Today's Papers

Breath Comes for the Archbishop

Everybody leads with the new sexual abuse policy approved by U.S. bishops meeting in Dallas. “The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” removes from ministerial duties any priest who has ever abused a minor, but stops short of defrocking the offenders, instead sending them away to “lead a life of prayer and penance.”

The New York Times reports that the policy broadens the definition of abuse to include situations that “did not involve force or direct physical contact, but were still coercive.” (NYT’s words.) In addition, civil authorities must now be alerted to all abuse accusations.

“They’re still in a place of honor and they still have access to families,” a member of a victims’ group says in the Los Angeles Times. “Catholics need to voice their displeasure, because their money will be used to house and feed sex offenders.”

The Washington Post, in its analysis of the policy, argues that while abusers may be barred from the ministry, “much could turn on the definition of ‘ministry,’ which is not spelled out in the document itself.” Perhaps, though certain restrictions seem crystal clear, e.g., offenders may not celebrate mass, present themselves as priests, or even wear clerical outfits.

The Post presents the case of Father Robert Fisher of Toledo, who abused a girl in 1988, went to jail for 30 days, spent four years in counseling, and now seems to have won back the support of his parishioners, who have written letters on his behalf. “One of the things I was wondering about is, I can understand being removed from parochial ministry, but there are a lot of other tasks that people can perform,” says Toledo’s bishop. He goes on to say that Fisher has been helpful in the “architecture department.” 

The LAT reminds that about 250 of the nation’s 46,000 priests have resigned or been suspended since the scandal caught fire six months ago. 

The papers front a car bombing outside the American Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, that killed 11 and injured about 50 others. Al Qanoon, a previously unknown group made up of Islamic militants and perhaps even some al-Qaida holdovers, claimed responsibility, according to the NYT. No Americans were killed. The papers have odd discrepancies in their accounts, suggesting that the smoke hasn’t quite cleared. The Times has only 26 injured, for example, and the Post confidently describes the “explosives-laden sedan” while the others report that police have yet to determine which vehicle carried the bomb. 

Motive seems clear, however: Islamic militants are reportedly unhappy not only with Americans but also with Pervez Musharraf, who has withdrawn his support in both Afghanistan and Kashmir, according to the NYT.

The NYT stuffs the farm subsidies that are making enemies for the U.S. around the world. The huge increase—part of a farm bill signed by President Bush last month—gives American farmers an insurmountable advantage, allowing them to flood the market with inexpensive corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans. Farmers in countries that do not give subsidies cannot compete. “American farm exports drive down prices paid to local farmers, reduce rural family income around the world and push farmers off the land and into overcrowded cities,” says the president of the Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy.

The LAT stuffs the more than $9 million that former prez Bill Clinton made giving speeches last year. He spoke about 60 times, all over the world, raking in as much as $350,000 a pop. Hil, meanwhile, brought in $2.85 mil as part of the advance for her book. It’s estimated that they still owe $1.75 mil in legal fees.

Bill Keller devotes his NYT op-ed column to himself, reflecting upon his recent Times Magazine piece on nuclear terror. Readers responded in large numbers, we’re told. A “…common complaint was that it is senseless, sensationalistic or just way too depressing to dwell on threats without offering answers. Not that the article was entirely without prescriptions, but it was not a to-do list, and there was perhaps an undertone of fatalism. Some readers pleaded for guidance. One mordant New Yorker wrote in asking for a list of neighborhoods likely to remain beyond the range of radioactive fallout — and please indicate which have the best school systems.’ “

The WP fronts a profile of dirty bomb suspect Abdullah al Muhajir, aka Jose Padilla. “If Padilla created any legacy in his 31 years, it was one of underachievement,” the paper sniffs. A petty thief and high-school dropout who “dabbled clumsily” in street gangs, Padilla found his true calling amongst the South Florida Islamic community’s more extreme elements in the mid-1990’s. He did some traveling—Egypt, Pakistan, Switzerland—and met with important people, like al-Qaida leader Abu Zubaida, and a crazed extremist was born. Prior to his arrest on May 8th, his most serious offense had been a road rage incident during which he fired at a fellow motorist. He missed and did 10 months.