Sins & Silence
Letters to the Editor
Readers react to series on abuse, response
Full range of opinions on 'Sins and Silence'

By Brian Cooper
Telegraph Herald [Dubuque IA]
March 14, 2006

[See the main page of the Sins & Silence series for links to all the articles and letters to the editor.]

The TH has received lots of feedback to its just-concluded series, "Sins and Silence: Betrayal and Response: Sexual Abuse by the Clergy."

In this space two weeks ago, announcing our plans, I wrote, "I fully anticipate that some readers will be unhappy that we will present the series."

Indeed, I fielded complaints before the first word appeared.

In some cases, "unhappy" was an understatement. During and after the series, we logged a few dozen angry phone calls, postcards and letters to the editor.

Some folks signed their letters; others did not. So too with the phone calls: Some gave their names and others—especially those with profanity-laced tirades—did not.

(Thanks to my colleagues for fielding many of those calls while I was out of town—it was not, as a caller charged, to try to evade complaints.)

Before the series reached its halfway point, a New York-based organization called the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights accused us of anti-Catholic bigotry.

The organization referred to "alleged victims" and "alleged perpetrators." Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, said the bigots at the TH should instead be looking at the conspiracy of sexual abuse in "local public school districts."

An area priest, who demanded that I neither publish nor reply to his letter, wrote, "I wonder if the staff of your newspaper has any conscience." He described the articles as "vicious."

This might surprise the objectors, but there are many people who see it otherwise.

Another priest, who also did not comment for publication, in an e-mail to our project's lead reporter, Mary Nevans-Pederson, said of the articles: "They were all, fair, balanced, well-written and good."

We have received positive comments from lay people as well. My intent today is not to rehash or debate the series. As I wrote two weeks ago, "Our hope is that most readers will see the series as a serious and comprehensive examination of not only the problem but also efforts toward healing and resolution."

I believe we delivered that.

In any case, we have received several letters to the editor about the series—pro and con. Over the next week or more, we will publish many of them—pro and con.

I don't know if any of these letters will change any minds, but authors will have their say.

Send letters via e-mail

Speaking of letters: We accept them through several means—regular mail, fax and e-mail.

All things being equal, however, e-mail is our preferred method of receipt. It might be your preferred method of delivery.

It takes less time for us to process an e-mailed letter. We don't have to find staff time to retype it into our computer system. Removing the typing step means that an e-mailed letter usually gets into the publication queue sooner.

Letters may be e-mailed to

Cooper posts additional comments and observations at


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