CBS 'Sunday Morning' Goes After Catholic Church on Easter Sunday

On CBS's Sunday Morning, host Charles Osgood marked Easter Sunday by proclaiming: "For many Roman Catholics, the joy of this Easter is mixed with sadness over continuing charges of child abuse and of cover-ups within the Church's hierarchy." In a report that followed, correspondent Dean Reynolds declared that the scandal was "like a heavy blow to the soul."  

Reynolds went on to cite the latest accusations of abuse by a Milwaukee priest in the 1960s as mounting evidence: "damming stacks of court exhibits, documenting the abuse of predator priests...Documents, the victims say, leave a long and shameful trail." A clip was played of attorney Jeff Anderson, who was representing one of the victims: "That all trails involving the cover-up and the concealment of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics lead to Rome and the Pope."

Remarking on the "corrosive effect" of the accusations, Reynolds pointed to poll numbers on the Pope: "A new CBS News poll finds only 27% of American Catholics view Pope Benedict XVI favorably now; 55% gave him poor marks for the way he's dealt with the priest abuse scandal." The poll appeared on screen, showing that 36% were undecided, a number Reynolds failed to highlight. He also failed to mention – and the on-screen graphic did not show – the 19% who "haven't heard enough" to have an opinion on the Pope.   

Reynolds briefly noted how Church "supporters have hinted of ulterior motives at work" behind the focus on the scandal. A clip was played of former ambassador to the Vatican, Raymond Flynn: "Somehow they want us to be embarrassed about being a Catholic on Easter Sunday. I – I think that's – it's intentional. I think it's purposeful and – and I think it has to stop."

That observation didn't slow down Reynolds: "The latest disclosures and their whiff of Papal complicity could derail a new campaign to draw Catholics back to their church....At St. John de la Salle [in Chicago], Father [Michael] Knotek saw a 7% increase in church attendance. Now, he's worried that this latest wave of bad publicity will erase even those modest gains."

Following Sunday Morning, on Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer made the Church abuse scandal the subject of his end-of-the-show commentary.

Here is a full transcript of Reynolds' report:
10:15AM

CHARLES OSGOOD: For many Roman Catholics, the joy of this Easter is mixed with sadness over continuing charges of child abuse and of cover-ups within the Church's hierarchy. Dean Reynolds has this Sunday Journal.

MICHAEL KNOTEK: Let us begin in the name of the Father and of the Son-

DEAN REYNOLDS: Like priests across the country this past week, Father Michael Knotek of Chicago's St. John De La Salle Parish has absorbed the latest round of bad news like a heavy blow to the soul.

KNOTEK: A lot of people are very discouraged by that. And that's the reason why a lot of people left the Church.

REYNOLDS: He's speaking of the damming stacks of court exhibits, documenting the abuse of predator priests. Most recently, that of the late Father Lawrence Murphy in Wisconsin back in the 1960s at a school for deaf boys. Documents, the victims say, leave a long and shameful trail. Victim's attorney, Jeff Anderson:

JEFF ANDERSON: That all trails involving the cover-up and the concealment of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics lead to Rome and the Pope.

REYNOLDS: The disclosures, which ran last month in the New York Times, are having a corrosive effect. A new CBS News poll finds only 27% of American Catholics view Pope Benedict XVI favorably now; 55% gave him poor marks for the way he's dealt with the priest abuse scandal. But addressing the Wisconsin episode in Milwaukee last week, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said the blame lies elsewhere.

JEROME LISTECKI: The mistakes were made here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in the 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by church officials, and by bishops.

REYNOLDS: It's a defense the cardinals of New York and Boston have embraced, while other supporters have hinted of ulterior motives at work. Raymond Flynn is a former ambassador to the Vatican.

RAYMOND FLYNN: Somehow they want us to be embarrassed about being a Catholic on Easter Sunday. I – I think that's – it's intentional. I think it's purposeful and – and I think it has to stop.

REYNOLDS: The latest disclosures and their whiff of Papal complicity could derail a new campaign to draw Catholics back to their church.

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REYNOLDS: At St. John de la Salle, Father Knotek saw a 7% increase in church attendance. Now, he's worried that this latest wave of bad publicity will erase even those modest gains.

His own brother was molested by a priest decades ago and Father Knotek had to fight to regain his faith. He knows how hard it will be for others to do the same.

KNOTEK: 20 years ago a priest would walk down the street of any major city and people would say, 'Good afternoon, Father.' They hardly ever do that any more.

OSGOOD: Correspondent Dean Reynolds in Chicago.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC