I have to admit that I'm getting a little uncomfortable with this business of defending ourselves against the "attacks" of the New York Times and others in the secular press. I love Benedict XVI, and an examination of his ministry shows that he has done an immense amount of work--especially at the CDF--against the legacy of negligence with regard to the child abuse and other sexual misconduct of the clergy. But we can't give the world the idea that we feel we are being attacked in complete unfairness.
Yes, we should calmly point out when matters of fact are distorted. Yes, we should try to show how we have made our ministries and institutions safe for children. But we have to admit that crimes have been committed, and the negligence of bishops and superiors have allowed them. Bishops too have to admit that there the roots of their own failures go deep. The homosocial world of seminaries and presbyterates in which they themselves grew up sometimes had a power structure of the patron and client culture, a culture that can sometimes edge into crypto-erotic and even the genital. Behavior which is an abuse of power and a crime against the developmental flourishing of a child might have been more or less normalized for them by their own upbringing in the church, which is not to say that they were comfortable with it. There are culturally embedded confusions at the root of this crisis which are not reducible to incomplete blamings of homosexuality or celibacy. Add to this The Church's persistent sin of "desiring to restore confidence rather than to restore souls," (Philip F. Lawler, The Faithful Departed, 156) and the failures of leadership are set up.
Jesus warned us that the world would hate us, and indeed it does. The world hates us because our belief and celebration of the humility of Christ in the manger and on the cross undoes all of the world's pride and addictions to violence and power. So we should not be surprised if an organ of the world like the New York Times hates us. We can't act like all of a sudden the world is going to look at us with a hermeneutic of appreciation. This is not a reason to imagine, however, that the secular media is only out to discredit and smear the Church, though they are happy to be able to do so. They all also report on facts, the sins of the church among them.
So let's use this historical moment not to get up and defend ourselves in the stance of the courageous victim, but let every cleric kneel down like the publican and express his desire to be converted from any root of these negligences and abuses that he allows to live in his heart.