Legionary Newspaper Cries Foul

The National Catholic Register, a newspaper owned by the Legionaries of Christ, is complaining. It sees a difference in the number of papers who reported sexual abuse by priests vs. those who published a recent article about sexual abuse by teachers. It thinks someone is picking on the church.

I’m reading another book about sexual abuse by priests. Jason Berry, Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). This is the first book on the subject, originally published in 1992, expanded from Berry’s research in the mid-1980s into Fr. Gilbert Gauthe, a serial molester in the Diocese of Lafayette, LA. This came out nearly 20 years before Cardinal Law’s problems; it was published ten years before then. Berry weaves the story of his own odyssey into the book–he tried to get various publications interested, but in the mid-1980s, no major daily newspaper would touch the subject. His series first ran in The Times of Acadiana and The National Catholic Reporter. When he wrote the revised forward in 2000, he spoke of a church that was first stunned by lawsuits, and which then learned to fight back hard, suing victims for libel. He wrote of a public that grew tired with the reports, and came to believe that victims were going overboard, and making too big a deal, and who maybe weren’t all that reliable.

Berry wrote another book, which I just ordered: Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II (Free Press, 2004). It’s about the church politics in the scandal, which reached all the way to the top, involving John Paul II, who thought it a crisis made by the media, who refused ever to meet with any victims or to apologize to them as he had apologized regarding ancient wrongs, and who defended and promoted a man with a long history of accusations of sexual abuse: Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Renner’s articles in the Hartford Courant were the starting point for this book–a series that wasn’t picked up by other newspapers around the country, either.

It was a long time coming, but Maciel was finally removed from ministry by Pope Benedict XVI (see ReGAIN Network for details about this case). The Legionaries of Christ continue to deny he did any wrong. The National Catholic Register has not reported the cries of his legion of accusers. It continues to defend him. I don’t think that it has reported on Benedict’s quiet ruling releasing members of the order from their secret vows, either.