The New York Post’s headline on Jan. 18, “Vatican Orders Cardinal Dolan to Probe Bishop DiMarzio Sex Abuse Allegation,” immediately caught my attention.
I spotted how the story was lacking context and omitted important facts that would give readers a clear picture of what is going on. Unfortunately, other news publications picked up the Post’s story, also leaving out the important details.
As you may have read on page six of this edition of The Tablet, Christopher White’s article adds clarity for Catholic readers. I don’t expect the secular press to have deep knowledge of every protocol and rule of the Catholic Church, but the facts are the facts. All too often, today’s media is too quick to report stories, without doing the necessary research and fact-checking.
The Post’s headline leads the reader to believe that the Vatican made a spontaneous decision to have Cardinal Dolan investigate an allegation against Bishop DiMarzio. That is not true. Under rules set forth by Pope Francis in his apostolic letter “Vos estis lux mundi” last May, metropolitan bishops are in charge of investigating allegations against bishops in their suffragan dioceses. What is taking place is part of a protocol that had already been established.
On the other hand, and to be fair, the Post article does include Bishop DiMarzio’s comments on the original allegation: “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation […] I am confident I will be fully vindicated.”
It also quotes from the diocese’s recent statement: “Bishop DiMarzio is recognized as a leader in the fight against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church […] Bishop DiMarzio looks forward to the investigation of the allegation made against him and having his good name cleared and restored.”
The argument can be made that those quotes show a desire for fairness and objectivity. Still, the story doesn’t give the reader the full picture. Two weeks before the allegation against Bishop DiMarzio was published, the article says, the bishop “concluded an investigation of the Buffalo diocese’s handling of sexual abuse cases. Garabedian called the Buffalo probe ‘tainted’ in light of Matzek’s claims.” Mitchell Garabedian is the lawyer representing Mark Matzek, the person accusing Bishop DiMarzio of abuse in the 1970s.
Garabedian is suing the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y. At the time he announced the pending lawsuit against Bishop DiMarzio, he made the same allegations against the integrity of Bishop DiMarzio’s apostolic visitation to that diocese. At that time, in this very column, I wrote: “Garabedian, of course, doesn’t know what the result of Bishop DiMarzio’s investigation in Buffalo will be. Bishop DiMarzio concluded his investigation before Garabedian’s intentions to file a lawsuit became known.”
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo resigned after the apostolic visitation.
Also, in the Post’s Jan 18 article, Garabedian is quoted as saying he hopes Cardinal Dolan’s investigation against Bishop DiMarzio is done in “a thorough, fair and impartial manner.” However, there is no mention that despite announcing he would file a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., and Bishop DiMarzio in December, no suit to date has been filed. Why would that important fact be left out of the story?
It’s those shortfalls in the secular press that make Catholic journalism vital in telling the true story of the church. The Tablet remains committed to covering all facets of the church, fairly and objectively. When it comes to reporting on the abuse crisis, we do it as our duty as journalists and because we are in pursuit of the truth. Reporting some of the details is difficult, and at times painful, but we all need to be willing to present facts objectively and fairly.