Last Sunday's splashy headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune darkly warned readers, "Priest cases show abuse issues persist." From the headline and the ensuing 2,100-word article about the Diocese of Joliet (Illinois), one would get the impression that Catholic priests were today dangerously on the loose in search of their next victims.
But everything a reader needs to know about the article can be found in its very first sentence:
"When Will County sheriff's deputies found the Rev. William Virtue sneaking into a private quarry in 1986 –"
Let's stop right there.
"1986," as in over a quarter of a century ago.
In other words, even though the title of the article claims "abuse issues persist" (the present tense) in Joliet, the entire premise of the article is built around accusations of abuse by priests which most recently allegedly took place when Ronald Regan was president and before Al Gore invented the Internet.
Even the article itself acknowledges that the issues with accused priests have long ago been addressed. Of the three Joliet priests profiled in the article accused of abuse, one was almost ten years dead, another was criminally charged over a decade ago, and the third was removed from ministry in 2006.
A fourth priest profiled in the article was accused years ago of something called "inappropriate behavior" with a boy. No sexual abuse occurred, and even law enforcement determined that no laws were broken after reviewing the case. However, the recent public revelation of "inappropriate behavior" was enough for a local hospital to immediately fire the guy as its chaplain, even though he was under the supervision of another cleric, had no direct contact with children, and no one had ever claimed that he had done anything unlawful or even "inappropriate" at the hospital.
The Church's outrageous failure to solicit lawsuits?
The article also faults the Diocese of Joliet for somehow not "looking for other victims" of an accused priest.
But an obvious question arises: What organization has ever actually done this before? Chicago Public Schools? The Boy Scouts? YMCA? What organization has ever "looked for more victims" to sue it when one its members has been accused of abuse? Who else besides the Catholic Church has been criticized by the media for not doing so?
Just a couple months ago, a lawyer sued the Chicago Tribune for libel. In light of the Tribune's belief that the Church should "look for other victims," will the Tribune post public notices soliciting anyone who feels defamed by their reporting to file suit?
A single focus: old abuse claims in the Church
As we have relayed several times before, abuse and cover-ups are rampant in public schools today, yet you would hardly know this from the Tribune, which appears obsessed with harping over decades-old episodes in the Church.
The Tribune's front-page attack accomplishes nothing except to feed a bigoted and ugly stereotype about Catholic priests and the Church while supplying more fodder for Church bashers and Church-suing contingency lawyers.
And as we have also noted many times before, when it comes to child sex abuse, there is one journalistic standard for the Catholic Church and one for all other organizations. While it has been determined that only a minuscule amount of all abuse from decades ago was ever committed by Catholic priests, it seems the Catholic Church still receives over 90% of the media's coverage of the issue today.
Whether it is out of malice or simple journalistic laziness (Church abuse stories are often pitched to newspapers by contingency lawyers in search of greater profits), the Tribune has reached a new low by suggesting the Church should somehow be scolded for the high crime of not soliciting lawsuits against it.