By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Walter Robinson on the latest church scandal

Here’s an inspired idea: ProPublica called up my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson and asked him about the burgeoning pedophile-priest scandal in Europe, which is starting to rattle the papacy itself. Robinson, as I’m sure you know, headed the Boston Globe’s investigative team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for exposing Cardinal Bernard Law’s complicity in a similar scandal.

Of particular interest are Robinson’s comments about claims that Pope Benedict did not know about what was going on in Germany when he, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was the archbishop. Robinson says:

I don’t know of any archdiocese where the archbishop or the cardinal archbishop was not kept fully informed and in most cases was not heavily involved in decision-making involving any priest who was accused of abusing minors. In every diocese in the U.S.,  including those headed by cardinals, there was personal knowledge by the cardinal archbishop when news of abuse surfaced. It was true in Boston, it was true in L.A., it was true in Chicago.

The fact we have one archbishop in Munich that claims not to know anything is enough to make one suspicious.

And not just Europe. Today the New York Times reports that the future pope had a hand in enabling and covering up for an American priest “who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.”

To paraphrase a famous question from a different time and place: What did the pope know, and when did he know it?

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  1. Peter Sullivan


    Congrats on qualifying Walter Robinson as a colleague on this one. I guess the squeaky wheel does get a little oil.

    I also think it is relevant to point out that the last Northeastern article in the Sunday Globe which you applauded carried multiple corrections.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter: As I said, I think my disclosures are numerous and prominent enough that I wasn’t going to go back and fix it, but your observation was fair for future references.

  2. Davio Van Lombirk

    Peter, you flatter yourself. Dan Kennedy routinely bends over backwards to disclose and disclaim wherever, whenever it could possibly be warranted. I guess I missed the exchange, but I take it he neglected to do so in some borderline case, you called him on it, and he graciously deferred to your judgement.

    Well, congratulations. But if you were more familiar with his work, you’d know it was a rare exception.

  3. L.K. Collins

    Mr. Van Lobrik, when Dan elects to be hypercritical, even derisive about the oversights of others, then he becomes fair game for the same sort of critique in his own offerings.

    Does Dan’s status as a associate professor of journalism insulate him from the same sort of scrutiny? Does the fact that he writes articles for The Guardian give him immunity?

    Mr. Sullivan merely points out some inconsistencies in Dan’s presentations, the same type of inconsistencies that Dan chides others for, and Mr. Sullivan applauds Dan’s willingness to look at the issue.

  4. Davio Van Lombirk

    L.K., I made no such claim. The point is, his body of work clearly shows that he consistently holds himself to the highest standard when it comes to full disclosure of relationships. Turning whatever isolated instance Monsieur Sullivan is citing here into some kind of gotcha is ridiculous, as is claiming that a squeaky wheel got some oil. There is no need to be a squeaky wheel – DK discloses when appropriate as a matter of routine. Read his work.

  5. Bill Hanna

    Let’s get back to it: If Cardinal Ratzinger didn’t know, he must have been sheltered from some very pervasive and disturbing information. Who believes that?

  6. L.K. Collins

    Dan’s body of work shows lapses of concentration.

    Even he admits it.

    Critique remains unchallenged your assertions.

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