Blog Archives

A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight


A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight

April 1

From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-new-sex-abuse-scandal-in-the-spotlight/2016/04/01/4a1747fa-f76e-11e5-8b23-538270a1ca31_story.html

"Saint" Peter Damian's admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

“Saint” Peter Damian’s admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

Mary Kane is a freelance reporter who lives in Arlington.

Like many longtime reporters, I celebrated the Oscar victory for “Spotlight” and the fearless journalism that exposed the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.

I would soon see the story, and the scandal, from a very different perspective.

Two days after the Oscar ceremony, news broke about another widespread church coverup. I found myself poring over a grand jury report outlining in sickening detail the abuse of hundreds of children by at least 50 priests and religious leaders in western Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese — in my hometown.

I moved away long ago, but I still have family there. I visit regularly, and my mom was a devoted parish volunteer during her lifetime. I figured I might recognize a few of the accused or some of the churches. I quickly realized things stretched far beyond that.

The names of priests and parishes from my childhood appeared, one after another, all familiar. My grade school priest. Not one but two pastors from my neighborhood parish, a half block from my childhood home. The principal, vice principal and music director from my high school. A priest I once met with to consider officiating my wedding. The priest at the church my four nieces and nephews attended. The chaplain of the nearby Catholic hospital, where my mom volunteered.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Two of the priests, leaders at Bishop McCort High School, where my parents sent me and my three brothers in the 1970s to receive a quality religious education, were “sexual partner[s]” who worked together to molest a 13-year-old boy, the report said. They coordinated visits to his house. Once one priest had “satisfied himself,” the report said, the other “took advantage of a victim he believed to be compliant.”

One had been my religion teacher.

First, I called my brothers, to vent. Then I tried comprehending the scale of the abuses. TheSpotlight team identified about 80 predatory priests in an archdiocese of 1.8 million Catholics. The grand jury report found at least 50 priests and religious leaders in a diocese of fewer than 100,000. That was stunning enough. But there was more.

“Spotlight” depicted the Catholic clubbiness of Boston that allowed for abuse. In small-town Pennsylvania, corruption extended into all corners of the community. The church exercised “overwhelming access and influence,” even handpicking community leaders, including the police and fire chiefs. “The mayor would have them come to me, and I would interview them and I would tell him which I would pick,” a top bishop’s aide testified.

I appreciated how “Spotlight” highlighted the crucial role that journalism plays in challenging the powerful. In my home town, however, I saw how it sometimes falls short. George Foster, manager of an outdoor billboard advertising company and a former high school classmate of mine, emerges as the hero — not an investigative reporting team.

Foster’s brother was a priest; the two heard rumors of abuses and began looking into them. In 2002, Foster wrote an op-ed for the local paper, calling on the church to clean up its house.

Immediately, he was inundated with tips and evidence from victims, attorneys and even the police. He also did something no journalist had: He went through the files at the Blair County Courthouse from the 1994 civil trial of the Rev. Francis Luddy, a priest accused of molesting boys. The lawsuit against Luddy was filed in 1987, but records were sealed at the church’s request. They became public during the trial.

Foster found in the files documents showing church officials knew of credible allegations against many additional priests but kept them secret. He confronted then-Bishop Joseph Adamec. If this were a movie, outraged authorities would have taken action. But that didn’t happen. Adamec rebuffed him.

Finally, in 2014, state investigators in a different child abuse case contacted Foster, and he provided his files. The report cited them extensively and called Foster’s actions “nothing short of heroic.”

I wondered where the journalists had been. Local media covered the Luddy trial, and the Johnstown paper, tipped off by Foster, wrote about the Luddy files in 2002. But none of it drew national attention. I called Richard Serbin, the attorney in the Luddy case, who regularly represents clergy sex-abuse victims. There wasn’t a paper with the prestige of the Boston Globe to make an impact, Serbin said. It happened in a small community in decline, and few noticed or cared. “The facts were all there, back in 1994,” Serbin said. “And no one bothered to look at them.”

“Spotlight” ends with a lengthy list of investigations of church abuses worldwide. In Pennsylvania, the grand jury report offers prayers that the current bishop makes the right choices going forward. I hope that works. I’m not exactly in the mood for prayer.

Still protecting its own


Still protecting its own

May 15 at 7:29 PM

From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/still-protecting-its-own/2016/05/15/dca095ec-194f-11e6-aa55-670cabef46e0_story.html

Catholic outrage at Facebook posts against Catholics. Loses no sleep over priests raping little boys.

Catholic outrage at Facebook posts against Catholics. Loses no sleep over priests raping little boys.

“In 1995, two individuals alleged sexual abuse by Father Robert Hopkins in the 1970s.”

“In 1999, an individual alleged sexual abuse by Father Timothy Murphy in the late 1960s to early 1970s.”

“In 2002, an individual alleged sexual abuse in the mid-1970s by Dennis Pecore, who was then a religious brother.”

ON AND ON it goes. These accounts, and several dozen others like them, now appear on the website of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which recently published a list — or rather, republished one from 2002 with 14 additional names — of clergy alleged to have abused children. Similar lists have been published by other dioceses, which in recent years have taken steps to atone for years of sweeping such cases under the rug by adopting more forthcoming policies and providing counseling to victims of abusive priests.

The church says the publication of these names will provide acknowledgment to victims that they are not alone. By seeing their abusers publicly identified and shamed, victims may be “empowered to find out that other people have alleged against the same person,” according to Sean Caine, spokesman for the archdiocese.

That’s a fair point but an inadequate one. For while the archdiocese is extending one sort of validation to victims, it’s simultaneously pressing to deny most of them another sort: the opportunity to seek redress in the courts.

For years, even as it acknowledged having systematically enabled and covered up the abuse of children by priests, the church has also fought aggressively to maintain tight deadlines that limit the time in which survivors may file lawsuits against abusers and superiors who looked the other way.

In Maryland, the church, fearing the financial fallout of such suits, has lobbied so effectively that bills to extend the deadline, known as the statute of limitations, have not even been accorded a vote in the legislature. The result for the great majority of victims is that by the time they speak up about the abuse they suffered — typically, many years after the fact, as the examples at the top of this editorial illustrate — they no longer have the option of filing a lawsuit, which now ends at age 25. Youthful victims of abuse, whether in schools, churches or teams, must be given more leeway to seek justice, including compensation for the harm they have suffered.

The church argues that abusers are ill-equipped to defend themselves when alleged victims level their accusations many years after the fact; it cites fading memories, unreliable witnesses and fragile evidence. Yet Maryland, like most states, has no such deadline limiting when abusers can be criminally prosecuted. Just as in criminal cases, civil juries are qualified to judge the strength of a victim’s allegations and a defendant’s response.

It’s possible that the stigma of abuse may start to fade as a result of the publicity to which clergy sex abuse has been exposed. If victims come forward more quickly, owing to the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight” and intensified public discussion of abuse, that would be a good thing. In the meantime, justice for victims must include the option of litigation — even if that proves costly for the Catholic Church and other institutions.

“Pope Francis, It’s Time to Protect the Children” Plea by “Spotlight” Producer Falls on Deaf Ears


“Pope Francis, It’s Time to Protect the Children” Plea by “Spotlight” Producer Falls on Deaf Ears

Posted on by Betty Clermont

From the Link: https://opentabernacle.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/pope-francis-its-time-to-protect-the-children-plea-by-spotlight-producer-falls-on-deaf-ears/

"Saint" Peter Damian's admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

“Saint” Peter Damian’s admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

In accepting the Academy Award for Best Picture, producer Michael Sugar told the world: “This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

Earlier that day, Spotlight’s Mark Ruffalo, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, as well as Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, who together won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, attended a protest outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in downtown Los Angeles. They were there to support members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

‘What better way to start the day?’” said McCarthy who called up Ruffalo and Singer that morning to join him. Singer added: “We’re trying to put a little more pressure on the Church to hold bishops accountable, have a little more transparency and do a better job protecting kids.”

Later on the red carpet, Ruffalo told Reuters they were “protesting the continued lack of transparency of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican and most of the archdioceses here in the United States on sexual abuse. There are 2,800 priests who they know are absolute sexual predators whose names have still not been released here in the United States. [There are] thousands more throughout the United States and the Vatican today is still dragging its feet on making any real reforms. So we were there today to try to bring justice closer to the hands of these poor people, this horrible thing that’s happened to these people.

Pope Francis has provided only lip-service, a promise of a still-non-existent tribunal, and a commission to solve problems someday in the future which have already been addressed and remedied by the survivors, their advocates and civil authorities. The only action taken so far by the commission has been to boot out survivor Peter Saunders for being too vocal.

“On child abuse, there is no sincerity on Francis’ side,” Saunders said later.

All American children are at risk because the bishops refuse to release the names of their credibly accused employees and because the bishops have lobbyists with seemingly unlimited resources to obstruct the passage of laws revising statutes of limitations  allowing adults who were assaulted as children to expose and stop their torturers from harming more children.

Children in other parts of the world with weak or non-existent compulsory reporting laws are in even more danger. As dictator, Pope Francis can and does enact and enforce Church law on his own initiative. But he refuses to act to protect children.

Bishops follow the Church’s universal law, which gives them – and guilty clerics – lots of wiggle room. Priests who molest minors are to receive “just penalties” which can be as mild as a warning.

Permanent removal is reserved only for certain cases, which the Vatican described in a policy framework sent to the world’s bishops in 2011. A priest must be removed permanently if his ministry would be “a danger for minors or a cause of scandal” [as decided solely by the bishop].

Church officials need not report child abuse unless local secular law requires it. The result is that Catholic officials in many countries still give second chances to child molesters, with the Vatican’s permission.

Right now, immediately, as he did with the Bishop of Bling, Pope Francis can remove bishops who aid, abet and/or cover-up for pedophile priests or who do not report child sex abuse to civil authorities – but he has refused to do.

Pope Francis is able to endanger children around the world because the “choir” that Michael Sugar hopes for is humongously outmatched by the American mainstream media’s fawning and selective coverage of the “people’s pope.”

For example, the only publication of Ruffalo’s interview was in the Philippines.

The only websites to highlight Sugar’s acceptance speech were mostly trade publications: the Hollywood Reporter,  Entertainment Weekly  E! News and The Blaze.

What we got from the mainstream media (Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, UPI, New York Times, Washington Post, International Business Times, U.S. News & World Report, New York Daily News, The Salt Lake Tribune, Google, Yahoo and religious and broadcast media) was that the Vatican praised Spotlight. Additionally, the Boston Globe, ABC News, Vanity Fair, etc. told us that Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the pope’s do-nothing commission on sex abuse, liked it too.

Ironically, the mainstream media had praised Spotlight for showing the importance of investigative journalism and the courage and difficulty it took to uncover and report detrimental information about the powerful Catholic Church.

Coincidentally, Australian Cardinal George Pell, chosen by Pope Francis as head of all Vatican finance, was ending his first day’s testimony to the Royal Commission on child sex abuse as the Academy Awards telecast was beginning. Because his doctors claimed he was too ill to travel, Pell testified via video link from a hotel room in Rome. Pell was responding to charges that he attempted to bribe a victim, dismissed a victim’s complaint, knew about Australia’s worst predator priest, Gerald Ridsdale, and did nothing, and was complicit in moving Ridsdale from parish to parish in Ballarat.

A group of Australian survivors flew to Rome to be present during Pell’s appearance.

In Ballarat, “we have the highest suicide rate among men in Australia. We have some of the worst drinking and violence problems. And it all stems from that abuse,” said David Ridsdale, Gerald Ridsdale’s nephew and one of his victims. “This is not just a problem in Ballarat or in Australia,” he told the press at the hotel before the hearing. “This is a systemic problem throughout all the world.”

Help us heal the future,” he asked members of the media. “We don’t need any more victims in 50 years. We need to be the last of the survivors.”

Fat chance.

The U.S. media headlined that in giving testimony, Pell was contrite and honest: “says Church made enormous mistakes,” “admits ‘indefensible’ errors in abuse crisis,” “admits ‘scandalous’ response to abuse allegations.”

The following quotes by Pell regarding clerical sex abuse, sometimes buried but most often omitted by the American media, were published in Australia:

“For good or for ill the Church follows the patterns of the society in which it lives.”

“I don’t think it calls into question the divine structure of the Church … I think the faults overwhelmingly have been more personal faults rather than structures.”

”I was certainly unaware of it … If [the leadership of the Catholic Church had] been gossips, which we weren’t…we would have realized earlier just how widespread this business was.”

Business Insider Australia compiled a list of thirteen things “the man in charge of the Catholic Church’s finances couldn’t recall or didn’t know anything about during his testimony today.”

Completely omitted by the U.S. media was that Pell had been making headlines in Australia long before he was promoted by Pope Francis. Accounts of clerical child sex abuse in Australia were so egregious that in 2012 the state of Victoria (capital Melbourne where Pell was archbishop) initiated a parliament inquiry, the state of New South Wales (capital Sydney where Pell was cardinal) investigated complaints that the Catholic Church hampered police investigations, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the formation of a Royal Commission– the highest form of investigative body in that country – to study child sex abuse by religious and non-government bodies.

Pell’s response was to complain about a “’persistent press campaign’ and ‘general smears that we are covering up and moving people around,’ and then capped it off with the claim that abuse by Catholic priests had been singled out and exaggerated.’”

“Catholic clergy commit six times as much abuse as those in the rest of the Churches combined, and that’s a conservative figure,” a Sydney University law professor told the Victoria inquiry. (Catholics are 25% of Australia’s population) “Of thousands of offences, not a single crime was reported by a Church official to the police,” the Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner testified.

Anthony Foster, father of two young daughters repeatedly raped by a priest – one committed suicide, the second struggled with alcohol addiction and while intoxicated was struck by a car leaving her paralyzed – told the Victorian inquiry that Pell showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy typifying the attitude and response of the Catholic hierarchy” when he was Melbourne archbishop.

Pell’s apology was described as “full of criminal clichés” and  “a cynical exercise in damage control.”

In an essay titled, “Rules Are for Schmucks: How to Succeed in Rome,” Luis Granados recalled what happened to John Ellis, who was abused by a priest for many years as an altar boy, when he brought a lawsuit for $100,000 against the Sydney archdiocese.

[…] Pell brought in high-powered lawyers to defend the case.

They subjected Ellis to a grueling two-day cross examination about the details of his abuse and whether he was really a closeted homosexual, systematically trying to convince the court that he was a greedy liar. They hired a public relations expert to help smear Ellis in the court of public opinion.

So how does media darling Pope Francis treat this guy? He promotes him – to the single most important position in the Church. Cardinal Pell is now in charge of all the Church’s money, including the notorious Vatican Bank. The fine moral sensibility he displayed in spending $550,000 to defeat a $100,000 claim to set an example for others, will now guide an institution unregulated by any government and that has a long history of financial fraud, tax evasion, facilitating Mafia money laundering, and possibly much worse …

(For more information, you can read my blog: “Why a Miscreant like Cardinal Pell is Head of Vatican Finance.”)

“I’ve got the full backing of the pope,” Pell told reporters before the second day’s testimony after he met with Pope Francis.

After the four days of testimony were completed: Associated Press, “Australian Cardinal George Pell admits abuse failure, wants to help town [Ballarat].” Reuters: “’Evil was done,’ Australian cardinal says after meeting abuse survivors.” Both wire services are picked up by dozens of U.S. news outlets.

The survivors wanted, but were denied, a meeting with Pope Francis. As were thesurvivors in Mexico during the pope’s recent trip.

The Australian press: The Age, “Cardinal George Pell has to resign, or Pope Francis must act.” Sydney Morning Herald, “After four days of evidence, we’re still in the darkabout what Cardinal George Pell really knew.” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “If the media coverage – from left and right – is any sign, Cardinal George Pell angered many people with his evidence this week to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.”

A Sydney priest who knows Pell for more than 30 years: “I think I share the dismay and disgust of a great many people, Catholic and others, with the cardinal’s display, and the interesting thing about it of course is it’s just made plain to the world who he is and what he’s like.”

Except in the United States.

 

(Note to readers: No alternative reporter or blogger would have access to accurate information on the global clerical sex abuse crisis without the Abuse Tracker website, administered by the volunteer talent and hard work of Kathy Shaw. If you’d like to support independent journalism, please visit the website and follow the instructions to donate.)

 

Abolish time limits on childhood sex abuse cases


Abolish time limits on childhood sex abuse cases

By Stephen Estey | 11:11 a.m. April 22, 2016

From the link: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/apr/22/sex-abuse-law-change-04232016/

April is Sex Abuse Awareness Month. In light of this fact, it’s time we re-examine our state laws — particularly those that pertain to sexual abuse. More specifically, we need to take a hard look at the laws that can limit or bar a sex abuse victim’s ability to bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or the institutions that failed to protect him/her. These laws are referred to as statutes of limitations. Though in place for a reason, statutes of limitations on childhood sex abuse cases frequently act to protect predators and harm victims.

Children who have been sexually abused face a lifetime of psychological issues. The trauma inflicted on them in their youth reverberates into adulthood. Often it takes years for victims of childhood sex abuse to come to terms with what happened to them. Their struggle is real: a childhood sex abuse victim is more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to help him/her deal with their emotional pain and low self-esteem. They may have difficulty forming meaningful relationships with coworkers and may find themselves in and out of romantic relationships due to trust issues.

In addition to the human cost of childhood sex abuse, there is a real cost to society. A 1996 Department of Justice study of child molestation victims determined that childhood sex abuse costs society an average of $23 billion annually.

There is one clear way that we can lessen the toll that childhood sex abuse takes on our society: increase and/or eliminate statutes of limitations on childhood sex abuse cases.

A statute of limitations puts a time limit on the civil or criminal prosecution of a pedophile. In California, a victim of child sex abuse generally has until the age of 26 to file a lawsuit. These time limits serve to protect pedophiles and the institutions to which they belong from legal or societal backlash. A good example of this is the Roman Catholic Church. Several of its prominent leaders have been made aware of sex abuse scandals taking place within the church, yet these leaders have done nothing — or have taken steps to cover up the crime, as seen in the critically acclaimed 2015 film “Spotlight.”

This must end.

Lawmakers in several states have committed themselves to bringing this disgraceful trend to a stop. California refuses to eliminate or even extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed two legislative bills that would have extended the statute of limitations for victims, amid heavy lobbying from the Catholic Church and other institutions that have negligently enabled predators to sexually abuse young children.

In the end, justice is what matters most. Victims should not be silenced. Pedophiles, rapists, and molesters should not walk free simply because the statute of limitations in their state protects them. All childhood sex abuse statutes of limitations in every state should be promptly lengthened and/or eliminated.

Estey of the law firm Estey Bomberger represents childhood molestation victims and has twice been named “Trial Attorney of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.

Reveal: The Glare of Spotlight.


REVEAL: THE GLARE OF SPOTLIGHT.

From the Link: Reveal: The Glare of Spotlight

1901813_10153687207618747_1757826015825436154_nYOU MUST CLICK ON THE LINK TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST. IT IS A ONE HOUR PODCAST THAT TALKS ABOUT THE CHURCH AFTER THE SPOTLIGHT TEAM OF THE BOSTON GLOBE CAME OUT WITH THE STORY ABOUT PEDOPHILE PIMP CARDINAL BERNARD LAW….AND HIS COVER UPS OF PEDOPHILE PRIESTS IN BOSTON ARCHDIOCESE.

Oscar season is upon us, and one of the best picture nominees is a film that hits pretty close to home for us at Reveal: “Spotlight.” In case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a movie about The Boston Globe’s investigative team that exposed the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

In this hour of Reveal, we’re going to take you behind the scenes of that investigation, look at the legacy of the groundbreaking story and see how other journalists went on to expose more crimes by Catholic priests around the world.

First up, we tell you what happened after the “Spotlight” movie ended and how The Boston Globe continued to expose cover-ups in the Catholic Church.

In the second segment, Minnesota Public Radio exposes a priest abuse scandal in the Twin Cities, more than a decade after The Globe’s original investigation. Reporter Madeleine Baran spent two years looking into the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and uncovered how the church had been making secret payments to known abusers while continuing to conceal clergy sexual abuse from the public.

And finally, Global Post reporter Will Carless takes us to Latin America on the trail of priests who fled the U.S. after being accused of sexually abusing children.

Note: This episode contains graphic content related to child sexual abuse.

The Shadow Behind ‘Spotlight’: How Predator Priests Derailed Boston’s Would-Be Pope, Cardinal Bernard Law


The Shadow Behind ‘Spotlight’: How Predator Priests Derailed Boston’s Would-Be Pope, Cardinal Bernard Law

Sins of the Father

10.26.151:03 AM ET
Cardinal Bernard Law

Cardinal Bernard Law

The shadow villain of Spotlight, Bernard Law was one of America’s most ambitious and prominent cardinals—until his handling of the sex-abuse scandal caught up with him.

Spotlight is a gripping new film by Tom McCarthy on The Boston Globe’s investigation of how that archdiocese concealed child-molester priests. Set in 2001, the film serves as backstory to the Pulitzer Prize-winning series that began on Jan. 6, 2002—“Feast of the Epiphany,” as we learn in the intelligent script by McCarthy and Josh Singer.

Taking on the church in heavily Catholic Boston was no small order. Several of the reporters came from Catholic homes. Marty Baron, the Globe’s new editor, by way of The Miami Herald, suggested the investigation after reading a Globe columnist on a priest abuse case. Baron wanted to know more; he later became editor of The Washington Post.

Played by the bearded Liev Schreiber, Baron presents as a shy man, of few but forceful words, an outsider to tribal Boston, and a Jew, as a Catholic businessman says, sotto voce, to Michael Keaton in his edgy, pensive portrayal of Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson.

Robinson’s clutch of reporters worked months before the first article appeared, finding documents and tracking down victims of some 30 priests. The turning point in 2001 came when a court ruling against the church unsealed lawsuits that put clergy personnel documents into the public record. The Globe ultimately reported that the archdiocese had sheltered 249 predatory clerics going back several decades.

The Globe unmasked Cardinal Bernard Law, then Boston’s Archbishop, for shielding predators; he made Newsweek’s cover in March 2002. Spotlight ends two months before that, just as the newspaper series begins. A line onscreen at the end of the film says that Law resigned as archbishop in December 2002, and later became pastor in Rome of a historic basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore (note to reader: at a salary of $12,000 a month, according to The New York Times).

Law left Boston a figure of ridicule and disgrace, yet still a Prince of the Church, as cardinals are called. He has never given an interview in the 13 years since then. In researching a 2011 book on Vatican finances, and more recent reporting trips to Rome, I pieced together a picture of the cardinal in winter (he turns 84 next month) as he rebuilt a power base. His story echoes the wisdom of Heraclitus: character is fate.

The Globe series ignited a chain reaction of reports at the networks and daily newsrooms, not least at The New York Times, which owned the Globe then and competed hard on investigations of its own. For the church, the earthquake convulsed well into 2004; the impact continued on for years, as dioceses and religious orders settled thousands of victim lawsuits.

Early into Spotlight, Baron pays a courtesy call on Cardinal Law, played by a silver-haired Len Cariou with a suave patrician gravitas, saying that as a young monsignor in Mississippi in the 1960s, “I was close to the Evers brothers,” and that he wrote for the Jackson diocesan paper. In a dash of hubris the cardinal suggests common cause in a healthy press, and then gives editor Baron a copy of the thick Catholic Catechism. Schrieber’s facial twist registers irony as he takes the book, knowing that news will come of rules long broken by the church.

I let out an audible mmmm at that moment in the screening; my wife whispered, “Is something wrong?” I shook my head, no, thinking of Law: All that promise…

Globe reporters interviewed me in late 2001 and several times in 2002 because of a work I published in 1992—Lead Us Not Into Temptation, the first book to investigate the nationwide crisis of priest sex abuse. (The book actually has a cameo in the film; a survivor activist shows his copy to Spotlight reporters with other material he urges them to read.) The Globe reviewed the book favorably in 1992 during heavy national coverage of an ex-priest, James Porter, who left a trail of agony in Massachusetts towns going back many years, before taking a plea bargain and 20-year sentence for child sexual abuse. He died in prison six years later.

Cardinal Law was irate over the Porter coverage, blustering at one point, “We call down God’s power on the media, especially the Globe.”

The book took seven years, with endless photocopying and FedEx bills—this was pre-Internet—to obtain legal documents on far-flung bishops shielding sex offenders. But I was unable to get documents from New York, Boston, and Los Angeles: Church lawyers had a tight lid on cases. Other attorneys assumed that the victims took settlements in exchange for silence. Nine years later, Boston survivors came forth, with wrenching personal stories, after Judge Constance Sweeney, a Catholic, ruled that press freedom trumped church secrecy, unsealing lawsuits and giving victims the right to speak. The scene is a key moment in Spotlight.

Cardinal Law, the reporters’ ultimate target, is not a major character in the film; Baron tells his reporters to go after “the system,” not the man, though it goes unspoken that Law was the system.

I met Bernie Law, as priests in Mississippi called him, in Jackson, the state capitol, in the summer of 1971 while working as press secretary in Charles Evers’s quixotic campaign for governor. A week after graduation from Georgetown, I arrived as a volunteer, wrote a press release when they needed one, and got hired for $75 a week.

Law was vicar-general, the bishop’s top assistant. Evers, whose brother Medgar had been assassinated in 1963, respected Law for his editorials in the Catholic paper urging tolerance during the violent years. In a heavily Baptist state prone to racial demagogues, Law had been on the right side of history. By 1971 the riots and Klan violence had abated; but tensions were palpable, race relations still raw. I was curious about Law, and when I called, the monsignor invited me to dinner. When I parked my dented VW in the chancery parking lot, he said, “Let’s take my car.” It was larger and more comfortable.

He was 40, plump but energetic, a Harvard graduate with early silver hair, a cool mind and warm wit. I liked him immediately. He sang praises of the Italian restaurant where he had a reservation.

The owner gave him a lavish hello, and scowled at me. “Sorry, Monsignor, we can’t take him—the hair is too long.” Law frowned. I blushed. The hair stopped just shy of my shoulders, but this was Mississippi and the guy didn’t like suspected hippies. Law protested, without yelling, to no avail. I knew it wasn’t a moment to stand on constitutional rights and expect to eat lasagna.

Law was mortified as he drove to another restaurant, telling me somberly that backwards Mississippi really had made important strides. At dinner he brightened; we talked national politics, theology, and church changes since Vatican II.

As we left the restaurant, Law said: “How’d you like to meet the bishop?”

Sure. Joseph Brunini, the bishop of Jackson, came from a family with a prominent law firm; he too had been a voice of moderation in the dark years. The bishop, 52, had a condo outside Jackson at the vast Ross Barnett Reservoir where people with sailboats had slips.

Barnett was the former governor known for inflammatory speeches and standing in the doorway at the University of Mississippi in 1962 to block James Meredith as the first black student. Meredith was escorted in by white federal marshals. “Which of you is James Meredith?” said Barnett to the only black man in eyesight. The campus soon exploded in a riot that left two people dead as federal troops secured Meredith’s place. The state named the big lake for the worst governor Mississippi ever had.

We sat on the deck of the condo, sipping Scotch as the insects sang outside. Brunini was an amiable man, a Georgetown graduate curious about my time there, the three of us trading thoughts about race relations and the church. I realized that Mississippi’s Catholic community amounted to a minority religion, a tiny social presence, quite different from the New Orleans of my upbringing. Brunini wished me well and made a point of blessing me as we left.

As Law and I drove back to the chancery, his demeanor changed. He was smiling, a man on a cloud. “Did you like the bishop?” he said. Yes, a very nice man. “Did you think he was—cool?” Uh, sure.

This man wants to be a bishop, I reported to myself with the brilliance of a 22-year old. As we pulled up to my car, he stuck out his hand. “Call me Bernie.”

Campaign work intensified; he made a trip to Rome and I didn’t see him again; we chatted a few times by phone.

As the years passed I followed news on him. He became a bishop in Missouri, and several years later, in 1984, vaulted to Boston, as archbishop, and soon a cardinal. I’ve known journalists to fume over people they wished they’d kept up with. I soon felt that about Law, wishing I’d sent notes, Christmas cards, anything to cultivate a relationship. The regret hit me in the mid-’80s as I reported on the prosecution of a pedophile priest in Lafayette, Louisiana. In a circuitous way, those events led to Law.

In January of 1986, the weekly Times of Acadiana ran my final piece, reconstructing how Bishop Gerard Frey had played musical chairs with seven priests who had abused children over several years. The paper ran an editorial calling for the Vatican to remove the bishop, for which it got hit with an advertisers’ boycott fomented by a retired judge, Edmund Reggie, and a prominent monsignor. The paper lost $20,000 before cooler heads prevailed. In July, the Vatican sent a new bishop.

In February of that year I shifted to work on the book, and flew to Washington, D.C., to interview Father Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer at the Vatican Embassy. Doyle, I learned, sent a shot across the bow as co-author of a 100-page report in the spring of 1985 on the pedophile cases before it became a crisis. The document went to every bishop in America. A classic whistleblower, Doyle lost his job; he became an Air Force chaplain.

Doyle told me how he had given Cardinal Law a briefing on abuse cases in various states in 1984 before his work on the report. Law supported Doyle in the effort; he even contributed $1,000 to cover photocopy costs so the document could be sent to 150 bishops. Many years later, Law testified in a deposition in one of the Boston cases and said he could not recall details of that 1985 report, which became a “smoking gun” for advising bishops to remove predators and reach out to victims. Many bishops opted to recycle perpetrators after stints in psychiatric treatment facilities, and ignore victims until they filed lawsuits.

The next time I saw Law was 1993 in New Orleans where the bishops held their summer conference. Activists with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests were staging a protest. Law stepped off an elevator at the Hyatt Regency and nearly collided with me. “Your Eminence, it’s been a long time since Mississippi. Would you have time to talk?”

He shook his head grimly and moved on. I noticed he was much heavier.

In 1998, the artist Channing Thieme was preparing an exhibition called “Boston Faces,” portraits of a cross-section of Bostonians. She was not a Catholic, curious about a man as powerful as Law, and delighted when he agreed to sit for her at the cardinal’s mansion in Brighton. She found him a charming conversationalist in two drawing sessions. When she returned with the finished graphite portrait, Law was delighted. She said: “What’s the toughest part of your job?”

“Judgment—the decisions I must make,” Law replied. And, as if looking ahead to a bitter reckoning, he added: “That is the half of it. The other half is the judgment I must one day face myself.”

She was amazed at the statement. The words do not ring of false modesty.

Law in 1998 was the most powerful American churchman in Rome. Close to Pope John Paul and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State, Law cultivated ties in the Roman Curia and served on major Vatican committees. Yet that artist’s question, as he gazed at his black-and-white image, seemingly unloosed an inner coil. He apparently felt guilty about something. Could it have been the scores of pedophiles he had sent to treatment tanks, some of them recycled, with little thought of their ravaged victims?

Power is the movement of money. The out-of-court settlements Law had approved, predicated on victims’ silence, put the survivors out of sight, out of mind.

Judgment stalked him in civil depositions as the media coverage wore on; reporters used his testimony to shatter the credibility of the man who had urged John Paul II to authorize the updated, very long Catholic Catechism, the one that the cardinal in the movie gives to the editor with his quiet, quizzical face.

Law resigned just before Christmas 2002, after a private meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome; he left Boston for sanctuary in a Maryland convent with nuns. Imagine the psychological blow to a man who had once told friends that he hoped to be the first American pope, a man whose support of migrants from the Dominican Republic entering Boston stood for the values of a church giving comfort and succor to the poor.

Nixon sought redemption after Watergate by writing books and holding dinners for selected journalists, a careful campaign to rehabilitate himself as a foreign policy sage.

Law turned to the one place where he had support—cardinals and bishops in the Roman Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy. “The curia is a brotherhood,” Cardinal Sodano once told The New York Times. Law had friends in the brotherhood after 17 years in Boston. A member of the Congregation for Bishops, he helped select new American bishops.

The news of Law’s new job in Rome in the spring of 2004 came at the worst possible time for his successor, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Seán O’Malley. O’Malley had approved an $85 million settlement to 542 victims, only to take public criticism for a wave of church closures, consolidating parishes in a controversial plan to sell property after the huge deficit Law had left. O’Malley had already sold the cardinal’s mansion for $108 million to Boston College. All that, and John Paul rewarded Law with a cushy perch at one of Rome’s great basilicas.

“Many people in Rome would say that he paid the price in the form of his resignation and that there’s no reason that he shouldn’t make a contribution,” Vatican correspondent John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter told Boston Magazine two years after Law assumed his position. (Allen now writes for Crux, an online branch of the Globe that covers the Catholic Church.)

After many years away from Mississippi, I went to Jackson in 2004 to promote a book, written with Gerald Renner. Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II explores the Vatican’s role in the abuse crisis. Before the evening lecture, I did several media interviews, and spent time with SNAP leaders Johnny Rainer and Kenneth Morrison.

Morrison was 39, an artist in Chicago who had grown up in Jackson. He was one of three sons of a physician, by then deceased. His mother came to the book event. The family had moved to Jackson from Boston in 1969 when Kenneth’s dad, Dr. Francis Morrison, an oncologist, took a teaching position at the state medical school. As Boston Catholics, the Morrisons found a friend in Bernie Law, the Harvard graduate. The Morrisons also befriended Father George Broussard who, as pedophiles will do, ingratiated himself with the family, slowly molesting the three young boys.

As we drove around Jackson that day, Kenneth, a strapping guy who did industrial art projects in Chicago, pointed to several church buildings where, he said, Broussard had forced sex on him as a boy of 5, 6, and 7 years old—“there, in that one, and that one, and that one.” As we drove past the chancery, his memories of being abused spilled into my thought field from 1971. The summer evening I pulled into the chancery parking lot to meet Bernie Law, matched the time period when little Kenneth was being preyed upon by Father Broussard nearby.

Morrison sued the Jackson diocese in 2003. The diocese faced lawsuits against seven other priests, several dating back to Law’s tenure there.

Law was the bishop’s right hand when Dr. Morrison reported what Broussard had done to the chancery. As Morrison would later allege, Broussard began receiving “treatment,” while staying at another parish. Law was close to the Morrisons, and to Broussard. Knowing what he knew, what should Law have done?

“The sexual molestation of minors wasn’t even on my radar screen,” Law testified in a deposition in the Morrison case. “It wasn’t the issue that it is today… it didn’t come up.”

But the diocese did investigate, as William Houck, who succeeded Brunini as bishop, stated under oath: “Broussard said he subsequently admitted the accusations to Bernard Law and to Bishop (Joseph) Brunini, and attended confession with Bernard Law.”

Law had moved to Rome when the Jackson diocese agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Kenneth Morrison.

In late 2012, I spent five weeks in Rome for GlobalPost, reporting on the Vatican investigation of liberal American nuns—the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Cardinal Law was a catalyst in sparking that investigation, as I reported, though he played no direct role in the interrogations, meetings, and correspondence that the sisters had with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The C.D.F. is housed in the majestic palazzo where in 1616 the Inquisition punished Galileo for his position that the Earth revolves around the sun.

After leaving Boston in humiliation, Law found a fraternal womb in the Curia; but after the blows to his stature and ego, he wanted other people to “face judgment”—an outsized projection of his own faults in the desire to bring those liberal nuns to heel. The man who suggested the new catechism wanted obedience to authority, of which he himself had little.

Levada, it is worth adding, had been archbishop of San Francisco, and up to his chest in litigation over pedophile priests, when the newly elected Pope Benedict tossed him a ladder in 2005 as if from a celestial helicopter, lifting him up and away from the muck in the City by the Bay to beautiful Rome and great status as theologian-in-chief.

Levada refused to be interviewed. I called Law, hoping against hope that he might agree to talk. A priest took the call at Santa Maria Maggiore, let his cold silence register for a number of seconds, and stated: “The cardinal does not give interviews. There are no exceptions.”

Pope Francis would later oversee the termination of the proceedings against the nuns, and make a point of meeting with several of the leaders of American sisters for a reconciliation with news photographers present.

“Law is a presence on the embassy social circuit,” a Western diplomat in Rome told me in 2012. “He’s a cardinal, an official of the Curia, so he’s on the invitation lists. He’s sociable and mingles easily.”

The Holy See assumes a decorum among journalists who cover the Vatican. Many reporters who work in the press room off St. Peter’s Square have broken stories critical of church officialdom—Nicole Winfield of AP and Philip Pullella of Reuters prominent among them; but you don’t see journalists in packs ambushing church officials as if they were Chicago or Louisiana politicians heading into criminal court. Pope Benedict was reeling from the Vati-Leaks scandal in late 2012 when I attended a reception for a group of newly invested cardinals.

It was a rare chance to get inside the Apostolic Palace, which is closed to the public save for ceremonial occasions. The large reception parlors have elegant tapestries adorning the walls. The papal apartments and pope’s office on the top floor were off-limits. In one parlor a sizeable crowd of people who had come from Nigeria waited in a receiving line to greet their new cardinal, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja. Many of the Nigerian women wept as they hugged him. The rich colors of Yoruba design on the dresses and dashikis of men were emblazoned with the new cardinal’s photograph. The vibrant festivity of the multicultural pageant in the life of the church reminded me of The Canterbury Tales.

Across the crowded Rome I saw the bloated, hulking figure of Cardinal Law, flanked by two priests, make his way past a receiving line toward two Italians in the red hat of cardinals. I moved that way, camera in hand. A priest at Law’s elbow saw me and glared, stationing himself closer to the cardinal to prevent a clear angle. I stood there for several minutes, without shooting, and then turned away, thinking of Kenneth Morrison.

A frequent Daily Beast contributor, Jason Berry’s books include Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, and Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II.