Some journalists simply don't know when to let an old story line die. As we first reported at the time over two-and-a-half years ago, Michael Rezendes of The Boston Globe published two splashy front-page stories about the failures of the Jesuit order in Chicago years ago in its handling of the case of one of its abusive priests, Rev. Donald J. Maguire.
Well, Rezendes must have thought he could make one more trip to the well by now claiming that Pope Francis' new prosecutor at the Vatican for clergy sex abuse, Rev. Robert J. Geisinger, was once "the second-highest-ranking official among the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s" and actually "allowed" Maguire to remain in ministry when he was there.
The Globe's dramatic charge, which the paper trumpeted as a Sunday, front-page story, was later picked up by national wire services and several big newspapers.
The problem? Rezendes' claim is bogus.
Those pesky factsIn truth, Geisinger was only in Chicago for a total of about 14 weeks in the mid-1990s as a temporary fill-in for the provincial when he was away in Rome for a conference. Geisinger had no decision-making authority over priests whatsoever as the so-called "acting provincial." His role was essentially that of a secretary overseeing paperwork while the boss was away.
This critical fact was first reported by Nicole Winfield at the Associated Press. It was then further clarified by the prominent Fr. James Martin, S.J., on his Facebook page. [See: "AP finds distortions in Boston Globe story on Vatican sex-abuse prosecutor" (Dawn Eden)]
As Fr. Martin explains:
After the Chicago Provincial traveled to Rome for a General Congregation, he asked his "socius," that is, his secretary, to serve as "acting provincial," which basically means keeping the paper flow going, but not making any big decisions. Father Geisinger was asked to be "acting socius," that is, acting secretary for the "acting provincial" – for 14 weeks. (Not throughout the 1990s, as the article leads one to believe.) No big decisions are ever taken until the Provincial returns. So the "acting provincial" has almost no authority. The "acting socius," his temporary secretary, then, has zero authority. Basically, he is tasked with tasked with handling his letters and emails of the acting provincial.
Rezendes' tunnel vision when it comes to abuse
Indeed, there is little question that the Jesuit order mishandled the Maguire case. The Jesuits themselves have openly acknowledged as such.
However, while Rezendes has now continued to trumpet this stale case from Chicago with three front-page articles, he has blithely ignored sickening child sex abuse and cover-ups in Boston Public Schools only minutes from his office.
In other words, Rezendes' reporting has almost nothing to do with fairly reporting institutional failures in protecting children and everything to do with attacking only a single organization, the Catholic Church, about mistakes it made in decades past.
However, don't expect the Globe to look for sex abuse and cover-ups anyplace else other than in the Catholic Church from long ago. In the end, the real losers in all of this – besides the Globe and its reputation – will be the abused children in other institutional settings.