Bishop's Comments about News Coverage Don't Hold up in a Test of Logic

The Morning Call [Allentown PA]
January 8, 2003

The Jan. 2 issue of The A.D. Times, the official newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Allentown, carries an interview with Bishop Edward P. Cullen in which he discusses in some detail the sexual abuse of children by clergy members. The interview was summarized in The Morning Call on Sunday. Bishop Cullen is fairly open with his opinions, but one thing he said cannot be allowed to stand without challenge because it was unfair and without logic.

Bishop Cullen was asked to identify the aspect of the scandal that was most difficult for him to handle. His surprising response? ''Dealing with the media, especially The Morning Call.'' He elaborated by saying the newspaper repeated old news in ''a hammering and battering fashion.'' He said the stories sowed seeds of mistrust of the newspaper ''in the hearts of the Catholic community.'' He even said he found news coverage a bigger problem than dealing with victims, perpetrators or the police.

Anything a newspaper prints is fairly the subject of criticism, of course. If Bishop Cullen believes coverage or commentary was inaccurate or unfair, he ought to present his particulars. Otherwise, this sounds like a case of blaming the messenger for an unpleasant message. We understand that The A.D. Times provides a way for the bishop to communicate with the people of the Allentown Diocese, and his words here will be welcome by some. But among the readers of The A.D. Times are many Catholics who believe that the hierarchy's handling of complaints of abuse was part of the problem in the first place. What is he saying to them?

The illogic lies in the conflict between Bishop Cullen's words about the newspaper and his statement, in the same interview, that ''this horrific crisis will present an unprecedented renewal.'' Had it not been for the lead reporting by The Boston Globe over the past two years (and coverage by local papers like The Morning Call), the scandal would have stayed where it was for years — hidden in the chanceries.

In pursuit of the painful but cleansing results, what the bishops did hardly qualifies as leadership. What newspapers like The Morning Call did is a matter of public record.


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