The nearly 900-page Pennsylvania grand-jury report (.pdf here) about clergy sexual abuse cases contains all kinds of quotes that challenge notions about what journalists can or cannot include in news stories.
But journalists who have worked on this story for decades already knew that would be the case.
However, there is another passage in this secular document that bluntly addresses another side of this journalism puzzle. Thus, two questions: What words do we include in news reports? Do we speak clearly or do we allow parts of this subject to remain hidden in fog? We wrestled with these questions during this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.
Here is the crucial statement that I'm talking about, in the grand-jury report. It focuses on the methods that many Catholic leaders uses to hide these crimes:
The strategies were so common that they were susceptible to behavioral analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For our benefit, the FBI agreed to assign members of its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime to review a significant portion of the evidence received by the grand jury. Special agents testified before us that they had identified a series of practices that regularly appeared, in various configurations, in the diocesan files they had analyzed. It’s like a playbook for concealing the truth:
First, make sure to use euphemisms rather than real words to describe the sexual assaults in diocese documents. Never say “rape”; say “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.”
This leads us to an interesting story from this past week, as in the letter from Pope Francis that addressed the Pennsylvania report. This letter received way less coverage than I expected. Hold that thought.
One of the things that I like to do, when reading documents of this kind, is call up the full text and then run some computer searches to see what terms the text contains and what terms are missing.