Friday, August 08, 2003

Curioser and curioser. The story about the story regarding that secret 1962 Vatican document is getting increasingly convoluted.

The website Catholic World News posted an analysis yesterday attempting to show that the conventional interpretation -- that the Vatican was giving marching orders to cover up the misdeeds of pedophile priests -- is just plain wrong.

According to CWN, the document pertained to a much narrower matter -- priests who solicit sex inside the confessional:

The Vatican document deals exclusively with solicitation: an offense which, by definition, occurs within the context of the Sacrament of Penance. And since that sacrament is protected by a shroud of absolute secrecy, the procedures for dealing with this ecclesiastical crime also invoke secrecy.

In short, by demanding secrecy in the treatment of these crimes, the Vatican was protecting the secrecy of the confessional. The policy outlined in that 1962 document is clearly not intended to protect predatory priests; on the contrary, the Vatican makes it clear that guilty priests should be severely punished and promptly removed from ministry.

CWN specifically blasts CBS News, which claimed on Wednesday to have "uncovered" the document, and which reported that the Vatican "calls for absolute secrecy when it comes to sexual abuse by priests." In fact, though, the existence of the document had already been reported a week earlier by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, and the Boston Herald.

Today's Herald includes this piece by Eric Convey that covers much the same ground as the CWN analysis.

Yesterday, even as I was posting my own item on the scuff-up over CBS's self-aggrandizing "uncovered" claim, the Herald's Convey, the Eagle-Tribune's Gretchen Putnam, the Telegram & Gazette's Harry Whitin, and CBS News's Jim Murphy were going at it hot and heavy on the letters page of Jim Romenesko's website.

And contrary to my report yesterday -- and to Whitin's assertion to Romenesko -- it now appears that the Telegram & Gazette did not break the story all by itself, but rather finished in a first-place tie with the Eagle-Tribune. Both papers broke the story on July 29.

The T&G's, by Kathleen Shaw, has slid into the paper's paid archives, but the Eagle-Tribune's, by Meg Murphy, is still online for free here.

No comments: