Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ethics Corner

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ethics Corner

Article excerpt

MORE BROKEN VOWS

Now, newspapers need to investigate the nuns' stories

When will the nun stories surface again?

Who will report on the nightmarish tales from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States disclosing how priests raped or seduced nuns, impregnated them, and encouraged some of them to have abortions.

What newspaper will turn loose its investigative reporters to track the alleged priestly predators who have been hidden away in the cloistered corners of the Roman Catholic Church?

What TV network newscast will fix its cameras on this scandal involving the violation of so many innocent women who are afraid to speak out publicly and whose families are horrified?

"If those priests had been doctors or lawyers, they would have had to face criminal charges," said Sister Mary Ann Cunningham, who heads the National Coalition of American Nuns, a respected grassroots organization based in Denver. "It was just so cowardly for those priests to pick on those poor young nuns. And the higher-ups who covered up the sins of those priests should be held accountable, too."

Sister Cunningham, waging her war against the predatory priests from a wheelchair, is certain the mainline media's fear of being labeled anti- Catholic has helped the church cover up the sexual abuse of the nuns. "A lot of us don't read the regular newspapers any more because they just aren't doing their jobs," she said. "The only ones willing to go after the truth are those alternative publications."

The National Catholic Reporter, a nonprofit, 45,809-circulation, weekly paper read in 93 countries, alerted the world to the nun scandal with a Page One story on March 16 of last year. The Vatican confirmed that there was a "problem" involving priest-nun relationships, but insisted it was confined to Africa and has since kept its thoughts on the scandal to itself.

But the newspaper's two-year investigation, citing five reports written by several nuns and a priest, traced the abuse of nuns from 1988 to 1998 in 23 countries, including the United States, Italy, Ireland, India, and Brazil. The other countries named in the story were Botswana, Burundi, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Tonga, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

"When we first broke it, people covered our coverage," said Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter. "Incredibly, the Vatican confirmed it on its Web site. …

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