TEXT ON SCREEN: June 10, 1985
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS, 6-10-85):DAN RATHER: The Catholic Church is facing scandals and being forced to pay millions of dollars.
NARRATION: In the 1980s and 90s the press reported crimes that seemed inconceivable
ARCHIVAL (NBC, NIGHTLY NEWS, 2-24-88 ):TOM BROKAW: Sins of the fathers.
ARCHIVAL (THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW, 1993):OPRAH WINFREY: Case after case of alleged sexual misconduct.
NARRATION:committed by Catholic priests and covered up by bishops.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 1997):REPORTER: The bishop was warned about Koss behavior, but kept moving him around.
NARRATION: In 2002, revelations reached a crescendo.
ARCHIVAL (WBZ, 2002):ANCHOR: Sparked by the release of thousands of pages of documents
ARCHIVAL (FOX, 12-99):MAN (SHOUTING AT PRIEST): You are a filthy pig!
NARRATION: Responding to the crisis, Americas bishops enacted reforms and made a promise.
ARCHIVAL (CSPAN, 6-13-02):REVEREND WILTON GREGORY: To bring an end to sexual abuse in the church.
NARRATION: More than a decade later, new disclosures continue to make headlines.Some priests have faced consequences, but what about the bishops who covered up their crimes?
THE SHAME OF THE CHURCH
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 6-10-85):NEWS REPORT: Thirty-nine year old father Gilbert Gauthe has admitted that he sexually abused at least thirty-five boys.
NARRATION: In 1985, the first case of a priest accused of sexual abuse to get major media attention came from the small town of Henry, Louisiana. Nearly as shocking as the charges was the fact that church leaders had heard allegations for years.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 6-10-85):NEWS REPORT: In sworn statements the head of the local diocese, Bishop Gerard Frey, has admitted learning about a child molestation involving father Gauthe ten years ago.
NARRATION: An article about the Gauthe case caught the attention of Barbara Blaine, a devout Catholic who says she had been abused, starting at age 13, by her parish priest, Father Chet Warren.
BARBARA BLAINE: That abuse was happening during the time that I was growing up and discovering who I am as a person, so the whole coloring of my psyche was that I was evil and made this good, holy priest sin.
NARRATION: At age 29 Barbara reported Father Warren to officials in her diocese, all the way up to the bishop. But over the next few years her frustration grew as Warren remained in ministry.
BARBARA BLAINE: Those church officials were clearly not helping. They were only making matters worse for me. And so I thought, Ill just find some other victims.We can research this and educate ourselves, and well figure this out.
NARRATION: Although Warren has denied wrongdoing, seven more women would make allegations against him before he was suspended from ministry in 1993.
By that time, Barbra Blaines network of victims had grown into the hundreds and taken the name SNAP.
ARCHIVAL (THE PHIL DONAHUE SHOW, NBC):BARBARA BLAINE: Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests.PHIL DONAHUE: As you were?BARBARA BLAINE: Exactly.
BARBARA BLAINE: In the early-to mid 90s, the way our movement grew was by these talk shows. Every time one of the shows aired, more victims would contact us.
ARCHIVAL (1993):NEWS ANCHOR: How the Catholic Church kept these confessions silent for so long despite reports from three states.
NARRATION: As more scandals broke, it became clear the problem was often not just crime, but cover up.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN (NATIONAL RELIGION CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES): Every bishop is the ruler of his own diocese and reports only directly to the Pope. And so every bishop was following his own policy. Some were more proactive. Some were completely negligent, and some were criminal in that they were covering up known abusers and failing to report them to law enforcement.
ARCHIVAL:MARY STAGGS: When people come forward to the bishops to tell them about how theyve been abused, its more like, Well, call my attorney.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: And SNAP encouraged people contacting lawyers, people contacting prosecutors. Above all, their aim was to get potential molesters out of ministry.
NARRATION: It was a task made more difficult by the fact that the churches monetary settlements usually came with confidentiality agreements.
THOMAS P. DOYLE (CO-AUTHOR, SEX, PRIESTS, AND SECRET CODES): That prevented anyone ever knowing how bad it was inside the Church, which is what they were just trying to prevent the secrets from getting out.
NARRATION: As a young priest at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., Thomas Doyle had co-authored a report in 1985 that warned sexual abuse cases were probably the single most serious and far reaching problem facing our church today. And that was nearly 17 years before the earthquake that hit Boston in early 2002.
ARVHIVAL (ABC, WORLD NEWS TONIGHT 1-13-02):RON CLAIBORNE: John Geoghan is accused of molesting and raping boys as young as 4 years old over a period of 34 years.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, NIGHTLINE, 1-28-02):CHRIS BURY: But documents uncovered by the suggest church officials covered up Geoghans crimes.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: The documents showed that there were people trying to alert high church officials and were often just ignored.
NARRATION: Whats more, father Geoghan and other accused priests had been protected by Bostons Cardinal, Bernard Law, once called the most powerful Catholic in America. By the time the U.S. bishops arrived in Dallas for their annual spring assembly, they faced media scrutiny like never before.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, NIGHTLY NEWS, 6-12-02):KELLY ODONNELL: A three-month investigation by the Dallas Morning News reports nearly two-thirds of bishops protected priests accused of sexual abuse and allowed them to keep working over the past several decades.
NARRATION: The leaders of the church devoted their entire agenda to the sex abuse crisis.
ARCHBISHOP WILTON GREGORY (PRESIDENT, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, 2001-2004): There was really no other topic that was worthy of our attention.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: The Church is lucky to have had Bishop Wilton Gregory leading the bishops at that moment. He got it.
NARRATION: The bishops deliberated over a set of reforms that would go further than any they had passed to date.It would be dubbed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and it generated heated debate.
ARCHIVAL (CSPAN, U.S CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, 6-14-02):BISHOP: I have gotten plenty of letters accusing priests with no reasonableness at all.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: It was controversial for them to say zero tolerance.
ARCHIVAL (CSPAN, U.S CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, 6-14-02):BISHOP SULLIVAN: We have to come to a standard not of zero tolerance, but a standard of forgiveness.
ARCHBISHOP WILTON GREGORY: Not every bishop agreed with every jot and tittle, but we did agree that we would do it, and we would do it together.
NARRATION: The final charter included a zero tolerance policy, a promise to report to public authorities allegations of sexual abuse of minors and a commitment to transparency and openness.
ARCHIVAL (CSPAN, U.S CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, 6-14-02):MSGR. WILLIAM FAY: 239 yes. 13 no. No abstentions. The action item passes.
NARRATION: To ensure that dioceses implemented the new policies, Bishop Gregory appointed a National Review Board, made up of lay Catholics and chaired by Oklahomas governor Frank Keating.
FRANK KEATING (CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL REVIEW BOARD OF THE U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, 2002-2003): We were not just a showboat.We were not a bunch of Catholics selected to try to cover up and to avoid.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 6-15-02):GOVERNOR FRANK KEATING: Arguably they are obstructing justice or arguably they also are accessories to the crime.
NARRATION: But in the months that followed, Keating found some church leaders still clung to secrecy.In Los Angeles, home to the largest archdiocese in America, Cardinal Roger Mahony was fighting a pitched legal battle to keep personnel records of accused priests out of the hands of prosecutors.
FRANK KEATING: The D.A. at the time in Los Angeles called me who is a Catholic by the way and he said, I need your help, because theyre shutting us off.Theyre not giving us access to anything. I said, What? I mean there oughta be transparency. Thats what the bishops want. But that was not the behavior of some of the bishops, which, quite truthfully for me as a Catholic layman, was stunning and unforgivable.
NARRATION: In frustration, Keating spoke out in the press comparing some members of the church hierarchy to La Cosa Nostra. Facing threats of his ouster, Keating resigned, but says he made a parting request of Bishop Gregory.
FRANK KEATING: That you all will continue what you are doing to address these problems, clean them up and make sure that you drive a stake through the heart of that misbehavior.
NARRATION: In the ensuing years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has commissioned studies revealing that since 1950 some 17,000 minors have reportedly been sexually abused by over 6,000 clergy. Wilton Gregory insists that the reforms passed in 2002 have made the church safer.
ARCHBISHOP WILTON GREGORY: Dioceses now have in place programs that are intended to protect children. We have protocols that our clergy are required to follow. Thats good progress.
BARBARA BLAINE: Of course the church is safer today because so many of the victims have been speaking up and exposing predators.
NARRATION: But Blaine and others contend theres a basic issue that still has not been addressed accountability for bishops.
BARBARA BLAINE: The people who are in positions of authority who allowed this to go on and who have covered up the sex crimes are still in those positions.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: The bottom line is that there are consequences for priests who abuse. There are no consequences, or there have been none, from the Vatican, for bishops who have in any way enabled that abuse.
NARRATION: Case in point, Kansas City bishop Robert Finn. Although he was convicted in court for failing to report a priest who took pornographic photos of young girls, Finn is still bishop today. And even Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as head of the Boston Archdiocese, after mishandling sex abuse cases, went on to preside over one of Romes most important churches and remained on a Vatican committee that handled cases of sexual abuse.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: Some people said, Gee, what a relief for him.He didnt have to clean up the mess he made. He got to move on to Rome.
NARRATION: To date, sex abuse cases have cost the church and its insurers over $3 billion. But especially since 2002, victims have also pressed for the church to turn over its files on accused molesters.
In early 2013, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles released thousands of pages revealing that in the 1980s, Cardinal Mahoney and a top aid tried to shield admitted sex abusers from law enforcement.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: This was clearly a cover-up on the part of Mahony. This was shocking material!
NARRATION: Since then, thousands more newly released documents have revealed alleged sex crimes and cover ups, mostly decades old. In Milwuakee, the Twin Cities, Joliet and Chicago. Pope Francis has promised a new committee will advise him on how to deal with that he has called the shame of the church.
For Wilton Gregory, the prolonged struggle to put this crisis in the past, brings to mind the teachings of Niccolo Machiavelli.
ARCHBISHOP WILTON GREGORY: If a prince, if a leader is going to give away a thousand ducats, he should do it one ducat at a time because people forget, but if he has to slay a thousand soldiers, he should do it in one night because people forget. The constant revelation, the continual disclosure of bad, criminal behavior keeps this issue alive. And its as though its a never-ending drama.
NARRATION: Barbara Blaine is hoping people wont forget.When a United Nations panel in Switzerland recently subjected Vatican officials to an unprecedented full day of questioning, Blaine was there with questions of her own.
BARBARA BLAINE: Number one is, are they turning the evidence of sex crimes over to the police, and number two, are they punishing any of the bishops who have enabled and covered up for the sexual predators? If they would do either of those two things that would give me hope that children will be protected in our church, but they failed to do either one.