‘They Knew And They Let It Happen To Kids

Category: Catholic Sexual Abuse

Uncovering Child Abuse By Pedophile Priests in the Catholic Church

On his first day on the job in July 2001, Globe editor Martin Baron stopped by the desk of Eileen McNamara, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. A week earlier, on July 29, 2001, McNamara had published a column about the Boston Archdiocese’s silence on three Catholic pedophile priests accused of sexually abusing children.

One line, in particular, had irked Baron. McNamara had wondered whether an accused priest’s superiors had known about his crimes. Court documents were sealed. “The public,” she concluded, “has no way of knowing.”

McNamara recalls Baron standing over her desk: “Why don’t we find out,” he said.

Spotlight’s investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church did not begin with a tip or newly obtained document, as so many investigations do. Instead, it started when a new Globe editor spurred his newsroom to action. After telling the Globe’s senior leaders he intended to pursue the story, Baron asked Spotlight editor Walter V. Robinson to make sexual abuse by priests his team’s next project.

Robinson, a three-decade newsroom veteran, was taken aback. “Editors never told the Spotlight Team what to do,” Robinson says. “The Spotlight Team told the editor what it was going to do.” But it was clear that this wasn’t a debate. Robinson returned to Spotlight’s office and instructed his team — Michael Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer, and Matthew Carroll — to get to work.

The story wasn’t new to them. The Globe had been covering the abuse cases for a decade, and other outlets had been on the story for even longer. “I always remind people we didn’t reveal the existence of priest sex abuse,” Rezendes says. Rather, Spotlight set out to do what it does best: reveal the systemic problem behind the individual stories. “What we did that was new,” Rezendes continues, “was show the scale of the issue and the coverup.”

The team’s first guide was Phil Saviano, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse himself and founder of the New England chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an advocacy group for other survivors.

That August, Saviano visited Spotlight’s office and delivered what he calls “a graduate-level seminar in clergy abuse.”

During the next month, reporters carried out some of the project’s most grueling work: speaking with victims. Pfeiffer remembers middle-aged men sobbing at their kitchen tables. Rezendes met with victims and their families at the office of Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian. “Everyone was crying and sometimes screaming,” Rezendes recalls. “It was horrific.”

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See the full, original post here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/09/22/magazine/they-knew-they-let-it-happen-uncovering-child-abuse-catholic-church/

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