CNN Continues Slanted Coverage of Catholic Church

Lisa Miller, Newsweek Religion Editor; Jessica Yellin, CNN Correspondent; & Father Jim Martin, SJ; America Magazine; NewsBusters.orgJessica Yellin continued CNN's biased coverage towards Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church, and the sex abuse scandal on Friday's Campbell Brown program. After replaying a report from Tuesday on one dissenting priest's call for the Pope's resignation, Yellin misleadingly asked, "Why is he [the Pope] having such a hard time saying he's sorry?" She also brought on two liberals to discuss the scandal.

Before the replay of correspondent Mary Snow's report on Father James Scahill's public call for Benedict XVI's resignation at 26 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour, Yellin, who was filling-in for anchor Campbell Brown, noted that "just yesterday, in a rare reference to the scandal, the Pope called for penitence for the Church's sins. But for some, penitence is not enough." After Snow's report, the substitute anchor read a promo for the upcoming segment, which included the "why is he having such a hard time saying he's sorry" claim.

That is an irresponsible question on the part of Yellin. Just under a month ago, the Pope did make such an apology in his pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, directly addressing the victims of the abuse: "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured....It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel." Two years ago, in April 2008, he met with some of the victims of abuse during his visit to the U.S., and addressed the scandal during a homily in New York City. Later that year, he apologized again, this time for the sex abuse in Australia while he visited that country.

After a commercial break, the CNN personality brought on Newsweek's religion editor Lisa Miller and Father Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor for America magazine. Miller has spent her time recently bashing the Pope, the Catholic Church, and labeling Jesus "cranky." Martin, during one of his last appearances on CNN, stereotyped the pro-life movement. The two guests generally agreed on how the Pope and the Church should handle the scandal in the future during the segment. Unsurprisingly, the Newsweek editor pushed her radical feminist plan for Catholicism towards the end of the discussion, despite only mentioning her endorsement of the ordination of women in passing.
YELLIN: Father Martin, let's start with you. The Pope, as we say, is taking a trip to Malta. There's calls for him to meet with the men who allege abuse. We don't know if he will. The question is, should he?

MARTIN: Well, I think he always should try to apologize. The question is whether or not they're going to allow him to fit it into his schedule. But I think any opportunity for the Pope or any bishop to apologize for abuse to victims is an important thing.

YELLIN: Let me put the same question to you, Lisa. If they can fit it into his schedule- really?

MILLER: Right. I mean, if I were advising the Pope, I would say, fly to Ireland, land there, say you're sorry as many times as you possibly can. That's where 15,000 kids were abused, and make as big an effort as you can to show penitence.

YELLIN: So yesterday- I'll ask you, Father- the Pope said that we as Christians- I want to read the quote exactly- realize that it's necessary to repent. We as Christians need to repent. Why is he so vague, and do you think he needs to come right out and say we take responsibility- I take responsibility?

MARTIN: Yeah, absolutely- I mean, I think it's important to not speak in sort of vague generalities, but to apologize- you know, for what he has done, if he has done anything that has been improper, in terms of handling these cases. But more specifically, the bishops that move these priests around need to say I'm sorry, and also need to, as the Pope said, do real penance- you know, resignations, sort of something that's public that will show people that they're truly sorry. So, I think, a real sign of penance is very important.

YELLIN: Really? So mass resignations- do you agree?

MILLER I agree, and I also think that America has a really good precedent for this. This happened to us- you know, eight years ago. We have protocols. We have disciplines. We have audits. We have ways of dealing with this, and if the Vatican would look to the American church and ask Americans for help, they would be doing themselves a big favor.

YELLIN: Let me back up and ask you another question. I'm a political reporter. I cover Washington. I am used to people dealing with scandal, and the- like, the 101 is confess, apologize, be up-front. Is part of the problem here that this Vatican has a tin ear when it comes to P.R.?

MILLER: Definitely- I was talking to a P.R. guy about this yesterday, and saying just what you said, and he said- look, this is more than a P.R. problem. This is a management problem. These guys are too decentralized and they're not talking to each other. They need to fix their management problem, and then they'll get rid of their P.R. problem.

YELLIN: Father, is there more than P.R. here? Is there a problem with a bunker mentality inside the Vatican, and if so, is it possible to change?

MARTIN: I think it is possible the change. It will take a long time. I think there's what you would call a clerical culture. There's a culture that, for many years, for centuries, has put the concerns of priests sometimes over the concerns of the most vulnerable. You know, we saw that when bishops weren't listening to victims and victims' families, and privileging the priests sometimes. So, you have to change this whole clerical culture, and you have to open it up, make it less about power and less about secrecy.

YELLIN: How do you do that?

MARTIN: With great difficulty, particularly because- you know, you have so many of these bishops and cardinals who were trained in a particular way to think of the Church as- sort of sinless, and to avoid scandal at every cost, which means that they try to set some of these things aside. So, with great difficulty, but I want to say that- you know, all the bishops and archbishops that I know are horrified by this and want to change it. It's just a question of changing the culture.

YELLIN: Moving the bureaucracy too.

Let me ask you, Lisa. You've written about women in the Church. This is a topic we've heard a lot about. How- do you think this would have been handled differently, or would the abuse probably haven't even occurred to this extent if women were in power?

MILLER: I firmly believe that more women in the culture, and not necessarily priests- we can leave aside the question of women's ordination- but more women in the culture as powerful leaders in the hierarchy, as chancellors in dioceses- you know, with positions of power, would have exposed these guys to families and kids and- you know, the kind of messiness that happens when- you know, you're not all the same and you're not all thinking the same way. And so, I think that would have made a big improvement.

YELLIN: All right. Thanks for being here.
Since the end of March, CNN has regularly aired biased segments against the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. On March 26, anchor Kyra Phillips brought on three guests who all called for radical changes inside the Church. Both Anderson Cooper and Larry King brought on noted anti-Catholic Sinead O'Connor. CNN commentator Jack Cafferty has devoted five commentaries over 20 days during March and the first half of April to bashing Benedict XVI and the Church. Besides Mary Snow's report, the network highlighted Father Scahill 's call for the Pope's resignation two other times on Tuesday.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center