Get Religion blog
July 31, 2019
By Terry Mattingly
If there was an omnipresent reader who had somehow managed to follow my 30-plus years of work linked to the Catholic clergy sex crisis, I think that she or he would have spotted at least one overarching theme.
The big idea: This is a scandal that cannot be divided according to liberal and conservative prejudices. Anyone who tried to do that would have to avoid too many case studies, too many tragedies, too many people — on the left and right — hiding too many crimes. I have argued that wise, patient reporters will listen to liberal and conservative activists and then search for issues and ideas that they share in common.
Hold that thought, because I will end with that.
Every now and then, we see an important story produced by journalists (often in the mainstream press) who seem to think the scandal is all about the sins of conservatives or (often in some independent Catholic publication) all about the sins of liberals.
The Associated Press just produced a story of this kind, a report that raises important issues and was built on tons of journalism legwork to get solid sources. It’s a valid and important story. But it appears that these journalists only saw half of a larger tragedy. The headline: “Unmarked buildings, quiet legal help for accused priests.”
Yes, secrets were uncovered. But stop and think about that headline. Is the assumption that all Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse are, in fact, guilty? Is it possible to imagine that some Catholics might support efforts to research and clear the names of priests who they believe have been falsely accused and have valid reasons to do so? And are all these efforts on the right? Just asking.
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