Msgr. Scolds Media for Priest-Sex Reports

By Bill Farrell
New York Daily News [Brooklyn NY]
Downloaded May 19, 2003

They were there to be honored by the Diocese of Brooklyn, but that did not protect journalists from sharp criticism of the way the media have handled the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.

About 80 reporters and editors sat in stunned silence Friday as Msgr. Francis Maniscalo began his scolding at the diocese's annual World Communications Day luncheon.

"To agree the story was real and that the media made a contribution by reporting it does not mean that, overall, the coverage did not also produce a severely distorted view of the bishops and their efforts," said Maniscalo, communications director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Maniscalo, an editor of a diocesan newspaper in the early 1990s, agreed the church scandal needed to be covered intensely by newspapers and television. But the monsignor noted that many journalists covering the scandal are unfamiliar with church law and dogma.

"Many reporters seemed to settle for a story about something familiar, a kind of ecclesiastical Enron," he told the reporters, who represented the secular and religious media.

Maniscalo never fully explained how to properly report what has been described as the church leadership's mishandling of the sex abuse revelations, but he did stress that there are limits to the powers of a bishop to dismiss priests under canon law.

"Even if a priest were convicted and jailed, that did not eliminate the bishops' obligations under canon law," Maniscalo said, "especially if a priest seemed genuinely repentant and received apparently successful treatment and was willing to undergo aftercare and monitoring to assure he no longer posed a danger to children and young people."

Maniscalo's comments came after the diocese honored William Baker, president of WNET/Channel 13, for his leadership in bringing faith and religion to mainstream television through shows such as the PBS series "Religion & Ethics Weekly."

In presenting the award, diocesan spokesman Frank DeRosa singled out a documentary that aired last fall spotlighting the work of nuns in Sunset Park. DeRosa noted that it was Baker who produced the 2001 documentary "The Face: Jesus in Art."

Bishop Thomas Daily praised Baker as "a man of profound faith" at the luncheon, held Friday in the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge hotel.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.