This past month, Philadelphia magazine published what can only described as a vulgar, unfair, and reckless piece of yellow journalism designed to shock readers and lambaste the Catholic Church. Utilizing anonymous and discredited sources, writer Robert Huber authored a lengthy article seeking to portray the Church as a callous cabal that is oblivious to the pain of child sex abuse.
Enter Donna Farrell, Director of the Office of Communications of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Following the publication of the article, Ms. Farrell issued the following statement:
Unfortunately for Philadelphia magazine readers looking for honest, in-depth reporting, this piece is an agenda-driven travesty of salacious innuendo masquerading as journalism. It is built almost entirely on unsubstantiated comments recklessly offered by unattributed sources that Mr. Huber is all-too-ready to accept as fact.
In reality, "facts" are hard to come by in this article. Mr. Huber fails to accurately represent everything from the simplest of factual details to more intricate truths.
Regrettably, this 7,630-word piece, which is entirely one-sided, does not address the full story. It ignores fundamental and far-reaching changes Archdiocesan leaders have implemented and continue to implement in light of the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports.
This inaccuracy is especially galling because the Archdiocese arranged meetings between Mr. Huber and Mary Achilles, the Archdiocesan victim services consultant, and Gina Maisto Smith, the veteran child abuse prosecutor hired by Cardinal Rigali. Despite these and other conversations about the significant steps taken by the Archdiocese to protect children, prevent child abuse, and assist victims, Mr. Huber chose to omit these perspectives from his piece — which left it sensational, wildly unfair, and incomplete.
Kudos to Ms. Farrell. While the archdiocese reached out to Mr. Huber to assist him with his article, the writer blatantly rebuked an opportunity for fairness.
In addition to quoting unnamed and uncorroborated sources, Mr. Huber also uncritically cited the fickle Fr. Thomas Doyle, whose relationship with the truth has long been troublesome (1, 2). He also cited the dishonest and discredited advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). These sources should be red flags to any alert reader.
Indeed, the reporting of the clergy abuse narrative in Philadelphia has been flimsy, to say the least. While the storyline from the media is that the archdiocese let molesters "run wild" in its care, the truth is that the Church in Philadelphia has worked very aggressively for the last several years to forcefully remove many priests whom it considered to be guilty of abuse. In other words, the media has portrayed the opposite of reality. (You can see this for yourself at the archdiocese's own web site. See also the links below.)
In addition, as a high-profile criminal trial against Catholic clergy approaches in Philadelphia, the media has taken almost no interest in scrutinizing the actual claims against the Church. The media has wholeheartedly accepted the wild findings of a sensationalistic and dubious grand jury report from earlier this year. (See more links below.)
Much has been written about the Catholic Church abuse narrative in the last two decades. Much of what has been written has been all too disgusting and real. All people of good will must demand justice and compassion for victims of clergy abuse.
However, it seems that far too many in the media are all-too-willing to abandon honesty and decency in an effort to unfairly revile the Catholic Church.
And that is not right.