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10 Years Later: Breaking Down The Mass. Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, left, with Rev. John Connolly, the Cardinal's special assistant for the Protection of Children, at a news conference in April, 2008. (AP)

Ten years after the clergy sex abuse crisis hit the news, we talk with two reporters who were instrumental in uncovering the scandal, WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer and Northeastern University distinguished professor Walter V. Robinson, who won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the subject.


  • Sacha Pfeiffer, WBUR host of All Things Considered
  • Walter V. Robinson, distinguished professor at Northeastern University


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  • Anonymous

    His Eminence Cardinal Law is still on the lam. 

  • Stacey M

    Of course, this problem was known all along. I grew up in the 60s on the south shore, and the idea that there was a problem – and a cover up  - was common knowledge. The real question to ask the reporters is “what took you so long?”

    • neil allen

      I’m not positive, but I’m guessing that before this became well known, Catholics would have revolted on anyone who suggested such a thing. 

      Cardinal Law, one of the satanic high priests in the church, actually threatened the “Wrath Of God” on the boston reporters that were investigating Fr Porter, who raped over 100 children.  Cardinal Law knew about Porter, and had personally moved him multiple times.

      Let’s be thankful that the Globe and Phoenix had the guts to fight Catholics and Cardinal Law’s “Wrath Of God” to find the truth, which the Catholic church always tries to hide.

  • Wallacem4444

    I was a priest abuse victim in the 1960′s who still never came out. I wonder how many more are out there. Also I’d love to see a follow up story about how many Catholics left the church because of this child abuse scandal?

    • Vince

      Dear Wallacem,

      I was abused while in the minor seminary for 4 years back in the 1960′s.  I decided to not only come out but file suit against the church and seek therapy.  After many years of intensive work, my life has become fulfilling and at peace.

      May I ask why you, and perhaps so many others, have remained silent?

      Vince Perez

  • Anonymous

    Sinead O’Connor tried to bring attention to the Church’s long history of child rape by tearing up a photo of the head of the international cover up Pope John Paul II.  Guess who the public was angry at.

  • JMM

    As newspapers close down for lack of readers and as budget cuts decrease the number of reporters,  who is going to do this type of investigative work? Will Slate or the Cheat Sheet stick with a story long enough to bring about the resignation of a Cardinal, or the indictment of the head of the Mass Dept of Probation, or the Speaker of the House?  Who will be tenacious and persistent enough to get the interviews and documents that cannot be dismissed or ignored ? This really worries me, but I’m 60 years old and don’t Tweet and can barely text.  Maybe there is a media that will step up to the job, I sure hope so because for certain, the corruption in powerful groups is never going away.

  • Anonymous

    I still don’t understand why Bernard Law was not criminally prosecuted for covering this mess up and for enabling the abusers by simply moving them around to other churches.

    Sex abuse by people in power is not new, or unique to the Catholic Church. We all know that it is there, and disturbingly widespread. Yet, when victims dare to speak out, they are too often put on a kind of trial by the general acceptance of the abusers’ denial. Rather than making it okay to listen to the concerns of our children, they are too often taught blind respect for anyone in authority over them.

    It should not take years for victims to be heard. Bernard Law and his ilk deserve nothing less than criminal prosecution. Shame on O’Malley and all the member of the Catholic clergy who tried to buy the end of this instead of giving the whole mess to the legal system, as would have been done with other common criminals.

  • Anonymous

    Wallace4444 – sorry for your abuse.  I too am a victim of clergy abuse — and I am a priest as well.  I was raped 9 months prior to ordination.  The numbers (statistics) we have are based solely on the cases REPORTED — and it is estimated that 10% of victims actually report the crime committed upon them.  Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the church is trying to say “it (the crisis) is over” and the “faithful flock” are blindly accepting their statements.  The abuse crisis does NOT end for perhaps another generation or more.  On average it takes a victim of clergy abuse 30-40 years to be able to recognize that what happened to them was in fact a crime, and that it has had a negative impact on their lives.  Readers who do not know a victim, or cannot understand what happens to a victim, can learn from a cableshow that we produced — you can find it online at http://www.vimeo.com/13900438

    • http://profiles.google.com/glorybe1929 Gloria Sullivan

      bostonpadre……. Why in God’s Holy name did you not leave immediately and go to the authorities and tell them what happened to you.? 

      If you were a priest at the time of your abuse, you knew better.  If you were a child and you still went into the priesthood  anyway, then there is a terrible thing wrong here.  Once you knew from your studies of scripture   that they were evil, you should have done what was right and left but it seems you did not, why? 

      And you’re from Boston..Where it all came into the LIGHT!  Have you sexually abused any vunerable  victims?

      • Clergyvictim

        Gloria, I was not a priest at the time — I was a Deacon, 9 MONTHS PRIOR to ordination.  I DID go to my supervisor — but nothing happened.  I learned in 2002 or thereabouts that he too was a pedophile, playing around with mentally ill teenaged girls; I called every rape crisis center in the city of Boston at the time and no one would talk to me.  In 1970 there was a BIG push to protect women from being raped — but no one could believe that a MAN could be raped.
        AND NO I HAVE NOT ABUSED ANYONE — I take great insult to that question.  take a look at the cable program that we produced – it will give you an idea — or my personal website – http://www.clergysexualabusevictims.com

      • Clergyvictim

        the reason I stayed — I felt that I was a better person than my rapist, and that the little good that I could do in the church would off set the evil that I had encountered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maureen-Paul-Turlish/1528406594 Maureen Paul Turlish

    Sister Maureen Paul TurlishAdvocate for Victims & Legislative Reformmaturlishmdsnd@yahoo.com
    By the time my 7:30 Sunday night flight from Boston, Massachusetts touched down in Philadelphia the adrenaline rush I had been operating on all weekend also began to power down.

    I was up in Boston over the weekend of January 6 – 8 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of “Confronting Crimes & Cover Up of Sexual Abuse by the Boston Clergy & Catholic Hierarchy.”
    As a member of a number of national and regional support groups for victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I have long been active in supporting legislative reform in MA, NY, MD and PA after having been part of Delaware’s successful action removing the civil statute of limitation going forward while providing a two year civil window, open from July 2007 through July 2009, that allowed previously time barred cases of childhood sexual abuse – by anyone – to be brought forward.  
    I was honored to be with the Boston and New England victims of childhood sexual abuse, especially those sexually violated by priests and then further betrayed by the Episcopal leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.  I met some of their family members, friends and advocates.  While I already knew, talked or corresponded with some, most I had never met in person.   I was also privileged to walk with and address them at the Sunday morning demonstration and solidarity march around the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End.  Many have been part of this demonstration for the preceding decade.  http://bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/01/09/victims-abuse-cap-meeting-with-south-end-march/voNiD1L9ZG6OL8HBpkBIcJ/story.html  http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20220109clergy_abuse_activists_mark_decade_of_struggle/
    The main and recurring theme of the conference, “The Year of the Survivor,” was that the leadership of religious denominations, including the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, cannot and should not be depended upon to do the right thing where the sexual exploitation – including rape and sodomy – of children is concerned. That responsibility belongs to our respective state legislatures.

    As Constitutional Law Professor and author Marci Hamilton said in her Boston comments, “The time is past for us to care what the bishops think (regarding the protection of children).  We must hold our elected representatives accountable.  They are the only ones who can change the law and they are responsible for the law as it stands now.” 
    I agree.  
    While criminal trials are about to open in Philadelphia against Msgr. William Lynn (reckless endangerment & conspiracy) and four others (the sexual abuse of minors) which will undoubtedly make public previously sealed depositions and records of archdiocesan officials, legislative reform of the statutes covering childhood sexual abuse, in one sense, is even more important.  Current statutes of limitation are arbitrary and discriminatory.   Removing those statutes while providing a civil window for previously time barred cases of sexual abuse is the most effective way to hold accountable those who would sexually exploit children.  I chaired the national sub-committee which produced the Advocacy Guide for Legislative Reform based on the successful Delaware action for use across jurisdictions. http://votf.org/via/Advocacy_Guide.pdf The job of protecting children is one which belongs to all of us and it begins with adequate legislation.  
    That time is now. 
    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur,   http://www.sndden.org  an educator and an advocate for legislative reform.  She is a founding member of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition,  http://nationalsurvivoradvocatescoalition.wordpress.com/  a member of the Voice of the Faithful National Committee on Child Protection & Survivor Support
    http://www.votf.org/page/voices-action/7619   and a member of the Justice 4 Pa Kids Coalition  http://www.justice4PaKids.com

  • Vince


    Dear Wallacem,I was abused while in the minor seminary for 4 years back in the 1960′s.  I decided to not only come out but file suit against the church and seek therapy.  After many years of intensive work, my life has become fulfilling and at peace.May I ask why you, and perhaps so many others, have remained silent?Vince Perez

  • neil allen

    This is not the church of God, and God couldn’t make it more clear.  THey raped thousands of children in the US alone (and that’s according to their own John Jay report of 2004, they hid over 4,000 known pedophiles, they lied about it, and they fought and denigrated the victims that came forward.

    The Catholic church knowingly moved child rapists, lied about it, and fought the victims, which is the exact oppostie of What Jesus Would Do.

    The congregation worships bishops instead of God, so they allow the bishops to continue the practice, and still fight the victims.

    In the most disgusting move yet, the Catholic League, the spokesmen for the Catholic church, called the victims crybabys.

    The victims have such strength to live in a world where the alleged church of God follows these practices consistently worldwide.

    I hope the victims take comofrt in the fact that God and Jesus are on their side, and in the afterlife, those that didn’t follow God and did fight the victims will live a horrifying eternity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Art-Freeland/100003908535184 Art Freeland

      Neil, sadly you are an anti-catholic bigot and you devote a great bit of time to this cause.  Get a life.

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