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ABC Just Relays Ugly Accusations Against Pope, While CNN Adds Context and Balance

This past weekend, the media dug up decades-old accusations against Pope Francis from his time in Argentina. While CNN provided context and a critical eye toward the grave accusations, Sunday's ABC World News aired a one-sided report with damning overtones against the Pope.

ABC correspondent Matt Gutman interviewed a family member of multiple victims of the dictatorship who accused the Pope, then just a priest and superior of the Jesuit order, of failing to rescue her family. "Estela claims he had the power to help her family. But didn't," Gutman reported, providing no comment from the Vatican on her accusations. He also reported that two Jesuit priests accused Pope Francis of cooperating with the Argentinian dictatorship, adding only a brief mention of Francis' testimony in his defense.

Gutman's story ended with Estela del la Cuadra airing her impassioned "indignation" against the Pope, and he threw out another ugly story: "And as recently as last month, a human rights tribunal found the church complicit, in some of the atrocities, with priests even blessing torture chambers like this one."

Meanwhile, CNN reported the two priests' accusations but provided context and showed actual journalistic scrutiny. Vatican correspondent John Allen even noted "this is one of those stories that's probably not going to have legs."

"He [Pope Francis] is accused of being complicit with the dictatorship back in the '70s that kidnapped two priests," reported CNN anchor Christi Paul on CNN Sunday Morning, before adding, "when you look at that, what could Francis have done to protect those priests anyway?" CNN senior Vatican correspondent John Allen agreed and stated, "The record is that he [Francis] did try to get these priests liberated, that he was not in any way complicit with the regime."

And here was Allen's all-important context:

"You know it's always easy at a distance and with the benefit of hindsight to make judgments about what someone should or should not have done, but I think those closest to the situation have said that the -- that the future pope at that time did what was in his power, of course, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Argentina, known for being a ferocious critic of the regime has also come to his defense."

Meanwhile, contrast CNN's scrutiny with ABC touting the accusations for the world to see, providing only one statement from the Pope's side. "Two of them, the pope's own Jesuit priests," Gutman said after noting the torture victims of the government. "They later accused him of complicity, but in that 2010 testimony, the Pope said he acted immediately. And in a moment of desperation, did his best to save them."

A transcript of the segments, which aired on March 17, is as follows:

CNN
CNN SUNDAY MORNING
3/17/13
[8:36 a.m. EDT]

CHRISTI PAUL: I know that he was elected despite some controversy about his history in Argentina. He's accused of being complicit with the dictatorship back in the '70s that kidnapped two priests. I know the Vatican denies the charges. But what could – I mean, when you look at that, what could Francis have done to protect those priests anyway?

JOHN ALLEN: Well the specific charge of course is there were two Jesuit priests, and remember Pope Francis is a Jesuit, he comes out of the religious order known as the Society of Jesus, he was the superior of the order at that time. Charges these two priests were kidnapped and that he didn't do enough to try to have them liberated. Now one of those priests who is currently living in Germany has said that as far as he is concerned the case is closed, he's reconciled with Francis and he's praying for the success of his papacy.

You know I think you make a good point which is what more could he have done? The record is that he did try to get these priests liberated, that he was not in any way complicit with the regime. You know it's always easy at a distance and with the benefit of hindsight to make judgments about what someone should or should not have done, but I think those closest to the situation have said that the -- that the future pope at that time did what was in his power, of course, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Argentina, known for being a ferocious critic of the regime has also come to his defense. So my suspicion Christi, is this is one of those stories, that's probably not going to have legs.

(...)
    
ABC
ABC WORLD NEWS
3/17/13    
[6:12 p.m. EDT]

DAVID MUIR: We turn overseas this evening. And on this Sunday, hundreds of thousands of worshipers packed St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis deliver his inaugural blessing. Delighting the crowd with a prayer he delivered without anything written down. And beforehand, he ventured into the crowd to greet well-wishers face-to-face, security trailing him. The people of Rome reveling in that very human moment. But back in the Pope's home country of Argentina tonight, this Sunday brought headlines about the Pope's past. ABCs Matt Gutman, from Argentina, tonight.

(Video Clip)

MATT GUTMAN: (voice over) The pictures in this battered leather suitcase are all Estela del la Cuadra has left.

GUTMAN: (on camera) (in Spanish) Three in your family?

(Voice over) No. She says. They kidnapped seven of my family members. They took everything, including her sister, Elena, who was five months pregnant. It was 1977. Just days after Elena gave birth, her infant daughter, named Anna, was ripped from her and given away. Elena was later killed. So Estella's family turned to the one person they were told could help locate baby Aanna and Elena, Pope Francis. Then, the top Jesuit in Argentina.

GUTMAN: (in Spanish) And he wrote this?

ESTELA DEL LA CUADRA: (in Spanish) Bergoglio. Here it is, Jorge Bergoglio.

GUTMAN: Father Bergoglio allegedly told them the one thing he could do is write this note, referring them to a priest associated with the brutal dictatorship, the junta, which tortured and killed up to 30,000 people here from 1976 to 1983. But so many of the atrocities were perpetrated in plain sight, right here, in the heart of Buenos Aires.

GUTMAN: (on camera) Children were kidnapped and their parents and they were kept here, hooded and shackled?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes.

GUTMAN: (voice over) We toured the site.

(On camera) They were hooded and dragged down these stairs where they were tortured in that basement for days. Sometimes months on end. 5,000 people were brought down there. Just over 100 lived to tell about it.

(Voice over) Two of them, the pope's own Jesuit priests. They later accused him of complicity, but in that 2010 testimony, the Pope said he acted immediately. And in a moment of desperation, did his best to save them. Estela claims he had the power to help her family. But didn't.

DEL LA CUADRA: (in Spanish) Es indignante. No, no, no.

GUTMAN: Indignation about him.

DEL LA CUADRA: (in Spanish) Indignante.

GUTMAN: And as recently as last month, a human rights tribunal found the church complicit, in some of the atrocities, with priests even blessing torture chambers like this one. David?

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center