Entertainment Tonight Whacks Pope Benedict and His 'Stained' Legacy

Tuesday's Entertainment Tonight ran quite the hit piece on Pope Benedict, promoting the distorted anti-Catholic documentary on the clerical abuse scandals and revisiting ABC reporter Brian Ross's 2002 confrontation with then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

"Then he slapped me like this on the wrist as if I were a schoolboy, asking an impertinent question," Ross recalled, when he rudely accosted Ratzinger on the streets of Rome about the abuse scandals. "When I got slapped, it actually stung. And I was surprised. I've been hit before by others. But generally crooks," he self-righteously gushed. Has Ross shown such scrutiny toward the embattled Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)? Nope.

That led into a promotion of HBO's new documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa," criticized as a distorted and biased "anti-Catholic broadside." For instance, ET showed a clip of a man claiming that Benedict didn't punish or order the trial of the notorious Fr. Marcial Maciel, even though he authorized the investigation into Fr. Maciel as a cardinal and later as pope removed him from public ministry and ordered him to a life of prayer and penance.

The segment also featured attorney Jeffrey Anderson who has repeatedly sued the Catholic church for decades over the scandals. "There is an enormous worldwide conspiracy. A coverup at the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church," he said, adding that "And now they're feeling some heat. And it's that kind of heat that I think has really accounted for in part the resignation of this pope."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on Entertainment Tonight on February 12 at 7:50 p.m. EST, is as follows:

ROB MARCIANO: Yesterday we told you Pope Benedict XVI was resigning because of his advanced age and that there could be more to the story. Today we spoke to investigative reporter Brian Ross. He confronted the supreme pastor when he was still a cardinal about the Catholic Church's child molestation scandal that now stains his legacy as Pope.

BRIAN ROSS, ABC News chief investigative correspondent: (voice over) We waited outside. We saw the Mercedes pull up with the Swiss Guards. But then when I began to ask him questions about the victims, he became very, very upset.

(Video Clip)

ROSS: There's a question whether you covered up –

JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER: (Unintelligible)

ROSS: There's a question whether you --

RATZINGER: Come to me when this moment is given. Not yet.

(End Video Clip)

ROSS: Then he slapped me like this on the wrist as if I were a schoolboy, asking an impertinent question.

MARCIANO: Ross slapped by the future pope. It was 2002, and the ABC News veteran was trying to get answers about a sex abuse coverup.

(Video Clip)

ROSS: Well, we tried to ask a question –

(End Video Clip)

ROSS: When I got slapped, it actually stung. And I was surprised. I've been hit before by others. But generally crooks.

MARCIANO: The confrontation is part of a new HBO documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In the House of God." It was the case of Cardinal Maciel, who not only abused children but was said to be a morphine addict with two mistresses and four children. A big fund raiser for the church, he was very close to Pope John Paul II.
 
ROSS: He died later and it came out that he had a number of children. He had abused both boys and young girls under his control for years. And was protected by someone inside the Vatican.
 
MARCIANO: With John Paul's death the new pope quickly investigated. But without much effect.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Did Benedict order his trial? Did Benedict punish him in any way? No.
 
MARCIANO: The film implies that the pope, rather than being wholly ignorant of the abuse scandals, was once at the epicenter of the Vatican's information gathering on the subject.

UNIDENTFIED MAN: Ratzinger put out this teaching approved by John Paul II that said every sex abuse case that involves a minor, they all come to my desk.

MARCIANO: Those documents are said to be kept in secret Vatican archives.

JEFF ANDERSON: There is an enormous worldwide conspiracy. A coverup at the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church.

MARCIANO: For 28 years Jeff Anderson and associates has sued the Pope and the Catholic Church on behalf of hundreds of sex abuse victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One of our heroes.

MARCIANO: Anderson told ET that he watched the documentary with sadness and hope.

ANDERSON: And now they're feeling some heat. And it's that kind of heat that I think has really accounted for in part the resignation of this pope.

MARCIANO: The church has said they hope to have a new pope in place by Easter, which is March 31st.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014