On Saturday past, I reported on my censorship by the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) here
On Saturday, NCR posted a notice that new comments would be deferred until Tuesday for the US Labor Day Weekend. Notwithstanding that notice, NCR permitted comments to be posted until this morning (Monday) by all but me, except that yesterday around 3 pm, NCR closed comments on the one article that NCR bloggers were still using to complain about NCR’s censorship policy! Some bloggers earlier yesterday were still posting censorship complaints, until NCR blocked new comments to that article.
This morning (Monday) NCR had apparently blocked access to all NCR comments, at least when I tried to access them . If this applies to others as well, NCR bloggers cannot now EVEN READ their own or others’ prior comments, including the comments made last week by numerous bloggers objecting to NCR’s censorship approach.
Now (Monday afternoon) an NCR notice has been posted on BishopAccountability (just above my remarks here) saying no comments will be permitted on Labor Day Weekend, even though they had already been permitted for the first two days of this three day weekend. It appears NCR is trying to undercut my remarks, but is doing so in an amateurish and misleading way. This is very troubling, but just shows how NCR currently is operating.
Does NCR think it can just duck its censorship critics with gimmicks like this? Will this creeping censorship ever end? At least for today, I may not be alone in being “banned” from expressing my views at NCR. Will you be the next blogger to be banned by NCR?
While I can only guess at present as to NCR’s reasons for banning me, we have had a longstanding disagreement over calling for a US Presidential Commission to investigate institutional child sexual abuse.
I think such a US national commission is urgently needed and that NCR’s editors should publicly support this approach if they are really serious about curtailing priest abuse of children.
NCR’s editors have failed to pursue this and I have pressed them strongly about it over a long period. I am convinced by my experience and reading that this is the only way to compel the Catholic hierarchy to curtail priest child abuse effectively and transparently. The hierarchy will not do so adequately on their own, which should be evident by now to any objective observer.
Fr. Thomas Doyle and many others have supported my call for a US national commission. If priest child abuse is not effectively curtailed, other purported Vatican structural and doctrinal reforms can never be enough, in my opinion.
My position on the absolute priority of protecting kids from priest predators has led me to challenge NCR on other related issues and at times to criticize NCR’s coverage and approach to many matters. Since I am a trained advocate, I assume this may make some NCR editors uncomfortable at times. So be it.
NCR is by this point a Catholic community resource, not anyone’s personal possession. I have also pressed at times on similar issues reporters for AP, the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Irish Times, the LA times, Der Spiegel, et al. I have no particular ax to grind with NCR.
Of course, NCR could always delete specific comments of mine they find objectionable, and they have. I don’t like that, but accept it reluctantly. Banning me is another matter, however. This undermines the basic concept of a free discussion community for all, not just for me.
NCR had earlier cut off my access to comments temporarily many months ago because by e-mail I called them out for failing to press for a US national commission. I copied my e-mail in to some of NCR’s competitors, which likely embarrassed some at NCR. Again, so be it. Instead of banning my message, they should at least respond to it first.
As adults, protecting children is more important than our individual comfort levels and professional turfs, in my opinion. Months later, I tried accessing NCR again and got my comments through with no discussion from NCR, until I was summarily and unexpectedly blocked two weeks ago.
Many of you know I can be sharp in some my comments. It is intentional when I am sharp as an advocate. My frustration with the whole blogging process is that it can be “aimless” at times. As a retired lawyer, I am accustomed to evaluating a problem, choosing what seems to be the best solution and then pursuing it diligently with a consistent strategy unless and until a better strategy appears. Waiting for miracles from Pope Francis is not a strategy.
When either I am attacked by others, as happens at times, or I see others going way off track, I react sharply to try to keep the focus on the strategy and goal that seems to me most likely to succeed. I am not running for any office or prize. Curtailing priest child abuse is a very serious matter. In my view, it warrants and requires a focused and persistent strategy. NCR has a large and specific audience that I had hoped would read and reflect on my position fairly.
For many, NCR is a welcoming and open chat room, which is good and proper, of course. For me, it is mainly an opening to a larger audience that might help support the action that I think is necessary to protect children. While I am Irish and like to chat, that is not my main reason for commenting on NCR, obviously.
For some time, I have been convinced that only a US national commission can get the Vatican and the US bishops to conform to the rule of law that is intended to protect defenseless children, but now evaded by the Catholic hierarchy enabled by their unlimited lawyers, lobbyists and publicists. I hear often of other views as to alternate approaches, of course, but so far none of them seem as likely to succeed in curtailing abuse as well and as soon as a US national commission.
I no longer have to wonder if a US national commission is really the best approach. Australia’s national commission is making my case better than I ever imagined. For example, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia today published two major research reports by the Australian Institute of Criminology:
* History of child sexual abuse offences in Australia
* Brief review of contemporary sexual offence and child sexual abuse legislation in Australia.
These studies, and the Royal Commission’s continuing and thorough investigation of, and hearings about, child abuse in various religious institutions, especially in the Catholic Church, show what can be done to protect children from priest perverts when politicians listen to their constituents. Over 90% of Australians in polls support the Royal Commission’s work.
NCR and SNAP have both given favorable attention to the Australian national commission approach, but have failed, for no good reason I can think of, to call for a similar commission approach in the USA.
For a brief update on Australia’s Royal Commission, please see:
The investigation of Cardinal Pell and other religious leaders of several denominations in Australia confirm in detail the shameful patterns of cover-ups that are also repeatedly being uncovered in US Catholic dioceses and other religious institutional settings, but only in a random and inadequate way.
In both countries, the key role of the Vatican in orchestrating some of the Catholic cover-ups is sadly too evident.
It is, in my view as a grandparent, a citizen and a lawyer, a true disgrace that such a commission is not now working actively in the USA. If sincere Catholics, including NCR, want to curtail priest child abuse, then they have to press for the necessary means available to do so. A US Presidential Commission is that means.
As in Australia, the US Catholic hierarchy and their apologists have opposed, often in subtle ways, a US national commission. Why? That should be obvious to anyone who has followed the Catholic hierarchy’s cover-up and stonewalling to date, even under Pope Francis.
For a good recent overview of the current situation, please see Tom Doyle’s outstanding essay here:
Incidentally, Tom Doyle’s essay had been e-mailed to an NCR editor before it was forwarded to me. In my view, NCR should have published the essay promptly, as they earlier had published other essays by Tom Doyle. When I saw that that didn’t happen timely under the current NCR management, I published it on my own modest blog.
Fortunately, BishopAccountability/AbuseTracker then picked up my blog posting, giving Tom’s foundational essay some wider distribution. NCR’s much larger readership, however, would clearly have benefited greatly from Tom’s superb, unique and timely essay that was available, it appears, to NCR without expense.
What is critically at stake now with NCR, however, is not my ability to comment there, since I can comment at Bilgrimage and elsewhere. I can also continue with my direct advocacy with key journalists worldwide, which has been more successful and efficacious than my NCR blogging efforts.
What is at stake is protecting kids now more effectively, despite Catholic hierarchical resistance seemingly effected through media outlets like NCR and elsewhere. Priest child abuse is not just one of many issues facing Catholics. It is the highest priority issue. If Catholics cannot get their leaders to protect Catholic children adequately, they should find another place to worship. Kids deserve no less.
Unless and until Catholics, including those at NCR, make child protection their highest priority, no other issue can be addressed with any real credibility.
A “Good Pope” who is unwilling to hold bishops accountable for child abuse cover-ups is a contradiction in terms. So far after almost a year and a half, Francis has mostly just talked about curtailing priest sexual abuse and holding their bishops accountable, just like his two predecessors did for a quarter century. So bring on the US Presidential Commission, President Obama, for God’s sake and kids’ sake.
Other groups adversely affected by the Catholic hierarchy’s misdeeds, including women, gay and divorced persons, couples, et al., all deserve our strong support surely. Many of them, however, can also defend themselves to some extent. Children cannot, which is why they must remain a priority for all Catholics and others of good will, no matter what NCR does or doesn’t do now or in the future.