Vatican blasts Italian coverage of church

5:00 AM PST 08/23/2007 by Eric J. Lyman, AP

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NEMI, Italy -- A top Vatican official blasted the Italian media Tuesday and Wednesday, accusing it of revealing a bias against the church by focusing too much coverage on church-related sex scandals.

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, a Cardinal, this week issued a series of statements critical of television and print media coverage of a pair of sex scandals: one that alleges clergy paid off a 24-year-old man to keep his allegations of sexual abuse under wraps, and another involving an 82-year-old priest accused of abusing patients in a drug rehab center he operates.

Italian media coverage has been "shameful and mystifying," Bertone said, adding that paying too much attention to the charges was "a false way to present the church, as if you presented a dark fragment of the great Sistine Chapel and said that represented the whole masterpiece."

"Sometimes it seems there is a plan" to the media coverage, Bertone said. "It is absolutely something to condemn."

The media coverage of the alleged scandals started in May, when RAI aired a series of programs looking into the details, including a BBC documentary alleging pedophilia by priests. Other media outlets followed suit, some very aggressively.

Pope Benedict XVI, speaking Wednesday at his traditional angelus blessing, did not mention the scandals or Bertone's comments.
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