A reader asks

I am wondering if you know whether or not the NY Post ever printed a retraction to its article charging John Paul II as, essentially, a co-conspirator with Cardinal Law in the scandal cover-up?

This is deeply troubling for me, since I have heard it unhesitatingly quoted as fact on AM radio. It seems that I need to have an Emmaus experience in which Christ enters my heart as it debates back and forth the scandals of the day and calmly reassures me–walking the road with me then nourishing me with the Sacrament.

As far as I know, there’s been no retraction. To retract such a statement, the editors and writers of the Post (and the pack journalists who unthinkingly regurgitate and perpetuate such quick and handy phrases as “smoking gun”) would have to have to time to think and reflect on the data they have read wrongly and hastily interpreted for the sake of meeting a deadline. This would require more contemplation than your typical journalist has time or patience for.

In brief, don’t hold your breath. The prejudice that the Pope must (somehow) be the “unindicted co-conspirator” in abuse and cover-up is a deeply rooted assumption in many sectors of American media culture far in advance of any evidence. Andrew Sullivan was dead certain of it in March 2002, based on nothing other than pure prejudice. Grace builds on nature, but prejudice builds on anything. So a tiny fragment of writing (badly misunderstood) constitutes the long-assumed “smoking gun” and those who are bound and determined to engage in the venerable American pastime of destroying heros will not easily give up the prejudice merely because the evidence is unbelievably flimsy. Nor will pack journalism give up an easy-to-remember slogan. The “smoking gun” will be a fixture of media jargon from here on in. It may pass into temporary disfavor while the Pope lives and it can be easily demonstrated that the NY Post’s vaunted “smoking gun” was nothing of the kind. But once he’s dead and memories of him fade, it will re-emerge. If Daniel Goldhagen can quote Mit Brennender Sorge and claim it is an anti-semitic text, anybody can do anything–especially in a culture as theologically illiterate and historically forgetful and ignorant as ours.