How Catholics exposed sexual abuse by priests long before the Boston Globe

Sunday evening Spotlight won Best Picture which portrays the work of the Boston Globe but a lesser known story is how the National Catholic Reporter worked for years on exposing sexual abuse by priests in the face of pressure from the hierarchy, from people cutting funds and unsubscribing. Religion News Service gives the history of the work before Spotlight.

In its 1985 exposé, NCR laid bare the two essential outrages of the crisis: the scope of the abuse and the magisterial heights from which it was concealed. Berry and Jones’ reporting in that issue loosed a flood of testimonials from abuse survivors throughout America, many of which were later reported for the first time.

By the time The Boston Globe succeeded in bringing the scandal to the attention of the entire world, NCR had been doggedly covering the story for 17 years, often alone. Secular publications, including The New York Times and The Nation, wouldn’t go near the topic. Even the rest of the Catholic press stayed silent.

NCR is an independent, nonprofit publication, staffed by lay people, neither owned nor controlled by the Catholic Church, with a paid circulation of about 35,000. What it lacks in scale, it makes up for in editorial independence, expert reporting and risk-taking in pursuit of the truth.

The good news is that dedicated people can make change.

Read more here.

Addendum. Coverage by the Vatican newspaper, praising the film and popes but not NCR:

…it has become clear that in the Church some are more preoccupied with the image of the institution than of the seriousness of the act.

[There is] extremely grave fault of those who, while seen as God’s representatives, use this authority and prestige to exploit the innocent. The film is adept at recounting this detail, giving space to the inner devastation that these acts generate in the victims, who no longer have a God to plead with, to ask for help.

The fact that a call arose from the Oscar ceremony — that Pope Francis fight this scourge — should be seen as a positive sign: there is still trust in the institution, there is trust in a Pope who is continuing the cleaning begun by his predecessor, then still a cardinal.

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