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Catholic paper slams secular paper on sexual abuse coverage

In a David and Goliath attack on the weekend, the Catholic newspaper in Western Australia, The Record, trained all its guns on the main secular newspaper in the State, The West Australian, over its coverage of the release of a document from Rome on how sexual abuse and other grave offences are to be dealt with. The attack began on page 1 with the headline "Media Abuse" in response to The West's "Priest Abuse", continued on page 3 with a column by column analysis of where The Record believed The West got it wrong and finished with an editorial (see opinion) ripping into the editorial in The West.

Following is the text of the page three analysis of where The Record argued the coverage in The West was inadequate...

THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM

These are the steps by which The West Australian created in the minds of readers the false impression that the Church is seeking to bypass the police and civil courts in cases of paedophilia.

COLUMN ONE of The West's front page story reports that the Church's document has made no mention of informing civil authorities such as police.

COLUMN TWO Police Minister Michelle Roberts: The Church should encourage and assist victims to lodge complaints of paedophilia with the police. "I just cannot see why the Church thinks it is thoroughly equipped to deal with paedophilia rather than referring the complaints to the criminal justice system," Mrs Roberts said.

COLUMN THREE quotes Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock: But it would be a criminal offence to destroy any evidence that could lead to the prosecution of an individual for a criminal offence.

COLUMN FOUR quotes Norman Johnston: "It's not the priest's job or the bishop's job or the Pope's job to investigate paedophilia -- it's for the law enforcement agencies who are empowered to take action against criminals.

THE MISSING LINK

COLUMN THREE: Archbishop Hickey is reported, but The West omitted these two crucial sentences: "If the alleged abuse is criminal, the complainant is helped to report the matter to Police if they wish to. If the Police are involved. there is no concurrent investigation by the Professional Standards Committee." It is hard to see how the rest of the story could have been published if these two sentences from the Archbishop's written statement had been used.

JUST MAYBE....

If The West had read its own last paragraph with an open mind. it might have recognised the acknowledgment of "these serious crimes". and it might have recognised that "sanctions" against a priest and "pastoral care" are actually Church matters.

COMPOUNDING THE MISTAKE

All but two of the letters published by The West on this subject up to last Wednesday 16 January used the papers false impression as justification for attacks on the Church. The others clarified the situation but that was not enough to stop the flow of criticism.

SOURCE
The Record


21-Jan-02