In his weekly letter to area Catholics, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput took the national media to task for a lack of coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial.
Gosnell, 72, a doctor who performed abortions at his West Philadelphia clinic, won a minor victory last week when a judge dismissed three murder charges and six lesser counts. He still faces four counts of first-degree and one count of third-degree murder.
"Some stories, no matter how unsettling, just can't be ignored - even when some people are determined to look away," Chaput's letter, dated Friday, began. He criticized "the media's lethargy" in covering the case.
Eight of Gosnell's co-workers have plead guilty, including three to third-degree murder. In testimony, they described gruesome and unsanitary practices at Gosnell's clinic, including using unsterilized instruments, sedating women with drugs by unlicensed staff, and storing fetus parts in jars throughout the facility, which reeked of urine and feces.
While saying that The Inquirer had "done a good job following the trial," Chaput wrote that the national media had been eager to ignore the trial "until shamed into covering it."
"The continuing debate over legalized abortion is a hot-button national issue that drew half a million pro-life demonstrators to Washington in January," he wrote. "The battle over abortion restrictions continues in every state.
"Forty years after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, resistance to permissive abortion remains high. And the vivid details of the Gosnell clinic tragedy have the kind of salacious appeal that few national media would normally avoid - if the issue were anything else."
Chaput added, "Abortion is too often, and in too many newsrooms, exactly the kind of topic that brings on a sudden case of snow blindness."
He cited a headline in the April 12 issue of Atlantic magazine - "Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell's Trial Should be a Front-Page Story: The dead babies. The exploited women. The racism. The numerous governmental failures. It is thoroughly newsworthy" - as the exception.
"The irony is that much of the media's lethargy in covering the Gosnell case really doesn't surprise," Chaput wrote. "It's part of the fabric of a culture that simply will not see what it doesn't want to see about the realities of abortion.
"The brutality in abortion is intimate, personal, and permanent. It violates women, and it kills a developing human life every time - whether the venue is a 'Women's Medical Center' style meat factory or a soothing suburban clinic. . . . But, of course, people need to know about an evil before they can do anything about it."