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.
We have reported several times on the negligent reporting by the Los Angeles Times on the Catholic Church abuse scandal. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Last week, we reported on a glaring error about the scandal in an opinion article by Jason Berry.
In yesterday's Times (Sat. 11/17/07), a reader thoughtfully weighed in on this narrative in a way that the paper never has. From the Letters section:
An opinion article by author Jason Berry in Sunday's Los Angeles Times (11/11/07) claims that United States Catholic bishops "released data [in 2004] showing that they had identified about 4,400 abusive U.S. priests." The truth? That number refers to the number of priests who had allegations of abuse.
This discrepancy is significant for a number of reasons: