Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Donohue Blames the Messenger

And uses illogical arguments to do it. Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, is mad as hell that people are daring to criticize the pope for moving pedophiles from parish to parish to find new victims instead of turning them in to the police. And he’s spewing logical fallacies as fast as he can in his latest tirade on the subject:

Seldom have I seen such delirium over an innocent man, namely Pope Benedict XVI. Christopher Hitchens, the rabid atheist, wants to know why the European Union is allowing the pope to travel freely. Perhaps he wants the pope handcuffed at the Vatican and brought to the guillotine.

You’ve probably heard the phrase ad hominem many times. It was probably used incorrectly. Most people think that an ad hominem argument is an insult, but that is not true. And ad hominem is not an insult, it is the use of an irrelevant personal trait of one’s opponent in an attempt to tear down the argument he’s making. And the reference to Hitchens being a “rabid atheist” is a textbook example of an ad hominem.

His being an atheist, rabid or otherwise, has exactly nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of the position Hitchens is taking on this issue. His being an atheist does not change a single fact in the situation, nor does it indict the logic of a single argument he has made. This is an attempt to avoid engaging those arguments by reference to an irrelevant trait.

Donohue put out an ad in the New York Times that contains several false claims.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now the pope, was the head of the office that was contacted. There is no evidence that he knew of it. But even if he did, he would have had to allow for an investigation. While the inquiry was proceeding, Murphy died.

Everything in this is false. As the New York Times reports, there were multiple communications sent directly to Ratzinger about the case by American bishops and others:

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

The links in the above are to the actual letters. Ratzinger was the head of the office that dealt with such accusations against priests. There were many letters and documents sent directly to his attention. The investigation was pulled after one such letter was sent by the molester himself directly to Ratzinger. Yet Donohue claims there is “no evidence that he knew of” the situation. This is laughably absurd. Can anyone prove that he actually read all of those documents sent to his personal attention? Of course not. But he remains responsible nonetheless.

Secondly, the notion that he “had to allow an investigation” is false. The only reason he had to was because he had personally given the order and set the policy saying that the church would handle all such situations internally. That was wrong from the start. Any accusation against any priest should have been passed on to the police immediately. The accusation is of a crime, not an internal rule breaking. The police and the police alone should be investigating them.

The Times says repeatedly that Church officials did not report accusations of abuse to the police. The common response of all organizations, secular as well as religious, was to access therapy and reinstate the patient (I prefer the term offender). Today it is obvious that a more hard-line approach is necessary, though therapy is still popular in many quarters.

I have no idea what the hell he is talking about here. This is a flat out lie. Not only is it not the “common response” of any secular organization to shuttle child molesters around where they can access new victims, it is patently illegal for them to do so. Any person in a secular position of authority over children — doctor, police officer, teacher, therapist, counselor, day care provider, etc — is required by law to report to the police all evidence of child abuse. Only the church believes itself above the law and refuses to do so.

Here’s what’s really going on. The Times has teamed up with Jeffrey Anderson, a radical lawyer who has made millions suing the Church (and greasing professional victims’ groups like SNAP), so they can weaken its moral authority. Why? Because of issues like abortion, gay marriage and women’s ordination.

I’ve got news for you, Billy. The church never had any moral authority to begin with, and this situation is absolute proof of that. It is the church and only the church that has affirmatively protected child molesters and failed to turn them in to the police so they could be punished for their crimes. And that is what they are, they are crimes – not sins to be dealt with through penitence, but crimes to be dealt with through imprisonment.

Secular morality on this issue is clearly superior to the church’s values. And the church’s position on those other issues are also, in fact, profound examples of the church’s immorality.


  1. #1 Reynold
    March 31, 2010

    For Canada’s answer to Bill Donohue, read here and here.

    In case you’re wondering, he’s got about six columns about Ann Coulter, all flattering of course and boy, does he rag on those who protested against her (justifiably, but read how he over-generalizes).

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