Probably the most charitable thing one could say about them is that they are guilty of sensationalism. What else can you call it when the lead is deliberately mis-leading? The actual facts are thrown in about three-quarters of the way through a two-page article, but it is structured in such a way as to make you draw false conclusions and sprinkled liberally (no pun intended) about with anti-Catholic bias.
[WP] Charnley states that "an effective lead is a 'brief, sharp statement of the story's essential facts.'" The lead is usually the first sentence, or in some cases the first two sentences, and is ideally 20-25 words in length.Unfortunately, I read the article all the way through, so it wasn't just the lead that was polarizing or biased.
Media critics often note that the lead can be the most polarizing subject in the article. Often critics accuse the article of bias based on an editor's choice of headline and/or lead.
Let's consider the New York Time's lead:
Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.This lead is just barely half-true. Father Lawrence Murphy did molest as many as 200 deaf boys by his own admission. The Vatican did not defrock him (he died in 1998 some months after the close of their investigation). Only one (not three) American bishop, Archbishop Weakland, warned that the matter could be embarrassing, but he only informed the Vatican 19 years after attaining the episcopate and 40 years after the first allegation - and then only because of an impending lawsuit. Abp. Weakland was later embroiled in his own scandal involving his homosexual lover and shielding pedophile priests.
Here is a rebuttal from a pro-Catholic source.
[CC] The allegations of abuse by Father Lawrence Murphy began in 1955 and continued in 1974, according to the Times account. The Vatican was first notified in 1996: 40 years after Church officials in Wisconsin were first made aware of the problem. Local Church leaders could have taken action in the 1950s. They didn't.The New York Times article creates the false impression that all of these events happened contemporaneously and with the knowledge and tacit approval of the Vatican instead of over 40 years and the American bishops to blame for the lack of action.
Milwaukee's Archbishop Cousins could have suspended Father Murphy from priestly ministry in 1974, when he was evidently convinced that the priest was guilty of gross misconduct. He didn't.
And as if that weren't enough, later Archbishop Weakland made sure that there was no "paper trail."
So there was definitely badness that happened and with lots of blame to go around. The Vatican was too slow in dealing with it in 1996-1998, although the canonical statute of limitations had already expired. Abps. Weakland, Cousins, and his predecessor were free to go to the police and civil authorities at any time during those 40 years. They didn't.
But as the Times eventually reported:
Father Murphy ... also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims.So the real cover-up happened in Milwaukee , not Rome, by Church and civil authorities, and the New York Times has muddied the waters by its selective reporting.