Another cardinal says sex abuse scandal results in media campaign of persecution
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Another Latin American frontrunner to be the next pope has blasted what he calls a media campaign of persecution against the Catholic Church in the United States, responding to aggressive reporting of sex abuse scandals that have rocked American Catholicism.
The comments came from Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, 60, of Mexico City, in an interview with the prestigious Italian Catholic publication 30 Giorni. They echo remarks made to the same publication by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (NCR Dallas No. 1- 4:35 PM 6/11 TF).
Rodriguez had accused the American press of a smear campaign against the Catholic church in its relentless coverage of the sex scandals, comparing it to persecutions under Roman emperors Nero and Diocletian, as well as 20th century dictators Hitler and Stalin.
Rivera, who enjoys a reputation as an energetic pastor and a doctrinal conservative, has long been regarded as a leading candidate to succeed John Paul II. He will again take center stage when the pope visits Mexico July 30-August 2 to canonize Juan Diego, the Aztec visionary to whom, according to tradition, Our Lady of Guadalupe revealed herself.
Rivera did not mince words.
Not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world, one can see underway an orchestrated plan for striking at the prestige of the Church, Rivera said in the soon to be published interview.
Not a few journalists have confirmed for me the existence of this organized campaign, he said.
Cardinal Rodriguez expresses well the common sentiment of many of us, cardinals and bishops, in Latin America, in the context of what appears to us to be a generalized and ungenerous attack on the U.S. Church, Rivera said.
Rivera said that he is a great friend of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, and that as a Latin American he feels a special responsibility to defend the U.S. Church when under fire.
Rivera added that up to now there has been no documented denunciation alleging priestly sexual abuse of minors in Mexico.
The full text of the relevant section of the 30 Giorni interview appears below.
30 Giorni: The U.S. Church has been shaken by the dramatic problem of pedophile priests. What are the echoes in Mexico of this sad development?
Rivera: Certainly, our newspapers have also dedicated much space to these stories. We Mexican bishops have said clearly that if anyone among the faithful has knowledge of any case of this sort they can present it to the ecclesiastical authorities, and, if necessary, to the civil authorities. The church must protect and safeguard the victims of these horrible crimes. Up to now, however, as far as I am aware, there has not been any documented denunciation in this sense.
30 Giorni: Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga referring to the case of pedophile priests and, more specifically, to the treatment by the mass media to which the U.S. church and above all the cardinal of Boston, Bernard Law, has been exposed, used very clear words. In the interview published in the last issue of 30 Giorni, he spoke openly of persecution, condemning the scandalous fashion in which the U.S. mass media have followed the story
Rivera: Not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world, one can see underway an orchestrated plan for striking at the prestige of the Church, for disqualifying the Church. Not a few journalists have confirmed for me the existence of this organized campaign. In the interview which Cardinal Rodriguez conceded, he expresses well in this regard the common sentiment of many of us, cardinals and bishops, in Latin America, in the context of what appears to us to be a generalized and ungenerous attack on the U.S. Church. I also believe that those of us who are the closest to the United States have a special responsibility to protest and reject the attempt now underway to annul the prestige and moral image of the U.S. Church. We Mexicans, for example, were able to count on their understanding and aid when we were in difficulty. Few realize that it was due to the generosity of the U.S. Church that, during the pontificates of Pius XI and Pius XII, the construction and support and of a large national seminary of Montezuma was made possible in New Mexico, where the Mexican Church was able to form its priests when doing so had been prohibited in our own country by the civil authorities during the persecutions.
30 Giorni: Do you known Cardinal Law personally?
Riverra: Not only do I know him, but he is a great friend. He is a first class person, a true pastor, of solid doctrine. He was born in Torreón, in our country, and thus, in a certain sense, he is also our countryman. We in Mexico like him very much.
30 Giorni: Do you believe, as Cardinal Rodriguez said, that Cardinal Law is the victim of media persecution?
Riverra: Its not just a campaign of media persecution against him, but, I repeat, against the entire Church. Certainly the men of the Church have their defects, their sins, like everyone. If necessary, and after a regular process, they must suffer the eventual canonical censures and the civil penalties that they deserve. But this does not authorize anyone to put into effect a generalized program of ferocious persecution against the U.S. Church. Reviewing church history, one can see that many persecutions started precisely with the moral delegitimization of its members and of its hierarchy, with the aim of disqualifying the Church and dismantling its prestige. This is what happened in the early centuries of Christian history, with Nero for example. This is what happened in the past century with the persecutions in Mexico, in Spain, in Nazi Germany and in communist countries. It is this that seems to be happening today in the United States.
30 Giorni: Certain media outlets in the United States criticized Cardinal Rodriguez for his statements. E.J. Dionne Jr., noted columnist for the Washington Post, and Tom Fox, publisher of the Catholic weekly National Catholic Reporter, have written that after what he said, the Honduran cardinal can no longer be considered papabile.
Riverra: Archbishop Rodríguez Maradiaga, as a cardinal, is always papabile, as are naturally all the members of the Sacred College. Fortunately, in a conclave, which I hope will not happen for a long time, only the cardinals will participate, and not those gentlemen whose overly aggressive opinion in this regard I firmly believe will not be taken into consideration.
John L. Allen Jr. is NCRs Vatican correspondent. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
National Catholic Reporter, July 19, 2002