Jason Berry in NCR

During Pope Francis’ recent summit on child abuse, NCR ran a three-part article by Jason Berry. Jason Berry was the reporter who, in the mid-1980’s, broke the first story of priestly child abuse and Church cover-up. He was, in effect, the Woodward and Bernstein for the Church’s crimes of sex abuse. But the public was less interested in the crimes of the Catholic Church than in those of Richard Nixon; Jason Berry didn’t become rich and famous. But he is worth listening to. In Part 1, Berry gives an overview of the abuse scandal with emphasis on more recent events. It contains links to his other two articles.

Jason Berry has remained a Catholic despite witnessing decades of heinous crimes. I think his religious beliefs have colored his coverage, especially regarding papal involvement. While he says Pope John Paul made “mistakes,” I think this is a misleading way to describe his deliberate program for suppressing information about the criminal abuse of minors.

Berry says, “what was once considered the scandal of ‘a few bad apples,’ or the result of Western permissiveness, or hostile, anti-Catholic media is, in fact, a pathological sickness eating through the church's clerical and episcopal culture.” But these excuses reflect various attempts by John Paul to suppress the problem, which only made the "pathological sickness" worse.

Similarly, while he says “Pope Francis is an existential pope, trying to chart a way out of the long, aching scandal by forging standards where few exist,” he ignores the fact that Francis created a do-nothing papal commission on child abuse to put off making any substantive changes in Church policy. Berry notes that Francis has repeated most of the errors and policies of John Paul, even while preaching reform.

Jason Berry has long been an independent reporter. Unlike those working for Catholic media, he is not being pressured to kowtow to the Vatican. This results in some of the best coverage you are likely to encounter.


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