Sound Off

Sunday, Feb 03 2013 03:00 AM

SOUND OFF: It's ugly but these church stories are news

BY JOHN ARTHUR Californian Executive Editor jarthur@bakersfield.com

FATHER STEVE PETERSON called to complain about the front-page treatment given Friday to the article about retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony being silenced by his bishop. He felt the story was being blown out of proportion.

ANOTHER READER wrote, in response to stories in last Sunday's paper: Is the Bakersfield Californian anti-Catholic? Are they fair and balanced? By showcasing the negative i.e. Cardinal Mahony (again) on the front page, then so called Monsignor Meth on the third page of Sunday's paper makes me wonder if this is a concerted effort to harm the church.

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The Californian welcomes your comments and suggestions. To offer your input by phone, please call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voice-mail message or send an email to soundoff@bakersfield.com. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won't be published.

Cardinal Mahoney should make news, but how much, and how often? Do we have scoundrels in the church? Indeed we do, and if they operate outside of the law then they should face full justice, but the church has 1.2 billion people with over 400,000 priests... all or most do their best to feed, clothe, and tend to the sick worldwide.

Now, back to the scoundrels...should this surprise us? Bad priests...Monsignor Meth? Ponder this: Jesus chose twelve Apostles and one was Judas. Please balance this act!

Jon Ariey

Bakersfield

ARTHUR: We certainly don't have an anti-Catholic bias; I don't have time to recount all our stories about the many wonderful things the Catholic Church does in Kern County, often by some of the most outstanding leaders in our community.

However the sex-abuse scandal has rocked the worldwide church, and retired Cardinal Mahony was part of a coverup to hide these actions from the law. His own documents, released by the church after years of requests from victims of pedophilia, confirm this.

The actions taken Thursday against Cardinal Mahony were unprecedented in the history of the American Catholic church.

It's not just me saying this.

The Associated Press reported:

"The public denouncement of Mahony was highly unusual and marks a shift from the days when members of the church hierarchy emerged largely unscathed for the roles they played in covering up clergy sex abuse, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

" 'It's quite extraordinary. I don't think anything like this has happened before,' Reese said. 'It's showing that there are consequences now to mismanaging the sex abuse crisis.' "

The Los Angeles Times wrote:

"The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and Dominican priest who has testified across the nation as an expert witness in clergy sex abuse cases, said: 'This is momentous, there is no question. For something like this to happen to a cardinal.... The way they treat cardinals is as if they're one step below God.'

"Terrence McKiernan, president of bishopaccountability.org, said that "even when Cardinal [Bernard] Law was removed in Boston, which was arguably for the same offenses, this kind of gesture was not made.'

"Law left office in 2002 amid mounting outrage over his transfer of pedophile priests from parish to parish, but the church presented his departure as of his own accord and he was later given a highly coveted Vatican job in Rome.' "

In my view, we did not overplay the story.

***

READER: I want to know why are they calling the boy who got shot at Taft Union High School a victim? Isn't he the bully? I think that needs to be investigated thoroughly. If he's considered a victim, isn't that just pandering to him? Making him the winner?

Thanks.

Ray Brondel

ARTHUR: Bowe Cleveland, the boy who was hospitalized, is a shooting victim who is lucky to be alive. No investigating official has said he was a bully and school officials have declined comment. So far these widespread reports have not risen above the level of schoolyard talk.

You can be sure that all of this is being investigated thoroughly.

***

READER: I'm writing in response to the story about the flu death of the 9-year-old girl.

I was disgusted when I read that your reporter went to the door of a house where you thought she lived and then asked for a comment. If and when the family wishes to speak to your paper, I'm sure they can pick up a phone and call.

In the meantime, pretend you have some class and leave them alone.

Susan St. Laurent

Bakersfield

READER: I just finished reading the article in the paper about the 9 year old girl that died of the flu. The one thing that really bothered me was the statement that "people who answered the door Friday evening at a home believed to be where the girl lived had no comment..."

Was a representative of the Californian really knocking on this door? I find this very rude and disrespectful to the family and outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Sheri Tipton

ARTHUR: Yes, reporters ask questions, sometimes in difficult circumstances. In a case such as this we are neither rude nor intrusive, but the attempt to ask gives grieving people a chance to say something positive, perhaps in this case about the girl who died. If they don't want to talk we go away.

You would be surprised to learn how many times those grieving parents open the door and pour out their hearts about how wonderful their child was. When that happens we communicate those sentiments to readers.

It happened the next day when we were told, by one of their friends here, of a Bakersfield family which had moved to Missouri only to have their house burn down and kill their autistic teenage son.

We called and the boy's mother gave us a lengthy interview, describing their move, their new home, the sadness and the support they had received both there and from friends back here. It showed that the family had plenty of support as they go through this horrible time. This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms

and compliments or ask questions about news coverage. Your questions --

which may be edited for space -- are answered each Sunday by Executive

Editor John Arthur.

On the web:

Follow John Arthur on Twitter @BakoEditor

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