Several media outlets on Sunday did their best to cast doubt on the legacy of Pope John Paul II as the Catholic Church beatified the late pontiff. NPR highlighted how the pope apparently "alienated many Catholics who began leaving the church in droves." CNN brought on a liberal theologian who claimed that John Paul II "led us backwards rather than forward." NBC played up the "avalanche of claims of sexual abuse by priests" during his papacy.
On Sunday's All Things Considered, Sylvia Poggioli, NPR's Rome-based senior European correspondent, turned to "investigative journalist" Jason Berry midway through her report, who blasted John Paul on his handling of the priestly sex abuse issue: "Someone who was so fearless in his confrontation with the communist empire, I for one do not understand how he could not have engaged in the same fearless introspection about the church internal." More than 3 years earlier, Berry, with the assistance of the Los Angeles Times, falsely claimed in a November 2007 opinion piece that the American bishops "had identified about 4,400 abusive U.S. priests," when that figure is actually the number of priests who faced allegations.
All three broadcast networks reported allegations of abuse by Catholic priests during their nightly news programs on March 25. But none of them provided an objective report.
ABC, CBS and NBC ran a combined total of 13 sound bites from victims and victim advocates, who claimed the Catholic Church, and Pope Benedict XVI in particular, covered up sexual abuse by Father Lawrence Murphy.
They alleged that Murphy abused 200 boys at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee, WI, throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Only NBC's report included a defender of the church: George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Time magazine’s senior editor Amy Sullivan, who, like most of her peers in the mainstream media, is an amateur when it comes to religion, twice implied in May that the pro-life Catholics in the U.S. who are upset about President Obama’s recent commencement address at Notre Dame are more Catholic than Pope Benedict XVI. In a May 16, 2009 article on Time.com, Sullivan, the former aide to Democrat Tom Daschle, and the author of an entire book on how Democrats could appeal to Christians, snarked that the Pope “may find his next trip to the U.S. dogged by airplanes overhead trailing banners with images of aborted fetuses,” due to his purported silence on the matter.
Less than a week later on May 21, after outlining on Time’s “Swampland” blog that the semi-official Vatican news has been “calm” and “fairly positive” towards the Democratic president, “in stark contrast to the furious reaction of many conservative Catholics here,” the editor quipped, “Uh, oh. It sounds like the Vatican newspaper ‘doesn’t understand what it means to be Catholic.’” Sullivan, like the rest of the media, was also selective in the articles she chose to emphasize from the newspaper.