Betrayal – The crisis In The Catholic Church by The investigative staff of the Boston Globe
My own copy
THE BOOK WHICH INSPIRED SPOTLIGHT, 2016 WINNER OF THE BEST PICTURE OSCAR AND THE BEST SCREENPLAY OSCAR
This is the true story of how a small group of courageous journalists uncovered child abuse on a vast scale – and held the Catholic Church to account. Betrayal is a ground-breaking work of investigative journalism, now brought brilliantly to life on the screen in the major new movie Spotlight.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
On 31 January 2002, the Boston Globe published a report that sent shockwaves around the world. Their findings, based on a six-month campaign by the ‘Spotlight’ investigative team, showed that hundreds of children in Boston had been abused by Catholic priests, and that this horrific pattern of behaviour had been known – and ignored – by the Catholic Church. Instead of protecting the community it was meant to serve, the Church exploited its powerful influence to protect itself from scandal – and innocent children paid the price.
This is the story from beginning to end: the predatory men who exploited the vulnerable, the cabal of senior Church officials who covered up their crimes, the ‘hush money’ used to buy the victims’ silence, the survivors who found the strength to tell their story, and the Catholics across the world who were left shocked, angry, and betrayed. This is the story, too, of how they took power back, confronted their Church and called for sweeping change.
Updated for the release of the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, this is a devastating and important exposure of the abuse of power at the highest levels in society.
I originally bought this book for myself and my brother. My little brother is a (soon to be) third year journalism student. I was keen to understand, what goes on behind the scenes in investigative journalism. I had also already previously seen the Hollywood movie Spotlight. I was looking for the extra depth that could have been missed in a movie adaption.
What I found within the pages of this book, shook me to the core.
The investigation began at the Boston Globe under editor Walter V Robinson. The primary reporters were Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer and Michael Rezendes. Although many more reporters would later join the cause. The original investigation was to look into the actions of Rev John J Geoghan’s crimes.
Was this a one-off or a pattern of behaviour?
What the team uncovered was multiple claims, some financially settled. They also uncovered records either missing or legally sealed.
They began by attempting to unseal Geogahn’s papers.
‘The documents proved that the Archdiocese had known of Geoghan’s abuse of children for generations’
Yes, It took me a moment to digest that word too, GENERATIONS! Not days, weeks or months which would also be unforgivable, but generations.
The Globe ran a piece, which covered 70 priests that can been accused and had financially settled cases.
‘The abuse was widespread and had gone unchecked for decades’
A further four reporters were added to the team Stephen Kurkjian, Thomas Farragher, Kevin Cullen and regional reporter Michael Paulson. This was due to the huge-scale of the investigation and pattern of systemic abuse.
The book covers various angles of the investigation.
The origins and its causes.
The behaviour of abusive priests.
Impact on victims.
Role of key figures.
How the Catholic church might change as a result.
It is clear to see the Globe intended to get to the bottom of these cases and fully involve victims in the process of the journey. With 176 priests accused across the USA alone in just the first four months of expose in 2002. The team were going to have their work cut out. They also faced opposition from the church and had to bear in mind that of Boston’s 3.8 million population, 2 million identify as catholic. It would be a scandal that would surely rock Boston. Eventually it was a scandal, that rocked the entire Catholic faith across the world.
‘Nowhere else was the impact of the scandal more deeply felt. And nowhere else was the erosion of deference traditionally shown the church more dramatic’
The churches initial reaction of ‘damage limitation’ actively put abusers back into circulation. Allowing them to move freely around prominent positions within the community and allowing them so amass victims on a monumental scale.
Early on, the expose led to resignations in France, Wales, Poland and Ireland.
Geoghan himself at this point was known to have nearly 200 victims. So nonchalant, he would openly describe how he picked his victims. He began by targeting predominantly boys from poverty and single parent homes. He would appear to offer the mother ‘help’ by taking the young boys out for ice-cream or bathing them before bed. This gave him opportunity to abuse. The cover-up would involve politicians, police, prosecutors and judges. With the statute of limitations also being a hinder to the pursuit of justice.
‘If there are any heroes in this squalid tale, they are the victims, who found their voice, who found their courage, after years of suffering in silence and isolation, to step into the light and say, as one did “This happened to me, and this is wrong”‘
The book does detail individual stories from survivors of the abuse. We hear from one of the mother’s who’s four sons were abused. Hearing her repeat their admissions to her, was heart breaking reading. Even through the pages of a novel, reading many years after the scandal broke. The pain is raw and real, every single word of it.
If/when the mother’s found the courage to speak out about the abuse. Whether it be approaching other priests or bishops. The blame was often shifted to them, they were openly reminded that such accusations could ruin the priests career. This enabled the priests to hide behind their roman collars and evade justice.
‘Do you realise what you’re taking from him?’ – Bishop Thomas to Maryetta Dussourd (mother of victims)
The victim blaming, and family shaming continued in multiple cases. Meanwhile, sensing his future maybe bleak, Geoghan began to protect his own assets. Signing over properties worth millions of dollars, for just a few dollars to his sister.
Geoghan would also go one further, and play the victim himself. Insisting his actions made him ill, not a criminal.
Geoghan was beyond shame and accountability.
‘Shame, embarrassment, and sometimes, warnings by their abusers kept many victims from disclosing the abuse. Others confided in family members who found it difficult to believe them’
The house of affirmation in Massachusetts, was a facility for sexually abusive priests. It was ran by Rev Thomas Kane. But priests received little in the form of psychoanalyse and treatment. What the investigation uncovered was that the ‘treatment centres’ enabled priests to just hide in luxury compared to the jail cells they should have faced.
As the book details various decades and multiple cases, it is hard to review and summarise. But in 1984 the catholic church paid out $4.2 million to nine of Father Gauther’s victims. One victim was so viciously raped he was hospitalised. Gauther would eventually face criminal charges, unlike so many others. He was sentenced to 20yrs, served 10yrs and upon release abused another boy.
One thing that is clear throughout the book, is that instead of tackling the root cause of the issue and seeking justice. The church was content to continue to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars as financial settlements. Whilst allowing abusers to continue in posts, with access to more victims.
What struck me about this, wasn’t the victim’s right to financial compensation. That I fully agree with.
But the arrogance of the church to utilise funds intended for charity etc, to cover-up abuse and legally tie the hands/voices of the accuser. As each settlement required a non-disclosure signature.
The priests continued to abuse, the church continued to pay. With zero regard for the mental/emotional impact on the victims and future victims.
The pay-outs would occur before legal suits were filed, meaning no public record. They also contained gag-order’s or the payments must be returned.
In one particular case, Father Porter a serial child abuser of over 100+ victims over 14yrs. Was caught in the physical act by two fellow reverends; as two victims confirmed.
Yet no action was ever taken.
‘In the past 15yrs 1500 American priests faced allegations of sexual abuse’
In the section entitled Predators, the investigation breaks down the various methods established and utilised by different priests. Rev Paul R Shanley was a popular priest that challenged church teachings on homosexuality. He openly embraced ostracised members of the community. He was known as the ‘street priest’ the cool ‘hippie priest’. His ‘therapy’ sessions often involved molestation and rape. When confronted with the victim’s accusations. He would hide behind the tired old excuse that ‘the child is often the seducer’. Shanley would go on to teach teens how to inject drugs, possibly just to enable further abuse. Shanley would go on to evade justice until he was 71yrs old.
I found various chapters difficult to read. Especially the nonchalant attitudes of the priests. Which equally led me to question the severity of the impact upon victims. In the chapter entitled The Victims, you hear their stories of anger, denial, rage, shame, loss of faith, guilt and self-doubt.
‘He took everything. He took my innocence. He took my spirituality, he took my purity’
Thomas J Lambert (victim)
For victim Patricia Dolan the abuse dominated her entire adult life. Patrick McSorley (Geoghan’s victim) fully aware of what made him an easy target for abuse (alcoholic father’s suicide) would go on to be extremely protective of his own children. Armand Landy (86yrs old) can still recall the abuse suffered at just 12yrs old in 1927. One victim would shoot their abuser and there were multiple suicides.
The pain of abuse never left the victims.
The explosion of the scandal would lead to 176 priests over 28 states of the USA to resign or be removed from their post. In just 20yrs the scandal had cost the church $1.3 Billion.
‘What they were protecting was their notion that the church is a perfect society’
The investigation details how the public outrage at the scandal, broke down barriers and centuries of the church’s deference in just mere weeks. Whilst some legal professionals were prepared to give the church the benefit of the doubt. Others were not; and Judge Constance M Sweeney ordered the release of ten thousand pages of documents, declaring them public record.
The public were outraged at the church’s failure to see the children as victims of despicable crimes.
‘We throw this word ‘abuse’ around, and it’s nice, inoffensive word.
They were raping children. Where’s the indignation? Where’s the moral outrage?’
The investigation slowly began to force change in the system. Force the church to face up to its own hypocrisy.
‘Maybe to them, the victims are nameless and faceless. The victims are real to me’
Jeanine Pirro – DA Westchester county
The hypocrisy of the church is further explored, when detailing the case of a 72yr old nun fired and ostracised for performing a baptism. The $50 million over 25yrs spent on ‘treatment’ for abusive priests.
The title of this novel ‘Catholicism in crisis’ couldn’t be more apt.
‘We need more women. The power, and male dominance, and the secrecy are how this whole thing started’
Bonnie Ciambotti – Eucharistic minister.
There is a documents section, at the back of the book. Which enables you to view the previously sealed court papers.
This is a tough read, at times brutal. But unless we read it, digest the information and learn, how do we not continue to make the same mistakes? 5*