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Analysis
June 06, 2012
Major media outlets continue to turn a blind eye to the abuse of children in public schools, while rehashing decades-old accusations against the Church.
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 child abuse.

Not the Catholic Church? The untold scandals

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 public schools.

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 school system.

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 prolific molester.

The former supervisor has expressed “deep regret” that his actions led to “horrific crimes” by McGuire. Nevertheless, the public pressure from the episode—largely driven by the Globe—forced 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 though—unlike the Jesuit leader—the 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 in 2010.

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 liberal media.

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 administration’s efforts.

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.

 
About the Author
David F. Pierre, Jr. 

David F. Pierre, Jr. is a journalist who operates TheMediaReport.com and has written two books: Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories and Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church.
 

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