TheMediaReport.com was founded in 2004 by Dave Pierre (more) and has since grown into an educational cooperative to chronicle and monitor the mainstream media's coverage of the Catholic Church sex abuse narrative.
The topic of child sex abuse is at once both revolting and heartbreaking. One can hardly imagine the unquenchable pain and intense suffering which so many victims must endure today and throughout their lives as a result of the betrayal of trust by the very adults charged with their care. Justice demands first and foremost that those who misuse the trust placed in them and use innocent children for their own gratification be incarcerated and severely punished. The protection of children is paramount.
But the media's treatment of sex abuse in the Catholic Church is a different story.
Much of what passes for journalism today involves simply the rehashing of commonly accepted narratives or storylines often generated by East Coast establishment newspapers. One such well-known narrative involves an alleged epidemic of child sex abuse among Catholic priests and the cover-up of their crimes by Church leaders.
The Boston Globe amplified the story in 2002 in its reporting on the transfer of priests accused of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, for which the paper later won a Pulitzer Prize. This led to many necessary and important reforms in the Church's handling of those accused of sex abuse. Since that time, however, the story of sex abuse by Catholic priests has become an obsessive media narrative. The story has been largely driven by a symbiosis of wealthy contingency lawyers who have made an industry out of suing the Catholic Church, a small cadre of purported "experts" who provide the needed testimony for the lawyers, and noisy victims' advocate groups who are funded in part by the contingency lawyers and who in turn feed the lawyers more clients.
And working closely with all of these groups is an eager media for whom the storyline is compelling: the salacious nature of the crimes, the arcane nature of priestly celibacy, the perceived unchecked power of the Catholic Church, and a deep and abiding animus against the Church by the political left.
As a result, the storyline of sex abuse in the Catholic Church has now become so deeply ingrained in American journalism that few even question the premise of the storyline. And as often happens with old media narratives, the later stories begin to lack any semblance of context, proportion, or balance – the very standards of good journalism. Instead, many of the stories now recounted in the media are simply retreads of stories of abuse from many decades earlier often filled with exaggeration, sensationalism, and hysteria. The truth has been lost somewhere.
If we as a society are to ever make real progress in defeating the scourge of child abuse, it is important that the mainstream media return to reporting on this topic with proper context, proportion, and balance. The current prevailing media narrative, that child abuse is largely the problem of a single religious institution, the Catholic Church, only fosters sensationalism and indulges ugly anti-Catholic bigotry.
Most importantly, however, this inaccurate media narrative only serves to distract and undermine serious efforts to address child abuse where the vast quantity of it occurs today: in public schools, in all organizations that deal with youth, and – most notably – in children's homes.
We believe that better journalism will lead to a safer world for children.
Feel free to contact TheMediaReport.com at email@example.com.