Does the abuse of innocent children really upset
the decision-makers at our country’s leading newspapers, or is it only
bothersome if it involves the Catholic Church?
Just weeks ago in April, the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops released its annual audit of compliance with the 2002 Dallas
Charter, the landmark initiative by the bishops to deal with accusations of
abuse by priests.
The report concluded that in 2011 there were a
mere seven credible abuse accusations against Catholic priests in all of the
United States involving minors.
While any number greater than zero is upsetting,
the report demonstrates that no other organization is striving to make itself a
safe environment for children more than the Catholic Church in the United
States. Between annual audits, diocesan review boards, abuse prevention
training, millions spent every year on therapy and settlements for victims, and
more, the Catholic Church has taken unprecedented steps to keep the children in
its care safe.
Yet you would never know this from reading some
of the nation’s leading opinion-makers.
According to a recent editorial in the Washington Post, the Church still “protects abusers” and
“remains focused more on safeguarding its image than protecting victims.”
The New York Times’
Maureen Dowd claims the Church is “more
offended by nuns’ impassioned advocacy for the poor than by priests’ sordid
pedophilia,” while the Boston Globe’s
Joan Vennochi would have you believe that
Pope Benedict himself “tolerates” a “worldwide network of priests” that enables
Not the Catholic Church? The
Meanwhile, these same journalists who want you to
believe that the abuse of children is still a pervasive problem in the Church
today are largely ignoring shocking abuses and cover-ups happening today in our
It recently came to light that 248 complaints of
sexual misconduct involving school employees were reported in New York City
public schools just in the first three months
of 2012. That’s an average of 2.75 sex-related complaints per day,
including Saturdays and Sundays, in one city’s
One would think that this astonishing statistic
would be worthy of some further exploration by the New York
Times, considering it involves events right in its backyard. Yet the
only coverage the Times has given this
stomach-turning fact is on one of its blogs. And the Times’ Maureen Dowd, who never lets a conflict regarding the
Catholic Church go unnoticed, is notably silent on the alarming development in
New York’s public schools.
Meanwhile, just a couple weeks ago in Los
Angeles, law enforcement issued new charges against a former third-grade
teacher already accuse of sexually molesting several children, alleging
felony-level “substantial sexual contact” and “lewd and lascivious acts” involving
13 different kids, all under the age of 14. Detectives say that at least one of
the alleged victims was a student of the teacher.
The story even included the shocking
detail that the teacher had already been “prosecuted for molesting a young
neighbor in the late 1980s.” Yet even though the Los Angeles
Times published an initial report when the teacher was accused last
fall of abusing four children, the paper did not feel that the nine additional
charges made against him this spring were worth reporting.
Not calling the police
Catholic bishops have been criticized rightfully for
not reporting suspected abusers to police years ago.
However, despite the fact that the Church has
largely reformed itself in this regard, the media never tires of harping on the
failures of Catholic leaders from decades ago, while giving far more recent
episodes in public schools much less attention.
In mid-April, the Boston Globe devoted two prominent
front-page stories and a stern editorial to the case of a Jesuit leader who
failed to properly reign in and remove a suspected abusive priest nearly two
decades ago. The Chicago-area priest, Donald McGuire, later turned out to be a
The former supervisor has expressed “deep regret”
that his actions led to “horrific crimes” by McGuire. Nevertheless, the public
pressure from the episodelargely driven by the Globeforced
the Jesuit to resign from four different school boards, including Georgetown
University and Boston College, even though none of his positions involved the
direct supervision of children.
Has the Globe shown the
same outrage to those who have failed to report child abuse in the public
school setting? Not at all.
Just last December, a Boston public school
principal admitted that she did not report a case of suspected child sex-abuse
by a special education aide. After the principal’s failure to alert the police
or district officials, the aide transferred to another school, where he
reportedly was busted in the act of abusing another special-needs student.
After quietly serving a two-week suspension, the
principal returned to work supervising teachers and children.
Although the paper originally reported the events
of this troubling episode, the Boston Globe
has not made a single objection to the principal returning to her job, even
thoughunlike the Jesuit leaderthe public school principal has daily contact with teachers and students. In addition, while
the Jesuit’s failures occurred decades ago, the case of this principal occurred
Double standard? It sure seems like it.
Guilty, but back at work
Even school administrators who have admitted in a
court of law that they have failed to report child sex-abuse have returned to
work unscathed, and this has not seemed to upset anyone in the media.
In 2008, two administrators for the Los Angeles
Unified School District pleaded guilty and no contest for failing to report
to police the rape of a 13-year-old girl at their school.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine
two Catholic priests or bishops being arrested so recently, admitting their
crimes, and then remaining in ministry. Any effort to return such clerics to
work would certainly be met with public outrage from the media and professional
victims’ advocates such as SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by
Priests. The Church would likely feel forced to laicize the criminal priests.
Yet where are the two criminal school
administrators today? They are still working for the Los Angeles school
district, and both have recently been given nice promotions.
Other agendas at play
It is no secret that the Catholic Church’s
bedrock teachings pertaining to marriage, premarital sex, contraception, and a
host of other issues run counter to the relentless secular forces at work
today. This has made the Catholic Church very unpopular in the eyes of the
In recent months, bishops in the United States
have launched a formidable front against a government mandate that would force
them to provide contraception as part of health-care coverage. This certainly
makes the Church a ripe target in the media, who largely support the Obama
In addition, journalists have been forceful in
their vocal opposition to the Vatican’s recent efforts to align the dissident
leadership of a women’s religious group with Church teaching. Needless to say,
these women have gained support among liberal voices, and left-wing advocates
are not happy about allies of their views possibly being muted.
As the media raises its objections to the
Church’s stances on various issues, the sex-abuse scandals have been a useful cudgel
with which to bludgeon the Catholic Church, even if the scandals have no
connection to issues being debated. The scandals have indeed been a shameful period
for the Church, and the media often utilize them as a means to discredit the
Church’s positions on unrelated issues.
Unfortunately, even a
decade after the eruption of the sex-abuse scandals in 2002, the media shows no
sign that it will alter its approach anytime soon.