Even sympathetic observers, inside and outside the Catholic Church sense a moment of existential crisis. The crisis itself – widespread, unchecked sexual abuse by priests of adults and children – is nothing new. What’s made it existential is that now, everybody knows about it.
In country after country, in diocese after diocese, all the news media and all the social media are awash in reports of public accusations, secret settlements and now an outbreak of criminal investigations all linking the Church with sexual abuse, mostly of children. It’s enough to shake the faith of even the most faithful.
What will it take to restore passion for the faith? Where the issue of sexual abuse is concerned, there is a secular trinity of principles that might help: transparency, accountability and action?
The creation of a global constituency of ethically demanding believers who want a Catholic Church with zero tolerance for sexual abuse of children or for those who enable or protect the predators has been the work of a little less than half a lifetime for our guest today, Jason Berry.
23 years before the movie Spotlight won Academy Awards, 11 years before the real-life Boston Globe journalists who wrote about pedophile priests in Boston won the Pulitzer Prize, Jason Berry wrote a book, Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children that broke the story. It is one of the landmarks of American investigative reporting. It was published in 1992, but Jason started digging on the story eight years before that, in 1984 when he tracked down some nasty rumors about a priest back in the Cajun bayous named Gilbert Gauthe.
Jason Berry is an American investigative reporter based in New Orleans, an author and film director. He attended Jesuit High School in New Orleans, graduating in 1966. He is known for pioneering investigative reporting on sexual abuse in the priesthood of the Catholic Church.
His book Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children (1992) was the first major book on this issue. His 2004 book Vows of Silence deals with the sexual abuse of Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, and the cover-up of that abuse. The author also adapted Vows of Silence into a film.
His latest book is Render Unto Rome The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church. And City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300 will be published this fall.
Berry has been frequently interviewed in national media in the United States, has worked as a consultant for ABC News, and contributed to the National Public Radio and is a speaker on sexual abuse issues and popular culture.
He has also written books on popular music.
Berry won his first Catholic Press Association Award in 1986 for his original coverage in the National Catholic Reporter of the clergy sexual-abuse scandals in Louisiana. He was awarded his second in 1993 for the publication of Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children. Berry is a graduate of Georgetown University and a recipient of the Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship for his reportage of David Duke. He and his wife live in New Orleans.