Why We Are Publishing This Story

By N. Christian Anderson
Orange County Register
February 4, 1991

[See also Anaheim Priest Acknowledges Sexual Contact with Girl in 1978 and Bishop Disagrees with Register's Reporting of Case.]

Some readers will ask why The Orange County Register is publishing an article about something that occurred more than 10 years ago, particularly when one of the individuals involved is a priest who has the respect and admiration of his parishioners.

In fact, the decision to publish this story was not made lightly or quickly.

We held the story for several days after it was written while we decided what to do. We consulted Michael Josephson, a nationally respected ethicist, to discuss the issues. We tried several times to get Father John Lenihan and representatives of the Catholic church to offer comments in their behalf. Further, I took the extraordinary step of appealing to Bishop Norman F. McFarland to make a statement about the case to help us be fair in the story.

As for the timing, this isn't simply a newspaper dredging up something from the past. The lawsuit was filed in 1990 and settled only last month. It also is a matter of public record -- not a private settlement.

I'm disappointed that the bishop chose to attack the Register rather than address the facts of the case and answer questions that would help you understand how the church deals with matters such as this. On a personal note, I wish he had expressed some compassion for Mary Staggs, who is important to this story, too.


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