The Boston Globe’s reporting on clergy sex abuse prompted multiple victims in Pennsylvania to come forward, and the importance of the newspaper’s 2002 investigative series “can’t be overstated,” a grand jury said Tuesday.
The praise for the newspaper came in an 887-page report released by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office detailing a decades-long history of sexual abuse by priests in that state.
The report found that leaders of the Roman Catholic Church there covered up child sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report abuse and police officers not to investigate it, the New York Times reported.
The wall of silence began to break down after the Globe’s reports, the grand jury noted.
“Sixteen years ago, the media — not law enforcement — exposed a significant coverup of clergy sex abuse. While that exposure represents a fraction of what we’ve found in Pennsylvania, the effect of the investigative reporting of the Boston Globe on this issue can’t be overstated,” the grand jury’s report said. “The newspaper’s articles created a national scandal that altered the atmosphere. Something the dioceses had long attempted to avoid was now a daily occurrence — a public call for transparency.”
The Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the abuse scandal, and “Spotlight,” a Hollywood film about the newspaper’s investigation, won an Oscar for Best Picture in 2016.
According to the Pennsylvania report, one woman told the grand jury that if not for “the clergy abuse being revealed in the Boston Archdiocese, she would not have come forward to report the abuse she endured.”
Another victim, the report said, testified that after the “scandal broken by the Boston Globe, he found the strength to finally disclose his abuse to the Catholic church. . . . The victim never told his wife why he could not hug or kiss his own children, who were boys. He was unable to be affectionate with his grandchildren. To this day, he cannot shake hands with men. He cannot be seen by male doctors or dentists. His therapist had to be a female. The victim told the Grand Jury that he was in the Army, fought in Korea, and was stationed on Okinawa in the 1950’s. However, every day of this victim’s life has been tormented” by the abuse he suffered in 1948.
Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who’s represented many clergy sex abuse victims in Boston and elsewhere, praised the victims cited in the Pennsylvania report. Garabedian was also a key source for Globe reporters during the 2002 series.
“The PA grand jury report lays out the standard blueprint of dishonesty, immorality, criminality and cover-up of the Catholic Church which has been previously revealed in Boston and archdioceses and dioceses worldwide,” Garabedian said in a statement.
“Clergy sexual abuse victims are to be commended for having the courage to report their sexual abuse and therefore create transparency. The Vatican, to the surprise of no one, was and continues to be complicit in the cover up and in hiding behind evil,” he said.