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CNN Rehashes Old Charges in Attack on Pope Benedict

Contact: Christine Valentine-Owsik, Valentine Communications, For: Our Sunday Visitor, 215-230-8095, COwsik@osv.com; John Norton, Editor, Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, 260-359-2536, JNorton@osv.com

HUNTINGTON, Ind., Sept. 24 /Christian Newswire/ -- A preview of a CNN special set to air Sept. 25 and 26 is another clumsy attempt to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church, according to authors of a recent book investigating the charges against the pope.

Gregory Erlandson and Dr. Matthew Bunson, authors of Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2010), said that the news network has rehashed old charges already discredited by a variety of reports, including their own. The one-hour special was previewed on CNN's Belief Blog Sept. 23.

"How exactly does CNN have so little journalistic integrity that it can repeat inaccuracies that were widely debunked seven months ago, and for which there is clear, incontrovertible documentary evidence available?" Erlandson and Bunson asked.

The show focuses on the terrible case of Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest who is alleged to have molested some 200 deaf children in Milwaukee in the 1950s and 1960s. It is based in part on dozens of internal Church documents obtained by The New York Times earlier this year from a lawyer intent on suing the Vatican. The Times article, headlined "Vatican declined to defrock priest who molested boys," sought to portray then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as obstructing the prosecution of the priest in the late 1990s.

But Erlandson and Bunson say those same documents demonstrate unequivocally that the Vatican in fact had approved the belated effort of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to investigate the charges and proceed with a Church trial. When word was received that Father Murphy was seriously ill, a Vatican official working for then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger recommended that to expedite the process, the priest be stripped of any ministerial duties. Father Murphy died shortly after that recommendation was made.

"While the Murphy case is a glaring example of the poor oversight and inadequate communication that typified many abuse cases in the U.S. dioceses in the past 50 years," said Erlandson and Bunson, "it does not show Cardinal Ratzinger in any way tolerant of, or insensitive to, the actions of abusers."

Indeed, the current archbishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Jerome Listecki, has acknowledged that "the mistakes [regarding the Murphy case] were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997, and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the church, by civil authorities, by church officials and by bishops."

Although there have been sound rebuttals of The New York Times article since it first publicized the documents, CNN's "Special Investigations Unit" stuck with the debunked storyline.

"There is an important story here to be told about the Church's attempt to address the abuse scandal, but getting to it will require news organizations to strip off ideological blinders and pay closer attention to the facts," Erlandson and Bunson said.

Erlandson and Bunson have posted a document by document rebuttal of CNN's take on the Murphy case on their blog at www.osv.com/abusecrisis.

Their book, Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis, has been featured in USA Today, Fox News, and in many radio, web and print media outlets. It is available at Amazon.com or at www.osv.com.

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