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By Hilary White

LONDON, October 2, 2006 ( – The BBC has taken another shot at Pope Benedict XVI in its weekend program, Panorama, depicting the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as actively complicit in the homosexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church around the world in recent years. Titled “Sex Crimes And The Vatican,” the program aired on Sunday night and referred to Vatican documentsÂthat the BBC claimed ordered local prelates not to report sex offences by priests to the civil authorities.

The BBC refused toÂconsult the Catholic bishops of England and WalesÂabout the program, but since its airing, the English Church has responded forcefully to the program’s distortions.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham issued a formal statement saying that the BBC should be “ashamed of the standard of its journalism,” and called it “an unwarranted attack on the pope’s integrity.”“Viewers will recognise only too well the sensational tactics and misleading editing of the programme, which uses old footage and undated interviews,” he said.

The program began with an exposition of the harms of sexual abuse, largely homosexual predation on boys, but then quickly laid the blame on a “coverup”, the origins of which were two documents the BBC said shows the active collusion of Vatican officials, most prominently, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
  Two Vatican documentsÂare featured, the first of which was published by the then Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) in 1962. It instructed bishops on internal canonical procedures against priests accused of sexual misconduct in the context of the confessional. The second isÂa 2001 follow-up letter by Cardinal RatzingerÂwhich the BBC claims was a dark secret despite the fact that it was posted to the Vatican’s website.
  US Canonist Edward Peters said the 2001 letter was intended to clear up disputes as to which ecclesiastical offenses are considered serious enough that Rome itself, instead of the local bishop, should adjudicate what the Church should do with a priest who abuses the seal of Confession.
  In 2003 the same document was “discovered” by CBS News. CBS claimed then, as does the BBC now, that it “lays out a church policy that calls for absolute secrecy when it comes to sexual abuse by priests – anyone who speaks out could be thrown out of the church.”

In August 2003, the well-respected and left-leaning Catholic Vatican correspondent John Allen writing for the National Catholic Reporter explainedÂthe document had nothing to do with preventing bishops from reporting criminal actions of priests to civil authorities.

Allen explained the document “established a procedure for canonical cases in which priests were accused of abusing the confessional to sexually proposition penitents. Four concluding paragraphs (refer to) homosexual acts contrary to a priest’s celibate commitment. The document was not designed to address sexual abuse of minors.”

Allen went on to explain, “Crimen Sollicitationis dealt with canonical cases against a priest that could lead to removal from ministry or expulsion from the priesthood. Its imposition of secrecy thus concerned the church’s internal disciplinary process. It did not, according to canonical experts, prevent a bishop or anyone else from reporting a crime against a minor to the civil authorities.”

Last night, despite the facts, the BBC was sticking by its program’s claims. A spokesman said, “The protection of children is clearly an issue of the strongest public interest. The BBC stands by tonight’s Panorama programme, and invites viewers to make up their own minds once they’ve seen it.”

The BBC has a longstanding reputation for its adversarial attitude towards the current Pope. When, in mid-September, the Muslim world exploded in violence in response to comments Benedict made in a speech in Regensburg, Germany, traced the origins of the uproar to the BBC’s own commentary released in all the languages of the Islamic world, long before the speech itself was translated.

A blogger who writes under the pseudonym, “Joee,” the author of “Catholic Londoner,” was invited by the BBC to give his opinions on a news talk radio program. Joee told the BBC that he and his fellow British Catholics were becoming increasingly frustrated by biased media coverage of Catholic and Christian issues.

The BBC interviewer asked why so many people visited the 21 year-old’s blog posts instead of the mainstream media coverage.

Joee responded, “Catholics are fed up with this. I understand that there are some internal investigations going on within the mainstream media about some of the headlines such as ‘The Pope’s Remarks Will Draw Muslim Anger,’ as opposed to ‘The Pope’s Remarks Have Drawn Muslim Anger.’ You know there seems to have been people with their own agendas fanning the whole issue up into flames.”

Another Catholic blogger, an American and Canon Lawyer, Edward N. Peters, asked this morning in an article on the BBC’s latest anti-Papal gaffe, “Does the BBC enjoy being so far behind the fact curve?”

Peters, holder of the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair in Faculty Development at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary, writes, “Apparently the BBC thinks that if the Vatican publishes a document in 2001, (which the Catholic press reported on in early 2002), but the BBC only notices it five years later, the document must have been a deep dark Vatican secret till then. Quick, what’s British English for ‘Get real’?”

See Complete John Allen article on this issue

See the Panorama program:

Read related coverage:
  BBC, NY Times and Guardian Appear to Have Stage-Managed Muslim Anti-Pope Hatred

Read the full text of Bishop Nichols’ statement:

Read the blog Catholic Londoner:

Read Edward Peters’ article:
  Does the BBC enjoy being so far behind the fact curve?

Listen to Joee’s interview with the BBC (fast forward to 9:08:00)