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Gerald T. Slevin, Philly Abuse Trial: More HBO Than MSNBC?

Jerry Slevin has sent another strong statement about the situation in Philadelphia, where, as he notes, the ongoing seamy revelations in the trial of Msgr. Lynn have become more HBO than MSNBC–though as Jerry notes, the American mainstream media appear to a great extent to remain reluctant to deal with the abuse story, even as they give the U.S. Catholic bishops extensive face-time to spread talk about their “religious liberty” crusade. 

The following is Jerry’s statement:

The daily revelations, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, coming from the Philly criminal trial of Msgr. Lynn, former top aide to Cardinal Dolan’s mentor, Cardinal Rigali, are becoming increasingly sordid and shocking, much  more like HBO’s “Rome” series and Showtime’s “Borgias” series than any MSNBC or CNN news analysis.

These revelations included details of (1) a near naked children’s “Passion Play” organized by a “sick” priest, and (2) testimony under oath of two  unrelated witnesses relating to some alleged sexual misconduct with young boys involving Philly native, Bishop Michael Bransfield. He is the current treasurer of Dolan’s US bishops’ group, the USCCB, as well as head of the elite US Catholic donors’ group, the Papal Foundation.

Information and details about the Papal Foundation, with pictures of its elite members, are included in the Foundation’s annual report available at the organization’s website.  Videos of Bransfield’s and the group’s 2010 and 2011 annual  personal meetings  with the pope at the Vatican are accessible On YouTube here and here.   Some of the group’s members are also involved with other wealthy US Catholic donor groups, such as LEGATUS, FADICA, the Leadership Roundtable and the Knights of Malta.

Many of the members of these groups apparently benefit from the continuance of the Bush tax cuts favoring disproportionately the top 1% of American taxpayers. The pope’s strong efforts to replace Obama with Romney are apparently well appreciated by many of these groups’ members, since the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy will likely expire if Obama wins re-election. The pope surely is aware of this.

Bransfield this week was apparently at the groups’ annual meeting in Rome with his elite group of top 0.1% US Catholic donors, visiting the pope, when the startling allegations about him from the Philly criminal trial reached him. He denied the allegations generally in a prepared statement, but confirmed he let Fr. Stanley Gana, whom he knew from their days together at the Philly seminary, use his beach house, where one trial witness said under oath that Gana sexually assaulted him as a young minor. Gana was defrocked in 2005 for his repeated sexual misconduct with young boys.

To date, Cardinal Dolan has not publicly commented on either the allegations concerning his USCCB treasurer, Bransfield, or generally on the Philly Archdiocese role of his mentor, Cardinal Rigali. Nor has the pope, a longtime colleague of Rigali and an annual host for Bransfield.

The pope continues to be operating with an almost “siege mentality,”perhaps a throwback to his youthful experiences in the German Army at the end of World War II.

The pope has just escalated his US election struggle by expanding his earlier anti-contraceptive insurance challenge to American lay women, to now include an almost contrived doctrinal dispute against American nuns as reported in the New York Times. Some of the American nuns publicly supported Obama’s contraception insurance compromise, which upset Cardinal Dolan and apparently the pope as well. It remains to be see if these nuns will capitulate to the pope’s heavy-handedness or seek legal advice instead from civil lawyers expert in First Amendment and non-profit entity leagal matters.

The pope continues to face a possible schism in Austria as reported in this Huffington Post article. The pope is also facing similarly an Irish Church at a final crossroads, with some Irish Catholic priests apparently even being encouraged to switch to the Anglican Church of Ireland, as reported by the Belfast Telegraph.

The pope is also facing a potential uproar as he gets ready to welcome back the traditionalist group, SSPX, possibly including its controversial Holocaust-denying bishop. The potential for an uproar here has just been intensified by the recent insensitive remarks of the pope’s top Australian Cardinal Pell, including a gratuitous statement that the Germans suffered as much as the Jews in World War II, and that the “poor little Jewish people” were inferior to the ancient Egyptians and Persians as reported by the Jewish Chronicle Online.  As Betty Clermont has just noted in an article at the Open Tabernacle website, the actions the pope is taking with SSPX have to be seen against the backdrop of the Catholic church’s ongoing fascination with fascism, a theme not disconnected from the pope’s own life history.

On top of all this, the 85 year old pope is still facing possible criminal charges from the new woman prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at the Hague in The Netherlands as reported in my last posting at the Bilgrimage site.

It may be that HBO will yet turn out to give a fuller and “truer” picture of the priest sexual abuse of children scandal than either network or cable news programs are so far offering. For example, CBS’s Bob Schieffer had “His Eminence” Cardinal Dolan on “Face The Nation” recently and let Dolan “spin” non-stop the US bishops’ “religious liberty” propaganda. CBS’s Sixty Minutes also gave Dolan an earlier “softball pass,” and recently featured Dublin’s Archbishop Martin, who gave an Emmy Award winning performance. Unfortunately, the Irish abuse victims groups mostly don’t buy Martin’s act in Dublin

NBC’s David Gregory was almost as clueless as CBS’ Bob Schieffer about  key Catholic issues in his recent “Meet The Press” session with Archbishop Lori.

Fox News, of course, has an open “softball” invitation for any Cardinal or Bishop seeking to expound Republican supportive propaganda.

CNN recently had deceased NY Cardinal O’Connor’s nephew, a Philly victim of priest sexual abuse, on for a couple of minutes following a longer propaganda piece by the Catholic League’s well-paid apologist, Bill Donohue, who seems to think the sexual abuse crisis is ancient history.

Especially sparse in its coverage of the widespread priest abuse scandal is MSNBC, where Catholics Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell, among others,  generally duck the priest abuse epidemic, except that Philly native, Matthews, occasionally praises Riglai, Dolan and right-wing Republican ideologue, George Weigel, even though they are all actively working to defeat Matthews’ beloved Obama.

MSNBC also featured last year the ex-Pennsylvania governor, and law partner of one of Philly Archbishop Chaput’s top lawyers on abuse matters, offering his praise of the Philly District Attorney who is opposing his law partner. How could MSNBC permit such a shabby testimonial without the ex-governor xpressly disclosing his conflicting professional interest?

The low quality and infrequency of TV’s coverage, both network and cable, of the widespread priest child abuse scandal suggests that the powerful hand of the US bishops is operating overtime with TV executives and producers. This is, in my view, a media disgrace and a betrayal of the interests of defenseless children who need to be protected from priest sexual predators.

Cross-posted at Bilgrimage, 20 April 2012.

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