A sign that the New York Times will not be halting its seemingly daily effort to link the Vatican to the priest scandals: today’s article on Cardinal Levada, written by Michael Luo , who has been covering economics and the recession for the newspaper.

In the middle of a dangerous economic moment, with the European mess threatening another turn of the recession screw, the New York Times takes a reporter off the economics beat and moves him onto the effort to link current Vatican officials to the old abuse cases. Yes, a sign: They will not let this go.

The article itself was not uninformative, but in any other context, the paper would not be pushing out a story that is this old, breaks no new ground, and ends up unable to decide whether he’s the good guy or the bad guy in the story:

Cardinal Levada was ahead of other church officials on the issue at times, setting up an independent committee to vet abuse cases and calling for greater accountability from church leaders.

But an examination of his record, pieced together from interviews and a review of thousands of pages of court documents, show that he generally followed the prevailing practice of the church hierarchy, often giving accused priests the benefit of the doubt and being reluctant to remove them from ministry.

The story clearly wants to link Levada to Benedict, and the very last sentence is the ominous “Less than two years later, Pope Benedict XVI brought his old friend to Rome.” Which means . . . well, what, exactly? That Levada’s good actions reflect on the pope? That his bad actions reflect on the pope?

The real point of the story, I suspect, is simply to keep the acid rain falling on the Church, a constant drizzle that wears away the stones—and, in the end, creates the atmosphere in which Rome can be made a defendant in the lawsuits over American abuse.

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