Get the facts straight, Joe

Joe Bergantino, whose name is familiar to many Bostonians from his time as the local TV news investigative reporter, nearly breaks his arm waving it to get credit for breaking open the Scandal way back in 1992. It must be galling to see those ink-stained wretches at the Boston Globe getting all the credit, including Pulitzers and an Oscar (by proxy). Except, in his rush to burnish his bona fides, Joe glides over a couple of facts.

Yes, Bergantino and his team broke open the James Porter case, the laicized priest who was sent to prison in 1992 for molesting dozens of kids. He then uses that two-decade-old case to bash the Archdiocese of Boston about the head and shoulders again.

The I-Team’s May 1992 story unleashed a torrent of local and national coverage focused on Porter and other pedophile priests in Boston.

Except Porter wasn’t in Boston. He was, in fact, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River. And so earlier, when Bergantino says “the Cardinal at the time was made aware of Porter’s crimes and did little or nothing to stop him,” what he doesn’t know or say is that the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston doesn’t have any authority over a priest of the Diocese of Fall River. That’s the Bishop of Fall River’s responsibility. But ignorance of the Church’s constitution never stopped a reporter on a roll.

And so when Bergantino finishes his litany of how he was really the one a movie should have been made about, he recalls that one of his last stories was to see what happened to some of the pedophiles who had been laicized.

We found one ex-priest living a few doors down from an elementary school in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, another was a visiting nurse going into homes without any supervision and another was living in a small New Hampshire town. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley refused our requests for an interview and his PR flack whisked him away when we tried to ask him some questions. Not much had changed in 25 years.

Not much other than everything! Hey, Joe, these guys were laicized. They were thrown out. The cardinal has no more authority over them. If a guy gets fired from IBM for embezzling, is IBM supposed to make sure the guy never gets another job where he can embezzle? What mechanism can they use? Send over corporate security to manhandle into corporate jail?

In the past 25 years, the Church has undergone a top to bottom overhaul, the Long Lent as we call it, with zero tolerance policies and bishops resigned in disgrace, some charged with crimes. Every little old lady who irons the vestments has to submit to a criminal background check annually. And every priest and lay minister lives in fear of little kids hugging them a little too tightly after Mass. And, yes, this is the consequence of some of shepherds failing to keep the wolves out of the sheep and we have to live with it.

But, spare us Joe, your petulant victory lap trying to claim journalistic credit on top of the shattered lives of the victims of abuse.

Domenico Bettinelli, Jr., is a father of five and husband, a Roman Catholic, born in Boston, educated at Franciscan University of Steubenville, who has worked in Catholic media--print, broadcast, and online--since the mid-90s. Find out all about Dom on his About Me page.