Missing Information From LA Times in Coverage of Church Abuse Suits

On Tuesday (10/9/07), the Los Angeles Times published this story about four women reaching a $6.8 million settlement in molestation lawsuits against the Catholic Church's diocese of Orange County, California.

The article, by Christine Hanley, exhibits the paper's continuing lack of fairness in coverage of the Church abuse narrative. Hanley's piece omits much important information.

1. Wrote Hanley,

The deal came about a week before [Christina] Ruiz’s lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial in a case that had already exposed [Orange County Bishop Tod] Brown to a contempt-of-court order, and rekindled the anger leveled at the church. Ruiz accused former Mater Dei assistant basketball coach Jeff Andrade of molesting her for more than a year, starting when she was 15. In a deposition taken as part of the lawsuit, Andrade admitted to having had sex with the then-teenager.

Although she had reported it before, Hanley conveniently omitted the fact that Andrade was dismissed by the school in April of 1997 after the school suspected a relationship. (A September 12 article by Hanley reported that the two "had sex over a period of about 18 months, possibly hundreds of times, in the gymnasium, classrooms, his house and several times in a Las Vegas hotel room, according to the lawsuit." Simply awful abuse by Andrade.) Police also investigated the case the same year, but they did not file charges.

More notably, Bishop Brown did not arrive as bishop of Orange County until September of 1998, nearly a year-and-a-half after Andrade was dismissed. In 1997, Brown would have been approaching a decade serving as bishop in Boise, Idaho. So why was Bishop Brown even deposed for this lawsuit? Hanley doesn't tell us, neither does it appear that she cares to know. Hanley has never candidly reported that Brown's arrival to Orange County came well after Andrade's dismissal. (Only a very alert reader-detective intimately familiar with the totality of Hanley's articles in the last month might be able to piece all of the facts together.)

2. Hanley also added,

Brown revealed during his deposition that he had been accused 10 years ago of molesting a boy in his years as a priest in Bakersfield, a claim that he and church officials said was found to be unsubstantiated.

Why is this passage even included in the article? What does it have to do with the news of the settlement? Well, Hanley also omitted the fact that Brown's accuser has publicly admitted that his accusation against Brown comes as a result of  "a recovered memory pieced together after years of therapy" (source). The accuser's lawyer also said the man "says he has had multiple abusers" but "would not identify who they are." The mere mention of the names "McMartin" and "Bernardin" should raise serious questions about some forms of therapy as they relate to abuse charges. A well-known social psychologist once told Time magazine, "Recovered-memory therapy will come to be recognized as the quackery of the 20th century" (source).

Yet none of these facts are included in Hanley's article, nor have they been reported at all by her or her paper.

Again – the abuse committed by trusted clergy and other individuals is simply wretched and reprehensible. But that is not an excuse for the unfair and unbalanced reporting that has become par for the course at the Times.