Defending the Indefensible

Defending the Indefensible

Defending the Indefensible

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
April 7 2010 12:59 PM

Defending the Indefensible

How do you defend the Catholic Church in the case of a pedophile priest who used the confessional to molest deaf boys for decades? It would be seemingly impossible, but Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn attempts in it this column. McGurn seems to think the party behaving immorally is the New York Times for its reporting on the case of Father Lawrence C. Murphy. McGurn acknowledges that Murphy’s getting away with sexually abusing hundreds of vulnerable boys is bad. But he defends the pathetic and ineffectual  attempts by the church, once they could no longer ignore the magnitude of his crimes, to keep Murphy away from children.

McGurn seems to have read over the passage in the story which states that the church acknowledges nothing "prohibited church officials from reporting child abuse to civil authorities." I assume if this were a story about the molestation of deaf children at a state-run school, McGurn would have hoped that a molesting teacher would be reported to law enforcement and that school officials would have done whatever they could to see that such a monster be fully prosecuted. But McGurn lamely asserts that Murphy should have been "disciplined more" by the church. The most salient point for McGurn is not that Murphy got away with ruining lives, but that in reporting this horrifying case, Times reporter Laurie Goodstein failed to point out that the lawyers representing Murphy’s victims have gotten large settlements from the church in other abuse cases. McGurn calls for "a bit of journalistic skepticism about the narrative of a plantiffs attorney making millions off these cases." I suppose it’s almost comical that a Journal columnist thinks the real story here is tort reform.

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.