CBS Smacks Catholic Church Over New Clergy Sex Abuse Report

CBS's Elaine Quijano filed a slanted report on Wednesday's Evening News about the new report on the Catholic priest child sex abuse scandal. All but one of the sound bites which Quijano played during the segment either leaned negative against the Catholic Church or completely slammed the religious body.

Anchor Katie Couric heralded the negative reaction about the report from some quarters in her teaser for Quijano's report at the very beginning of the half-hour program: "Tonight, a report commissioned by the Catholic Church claims to know why the child sex abuse scandal happened, but victims' groups aren't buying it." A minute later, the correspondent picked up where Couric left off in her introduction: "For survivors of clergy sexual abuse, today marks another deep disappointment."

After playing a clip from victim David Lorenz, who unsurprisingly attacked the Catholic bishops in the U.S., Quijano explained that the "new report, five years in the making, was commissioned by...[the] bishops, and conducted by researchers from New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It partially blames the clergy sex abuse crisis on the sexual revolution that began 50 years ago." She then played a sound bite from Dr. Karen Terry, the chief investigator for the report, who was the only person featured in the report who didn't lean negative against the Church.

Later, the CBS reporter turned to liberal former prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who skewered the report in consecutive sound bites. Quijano added her own unfavorable language as she introduced Fairstein:

Elaine Quijano, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgQUIJANO: In addition to social influences, the report cites poor seminary training and isolation of priests. But for former New York City sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein, blaming the culture rings hollow.

LINDA FAIRSTEIN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: These crimes occurred for decades, if not centuries, before there was a sexual revolution. That's a fact.

QUIJANO: The Church provided the information for analysis, and makes a controversial decision to label priests pedophiles only if they molested children age 10 or younger. By their standards, only 5% of the priests fit the pedophile profile.

FAIRSTEIN: That's such a false standard- such a false definition by which to look at pedophiles. Most of the kids that the clergy have access to alone are going to be in the 9, 10, to 15, 16-year-old category. It's illegal to engage in sexual contact with them. So, it's a very artificial thing. It's semantics to just say we're talking about under 10.

Near the end of the segment, the correspondent added a final clip from a Catholic churchgoer. Despite the negative-leaning assessment from the person she interviewed, Quijano introduced the bite as an example of the "mixed reaction from Catholics leaving church today" to the report's findings.

The following morning, Thursday's Early Show ran a slightly modified version of the correspondent's report. Just over a year earlier, on the April 13, 2010 edition of the morning program, Quijano highlighted a Catholic priest from Massachusetts who is a "longtime critic of the Church's response to the sex abuse scandal," but didn't mention the cleric's dissenting positions from Catholic teaching.

The full transcript of Elaine Quijano's report from Wednesday's CBS Evening News:

06:30 pm EDT

KATIE COURIC (teaser): Tonight, a report commissioned by the Catholic Church claims to know why the child sex abuse scandal happened, but victims' groups aren't buying it.

(....)

06:31 pm EDT

COURIC: When the sex abuse scandal involving priests first made headlines, Catholics in this country- and that's nearly one out of four adults- were horrified: trusted members of the clergy abusing children, church leaders covering it up. It was a betrayal, a breach of faith, and it would cost American churches nearly $3 billion in legal settlements. Many Catholics demanded to know how it all happened. Today, an answer came in a report commissioned by America's Catholic bishops.

But Elaine Quijano reports, it was not the answer many of the victims were hoping for.

ELAINE QUIJANO (voice-over): For survivors of clergy sexual abuse, today marks another deep disappointment.

DAVID LORENZ, VICTIM OF CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE: These are the bishops who lied to us about transferring priests- these are the same bishops who continue to lie to us.

QUIJANO: The new report, five years in the making, was commissioned by U.S. bishops, and conducted by researchers from New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It partially blames the clergy sex abuse crisis on the sexual revolution that began 50 years ago.

KAREN TERRY, PHD, PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, CLERGY SEX ABUSE REPORT: The increased frequency of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s is consistent with patterns of increased deviance in society during that time. The social influences intersected with vulnerabilities of some individual priests.

QUIJANO: In addition to social influences, the report cites poor seminary training and isolation of priests. But for former New York City sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein, blaming the culture rings hollow.

LINDA FAIRSTEIN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: These crimes occurred for decades, if not centuries, before there was a sexual revolution. That's a fact.

QUIJANO: The Church provided the information for analysis, and makes a controversial decision to label priests pedophiles only if they molested children age 10 or younger. By their standards, only 5% of the priests fit the pedophile profile.

FAIRSTEIN: That's such a false standard- such a false definition by which to look at pedophiles. Most of the kids that the clergy have access to alone are going to be in the 9, 10, to 15, 16-year-old category. It's illegal to engage in sexual contact with them. So, it's a very artificial thing. It's semantics to just say we're talking about under 10.

QUIJANO: Researchers also concluded there was no way to identify potential abusers ahead of time, and said homosexuality, celibacy, and an all-male priesthood had no bearing on the crisis.  

Today's report got mixed reaction from Catholics leaving church today.


HEATHER IVASHIN, CHURCHGOER: It's kind of like asking the fox as he comes out of the henhouse, how many chickens were in there before you went in, you know? So it's a step in the right direction, but obviously, we also need independent surveys, reviews, and in-depth coverage.

QUIJANO (on-camera): Now, today's report does not address the problem of bishops who covered up for priests, and comes just days after the Vatican issued new guidelines for dealing with priests who sexually abused children. But those guidelines are not mandatory, and there are no punishments for bishops who don't comply. Katie?

COURIC: Elaine Quijano- Elaine, thanks so much.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center