We have some real, live news coming out of the Vatican conference that is focusing on clergy sexual abuse of “children,” and maybe a few other kinds of victims.
It’s big news. But one or two of the most important facts in this story are still missing.
Looking at the coverage, it would appear that these holes are probably not the result of bad or shallow reporting. The holes may be intentional, in terms of a German cardinal’s remarks that were stunning, but also rather vague.
Let’s look at the top of a report in the National Catholic Reporter, which — as I typed this post at mid-day — had the most information in it. You can see the big hole right in the headline: "
Cardinal admits to Vatican summit that Catholic Church destroyed abuse files.
What, precisely, is the “Catholic Church”?
I realize that the Church of Rome is one church, with one leader in the Chair of St. Peter, but — at the level of administration and the supervision of priests — it is actually a complex network of ecclesiastic bureaucracies at the local, national and global levels. Let’s look at the overture in that story. This is long, but essential as journalists look forward:
VATICAN CITY — A top cardinal has admitted that the global Catholic Church destroyed files to prevent documentation of decades of sexual abuse of children, telling the prelates attending Pope Francis' clergy abuse summit Feb. 23 that such maladministration led "in no small measure" to more children being harmed.
In a frank speech to the 190 cardinals, bishops and heads of religious orders taking part in the four-day summit, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the church's administration had left victims' rights "trampled underfoot" and "made it impossible" for the worldwide institution to fulfill its mission.
"Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created," said Marx, beginning a list of a number of practices that survivors have documented for years but church officials have long kept under secret.