For the last several years now, TheMediaReport.com has provided hundreds of examples of the media's biased and unbalanced coverage of the Catholic Church sex abuse story. And, unfortunately, our weekly posts provide only a small glimmer of the overall problem.
But the purpose of this site is to arm responsible journalists with the facts about sex abuse so as to improve their coverage and hopefully lower the incidence of sex abuse in our society.
What can the mainstream media do to improve its reporting of the Catholic Church sex abuse narrative? Here are five suggestions:
1. Provide context
Contemporaneous accusations of abuse against Catholic priests are extremely rare, recently averaging in the United States only eight per year even deemed "credible" by diocesan review boards. Almost all accusations against Catholic priests involve allegations from decades ago. Yet you would hardly know this from the media coverage, which almost always makes it appear that abuse is still an ongoing and current problem in the Church.
Meanwhile, sex abuse is happening unabated today in our families, our schools, and other institutions because the media is fixated only with old accusations of abuse in a single organization, the Catholic Church.
As we have relayed a number of times before:
- rampant abuse and cover-ups continue today unabated in our nation's public schools, with estimates that there has been "more than 100 times" the rate of sex abuse in schools that there ever has been in the Catholic Church;
- Hollywood still hands out coveted Emmy awards to accused child molesters and turns their collective backs on a child abuse problem that has been declared "rampant today"; and
- Evangelical missions are said to be a "magnet" for sexual abusers today, yet rarely does the media make mention of this.
Yet the media continues to endlessly harp on the crimes committed many decades ago by priests.
2. Call out the bigotsIf a Jewish rabbi committed a crime, no reputable journalist would ever think of running to a noted bigot like David Duke and ask him what he thought of the story. But journalists never think twice about sprinting to the leaders of the anti-Catholic group SNAP to get an off-the-wall, hysterical soundbite about the "callous" Catholic Church.
One popular source for the media is SNAP's National Director David Clohessy. Clohessy is a former leader at the discredited activist group ACORN, and while he has demanded that the Church report every allegation of abuse to police no matter how flimsy or how long ago, Clohessy himself never reported to police back in the 1990s that his own brother Kevin, a Catholic priest, was sexually molesting innocent young boys. The irony that Clohessy is continually passing judgement on the Catholic Church is rich, but the media never notes it.
Then there is Barbara Blaine, SNAP's founder. Blaine was busted a couple years ago for writing a passionate letter to government licensing authorities on behalf of a friend who was arrested with over 100 images of kiddie porn on his computer.
And while these activists at SNAP, BishopAccountability.org, and the like claim their campaigns against the Church are simply about "protecting children," the undeniable fact is that almost all these groups have a not-so-hidden, radical, left-wing agenda, which they seek to advance under the pretext of fighting child sex abuse. Yet the media never makes mention of their real motivations.
3. Question the lawyers
The mainstream media invariably portrays Church-suing contingency lawyers as altruistic champions of the oppressed seeking justice for their clients. In truth, a number of Church-suing contingency lawyers are little more than buffoons in pinstripe suits in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
For starters, there is Southern California's John Manly, who, in addition to having a notable record of inflammatory remarks about priests, was cited in a shocking November 2012 news article with the claim that he was "fishing for victims" in the case of an accused priest.
Then there is the notorious Jeff Anderson, who is no stranger to readers of this site. Whether he is funneling cash to his friends at SNAP or filing another another kooky "stuntsuit" against the Vatican to get more media attention, the mainstream media never questions Anderson about his legal antics and his motivations.
4. Recognize the fraud
Suing the Catholic Church has become a multi-billion dollar industry just in the United States alone, so it should not come as a surprise to any clear-thinking person that outright fraud against the Church is occurring all the time.
Nearly half of all priests being accused of abuse today are long ago deceased, yet every time a journalist reports such an accusation, never does the journalist note the obvious: that a dead person can never defend himself and his reputation against a charge from many decades earlier.
Bizarre and mind-boggling claims of abuse are lodged against priests all the time, and even while there have been estimates that one half of accusations are "entirely false [or] greatly exaggerated," journalists continue to trumpet each and every claim handed to them without so much as a whimper of the usual journalistic skepticism.
Extremely rare is the brave journalist such as Vincent Carroll at the Denver Post, who fearlessly took on the dominant media narrative and declared:
"[F]raudulent or highly dubious accusations are more common than is acknowledged in coverage of the church scandals – although they should not be surprising, given the monumental settlements various dioceses have paid out over the years."
See also: TheMediaReport.com: Falsely accused priests.
5. Report the progress
It is indisputable that no other organization in the entire world comes even close to implementing the measures that the Catholic Church has taken in order to ensure the protection of children. In the United States, the Catholic Church has:
- instituted a "zero tolerance" policy in which any credibly accused priest is immediately removed from ministry and law enforcement is notified;
- trained well over 5 million children in giving them the knowledge and skills to protect them from abuse;
- trained well over 2 million adults, including 99 percent of all priests, in recognizing signs of abuse;
- conducted well over 2 million background checks, including those in the intensified screening process for seminarians and aspiring priests;
- installed "Victim Assistance Coordinators" in every diocese, "assuring victims that they will be heard";
- conducted annual independent audits of all dioceses to monitor compliance with the groundbreaking 2002 Charter for Protection of Children and Young People;
- instituted in every diocese an abuse review boards – usually composed of child welfare experts, child psychologists, and abuse experts – to examine any claims of abuse.
Without a doubt, the Catholic Church in the 21st century is the model for other institutions to follow in the safeguarding of youth. Yet this fact is never mentioned by the media.