Missing the Story, Yet Again

Once again, the Newspaper of Record has completely failed to get the full story about the Catholic Church’s record on child sexual abuse.

In an online piece published the other day, the Times once again rehashed old allegations about the sins of priests and the failures of bishops.  This story, as with many others like it, irked me to no end.  If a news outlet is going to report a story, it should, in fairness, report the full story.  It shouldn’t just report the bad news.

And so, I wrote a letter to the editor, which they published today:

The church hardly needs another reminder that some priests were abusers and that some bishops were negligent in their leadership. Obviously, sexual abuse of minors is a terrible evil and must be rooted out from every institution.

The real story is the incredible amount of human capital and financial resources that have been expended by the church on prevention of future incidents of child abuse.

We have more than 48,000 people working with children in the Archdiocese of New York, and two million more across the country. The church spends tens of millions of dollars each year in prevention and safety programs.

Our staff members have been screened and trained and are being supervised by dedicated leaders committed to protecting children. We have tight policies to ensure that predators can’t have access to our children, and we react promptly and decisively to root them out and bring them to justice.

Other institutions study and model themselves on us. And we have been open and transparent in allowing outside auditors and scholars to study our efforts.

The Catholic Church in America has done something no other organization in the world has done — we’ve made a huge, across-the-board change in our corporate culture so that now every leader and every worker has child protection as a high item on his agenda. And we’ve been a great success.

That’s the real news: a story about learning from tragic mistakes and then committing to a course of transformation and success.

Let’s be clear.  Any incident of sexual abuse is a horrific tragedy, and there’s no doubt that some Church officials didn’t do enough to protect children.  It’s also undeniable that mistakes are still made — we are all far too human to be perfect. And there’s always room for improvement in how we help victims to heal.

But it is just fundamentally unfair, and bad journalism too, for the Times to continue to ignore the herculean efforts of thousands of pastors, principals, directors of religious education, Church administrative staff — and yes, bishops too — for the protection of children.

If you’re going to report the story, tell the full story.



4 Responses to “Missing the Story, Yet Again”

  1. Patrick McGuire MSW says:

    I find it telling in many ways, that within the scope of ALL the media attention spent on the crisis for over ten years now, I have NEVER seen a comprehensive investigative report detailing the Safe Environment efforts at any level; be it micro-, mezzo- or macro-.

    It is the most glaring evidence I know of that the media actively prefers to indulge in hysteria and hate-mongering, and has little interest in reporting or promoting real, beneficial social change. From their point of view, a better society, with genuine, positive hope for the future, is simply less-than-newsworthy.

  2. Nadine M. Chiffriller says:

    I applaud you for responding to this unresponsible journalism. It is apparent that there is a great deal of anti-Catholic press, especially in the NY Times. Thank you for your diligence in this regard. Keep up the good work!

  3. DottieDay says:

    Once again, the elephant in the room, is homosexual priests and pederasty. It’s no wonder that with all sides agreeing to call it child sexual abuse, the media smell the blood, fear and shame — and feel free to lie at their pleasure.

  4. Drake says:

    I believe that many Catholics, such as myself, think that the bishops and cardinals of the US have been collectively slow to react to the abuse crises, that they have collectively squandered billions of dollars of donations from trusting Church members, and that they act in an “old boys club” way by not EVER publicly criticizing recalcitrant hierarchy members in terms of their compliance and enforcement of standards.
    Many of the faithful are individually ashamed that the US Catholic Conference has not called upon the Bishop of Kansas City to resign. He was convicted by a court for not following the law on reporting child abusers. Today, this BISHOP must continue reporting to a probation officer for the criminal court. Where is the Catholic Conference on this guy?
    A great many of the bishops initially called the published reports of child abuse ” false”, and the reports as work of “enemies of the Church”. This was spoken all over the country.
    We in the pews knew differently. Thank God for the free, “secular media”.
    In the real world, officers and directors of an organization that looses billions of dollars for criminal conduct are held to account by the shareholders.
    Several lay members of the various committees drafting and implementing the child protection standards have resigned in disgust by the stone-walling that they have received from many bishops. In the archdiocese of St- Paul Minneapolis, the Vicar General resigned because there was evidence that the bishop knew that a priest was using child pornography, but continued to assign the priest where he had contact with children. (October 2013). Later, a lay lawyer resigned over other cover-ups by the archdiocese. Some US bishops have argued that they are not bound by what the US Conference of Bishops determines, that they answer only to Rome.
    Yes, the Church has taken many steps to improve. These have been too little, too late, and at a snail’s pace. Any thinking lay person would know that if any of these situations arose in their own knowledge, that one simply calls 911, and reports the matter to the authorities. Somehow, many of the clergy and hierarchy have not accepted the message. Our hierarchy is quick and unmerciful in attacking many beliefs and practices of many of the laity, but ever so silent and understanding in protecting their own.
    Finally, it is an insult to all abuse victims, an insult to the people of the American Church, that Cardinal Law was given safe haven in Rome, and ensconced at Santa Maria Maggiore, and awarded other high appointments when he fled suddenly to Rome. The many victims whom he left behind in Boston cry for justice. I saw him in Rome at his basilica, living in grand style. Again, no accountability of the hierarchy.