BY STAFF REPORTER
THE CANADIAN Conference of Catholic Bishops has criticised press coverage in two Canadian newspapers suggesting that the Catholic Church has responded to the sexual abuse crisis inadequately.
The statement pointed to articles published in the National Post and LaPresse which, the bishops said, were inaccurate and offended Canadian Catholics.
The National Post published on its front page a large photo of Pope Benedict XVI, with a headline “Pope seeks repentance”. Inside, the paper included a column under the headline “The great Catholic cover-up” by Christopher Hitchens, an atheist polemicist. In his column, Hitchens called the Pope “a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime”.
Bishop Pierre Morissette of St Jerome, Quebec, president of the bishops’ conference, said the bishops “strongly deplore the tone of these articles which are offensive to Canadian Catholics and imply that the Church has not responded to the problem of sexual abuse. This is false, and the accusations are evidently influenced by prejudice”.
The bishops called the attacks in the press “unjust”, saying the Pope has “shown an example of great leadership, by apologising to victims and by supporting the initiatives of bishops to prevent future cases of abuse”.
The bishops noted that their own position on child sexual abuse had been clear for years, recalling their 1992 report From Pain to Hope. It recommended that bishops respond fairly and openly to allegations of abuse, offer assistance to victims and respect the jurisdiction of civil authorities.