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The missing word in the paper’s obsessive coverage of the pedophile priest scandal.
Europe and America have been rocked in recent weeks by the scandal of a Roman Catholic priest in Germany who molested children several decades ago and escaped serious punishment. But one detail has been missing.
The New York Times has run more than a dozen articles on the issue since the story first broke on March 12, under such headlines as “Memo to Pope Described Transfer of Pedophile Priest.”
The most salacious part of the story has not been details of the sexual abuse (there have been few, there being, after all, only so many ways to molest) but the posited lack of interest of the miscreant priest’s superior, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The gravamen of the story is becoming “what did the cardinal know and when did he know it.” Fair enough, perhaps. But we’ve been down this cover-up story line before, when the Times went after President Nixon. It now appears the Times is trying to pin the Watergate cover-up tail on the Vatican donkey.
The real issue is limned not only by the Times’s headline, “Memo to Pope Described Transfer of Pedophile Priest,” but also by a remark the Rev. Klaus Malangré, the Catholic Church’s personnel chief in Essen, Germany, made to the Rev. Friedrich Fahr, his counterpart in the diocese of Munich to which the offending priest, Fr. Hullermann, was being transferred. Malangré suggested to Fahr that Hullermann could be allowed to teach religion “at a girls’ school.”
At a girls’ school? Why would that be safe? Look up “pedophile” in the dictionary and you will find that it means an adult who is sexually attracted to young children. Wouldn’t the pedophile Hullermann be sexually attracted to young girl children too?
Well, he might be, if he were only a pedophile. But then what would have been the point of Malangré’s suggestion to Fahr?
Clearly, Malangré was warning Fahr that Hullermann was a homosexual.
Of course, you knew that already, somehow. But that somehow was not because the New York Times told you. The word “homosexual” does not appear a single time in all the articles the Times has run since the story first broke.
That is the curious incident in this story.
Scotland Yard detective Gregory asks Sherlock Holmes, “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” Holmes replies, “To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.” Gregory responds, “The dog did nothing in the nighttime.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
Here are four possible interpretations of the Times’s curious omission of Hullermann’s homosexuality. One, that the Times reporter didn’t know that Hullermann was a homosexual — and wasn’t curious enough to find out. Two, the editors of the Times assumed all its readers would assume Hullermann was a homosexual. Three, the people at the New York Times thought the fact irrelevant. And four, the people at the Times are in thrall to the homosexual community and didn’t want to disparage it.
One and two are implausible. If you could figure out Hullermann was a homosexual, so could a reporter for the New York Times. And since when did the newspaper of record omit an important fact just because many readers would know it anyway? Three is absurd: clearly the homosexuality of the offender would be one of the most important parts of the story.
Leaving the fourth reason: the Times made a choice to speak no ill of homosexuals.
But in fact, the third reason would probably be the one given by the Times. The people at the Times think — or say they think — that homosexuality is irrelevant to pedophilia. Bill Keller, the Executive Editor of the Times, wrote in March 2002 that “there is no known connection between homosexuality and pedophilia.”