Children Abused by Priests: How Canada’s and America’s Press Deal with an Issue that Reenforced the Importance of Local Journalism

by Sauro on March 7, 2016 - 11:40pm

Since the 1980s, the Catholic Church has been under the spotlight on many occasions as a result of many child abuse cases reported by the media. This phenomenon is still very present in time all around the world. Having mentioned this, to what extent do global news and locally produced articles treat the issue differently according to the location of the journal? It will be shown, based on the articles presented below, that journalists in Canada approach child abuse cases in a more personal way regarding the victims than in the United States. Also, it will be demonstrated that local journalists still have an important role to play in the press. In order to explain the latter points, global news and locally produced articles of child abused by priests cases around the world will be compared. The global news articles that will be examined, one from Canada and the other from the United Staes, are Former archbishop demoted to monk over Winnipeg sex-assault conviction published by The Globe and Mail, and Priest at his child abuse trial in Rome: 'I am not a monster’ published by CNN. On the other side, the local news articles that will be examined, again, one from Canada, and the other from the United States, are Deaf students abused by priests at Clercs de St. Viateur win record $30-million settlement published by the Montreal Gazette, and Church allowed abuse by priest for years by the Boston Globe Spotlight team. 


Child Abuse Cases by Priests 

From the Globe and Mail, Former archbishop demoted to monk over Winnipeg sex-assault conviction tells the story of an ex-archbishop who was found guilty of sexual aggression on a young boy. The convicted has been demoted to the grade of monk and served a time of eight months in prison since he has earned a permission of early release. In reaction to the case, the Church published on their website their “prayers for the victims, their families and all those who have been affected by the events surrounding this case”, however, no money nor help has been offered to the victim. A representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Church bishops to make sure that the convicted has no contact with minors. 

From CNN, Priest at his child abuse trial in Rome: 'I am not a monster’ covers the story  that takes place in Rome where a priest is accused of seven charges of sexual abuses on children, however, he claimed his innocence. Only two victims went to the police to complain. Some anti-abuse activists declared that the Church knew that some priests, including the one in this case, are molesting young children but they still do nothing to stop the phenomenon. Apparently, some evidences would exist to prove this claim. Similar cases have came out in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands the same year. The representatives of the Catholic Church did not want to add on this case. The article does not present how the priest was punished nor give further information on the victims despite the fact that the priest was arrested in 2008 and the article was published in 2010. 

From the Montreal Gazette, Deaf students abused by priests at Clercs de St. Viateur win record $30-million settlement tells the story of 150 victims of sexual abuse by priests of the Clercs de Saint-Viateur that came forward  to  give  their testimonies. The authorities were able to produce a list of 33 priests and religious workers that were involved in sexual aggressions of  boys that were young, deaf, and mute. The victims were offered $200,000 each by The Clercs de Saint-Viateur du Canada. Additionally, the article gives the list of the 33 offenders and their titles in the religious hierarchy. Robert Kruger, the lawyer who defended the victims in court explained that this kind of case must have the effect of facilitating the other victims to come forward and report other abuses. 

From the Boston Globe Spotlight team, the locally produced article Church allowed abuse by priest for years is an investigation based on testimonies that the Spotlight team has collected of sexual abuse victims by priests in Boston since the 1990s. 130 victims have came forward to tell their stories to the local journalists. All the stories pointed to the former priest John J. Geoghan who was found responsible for most of the sexual aggressions directly and indirectly. It has been proven that the former Cardinal Bernard F. Law knew about the pedophile records of Geoghan, nevertheless, he accepted the fact that Geoghan worked with young children to teach them grammar. 


Comparing Canadian and American Journalistic Coverage of the Issue

Based on these articles that have just been summarized, it will be demonstrated  how the information coverage differentiate from location to location. To begin with, the two articles from Canada, Former archbishop demoted to monk over Winnipeg sex-assault conviction and Deaf students abused by priests at Clercs de St. Viateur win record $30-million settlement, focus more on the victims than the two other articles. It seems that in these two posts it is important to give the information related to what happened to the victims afterward, and how justice was applied in their favour or not. Furthermore, they stress the importance to prevent similar situation to happen again. On the other hand, the two other articles were from the United States. These two American posts put the emphasis on how the sexual aggressor(s) went through the system of justice, however, they give minimal details about the victims. In short, based on these four articles, the journalists from Canada seem to accentuate the attention on the victims while journalists from the United States focus more on the offender. 


Global News Articles vs. Locally Produced Articles

When reading global news article about priests who have molested children, there is a sense that the story is not told as provocative as it should be. The reason why this happens is because the journal is only reporting the event without any consequences similarly to the CNN’s and The Globe and Mail’s articles. On the other hand, local journalists are literally making a case with the story in order to change things. In other words, when the victims of abuses come forward to the press with their testimonies, the local journalists starts an investigation. For instance, in the case of the Boston Globe Spotlight team, their investigation revealed so much more than what they had at the starting point. The only fact that the victims can come and reveal their stories to local journalists is a reason why local journalism still matters a great deal. 

In conclusion, through the examination of these four articles, it has been stated that Canadian journalists tend to focus their effort more on the coverage of information regarding the victims than in the United States on the issue of children sexually abused by priests. Furthermore, the case has been made that articles that are locally produced are still very important in the press even though the number of local journalists is constantly decreasing. Since the local journalists found so much more facts and information about the issue through their investigation, it would be interesting to know on what other local issues their help could be useful. In certain cases, like in the issue raised by these articles, local journalist, with the power of press, have the ability to bring justice. 



"Former Archbishop Demoted to Monk over Winnipeg Sex-assault Conviction." The Globe and Mail. The Canadian Press, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 



Messia, Hada. "Priest at His Child Abuse Trial in Rome: 'I Am Not a Monster'" CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Apr. 2010. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. 



Resendez, Michael, Matt Carroll, and Sacha Pfeiffer. "Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years." Ed. Walter V. Robinson. Boston Globe, 6 Jan. 2002. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. 



Solyom, Catherine. "Deaf Students Abused by Priests at Clercs De St. Viateur Win Record $30-million Settlement." Montreal Gazette. Montreal Gazette, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.




 Grant, Meghan. "Catholic Church in Alberta, Predatory Priest Sued for $4M." CBCnews. CBC/ Radio Canada, 30 Jan. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 



 Sims, Jane. "What the Bishop Knew." The London Free Press. The London Free Press, 24 Mar. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.