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  News and Views of the Sexual Abuse Crisis 2003–2005
Introduction and FAQs

Our News and Views feature provides links to 7,123 pieces of investigative journalism, reporting, and commentary on the abuse crisis in 2003–2005. Most of these materials are not available elsewhere. On this page we explain where this remarkable library comes from and who was responsible for gathering it. Then we answer some Frequently Asked Questions.

The articles originated in the courageous witness of thousands of survivors, as reported by hundreds of journalists. Kathy Shaw, a reporter for the Worcester [MA] Telegram and Gazette, blogged those accounts daily in her indispensable Abuse Tracker, under the auspices of the Poynter Institute and, since January 1, 2004, of the National Catholic Reporter. Abuse Tracker was the creation of Bill Mitchell, a veteran reporter who is the director of publishing and editor of Poynter Online. Mitchell's first posting appeared on March 17, 2002. Shaw was one of several people who soon volunteered to help Mitchell with the work, and by the end of 2002 she was doing all of the posting herself. See an account of Abuse Tracker's early days.

Everyone who tries to comprehend the abuse crisis owes Shaw an incalculable debt. Abuse Tracker is the defining difference between previous phases of the crisis and the much deeper and broader awareness that we have experienced in recent years. Shaw has volunteered hours nearly every day during 2003–2005 to blog 22,423 articles—a mind-boggling achievement. These materials include investigative reporting that synthesizes the disparate pieces of the crisis: diocesan and legal documents, church records, and interviews with the victims, priests, and bishops involved.

Abuse Tracker is an invaluable daily reference, and its archives are a precious record of the unfolding crisis. But eventually the links in a blog will break, as articles and commentary are removed from the Web sites where they originally appeared. Starting in 2002, Goz Gosselin began to create a more permanent record by visiting Ms. Shaw's links each day, saving the full text of selected articles, and emailing them free of charge to several hundred subscribers. See Gosselin's brief account of VOTF-News. In June 2004, when Gosselin retired from VOTF-News, Voice of the Faithful began providing technical help and in September 2004 recruited Steve Sheehan as Gosselin’s successor.

BishopAccountability.org has now transferred the 2003–2005 VOTF-News articles and commentary into a feature called News and Views. This posting is solely the responsibility of BishopAccountability.org, but the achievement belongs to the survivors who came forward with the story, the journalists who wrote it down, the blogger who made it accessible, and the volunteers who shared it with others.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is BishopAccountability.org posting VOTF-News? VOTF-News is the best full-text collection of recent articles on the crisis, and those articles deserve a wider audience. BishopAccountability.org is an archival service, unaffiliated with VOTF or any other advocacy group. We endorse no particular analysis of the root causes of the crisis, and we advocate no reforms.

  • What were the original Abuse Tracker entries like?  Take as an example the Abuse Tracker postings for January 12, 2003. As you can see, Kathy Shaw blogged 19 articles about the sexual abuse crisis that Sunday. On Abuse Tracker, the first couple of paragraphs are provided, with a link so that you can read the rest of the article. If you click today on the links in this example, you will see that most of them no longer point to the full text of the article. This is because the newspapers have moved the articles or taken them down to make room for new articles. The main purpose of News and Views is to make these lost articles accessible again on the Internet.

  • What does a VOTF-News email look like? Here is the VOTF-News email that Goz Gosselin prepared later on that same day, January 12, 2003. You'll notice that Gosselin selected 12 of the 19 articles from Abuse Tracker, visited them, and then saved the full text of the articles into his email message. Note that the email is text only—there are no photographs.

  • What do those articles look like in News and Views?  Here are the articles that Gosselin selected from Abuse Tracker, formatted as separate Web pages in our News and Views feature. Note that the articles are in chronological order, and alphabetical by author within each day.

    - Many U.S. Catholic Bishops Set to Retire, by Rachel Zoll (January 10, 2003)
    - Church Request to Drop Suits Draws Fire, by Robert O'Neill (January 11, 2003)
    - How the Study of Sexual Abuse by Priests Was Conducted, by Josh Barbanel (January 12, 2003)
    - Church's Crimes Must Be Punished, Boston Globe (January 12, 2003)
    - Pope in 'Prayerful Solidarity' with U.S. Church over Sex Abuse Crisis, Catholic News Service (January 12, 2003)
    - The Church and the Press: Shooting the Messenger, by Fr. Charles Dahlby (January 12, 2003)
    - Priest's Charity Charges Immigrants Millions: Records Show Ministry Provided Him and Associates Cars, Loans, by Brooks Egerton (January 12, 2003)
    - Trail of Pain in Church Crisis Leads to Nearly Every Diocese, by Laurie Goodstein (January 12, 2003)
    - Diocese to Discuss Record Handling, by J.M. Hirsch (January 12, 2003)
    - In an Era of Change, a Persistent Crisis, New York Times (January 12, 2003)
    - A Cardinal's Coverup: The Story of William O'Connell Shows Where the Church's Troubles Really Started, by James O'Toole (January 12, 2003)
    - Abuse in 'Nearly All' US Dioceses - Report, RTE News (January 12, 2003)

  • Did you modify the articles for News and Views?  We have posted the articles exactly as they appeared in VOTF-News, but with the title, author, newspaper, and date formatted in a consistent way. When the date was not given in the VOTF-News version, we used the date of the email, noting that the article was "downloaded" on that day. We have posted the entire news content of every VOTF-News email in our possession. The gap between December 18, 2004 and December 31, 2004 is owing to a BishopAccountability.org collection error and will be rectified. Because of a VOTF computer problem, VOTF-News distribution was interrupted on December 12, 2005. When service resumes, we will complete the News and Views collection for 2005.

  • What are the collection principles of Abuse Tracker?  The Tracker was started by Bill Mitchell of the Poynter Institute, a "school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists." Mitchell had previously worked for the Detroit Free Press, Time magazine, and the San Jose Mercury News, and he was on the board of the National Catholic Reporter. Since the end of 2002, most of the collecting has been done by Kathy Shaw, a reporter for the Worcester [MA] Telegram and Gazette who has written extensively on the crisis. Abuse Tracker was hosted by the Poynter Institute from 3/17/02/ to 12/30/03. Since then, it has been hosted by the National Catholic Reporter. See Poynter's announcement of the transition. In the earliest days, article collection for Abuse Tracker emphasized the major dailies, but soon journalists from smaller papers were sending suggestions for posting. Recently, the Abuse Tracker seems to have posted more articles about the abuse crisis in other religions and denominations, and to be including more articles from conservative sources. The January 12, 2003 sample shows some early postings from those sources. Several Abuse Tracker comment threads debate whether the Tracker should post articles on abuse in other denominations (e.g., see 1 with a link to a Catholic League press release and 2). For more information about Abuse Tracker's early days, see Fox, Web site sheds light on media fascination with abuse crisis (8/16/02). See also the initial posts of Abuse Tracker from March 2002, which reflect the emphasis on journalists' approaches.

  • How do I find back issues of Abuse Tracker? On the current Web site for Abuse Tracker, the most recent days' entries are in the center of the screen. Scroll down a few screens and you will see two sets of archive links on the left.
    1. Archives for Abuse Tracker contains a link for each month from December 2003 to January 2006. In this list of links, the earlier ones bring you to a list of article titles, which are in turn linked to the article (if it is still online). The later links are more useful, because they bring you to the Abuse Tracker's original postings for each month, i.e., a few paragraphs from each article and a link to the article itself, if it's still online. It's convenient to have all the postings for a month on the same long page.
    2. Past Archives for Abuse Tracker has a single link that takes you to Abuse Tracker's page on the Poynter Institute site, where Abuse Tracker started. This page has four useful features.
      • Search for Articles 3/17/02 - 12/30/03  By putting those dates into the search boxes (scroll down slightly), you can get a list of all the titles blogged on Abuse Tracker during its Poynter years (8,225 entries or about 8,370 articles). Smaller date ranges will yield more manageable lists of articles, with the titles linked to the Abuse Tracker entry with partial text, which in turn is linked to the article, if it is still online. The searches by title and collector of the article aren't very useful.
      • Browse Articles 3/17/02 - 11/2/02  Scroll down the Abuse Tracker page on the Poynter Institute site and you will see on the right a link called Tracker Archives March-Oct. 2002. Click the link and you will go to a list of weeks. Click on a week and you will get all the Abuse Tracker entries (including initial paragraphs) with links to the articles if they are still online.
      • Abuse Tracker Feedback  This link will bring you to a list of articles that attracted comments from readers, and you can click a title to read the comments.
      • Other Web Resources  Scroll down the Abuse Tracker page on the Poynter Institute site and you will see on the right a section of links called Story Archive by News Organization and another section called Web Resources. Many of the links have broken (an indication of how ephemeral the Internet can be) but some are still active and useful.

  • So some of the original Abuse Tracker entries are no longer available?  That's correct, the original Abuse Tracker entries with initial paragraphs are missing for most of 2004. This is important because if the newspaper has removed the article, the original Tracker entry is sometimes the best record we have. Here is a summary of the access provided by Poynter and NCR to back issues of Abuse Tracker:
      • 3/17/02 to 11/2/02    Use a links page to access collections of original Tracker entries grouped by month. Also searchable by date from the main Poynter page.
      • 11/3/02 to 12/30/03  Use the search feature on the main Poynter page to access a list of articles, which in turn are linked to the original Tracker entries.
      • 12/31/03 to 12/9/04  No original Tracker entries with initial paragraphs seem to be available for this time period. Use the National Catholic Reporter's main page for Abuse Tracker, and scroll down to "Archives for Abuse Tracker" on the left. Click the month to obtain a list of articles for that month. Click a title to go directly to the full-text article, if it is still online.
      • 12/10/04 to present Use the National Catholic Reporter's main page for Abuse Tracker, and scroll down to "Archives for Abuse Tracker" on the left. Click the month to obtain a list of articles for that month. Then click a title to go to the Abuse Tracker entry with initial paragraphs displayed. Click again to go to the full-text article, if it is still online.

  • What were the selection principles of VOTF-News?  Gosselin and Sheehan both selected broadly. Gosselin seems to have been especially interested in church structure and VOTF activism, and Sheehan emphasized survivors and survivor activism. But both included articles on every topic and from every perspective. They would try to select the strongest article, if more than one article was written about a subject. In the transition between Gosselin and Sheehan, fewer articles were included in VOTF-News; as a result, the collection is smaller for June–August 2004 than for other periods. See Gosselin's brief description of his involvement in VOTF-News and VOTF's statement when he retired from the work. On two occasions, Terence McKiernan, who is a co-director of BishopAccountability.org, volunteered to substitute for the VOTF-News editors: a week for Gosselin in April 2003 and a week and a half for Sheehan in September 2005. Between Gosselin and Sheehan (June–August 2004), VOTF staff selected the articles for VOTF-News.

  • What percent of Abuse Tracker articles were included in VOTF-News? About 32%—more in some half-years and less in others.

  • Why are there more articles in some half-years than in others?  This variation reflects changes in the staffing and selection methods at VOTF-News, rather than changes at Abuse Tracker or changes in the flow of articles from newspapers. In this table, we show the number of articles posted on Abuse Tracker in each half year, the number of articles included in VOTF-News, and the percentage of articles selected for inclusion in VOTF-News.
  Articles in
Abuse Tracker
Articles in
VOTF-News
Percentage of Tracker Articles Included in VOTF-News
January–June 2003 3,917 1,634 42%
July–December 2003 3,209 1,292 40%
January–June 2004 4,544 1,453 32%
July–December 2004 3,493 789 23%
January–June 2005 3,680 1,006 27%
July–December 2005 3,580 949 27%
TOTAL 22,423 7,123 32%



  • How does News and Views fit within the BishopAccountability.org collection?  The articles in News and Views double the size of the site, providing background and filling in many gaps. They will soon be fully searchable using our Google search feature on the homepage. But the rest of the site offers articles that did not appear in VOTF-News. Here are several examples: 1) On January 12, 2003, Abuse Tracker (see the sample) included an important article on contested allegations in Boston. That article was not included in VOTF-News (see sample), but BishopAccountability.org has posted the article with links to some of the documents that it cites. 2) On January 12, 2003, the NY Times analyzed the preliminary results of a survey to count accused priests. VOTF-News included most of the articles, but without the charts and graphs. BishopAccountability.org has posted all the articles with the illustrations and links to commentary. We also transcribed the NY Times data into a spreadsheet so that readers could sort it in various ways. 3) We have posted complete versions of the June 2004 Runaway Priests feature in the Dallas Morning News and the November 2005 Hidden Abuse feature in the [Wilmington DE] News Journal.

  • What are your plans for News and Views?  We hope to acquire the VOTF-News emails from 2002 and post those articles, and to continue posting articles from VOTF-News in the future. At the same time, we are collecting articles that were blogged in Abuse Tracker but not included in VOTF-News, as well as articles that were never included in Abuse Tracker. We are also collecting hardcopy newspapers and xeroxes of articles, so that photographs, maps, and diagrams are not lost from the record. Our goal is to gather a complete record of all media reports on the crisis, as well as all the available diocesan documents and all of the legal filings. It has been a huge job to post the 7,123 articles from VOTF-News 2003–2005, and we continue to check the links and format the articles. If you notice any mistakes, please email us and let us know.

 


 
 

Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.