of the comments here on this blog.

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