My 'Popeye' moment on media coverage

We all reach that Popeye moment.  

“That’s alls I can stand ’cause I can’t stands no more!” Popeye would shout just before slurping down a can of spinach and knocking off Bluto’s block.  

I think I reached my Popeye moment when The New York Times ran a front-page story on a priest from the Diocese of Ootacamund, India, who was accused of abusing a 14-year-old girl while serving in the Diocese of Crookston, Minn.  

This was, in turn, linked to Pope Benedict XVI because ... well, there actually was no link whatsoever, but it seemed good to throw his name into the story. That’s how you get on the front page.  

Though the priest denies the allegation, I have no qualms in praying that he is thrown out of the priesthood — and thrown into jail — if he harmed a hair on the head of a 14-year-old.  

But the overkill, the media stampede on any story anywhere has reached the point of absurdity.  

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights noted that in the midst of the orgy of The New York Times stories running virtually daily for weeks, the following took place in one week — March 31 through April 6 — and received no major coverage:  

  • A Milford, Conn., teacher’s aide pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting a high school student.  
  • A Brookville, Pa., high school teacher was charged with aggravated indecent assault and sexual abuse of children.  
  • A middle-school gym teacher in Athens, N.Y., was arrested on charges of sex abuse and forcible touching.  
  • In a school district just outside Utica, N.Y., a teacher was arrested for forcibly touching a girl over a three-year period, beginning when she was 11.  
  • A former Teacher of the Year in Kentucky was indicted on sexual abuse charges.  
  • A teacher in Iowa was charged with sexually exploiting a freshman, charges similar to what the teacher faced two years ago in another district.  

I make no point that accusations of abuse within a Catholic environment, particularly abuse of a minor by a priest, is not a “story.” Hell, it’s a crime as well as a story.  

More important, I don’t care if media demands a higher standard from the Church. I expect the highest standard.  

But the journalistic lynching of the Church that is going on over tragedies that are mostly decades old while ignoring the abuse of children that is going on today screams of some other agenda at work.  

Whether it is as simple as wanting to get the pope, or a more generic desire to get the Church that says politically incorrect things about sex, abortion and same-sex marriage, there’s more to this than selling newspapers.  

In the midst of the “scandal,” the Church in the United States released the results of its latest annual independent audit to make certain that the 17-point program of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is being rigorously followed. Among the findings of the latest audit of the Church in the United States: There were six allegations of abuse of a minor under the age of 18 in a Catholic environment reported in the last year; 6 million kids — 96 percent of the enrollment — in Catholic schools underwent safe environment training; more than 2 million priests, deacons, seminarians, educators, employees and volunteers had background checks screened by public authorities.  

And, of course, the result of that audit received virtually no coverage in media.  

No other organization in the United States does more to assure that kids are safe. And no other organization gets more sensational carpet-bombing coverage than the Church.  

Cue Popeye.  

--Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.