Same Old, Same Old: New Book About Catholic Abuse Scandals Misstates Facts, Lauds the Abuse Industry, and Polishes Well-Worn Stereotypes

Michael D'Antonio : Mortal Sins

Writer Michael D'Antonio: Useful mouthpiece for the abuse industry

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and sometimes you can judge a book by the author's radio interviews.

Appearing on a St. Louis radio program hawking a new book about the Catholic abuse scandals, writer Michael D'Antonio, author of Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal, claimed that to this day "not a lot of effort to protect kids" has been exerted by the Catholic Church.

In truth, because of the aggressive, groundbreaking measures enacted by United States bishops years ago, the Catholic Church is likely the safest environment for children today. Contemporaneous accusations of abuse against Catholic priests are extremely rare, recently averaging only 8.5 allegations per year for the entire United States.

Compare such numbers in the Catholic Church with those of our nation's public schools. Just in New York City alone, there were "248 complaints of sexual misconduct involving school employees" reported just in the first three months of 2012.

And then there's the book

Unfortunately, D'Antonio's problems with the facts in his St. Louis interview only presage a deeper conflict with the facts in his book.

Mortal Sins is rife with misinformation, bias, and unfair characterizations. Predictably, D'Antonio lauds so-called "victim advocates" and bigoted contingency lawyers as heroic champions of the oppressed. Yet D'Antonio routinely ascribes the coldest, most sinister, and mean-spirited motives to Church officials in their response to abuse episodes, thus portraying them in an almost cartoonish style.

Facts bereft of context

David Zubik : Bishop David Zubik

D'Antonio attacking the victim:
Pittsburgh's Bishop David A. Zubik

Throughout the book, when D'Antonio recounts an incident with respect to actions of Church officials, he usually does so without providing the necessary context.

For instance, D'Antonio attacks Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, whom he erroneously identifies as the Bishop of Oakland, for remarks the bishop made in 2010 decrying the "rush to judgment without an honest look at the facts" and the "absolute hatred" with which people have attacked the Catholic Church over the abuse issue.

What D'Antonio entirely fails to mention, however, is that within a year-and-a-half after airing his belief, Bishop Zubik himself was the target of a very highly publicized but ridiculous false accusation of abuse. (The local public prosecutor even opined about the bogus charge, "I can assure you, based on 30 years of experience, I have never heard of a more convoluted, extenuated series of stories in order to justify the recollection of the now-made allegations against the bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.")

And there are several other examples in the book in which D'Antonio takes actions and comments by Church officials and places them out of context in order to render the Catholic Church in the ugliest likeness he can.

A hackneyed anti-Catholic attack

In essence, Mortal Sins covers no new ground in recounting the Church abuse scandals. Much of the book simply rehashes stories which have already been widely reported in the media over the past decades.

And, unfortunately, D'Antonio reveals his own deep personal animus for the Catholic Church. The author reinforced this in his St. Louis interview when he claimed that the Catholic Church has now become "synonymous with immorality."

Not surprisingly, the anti-Catholic hate group SNAP has heartily endorsed D'Antonio's book. SNAP even sponsored a promotional event for the book earlier this week in New York City. Appearing on the panel were a few of the book's favorably profiled subjects:

  • Rev. Thomas Doyle, the so-called priest and canon lawyer who has essentially conceded that he is really not even Catholic, that he has "nothing to do with the Catholic Church," he has "nothing to do with the clerical life," and he is "not associated with the Church in any way";
  • Barbara Blaine, the founder of SNAP, who has revealed that her group's real mission actually has nothing to do with abuse (she even wrote a passionate letter on behalf of a doctor arrested with kiddie porn) and everything to do with advancing a radical, secular agenda;
  • Patrick Wall, the ex-priest who was asked to leave the Pontifical University in Rome after he forged a letter of recommendation and whose subsequent work in canon law has been roundly debunked;
  • Jeff Anderson, the world's leading Church-suing lawyer, who, when he's not raising piles of cash for SNAP and getting his lawsuits tossed (1, 2), is misleading audiences everywhere with misinformation and spewing hatred.

(Apparently, SNAP's discredited lawyer, Marci Hamilton, whom D'Antonio laughably labels a "constitutional scholar" in his book, must not have been available.)

The missed opportunity

The Catholic Church has dealt with the problem of sex abuse more forcefully than any other institution in America. But despite decades of incessant and lurid media coverage, there still remains a great need for an honest, balanced, and clear-thinking treatment of this historical narrative.

Unfortunately, D'Antonio's Mortal Sins falls woefully short and widely misses the mark as such a treatment. The book qualifies as little more than another attack on the Catholic Church that adds nothing new to the public dialog about this very important issue.


  1. Sim says:

    No surpise here.

    Would you really expect a book by a media figure to portay the church in an honest and open light?

  2. jim robertson says:

    What utter nonsense!

    That Doyle And Blaine should arise as repping victims out of nothing with no context; no matrix; that's normal to you? That Jeffy Anderson should become the one go to lawyer, for all victims nationally, is reasonable to you?

    It certainly isn't reasonable to those of us on the inside of this freak show.

  3. jim robertson says:

    P.S. The Catholic Church has had to deal with it's own sex abuse scandal forcibly?

    No jail time for felonies

    No compensation for the majority of victims.

    No to little resposability taken for the injured and the coverup.

    A coverup that includes SNAP; Doyle and Anderson.

  4. Christopher Browne says:

    Why is it that individuals in the abuse industry always have a particular 'look'?  As one who remembers fondly the many priests and brothers I knew growing up in a Redemptorist parish, diocesan priests during high school, the many religious women by whom I was taught right up through high school, not to mention the priests and sisters among my relatives, I find this to be nothing but a continuation of the vile smear campaign against the Church.  Again, there is NO EVIDENCE that Catholic priests abuse more than clergy from other religions, and certainly not to the extent at which public school (the great 'church' of the secularists) teachers abuse.

    • jim robertson says:

      Who ever said they did. It's the coverup.. The Coverup. that's why there's a scandal.

  5. Frank says:

    The abuse indusry is a multi-BILLION dollar business.  So lucrative that even the diminutive Jeff Anderson looks tall while standing on his wallet.

    • jim robertson says:

      The entire insurance industry is a multi trillion dollar buisness. And?

      You damage someone you compensate them. Drive a car do you?

  6. Judy Jones says:

    Dave, what took you so long..?.. I been waiting,..!!

  7. Mark says:

    Sex, lies, and bigotry.

    Yet more garbage from the anti-Catholic bigots. Man, they are becoming desperate.

    Incidentally, the Archdiocese of Sydney was recently contemplating suing over exactly this sort of tripe. Nobody should waste a cent or a second on this book, but if TMR can provide references to appropriate people, legal action should be considered. Church institutions and individuals should be going after the many liars, false accusers and libellers who have gotten a free ride for too long.

    • malcolm harris says:

      Mark's reference to Archdiocese of Sydney gave me a glimmer of hope. He said they are contemplating suing… if only they would!

      Because honestly thiis is the only weapon the secular world can understand in this context. The various media outlets must have legal advisers who provide guidelines about what is libellous and what isn't. This is necessary because libel settlements can be very costly to the shareholders funds. Editors walk a tightrope because of these restaints. But what if they found a person or institution who, on past experience, had never sued for defamation?  For example a church whose God had appeared in human form and said that we must forgive enemies and turn the other cheek. Wouldn't the media, over time, come to think that this was a soft target, that they could make many sensational accusations, without evidence, and not risk any retaliation. Further that this spiritual view of human existence would even make the soft target slow to defend themselves, against the slings and arrows of this wicked world.

      But is ' peace at any price' a practical mindset for survival, of anything at all?? Not on my reading of history! The law gives us a non-violent way of protecting our rights. What value is freedom of religion? When your enemies can trash the reputation of your priests, in the court of public opinion, and thus ensure that no self-respecting young man wants to become a priest ? What future do we have then? Twenty years from now you will see churches closed, for want of priests.

      My memory will not permit me to quote the date but there was a pivitol moment in history when western civilization was facing a momentous challenge at the gates of Vienna. The Polish forces did not greet  the enemy with shouts of "we forgive you". Rather they realized what was at stake and fought like tigers like to save Christian Europe from being taken over by the Ottomans.

      Not relevant.. some will say…. but I say that this time the new enemy is within, and non-violent ways are available to confront this home-grown enemy. The law.

  8. Dennis Ecker says:

    @Judy – So true. it's like having ESP. People are really predictable on what is going to be said next. If they were a sports team we could clean up in Vegas.

    And David Pierre says……..


  9. Donna says:

    Talk, write, carry on all you  please, drink all the Kool-Aide you want. The truth is the RCC is

    rotten to the core, an organized crime ring that will indeed be taken down despite all you cry baby defenders.

    • Mark says:

      "organized crime ring", "Kool-Aide", "cry baby defender."

      Run along, now, Donna, and close that computer. Mommy will be home soon.

    • jim robertson says:

      Yes Donna, but it's these people's faith they see as being attacked.

      And as long as they see it as being about their "religion" they'll continue to freak.

      If there hadn't been abusers and that their crimes were covered up and enabled by their bosses., the Church would have no problems sexually (aside from their take on sex.)

  10. Excuse me, but since WHEN has the Church portrayed Herself "in an honest and open light?" We have seen nothing but international coverups by the Holy Roman Catholic Church since this story of rape, sodomy and molestation exploded in the Boston Globe about 12 years ago on Ephiphany Sunday!  It was an "Ephiphany" all right, but even after 10's of thousands of stories in the news, one thing that has been made abundandly clear is that there have been massive coverups in the area of Priest Pedophilia from the Vatican on down in every nation in the world!  In regard to International Banking, it has been proven time and again that the RCC has been anything but transparent and HONEST in Her banking activities.  The new Pope has his hands full.  Maybe he'll just give up and resign, like Benedict XVI! Any bets on how long he'll last? I'd be willing to bet that he won't outlive the Vatican Banking Scandal and the Priest Pedophlia Scandal!


    • Mark says:

      Well, Ms Guzman you'd have lost your money. Pope Francis already did outlive it. It was decades ago. And only a minority of these historical sex abuse cases in the Catholic Church actually involved pedophilia (interest in prepubescent children). Most were cases of ephebophilia (interest in postpubescent children or teenagers). Of course, saying "ephebophile priests" doesn't trip off the tongue quite as nicely or fit the comic book mentality of people like you.

      Pope Benedict did not "give up." He put in place measures which make the Church and its institutions the safest places for children today. And he banned homosexuals from entering seminaries early in his Pontificate. In fact, Benedict presided over one of the great institutional transformations in modern history.

      As you're so keenly interested in the topic of child abuse, this forum awaits with interest your views on abuse within Protestant churches and sects, our public schools, sports and recreation clubs, and within (extended) American families.

    • jim robertson says:

       Jeannie, Making bets on a man's life is just plain wrong and how does that win friends for victims?

      signed, a victim

  11. Kay Ebeling says:

    have not yet read d'antonio's book but my reaction is, wow, what a scoop!  You do a book on the pedophile priest crisis and dig and investigate and research and find. . . Barbara Blaine, Jeff Anderson, and Tom Doyle.  WOW!  What investigative journalism skills!  

    • Ted says:

      Relax Kay, it is only a book review and besides he dug up the real story on the Pittsburgh bishop.


      And D' Antonios book itself was nothing more than you could find from a simple Google search.

    • jim robertson says:

      Absolutely correct irony, Kay.

  12. clare says:


    Is that the reason some in the media has been so cruel to the Polish in America in the past?

    Do a quick search on wikpedia about the "Polish Jokes" @ the media.


  13. Dennis Ecker says:

    What is shocking to everyone is this book is showing the rcc in a honest and open light. Time after time the facts come to light on how the church operates. Secret documents, the shredding of secret documents and the continued protection not over years but over decades the continued protection of abusive clergy. The statement above should read when will any media talk about the rcc in a positive light. I believe in our life time we will never see the rcc regain the respect they may have had before, and I say that because of sites like TheMediaReport and the Catholic League who are always on the defense for the Roman Catholic Church.

  14. Brogan says:

    D' Antonio is revolting.

  15. Rory Connor says:

    The name "Patrick Wall" does have some resonance in Ireland – and not because he forged a letter of recommendation either.  He figured in a press release issued by the Archbishop of Cashel, Dermot Clifford on 3 January 2007 regarding Wall's  efforts to have a previous Archbishop held responsible for the crimes of a paedophile priest. The press release was entitled "Claims against the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly dismissed in California lawsuit concerning former priest Oliver O’Grady" and I quote some passages:

    "Over the last six months there have been stories in many newspapers and on the radio concerning the efforts of a lawyer in California to sue the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly in a California court in order to hold the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly responsible for conduct of a former California priest named Oliver O’Grady. On December 27, 2006, the California court found that, “There is no admissible evidence that Cashel & Emly knew that O’Grady had a propensity to molest children.” ……….

    "During the last six months many inflammatory accusations have been made concerning the knowledge and the conduct of church officials in Ireland concerning Oliver O’Grady. These accusations have been reported in many newspapers and on the radio. The source of most of these accusations is Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk, who is now employed by the lawyer who has pursued these claims against the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly. Mr Wall has been a guest on radio programmes and has been quoted in most of the newspaper stories about this case.

    "The most inflammatory accusation made in this matter is that the late Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, the Most Reverend Thomas Morris, knew Oliver O’Grady was a potential abuser of children when he completed his seminary studies and was ordained before he moved to California. This accusation has been conclusively refuted by the court in California which has stated in its order dismissing the case that: “There is no admissible evidence that Cashel & Emly knew that O’Grady had a propensity to molest children and that the ordination of O’Grady would therefore give him a position of authority that would permit him to cause harm in other locations.”

    "The order of California court also found that Patrick Wall is not a credible witness concerning church procedures or doctrine. In two separate places in the order of the California court, the court states that: “The court finds that the testimony of the defense witnesses on matters of church procedures, doctrine, and Canon Law is more credible than that of Mr. Wall.” ………

  16. dennis ecker says:

    "It certainly isn't reasonable to those of us on the inside of this freak show" This is the type of comment I hope no victim ever thinks they are a part of. No victim should ever be looked at as being a "freak" and this is sure no "show". Myself and others who became victims at  the hands of catholic clergy are not here to entertain you.

    If you disagree with an organization or individuals stop complaining from the sidelines and get up and do something about it.

  17. jim robertson says:

    Gee thanks Dennis, the "freaks", I  was referring to would never, ever be the victims in my mind , why would you think that? 

    The freaks are all the afore mentioned Victim Illusionists, Blaine Anderson Doyle, who pretend to care about and for victims when their real job is to control and manipulate victims for the corporate Church's advantage.

    And how would you suggest, Dennis, that victims meet each other????????????????

    Go to a SNAP' meeting that doesn't exist?

    Go to a SNAP 'convention" where there are 5 times the numbers of non victims to victims?

    "Complaining from the sidelines"!!!!!!

    Since when is telling the truth about a major fraud not "doing anything"?

    Is the "game that I'm on the "sidelines" of, Is that "game" being played in the Public Eye?  And is it only being played by the Church and by these committee's of the Church to represent victims?

    And aren't victims being played by those truely fraudulent organizations? The victims side enacted by our abusers. Tre' Tre' Fabulous, (Irony)


  18. dennis ecker says:

    I think what you want to do regarding survivors is commendable. A place that we both would like to see were victims/survivors can go to just talk. A place that is run by no one or nobody on a payroll. A place were there is no president or chairman. A place where everyone has input or a place were someone can come and know that they are not alone.

    Now since I have been unable to provide such a service I have been able to do the next best thing. Let me explain. One thing that TheMediaReport and other sites like do not want to think is other victims/survivors do read the blog, never get involved with the comments but see at the bottom of a survivors comment an e-mail address. A spot were they can contact an individual and start a rapport. I speak with survivors, family members of survivors, family members who may think another family member was abused, and I also talk to clergy members. Is that not how we began talking ? Is that not how you obtained my number ?

    We may never get that place we both would like to see. But it is something instead of nothing. You want to expose SNAP, there involvement with the church and the lack of concern for victims then you need to be a place a survivor can go to instead of SNAP. Remember I knew nothing of SNAP until I spoke with you. You have alot of information to share to the people who need to hear it the most. Again if someone feels they have no one else to turn to we have nobody else to blame but ourselves.



    • jim robertson says:

      Dennis "blaming ourselves" is exactly what victims need to recover from.

      "Blaming ourselves" is exactly what's causing the major chunk of our pain. We did nothing wrong we were children, who, when attacked, were like deer in the headlights of an on coming semi-truck.

      Believe me I've aimed for nothing but the meeting of victims, that we might connect and organize around our own needs.

      The question I have is: How is that to be done?

      Take out  expensive ads in Newspapers? Where's the money for that? What if victims don't read those papers? How are we to connect? And besides victims and the press believe we are already "organized' us lucky ones who have SNAP

      The very reason SNAP was created by the hierarchy was to insure that SNAP alone would be the place victims would call for help and connection.

      Problem was there was no help and no connection just a phantasm of those 2 things.

      Any real activists were immediately insulted, degraded; ostracised and isolated by being called  out by the SNAP leadership as "difficult" or "damaged". (Personality quirks were emphasized and fellow victims were treated as "other" "outside".  (Plus we were handed SNAP,through Jeff Anderson, so we thought they were, what they pretended to be. We thought they were on our side. It took me years to wake up)

      And since the majority of us victims blame ourselves (or are blamed by others like the Media Report) for somehow not being "strong enough" as children to deal with the raping adults. We were left alone to stew in isolation, exactly the place the corporate Church wanted us to be: powerless. That's just where they always left us; and always wanted us to be. Nowhere. Alone.

      (The adults were the real problem not the children,The adults, who were the enablers who moved these rapists along to new innocents, they went steadily ahead over the ions leaving us victims alone to blame ourselves. The Church has always controlled the "flock" by getting individuals to self doubt, to self oppress through self inflicted "guilt" to the financial benefit of the corporate Church.)

      Thanks to SNAP's consistant demo's in front of churches and cathedrals The way those "press events" are conducted, leave most victims running in the opposite direction.

      Most victims like most Americans have never demonstrated. never been on the news and feel uncomfortable dealing with their abuse, privately. Let alone publicly. And the idea of putting the most horrific event in their private lives out publicly on t.v. in front of their churches and nieghbors and families, repelled them. SNAP's mission accomplished.

      SNAP's real mission is : to keep victims ashamed and keep us isolated. Heaven forbid we start to feel good about ourselves and organize.

      So really, All victims are still at square one. Absolute Beginners in this struggle.

      The structures, the institutions created by the Church 20+ years ago (SNAP) or since Boston 12 years ago (VOTF), that appeared from the ether, from thin air, have in fact done more to obfuscate the scandal than to illuminate it.

      Example: SNAP's gone international and yet fewer victims meet each other than we did in the the early days after Boston. And that's after 23 YEARS of SNAP's "leadership" of this "movement".

      A Leadership that pays itself a quarter of a million dollars a year in salaries plus even more in perks. The question is, Where has SNAP's leadership, lead us? How much has been done for victims through SNAP after 23 years? You tell me.

       Where to from here? How to we solve the problem of creating something meaningful compared to SNAP?

      It's impossible. Because we don't know who we are. where we are; or how to connect up. All thanks to SNAP.

  19. Publion says:

    I managed to get a copy of this book and read it.


    First of all, it’s not actually a ‘history’ in any formal sense. The author (hereinafter: MDA) has actually put together a combination of “true-crime” thriller and ‘personal interest stories’ and ‘history’; he’s going for something like a (made for TV-movie?) script where a few dedicated and hard-working and utterly heroic individuals piece together a strategy for going-against (what has to be) an evil and monstrous Organization and make some serious money and publicity creds in the process.


    Nor is MDA going for the type of readers who might read a history to see what the author says, check his numerous references supporting his assertions, and make their own assessment. Despite his many assertions and claims of fact, there are no footnotes; instead there are a few general “Selected Chapter Notes” at the back of the book, attached only to general topics but not to any of the myriad specific claims and assertions.


    And his sources – upon which he bases his material – include the major ‘heroic’ players themselves (Jeff Anderson, still-Father Doyle, Richard Sipe, and assorted others with interests in how things are spun). In addition to all of the usual suspects among media, “activists”, authors, and ‘experts’ and ‘scholars’ who have made it big in and through this ‘movement’.


    So this book is not going to be a reading experience for persons interested in the whole picture. It is based on the personal interviews and reflections and spins of one very interested side of a complex event. This is reading for people who want their own views reinforced in print; many of whom will not be overly familiar with history or historical thinking in the first place, and merely entertain the illusion that if it’s in print then it must be true … especially if it says what I want to hear anyway.


    To read this book in order to get a comprehensive grasp of the fundamentals involved in this Catholic Abuse Matter is going to be like reading old Soviet histories to get a comprehensive grasp of Russian and world history in that era: heroic cadres battling the inevitably evil and monstrous forces seeking to stifle the goodness and marvelousness of the Cause. It is dedicated “To the courageous”, in case you need to be aimed in the right direction before you even get to the text.


    He will focus on a few “heroic” and “courageous” battlers and a few (and aged) cases of (what to my mind were) genuinely deranged and deformed individuals who carried on for a while an ordained ministry as priests.


    He tries – but cannot sustain – the linguistic gambit of referring to the lawyers as “plaintiff’s attorneys”, a euphemism for the more conventional ‘tort attorneys’, the lawyers that make their money bringing lawsuits. It does sound more heroic and courageous, though.


    But that isn’t to say that there aren’t some useful and revealing bits.


    I am struck by the fact that, as MDA so vividly relates, so many of the principals – Anderson, Doyle, Sipe, many other attorneys involved – were/are alcoholics. (And no, I am not going to sit still for any claim that they were fine until they had to try to deal with the hierarchy and were then driven to the bottle.) This fact is certainly not dispositive of any of their actions (although you wonder about the validity of their recollections of their role and activities); but it does make you wonder about a movement that seemed to be led by so many persons with that particular problem (and about the effect of the almost-classic characterological problems that so very often manifest in conjunction with that particular problem). Of course, since they all eventually wind up embracing the tenets of Alcoholic Anonymous (a worthy organization, in my view), then perhaps MDA was simply and shrewdly trying to ‘humanize’ them while simultaneously dealing with problems that not even a potted history such as this could dare to ignore.


    I was specifically intrigued by the fact that – having lost his ecclesiastical position as adviser in Washington – still-Father Doyle then got ecclesiastical approval to be a military chaplain (where his alcohol abuse also got him into trouble) yet he also continued to “help” and then to “advise” Anderson and other such attorneys. Was he paid for it as a ‘consultant’ or ‘expert’? He appeared in trials or submitted expert opinions. Was he being paid to do so at the same time he was collecting a salary from the government ostensibly for the (rather demanding) task of providing Catholic sacramental and general counseling ministry to service-members?  MDA certainly doesn’t pursue this thought but it’s right there in his material.


    The time-lines are revealing. It turns out, for example, that Jeff Anderson had hit upon the legal strategy of suing the Bishops as early as 1990; he realized then – and refined it as time went on – that if you could go after the Church rather than poor individual priests, then you opened the door to huge cash settlements.


    This is presented by MDA as a brilliant invention that Anderson came up with. But actually, the legal maxim of Respondeat Superior (tr: let the superior respond) has always been well-established in tort law. (Neatly, while MDA goes to great lengths – no doubt with Anderson’s ‘recollections’ to guide him – to discuss this brilliant invention, he never once mentions the actual, long-standing maxim itself … leading the unsuspecting reader to imagine that Anderson actually did invent it.)


    The maxim basically sets up this legal possibility: if a person under employment of an organization commits a tort, then it is possible that not only the person but the organization itself can be sued.


    As the interpretation of this maxim has devolved in the past decades, this may actually also mean that if an employee commits a tort by perpetrating an action that is itself clearly and formally prohibited by the organization, the organization itself may still be sued. And – as Anderson worked to refine his overall strategy – this meant also that if it could be demonstrated that the target-organization committed “fraud” or “reckless negligence” then you could go for punitive damages as well as actual damages. A legal reality that would dovetail nicely with various authors’ and interests’ insistence upon a ‘culture of rape’ or a ‘culture of concealment and cover-up’.


    Of course, in theory you still have to create a clear line of causality between the tort and the actual damages claimed – presuming that you have established that the tort was committed in the first place. But MDA allows Anderson to reveal another bit of legal strategy that lay readers may not realize: in the “dirty business” (as one judge puts it) of settlement, or of trials, it’s not just the actual law as written – it’s also what you think you can get your jury to believe or feel. (Thus, as I have always said, the vital value of the general public Stampede that works to taint the public before they ever come to jury pools.)


    But this raised for me the question: if Jeff Anderson had figured out the sue-the-bishops strategy as early as 1990, then what was all the brouhaha about the Boston Globe’s putatively path-breaking campaign that kicked-off in January of 2002?


    And here MDA reveals some interesting material indeed. As he relates on pages 244-257, there had been a serious fall-off in the Abusenik cause after the very-public revelation of the very-public false-accusations against Cardinal Bernardin in the mid-1990s. It seemed like the tide of public interest was starting to recede.


    Then, in the summer of 2001 some interesting things synergized up in Boston:


    The previously cautious Boston Globe came under the leadership of a new guy, Martin Baron. He needed to make a splash and establish himself.


    By amazing coincidence in that same summer of 2001, a “confidential source” suddenly appeared at the Globe’s special Spotlight Team’s door with a pile of old newspaper clippings, old court cases and affidavits and assorted court documents and such; this “confidential source” claimed to be a victim of a “pedophile priest” and he had been collecting this (curiously spot-on and highly focused) legal documentation. The source assured the Team that the 1992 Fr. Porter case (in southeast Massachusetts) was just the tip of the iceberg in the Boston Archdiocese. This source then handed over apparently the entire records of the Dallas trial of Fr. Rudy Kos (a genuinely deformed individual, if everything about him is to be believed).


    This was all rendered especially acute at the offices of the Globe because in March of 2001 the upstart newspaper The Boston Phoenix had run a large article on the then-current Fr. Geoghan case, which gave strong indications that the man was possessed of genuine pedophilic inclinations with a long history of complaints.


    In the eyes of the new editor, Martin Baron, the city’s paper-of-record had to take the gloves off and get sassy.


    Richard Sipe was paid to come to town and advise the Spotlight Team (Generally, to the effect that a) priests were imbued in Church doctrine with an aura of supernatural authority and perfection that they didn’t deserve and that b) the Church was hopelessly enmeshed in a growth-stunting and maturity-deranging clerical culture that attracted many many variously deformed and problem-beset men to the priesthood, such that when they inevitably acted-out sexually they had to be protected because there were so many of them – thus creating a culture of secrecy about sex that simply functioned as a toxic feedback-loop). The good Catholic Team members were shocked into action. (The very action that their new editor wanted to see, by amazing coincidence.)


    Following Anderson’s established methods, they realized that if you publicized one case you could then discover – or also, I would say, invite – further claims and their ‘victims’. The Internet was starting to be a useful source of material (not to say ‘information’) as well.


    They discovered that there were other priests with such complaints against them, which had in some cases been handled by quiet cash settlements by the diocese involved while the priests were sent to some form of psychological facility.


    The Team decided that its fresh focus would not be on priestly sexual abuse but rather on the “institutional cover-up” (although that characterization itself is a rather ill-defined and infinitely expandable term).


    Almost immediately, in that summer of 2001, another staffer discovered that Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston had admitted that he had been advised of the complaints against Fr. Geoghan as early as 1984.


    Almost simultaneously, the Team came into contact with a Boston tort-attorney (later to make a major mark and a major bundle on the Abuse Matter lawsuits) who (in best Anderson strategic form, coincidentally) was more than happy to share his stuff with them. Anderson had early learned that the best way to get things going for you was to enlist the media (always hungry for good and simple dramatic story-lines); you get a free three-fer: i) publicity along the lines of the spin you want; ii) the enticement of more clients who are either looking for ‘justice’ for their allegations and claims or a big payout or – wonderfully – both; and iii) all of those seekers would have your phone number for calls.


    “All through the summer and fall of 2001” a member of the Team “conducted a kind of courtship” of this Boston tort-attorney (as if the recipient of all this attention was unwilling, shy, uncertain and bashful), frequently telephoning and even “visiting his offices” (where the Team member did not get a chance to look at client-files?).


    But – alas – the tort attorney was under confidentiality strictures so all the files and good stuff could not be perused. But the tort-attorney was creative and resourceful: he would include material from restricted cases in fourteen case-files that were not restricted, and would be open to review at the Clerk of Court’s Office. Neat. But, the tort-attorney solemnly advised, the Team member would have to go to the Clerk’s Office himself and access them.


    Somehow, this didn’t work out (perhaps some clerk at the Clerk’s Office realized the scam) and the fourteen files did not have the sought-after material when the Team member went to look at them. And not even the tort-attorney was going to risk “angering a judge” (and breaking the law and/or Bar regulations) by simply turning over restricted files to the media. So the Globe’s attorney filed a lawsuit to access the material. Ultimately, it was ordered that the files be opened in January, 2002.


    But this didn’t solve the Globe’s problems nor meet its own objectives and purposes. Because once the files were opened legally, they would be open to everybody and anybody, and the possibility existed that some other news organization would get to them and scoop the issue-needy Globe.


    The tort-attorney – ever creative and resourceful in so good a cause – came up with a convoluted plan: he would file new lawsuits and deposit copies of the soon-to-be-but-not-yet legally accessible materials on the first Friday of January, 2002, at 4PM, and the Team could be standing by at the Clerk’s Office – say at 4:15 so it wouldn’t be too obvious – and get everything they wanted. The Team made its move at 4:20.


    They got caught, and had to have the Globe’s legal office fax a judge the Order to open the files in January 2002, but once they did that the on-call judge gave them the OK. But then the copy-machine operator was closing up shop to meet her daughter and they had to somehow convince her to stick around for a frantic copying session. And so she stayed late (and not on overtime … more marvelousness).


    Thus the Globe – according to MDA – got its Sunday edition out with the breaking news. (I am a little confused here as to the timeline. I recall a Wednesday, January 2, 2002 Boston Herald front-page article breaking the news (the Herald is the Globe’s rival paper) but that would mean, if MDA is accurate here, that the Sunday edition Globe revelation would have to have been for Sunday, January 6, 2002 – or else the Sunday edition of December 30, 2001 (which would have violated the court order stipulating January, 2002 accessibility of the documents). I’m still trying to work that out.


    Anyhoo, I go through all this just to show what sort of stuff went on. History can be fascinating, even when its writers don’t quite want it to go where it can so often lead. But – as the Marxists say – if the Cause is good, then anything done in the name of the Cause is automatically good.


    There is much else of interest in this book, although not – I think – in the way MDA had hoped.


    Determined to maintain to the last his spin that the Abuse Matter is dispositively indicative of a decline in the Church worldwide, in his final chapter and his “Postscript” he not only rehearses a revealing number of ancillary charges as to the Church’s undemocratic governance and its putative disrespect of feminists and gays, but also tries to sharpen the desired picture by claiming (in a book published in 2013) that in the Western (now non-believing and secular) world, things have been getting totally and wonderfully better in all respects … including physically and economically.


    And that thus he wants us to see that the decline of the Church and ‘religion’ has – putatively – resulted (like the icebergs melting) in a huge flowering of democracy and abundance in the West and around the world that the West influences. To assert this in light of current events and recent history in the West is beyond ludicrous. And to assert – as he does – that in the US the non-religious North is so much better advanced than the religious South is impossible to seriously credit.


    What’s my own take on the Abuse Matter? That various Dioceses did ordain some relative few who were truly and egregiously unsuitable – and then the Bishops found themselves in the difficult position of risking credibility and ‘scandal’ by overtly dealing with them. This purely organizational dynamic was also fueled by a tendency to see the priests’ actions as personal failures and sin, and much less so as crimes. (At one point MDA will refer to “collusion” between police and Bishops, although he doesn’t follow up with the thought of how the police failed in their responsibilities.)


    The Vatican bureaucracy – under the aegis of Popes who had so often seen Nazi and Communist efforts to undermine the Church by making sexual allegations against the clergy and religious – did not respond forcefully enough to such cases as came to their attention, partly as a result of organizational dynamics but also because of the adherence to long-established canonical legal protections for accused clergy concerning any sort of canonical legal-level accusations and allegations.


    In the American context, vexed by currents within the Church and outside of the Church – all of which were pushing toward a secular and ‘liberated’ individualism masking an ever-engorging statist dependence on government to the exclusion of genuine social community and genuine individualism – the hierarchy was indeed hobbled and in its way somewhat deranged.


    The hierarchy still operated on the pre-1960s model of the Ordinary as the ecclesiastical equivalent of the old Democratic ‘machine-boss’ or – in an equally unhelpful updating – as CEOs. In terms of spiritual depth and vitality the clergy and the hierarchy had become a bit too much like the old Roman ‘city cohorts’, the parade troops who could keep order in the cities but were not equipped or trained to be ‘the legions’, taking the field in vigorous and robust operations.


    And after 1965 so much of the potential vitality of the Church for reform was dissipated in a confusing and sweetly lethal mélange of goo-goo happy-faceism and a Gramscian inspired ‘liberation theology’ activism that worked not to bear witness against the kingdom of this world, but rather to capture the kingdom of this world for various good-intentions that yet remained this-worldly.


    Toss in Sipe’s idea that as numerous straight males left the clergy to get married after 1965, leaving many non-straights in the clergy – and the sexual-liberation ethos of both heterosexuality and (after 1969’s Stonewall) homosexuality – and you have a tremendously challenging set of elements that required the robust attention of the hierarchy if they were to retain the Church’s ancient vitality and genuine spiritual and cultural Gifts.


    The specifics of the American context – and I note here that most of the beyond-US dreamsites of MDA and the Abuseniks are Western-influenced countries – made the hierarchy particularly vulnerable when assorted political and cultural forces coalesced here to emphasize the victimist world-view and the role of sexual abuse. In regard to that development, it is what it is and we shall continue to see what consequences issue from this significant change. They will not be uniformly good nor will they be only the ones intended by the forces and interests that set them in motion.


    But MDA gives the game away by the fact that all of those genuinely egregious cases he has chosen were in the past. Persons who wish to Keep The Ball Rolling must either a) accept that the 2004 reforms have had good effect (MDA tries to stifle this by claiming that the 2nd John Jay Report was funded purely by the Bishops and therefore unreliable, but there was Justice-Department funding for it as well; nor does he offer evidence of increased abuse-allegations); or b) insist that the Church as presently constituted is utterly incapable of reform (and consequently must profoundly ‘reform’ or change along the lines demanded by various interests in the West, within and outside of the Church).


    MDA clearly tries here to anchor the Catholic Abuse Matter in as large and convenient an ideological readership ‘demographic’ as possible. Thus the Catholic Abuse Matter is tied into numerous of those other interests and agendas, often tenuously connecting them or inferring some sort of vital and inevitable connection between the Matter and the various other bits.


    But I don’t see it and he certainly hasn’t provided serious evidence or coherent theorizing of it. Instead, this is a potted narrative designed to appeal to the hopes and certainties of a congeries of groups, consisting of assertions about the accuracy and credibility of which no reader can be certain and upon which no serious reader can dare rely.


    For Catholics and others genuinely concerned about the Church and the Abuse Matter, I would say that this book is not at all a desirable destination, but rather a small and queasy oasis – with water of questionable purity – on the Church’s long journey and ministry.

    • Ted says:

      Publion, a brilliant post.  I could not agree more.  You are a talented writer and obviously a man of letters.




      Could you place this review on Amazon for the unwary?

    • jim robertson says:

      As Kay Ebling voiced earlier the fire wall called SNAP; Doyle and Anderson are'nt the base for the "victims' movement thanks to the Church. they are the victims' movement.

      they are accepted as the standard for "reasoned" behavior for the "victims POV by writers with no skills or desire to ask questions.

      Victims presented by SNAP gush through tears about how SNAP is so great. But they never say great at what.

      SNAP is great as being the go to place for isolated victims, none of who know what they've been "networked" into.

      So you've got a book writen by someone so out of the loop they've bought the SNAP fraud as what it appears to be. Who published this book and to what end?

      Qui Bono baby?

      So far just the usual suspect.

    • Fran says:

      Perfect summation Publion – thank you.

  20. jim robertson says:

    Chubsy are you really Bill Donahue?

  21. Publion says:

    In regard to JR’s thought-provoking comment of April 30, 1109 AM:


    JR will get no argument from me on the queasiness of SNAP (or Bishop-Accountability).


    But I cannot credit the SNAP-Church connection. And there is nothing in this book – admittedly dubious as it is overall – that even hints of such a thing. To my mind, a much better case can be made for a remarkable synergy of disaffected (and not altogether stable) types who – on the basis of a not totally unwarranted frustration with the hierarchy back in the bad old days – made a world for themselves by Getting The Ball Rolling. (I am not referring here to the putative or genuine individual victims but to the gentlepersons who came together and pooled their professional and personal talents and their own disaffections to construct this Abuse vessel upon which they could set sail on the Great Abuse Adventure.)


    While genuine victims surely have no reason to “blame themselves”, there remain those who do not fit so well into that category who might well consider their role in this whole Thing.


    I would also submit that “activists” who – to use an example from the book – handcuffed themselves to the cathedra right after a Sunday Mass (p.305) might consider themselves to be not wholly without warrant thought by many to be a tad outré.


    I can’t see how – even if we were to grant the assumption that the Church was somehow behind the erection of SNAP – that move would have utterly undermined the ability of all victims (putative and genuine) to somehow join together in alternative groups. If by no other means, there is and has been for almost two decades the Internet with its listservs specially focused on this or that community-of-interest.


    One would also have to account for the numerous quotations from the principals themselves as to their ultimate frustration and disgust with the organizational Church and the hierarchy. For example, still-Fr. Doyle is quoted in places to the effect that he didn’t care if he were excommunicated, and that he found more wisdom in an hour’s converse with a homeless person or an alcoholic than in all the hierarchy talking together for a day.


    If all of this (and there is much more of it than the two quotations referred to in the preceding paragraph) is to be considered some sort of massive and sustained conspiracy orchestrated by the hierarchy, then one would have to explain how so competently strategic and manipulative a hierarchy yet performed so unimpressively when actually challenged with questions and situations.


    And in any event, to consider such a putative Plan as this to have succeeded when it has, in MDA’s figures, cost the Church something on the order of three billion dollars … that’s going to require some serious ‘splainin’. (Thank you, Ricky Ricardo.)


    A more coherent theory might be that the tort-attorneys themselves were always the core focus of most victims, genuine and otherwise. Of course, one might then hypothesize that the tort-attorneys themselves were simply tools of the Church … but I can’t see how one can make that hypothesis work, either.


    We once again here seem to be dealing with a hypothesized and asserted group (i.e. all non-SNAP-connected victims, genuine and otherwise) for which the absence of any concrete evidence is taken quickly as ‘proof’ that there must be some sort of conspiracy of suppression, when an alternative possibility is that there is no evidence of such a group simply because such a group doesn’t exist.

    Which leads to the (to some, uncongenial) thought that so much of this Matter has relied upon – not to put too fine a point on it – the largely non-existent.


    But, as I have said in my prior comment here, the organizational Church failed in some substantial ways back then; not the least being a vital and active alertness to its own integrity and the responsibility to reliably provide spiritually and psychologically competent clergy and to deal more robustly with those who were truly deranged, and with their genuine victims.


    In that regard, I take great consolation in the election of a Pope from a religious Order. His concerns – as have already been evinced – will be more with spiritual vitality and integrity than with a nuts-and-bolts concern for things and the arranging of things. I am looking to see a shift in the type of person selected for consecration to the episcopacy – away from the administrative ‘bosses’ and CEOs and toward bishops more competent-in and alive-to truly spiritual and moral matters.


    And as I said at one point a while back in comments on this site, I would not be at all averse to seeing lay Chancellors to handle the administrative nuts-and-bolts of diocesan function, thus leaving the Bishop free to implement and nourish a deeper spiritual integrity and ministry and witness among all of his flock, clerical and lay.


    Lastly, I do not here mean to impugn the many competent (and probably greatly overworked) clergy and religious sisterhood. I am looking forward to their being more competently supported by the Bishops if and as this new Pope’s spirit and priorities work their way through the universal Church.


    Nor do I buy Richard Sipe’s interesting observation – but ruinously exaggerated – that at any given time more than half of the clergy are “sexually active” or at least violating their celibacy. One can – I think – violate one’s celibacy simply in the privacy of one’s own mind or by self-abuse; and of course if that type of activity is included in ‘sexually active’ or ‘violating celibacy’ then – in the words of St. Peter – “Lord, who can stand?”.


    But to create, even if only by inference, the impression that at any given time half or more of the clergy are actually out having sexual encounters, legal or otherwise, is – to my mind – a treacherous exaggeration.


    And a scandalous one. But here I mean ‘scandal’ in the Greek sense of skandalon: a stumbling block. It places before the People of God a skewed obstruction that can trip up their already-demanding journey through this world. And in that sense – truly – victimizes the whole People of God.


    Too often in this book, many of the principals and the author use the hierarchy’s concern for “scandal” in the Watergate or Enron sense of fearing public exposure. When actually, the Catholic usage would be to avoid placing before the People of God an obstruction to their faith and belief.


    Which is not intended to excuse or justify some of the sadly deficient hierarchical responses of a prior era here. Nor is it intended to minimize the tremendous skandalon placed in the lives of genuine victims by the actions of some genuinely deranged priests.


    I do, though, support the idea raised by several persons in this book, that priests themselves must take a more robust concern for the integrity of their ministry as a group, and not simply as individuals. And that it is the vital and fundamental responsibility of the Bishop to ensure that priests with concerns in that regard are not met with indifference or active rebuff or discouraged by the presumption that their concerns will not be effectively heard.


    The hierarchy have a lot on their plate then. But that’s why they get to wear the big hats. Anyone envisioning himself as being consecrated to that officium, and not willing to take up this burden and these responsibilities, should be ready to respectfully decline an offer of consecration if it is made.


    We don’t – if I may – need any more hierarchs that more resemble Austro-Hungarian generals from that old Empire, bemedalled and bedizened, hanging around the imperial court or a headquarters complex, and yet utterly unprepared for the competent execution of the awesome responsibilities actually required of them.


    Ecclesia semper reformanda, as they have been saying for the best part of two millennia. And I pray and confidently hope that so may it be.

    • jim robertson says:

      Firstly, thanks for the book report. yawn.

      Secondly, I handcuffed myself during the mass at the offeratory, continuing in a long line of human sacrifices so loved by religion.

      Thirdly, Being sexually abused was more than a "tad outre".

      Fourthly. Really list servers? I don't even know what that is. I know you don't believe anything I've written but if it were easy for victims to connect or if you know away we easily can. Please tell me how.

      Fifthly, Counterintelligence requires truth telling along with subtrafuge. Most people know the scandal is about the hierarcy's coverup and even Catholics on the whole arn't thrilled with the top down polemics of the Church's government. So of course Doyle and the others speak against the ruling elite It's mandatory if you want to be seen as pro victim.

      Magical imaginings re "religious orders" or bishoprics is just fantasy.

      More from me re. this later. But since this guy is so supported by Doyle SNAP etc. He must be safe for their counterintelligence facade or they wouldn't be talking to him or supporting him.

  22. Clare says:


    I was reading this morning: Brazil

    priest for liberal views.  He appparently stated married couples could cheat if agreed upon.

    There has been one aspect about this entire situation that has disturbed me.

    Please think about this:  If we (humans) were worms.  In other words, if we were all

    asexual, and reproduced without sex:  What would those wishing to destroy the church

    have employed?  This situation has everything and nothing to do with sex.

    It is an interesting line to draw when one has to decide what needs to be reported

    to protect the public, versus a slow news day or a deliberate agenda.  What kind of person

    wants to see any one profession suffer, assuming most in the profession are innocent?

    Priests are not the first to be bullied by the media.

    Perhaps a future guideline for those in the media should be:  If this were my family memeber or best friend would I report it?  Would I report it in this manner?

    A professional journalist protects citizens from powerful regimes.  A pathetic journalist

    bullies professionals trying to help and serve the population.


    • jim robertson says:

      It is mandatory that certain professionals, teachers included, report child rape and even suspision of child abuse. These people are mandatory reporters.

      How does the media handle an accusation? It reports it.

      And that's all the media's done is report arrests and evidence as it appears.

      That's all they've done. Nothing really,

      yet this site and side keeps attempting to create's an outrage committee; an outrage camp actually where a fake position is hoisted, that the rest of us are supposed to salute.

      To hail as the "real truth" about another" conspiracy" against the the "one true faith"

  23. Publion says:

    In regard to JR’s two comments of 9:57AM and 4:11PM today (to the extent that I can make sense of the material):


    First, no surprise about the “yawn” – but I didn’t put it up for the cafeteria crowd so nothing new here.


    Second, (presuming a bunch of things here simply to get to the present point) I can’t quite see how the handcuffing of self to the cathedra has been a “sacrifice” in any conceivable sense of the term. It appears to have become the major life-project and sole claim to fame, and almost a decade later is still being waved about as some sort of ‘cred’.


    Third, the outré I mentioned referred to the self-handcuffing, not in the claims of abuse. (MDA, uncharacteristically, uses the phrase “who said he had been abused” rather than his more usual presumption of credibility. Why he does that, I do not know.)


    Fourth, if you don’t know what list-servs are then I can see why it is so difficult to try to imagine a way of getting anybody together. It is rather easy for any persons with a shared interest to unite on a list-serv, and I wonder if perhaps they haven’t done so already … although apparently without checking with the self-considered Prime Victim first. I have no idea how to address that issue. You might consider starting a web-site.


    Fifth, “counterintelligence” I recognize as a military and diplomatic term and have no idea what meaning it has in this context. But if somehow it is meant to infer that when you are up against evil, then any evil you do to get that evil is good … then I have already addressed that dynamic in prior comments. Mr. Clohessy, I believe, holds something very close to that position – as he declared in Deposition.


    Sixth, your theological assessments of Catholicism prompt nothing more than the old Latin phrase Sed quid tum?  Loosely translated: And so what?


    I have no idea who “this guy” is who is supported by SNAP and Doyle. Perhaps MDA himself. But again the “counterintelligence” reference confounds any effort to make sense of the comment.


    In regard to the 4:11PM comment:


    A serious and competent historical effort would require answering the following questions: A) To what jurisdiction(s) does the “mandatory’ reference refer? Are we talking a federal law or does each State have its own law? If the latter, to what State does the assertion refer or does it presume that all States have the same requirements? B) When was it made mandatory in the subject jurisdictions? C) Who was required to be a mandated-reporter according to the law in the subject jurisdiction(s)?


    Then: how to connect that clarified thought to … whatever you are trying to refer to here?


    This is how it’s done, rationally and logically, building from step to step. If any of this is news or if it seems irrelevant, then let me not waste the readership’s time and attention any further.


    Again, I suggest starting your own website. If nothing else, it will give you some idea of how many people will decide it’s worth it to hear what you have to say. And if that does nothing else, such experience will provide a potentially fruitful encounter with reality.

  24. jim robertson says:

    I don't know what went wrong this morning but link this

    $60,000 per victim in Australia. What a deal! For the Church.

  25. dennis ecker says:

    It's safer in numbers


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