"Nothing Short of Sexual Abuse"
On December 4, for the first time, the Spotlight Team reported on clergy sex abuse cases involving female victims. In a front page article based on documents presented to the press by Boston lawyers, Sacha Pfeiffer detailed allegations made by three women against Fr. Robert Meffan, a deeply troubled priest who remained in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston until 1993. The documents show that all three women leveled similar charges, claiming that Meffan lured them into sexual acts when they were minors and encouraged them to view his violations as a taste of what it would be like to have intercourse with Christ. Although Pfeiffer repeatedly uses the term "relationship" in referring to Meffan's criminal misconduct, she boldly concludes that what these women described was "nothing short of sexual abuse."
Given the sensational nature of the documents on Meffan and other priests, which were featured in news broadcasts around the world, even the Spotlight Team could not have avoided reporting on this case. However, as usual, none of Spotlight articles on the new revelations contain any commentary from female victims. In contrast to the Globe, the Boston Herald quoted Ann Hagan Webb, a survivor and co-director of SNAP New England, who observed, "Two of the four priests that were presented abuse females. That's a far more accurate [view] of the population of abusive priests than has been presented in the past.'' Similarly, radio and television programs aired on the same day included interviews with survivors who pointed to Meffan's case in order to illustrate the significant number of girls among victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Now that the Spotlight Team has reported on a case involving female survivors, the danger is that more female victims will call the Globe and end up being deceived, ignored, or otherwise shut down by Spotlight reporters. The question is, will the Spotlight Team continue to silence women and uphold the Globe ombudsman's contention that "overwhelming majority of provable victims are men?"