Here’s what Ed Peters has to say.
Does the BBC enjoy being so far behind the fact curve?
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”?
Britain’s Evening Standard reports that the BBC just aired a “Panorama” story about how Pope Benedict XVI, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, sent a “secret Vatican edict” to bishops around the world (right, like that’s a group that could keep a secret if it tried), an edict so secret “that bishops had to keep it locked in a safe at all times”, which ordered a massive cover-up of clergy sexual misconduct. Besides narrating the usual litany of “worst-possible-interpretations” of various statements in the document…,
Anyway, more than a year ago, when another British press organ, The Observer, tried to hype the alleged cover-up angle of this very same story, I blogged on it (27 April 2005) *see note below], pointing out that Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger’s so-called secret document was published in the official journal of the Holy See, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. 93 (2001) on pp. 785-788; for that matter, it was available on the Vatican website for at least several months before The Observer thought it broke the story in April of 2005. Now c’mon: it’s bad enough the BBC and the Standard don’t read the Acta Apostolicae Sedis; don’t they even read The Observer?
Anyway, as I said back then, apparently Pope Benedict has a lot to learn about how to keep documents secret: like not publishing them in journals distributed around the world. What surprises me (though only mildly; this is main-line British journalism we’re dealing with) is that I get to say it all again.
Discuss the CDF document, if you wish, O Media Elites; debate it even; but don’t pretend that it was some sort of dark secret all this time, or portray yourself as valiant crusaders in search of the hidden truths, braving Vatican fury to inform the ignorant masses. Cuz it wasn’t, and you’re not.
Resources: John Paul II’s enabling legislation (AAS 93: 737-739); Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger’s implementing letter (English translations are widely available). Follow-up on British hierarchy replies.
Ah, the original “Panorama” segment is now on-line here (it runs a little under 40 minutes). It contains its own share of serious mistakes and misunderstandings (which I will address), but the sloppy Evening Standard report on the BBC program, critiqued above, has certainly compounded the confusion for everyone.