Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Gregory Faults Reporting on Scandal: Not Enough Credit Given for Sex Abuse Policies, Says Conference Head

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Gregory Faults Reporting on Scandal: Not Enough Credit Given for Sex Abuse Policies, Says Conference Head

Article excerpt

The nation's top Roman Catholic bishop sharply criticized the media for "saturation coverage" of the church's sex abuse crisis that resulted in "unnecessary damage" to church leaders.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, faulted reporters for only "minimal attempts" to investigate sexual abuse in other institutions and "linking sexual abuse solely to Catholic clerics."

"The way the story was so obsessively covered resulted in unnecessary damage to the bishops and the entire Catholic community," Gregory told the Religion Newswriters Association Sept. 5.

Gregory, the bishop of Belleville, III., said bishops had not been given enough credit for sexual abuse policies that were implemented before the scandal erupted 18 months ago.

Ten years ago, the bishops approved "guidelines" on handling abusive priests, but Gregory conceded many dioceses--including Boston, the scandal's epicenter--did not adequately implement them.

Under new rules adopted in June 2002, the bishops established lay review boards and promised to remove from public ministry any priest who had abused a minor. The Vatican later made changes that detailed an accused priest's legal rights.

"In an investigative zeal to discover how past cases were handled, too often fundamental follow-up questions about ... whether Catholic children were safer in 2002 from abuse by clergy than they were 10 years earlier were not asked," Gregory said.

The result, he said, is that many people think "that sexual abuse of children in our society could be eliminated by eliminating Catholic priest abusers."

Gregory, who has enjoyed mostly smooth relations with the media despite intense scrutiny over the scandal, said, "If society has any hope of eliminating this terrible exploitation of our youth, then we also have to face up to this scourge as it exists in the family, in school systems, and in all forms of professional and volunteer work with young people. …

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