ATT: Marjorie Pritchard, Op-Ed Editor FAX: 617-929-2098 (Sent in early November, 2002)

 Spotlight on the Spotlight Team

Like many other victims of clergy sexual abuse, I disclosed my history to the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team soon after the scandal in the Catholic Church broke ten months ago.  Since then, while waiting in vain for the story to appear in the paper, I noticed that the Spotlight Team never profiled any women who had been victimized as children.  To solve this mystery, I studied the Spotlight Team’s archives and, while I hesitate to level charges of sexism and homophobia, I can’t come up with any other explanation for the distortions and omissions that I found.

In any case, people who want to understand the scandal should evaluate the record of the Spotlight Team.

  • Experts estimate that one third to one half of all victims of clergy sexual abuse are girls, and women make up half the membership of survivors’ groups.  However, in the articles collected on the Spotlight Team’s website, all of the commentary quoted on this topic flatly states that the “overwhelming majority of victims are boys.” 

  • Dozens of other newspapers, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and The Christian Science Monitor, have published articles emphasizing the significant number of girls among victims of clergy sexual molestation.  The Spotlight Team has never addressed this issue, nor have they ever published any female victim’s account of her abuse.

  • When Rev. Kelvin E. Iguabita, the former parochial vicar of All Saints Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts, was charged with raping a 15 year-old girl, the Globe reported on his arraignment on January 16, 2002.  However, the *Iguabita report is not included in the Spotlight Team’s chronological index of stories on the scandal, nor are those of any other priests charged with raping or abusing female victims. Missing, for example, is any report on Rev. Robert E. Kelley, a former Worcester priest who has admitted to raping somewhere between 50 and 100 girls. 

[*Near the end of 2002, Michael Paulson's article on Iguabita was added to the Spotlight Web Site]

I have spoken to several female survivors whose stories have been rejected by the Spotlight Team, but I can only present the facts of my own case.  Father Frank Nugent, a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco, assaulted my late brother, Patrick, and me for over a decade.  Our relationship with Father Nugent ended only after Patrick, who had become suicidal, drove a car owned by the Salesians into a pond and died.  Perhaps this story did not seem credible?  Soon after I indicated that I would speak out, the Salesians issued an abject apology not only for the harm that Father Nugent had inflicted on my family and me, but also for the Order’s failure to address my complaints.  Was the story irrelevant to the Archdiocese of Boston?  Father Nugent ran overnight retreats for teenagers at a Salesian center in Ipswich, Massachusetts from 1981 until he was treated for pedophilia in 1995. 

Those who doubt that this story was buried because a woman told it should examine the standards the Spotlight editor applies to those conveyed by men.  On November 1, for example, the Globe published a report about a plainly troubled victim who thought about slitting the throat of his abuser in a motel room over twenty years ago.  The report goes on to relate that the victim chose not to murder the passed-out priest and left after urinating on his bed. 

Confronted with these ancient thoughts and lurid details, we should wonder not only why any editor would find them newsworthy, but also why he would choose to print them while refusing to run who knows how many other more representative and relevant stories.  While we can only speculate about the homophobic or sexist motivations for these decisions, the pattern of misrepresentation documented here makes one conclusion certain: the Spotlight Team has failed the test of effective reporting and further injured both male and female survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

Susan E. Gallagher    

I am a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Survivors First .