The story that isn't told

Being present at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y., when Pope Benedict XVI spoke to seminarians and many other young people was an inspiring and uplifting experience for me.

Night had come when I returned to my hotel in Manhattan. I hurried across the street to a short-order restaurant, ordered a piece of New York cheesecake, a cup of coffee and then went to my room.

It was not as if I was tired. I wanted to get to my room to watch television and see what else was occurring in the Holy Father's triumphant visit to the country.

Well, believe me, I was disappointed. Furthermore, I was disgusted. It was one of the cable news networks. The woman who was anchor for this portion of the broadcast immediately brought up the sex-abuse scandal that made such a mark on the American Catholic consciousness six years ago.

This in itself did not bother me. Actually, the pope started it all by referring to the scandal in a series of speeches and by meeting a group of victims.

More power to him! So, I thought, if this attention to it all on a nationwide television broadcast will further his message of apology, reconciliation and compassion, it is a good thing.

Annoying me, however, was the fact that the commentator, from the outset, showed that she simply knew little about the matter, just a lot of hunches. How can any journalist get such an assignment on such a national news network all the while being so unfamiliar with the facts?

The next evening I was back in my room to watch the pope's Mass at Yankee Stadium. Another cable news network anchor began to talk about the scandal. The past was revisited. Youth were abused. Clergy were at fault. Bishops mishandled many cases. All this is true.

However, ignored in these broadcasts is what the Church has done, or at least what very many segments of the Church have done, since 2002.

Thank goodness that the distinguished Catholic author and thinker George Weigel was a guest on this show. He got it right. "There is no institution in the country today in which children are safer than in the Catholic Church," he said.

Amen. Hooray for George Weigel! And, hooray for all that has been done and for those who are unrelenting in making sure the Catholic Church remains the safest place in the country today for young people who might be the victims, and indeed are the victims of sex abuse, elsewhere.

I've received mail from some readers who tell me that this bishop or that religious superior is not as diligent as they should be in this regard. These charges may be true. But, even if they are, the great majority of Church authorities in this country at this moment are taking the protection of youth very seriously.

Recently, I attended a meeting of the priests of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. Much of the session was spent instructing pastors and other superiors about how to check the backgrounds of employees. I will say this: No one is even going to cut the grass if he or she has a record of harming children. This is especially true of priests.

The national conference of bishops has invested untold amounts of money to develop policies to protect children. The Holy See has conducted a comprehensive review of seminaries. Background checks of all employees, including priests, at times by outside investigators, are routine. The rule is not to allow priests to function after being accused, even before being proven guilty. Guilty priests are being removed from the priesthood. Expert studies are under way to discover why the abuse ever happened.

What should be deplored at this time is the virtual absence of news reports about the sexual abuse of youth in public schools, organizations and churches other than Catholic. The tragedy is that children are still being abused and other groups are not facing the situation as directly as the Catholic Church.

Today, this is the story. It's not just about Catholic failings.

Msgr. Owen F. Campion is the associate publisher of Our Sunday Visitor.