The term “Fake News” became particularly popular when former President Donald Trump accused CNN and other news outlets of publishing false stories about him. The truth is, “Fake News,” known in the late 1890s as “yellow journalism,” has been around for quite some time. The problem is that “Fake News” can have tragic consequences. In a contest to see who could sell more newspapers, New York publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst published headlines like “Remember the Maine!” that led Congress to declare war on Spain. Had these publishers exercised journalistic due diligence, they might have discovered that the explosion aboard the Maine in Havana harbor was not the result of an external Spanish mine, but was caused internally by a new fuel adopted by the U.S. Navy. Tragically, some 65,000 lives were lost during the Spanish American War that never should have occurred.
Misinformation reported by the media can be intentional or accidental. When reporters are presented with evidence that something they wrote was false, they will often publish a correction, retracting what they originally reported. The problem is that some media outlets don’t want to publish corrections because the original story was crafted to manage or spin rather than report the news. Let me give an example of this.
Mainstream Catholic Media
When an ongoing lawsuit was filed against the North American College (NAC) alleging sexual predation on the part of the vice rector, Father Adam Park, and homosexual behavior involving the rector, Father Peter Harman, Catholic News Agency (CNA) did not report how the scandalous behavior had a harmful impact on enrollment. After CNA published a story on October 20, 2021 claiming there were “More than 200 seminarians and graduate priests from the United States and Australia are currently studying at the college,” the news agency was contacted on November 29, 2021 and presented with evidence showing that there in fact were no more than 110 seminarians and graduate priests in attendance. Despite being confronted on multiple occasions by Attorney Joseph Mulvey and others for covering up a 56%-60% decline in NAC seminarians between 2016 and the present, CNA, through its General Counsel, John Manos, has refused to exercise due diligence, offer a correction, and verify current and accurate NAC enrollment figures in an effort to hide homosexual predation and misconduct problems which are at the center of the lawsuit against the NAC.
The lengths the media underworld pursue in order to cover up the misdeeds of their accused benefactors became apparent when, on July 29, 2021, CNA reporter Hannah Brockhaus unethically contacted the Judge presiding over the lawsuit against the NAC in the midst of deliberations. Given how Brockhaus, who boasts of her Omaha roots, secretly made ex-parte contact with the Judge in preparation for writing an article whitewashing credible sexual misconduct allegations against her Omaha Archbishop George Lucas, sex abuse advocates became concerned about whether CNA was attempting to bias the Judge assigned to preside over the lawsuit just like then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio underhandedly and unsuccessfully tried to influence Argentine Appellate Court judges to overturn the 15-year prison sentence of his predator priest friend, Father Julio César Grassi.
Fake News does not only involve publishing false information about an individual or event, it also includes not reporting news that could prove to be harmful to an individual or institution. This “omission” often allows people engaged in wrongdoing to get away with their bad, and sometimes, criminal behavior.
It is well known that many Catholic Church leaders are guilty of engaging in or covering up the sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and other vulnerable adults. Even though some 150 Catholic bishops have been credibly accused of abusing minors or adults, to date only seven bishops have been laicized. While the Spotlight team of The Boston Globe published groundbreaking stories beginning in 2002 about clerical sex abuse and cover-ups that resulted in Boston Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation, many mainstream and Catholic media outlets today avoid reporting on prelates who cover up abuse within the Church. The most recent example of this cover-up involves Cardinal Robert McElroy.
A month prior to the consistory marking McElroy’s elevation, The San Diego Union Tribune, the Times of San Diego, the Catholic News Agency (CNA), and the Catholic News Service (CNS) were all presented with evidence that McElroy covered up the rape of Rachel Mastrogiacomo by former Father Jacob Bertrand. They were also shown how both McElroy and Pope Francis covered up the homosexual predation of 12 priests and seminarians by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick that was reported to them in 2016 by the late Richard Sipe. Despite receiving this damning evidence, not one of these media sources wrote a single word about Mastrogiacomo’s rape and cover-up detailing how McElroy kept Bertrand in ministry until 2016 even after he confessed in 2014 to having raped Mastrogiacomo in 2010. When contacted on September 4, 2022 and asked, “What was the real reason you failed to report the ‘whole truth’ by omitting mention of Mastrogiacomo’s documented cover-up by McElroy and the San Diego Diocese?” not one of these media outlets had a comment to offer.
Neither CNA nor CNS responded to questions like, “Was your failure to report Mastrogiacomo’s rape because you did not want to draw attention to how Francis, who elevated McElroy despite his terrible handing of abuse cases, covered up even more abuse in Buenos Aires than McElroy did in San Diego?” Or this: “Insofar as studies by Catholic researchers like the late Richard Sipe and Polish Father Darius Oko document how homosexual prelates promote other homosexual candidates over more qualified straight bishops and priests, did you want to avoid calling attention to how McElroy is only one of a number of bishops thought to be homosexual that Francis has elevated while bypassing several far more qualified prelates such as Diarmuid Martin, Charles Chaput, Salvatore Cordileone, etc.?”
Had the news agencies that were presented with incriminating evidence against McElroy brought this evidence to the attention of the public, McElroy might have suffered the same fate as Polish Archbishop Stanisław Wielgus who, like McElroy, was on track to being named a cardinal. It was after The New York Times published a story on January 6, 2007 documenting how Wielgus cooperated with Polish Security Services known to have arrested and tortured several priests that Wielgus resigned the following day, one hour before he was scheduled to be installed as the Primate of Poland in St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw. McElroy’s elevation at the August 27, 2022 consistory might have been called off too had a mainstream or Catholic media outlet reported all the details of Mastrogiacomo’s rape by Bertrand and the cover-up by McElroy.
Like McElroy, Pope Francis might never be pope today had the media reported all the abuse he allegedly covered up in Buenos Aires and lied about in his book, On Heaven and Earth. Unlike U.S. media sources that chose not to report on Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s lies and abuse cover-ups in Buenos Aires, French investigative journalist, Martin Boudot, was not afraid to report the truth about Bergoglio in his documentary, “Sex Abuse in the Church: The Code of Silence.”
Unfortunately, McElroy was not the only bishop made a cardinal recently who was accused of protecting sexually abusive priests. Italian Bishop Oscar Ontoni of Como was accused of protecting Father Mauro Inzoli who was convicted of abusing no fewer than 23 minors. Interestingly, instead of being laicized as Pope Benedict XVI had ordered, Francis, at the request of Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, reduced Inzoli’s sentence to a life of prayer and penance. Coccopalmerio was himself accused in June of 2017 of participating in a drug-fueled gay orgy in the Vatican for which he suffered no serious consequences.
The Harm to Victims
Media outlets that intentionally omit reporting clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups need to recognize the grave harm they cause abuse victims who often claim that the cover-up of their abuse by Church leaders and the media is far more painful than the actual physical abuse they endured. The suffering that victims experience is further deepened when fellow Catholics seem to be disinterested in what happened to them and appear to side either with the cleric that abused them or the prelate that covered up their abuse. Unfortunately, as a result of this lack of support, victims may suffer for decades from depression; become addicted to drugs or alcohol; or commit suicide. It is no wonder that many abuse victims – once very devout and involved Catholics – not only leave the Catholic Church, but end up hating clerics like Bertrand who abused them; prelates like McElroy and Francis who covered up their abuse; and Catholic laity who offered little to no support after the victims lived, worked, and prayed with them for years.
Note: The author reached out to the editors of The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Times of San Diego, the Catholic News Agency, and the Catholic News Service, all of whom failed to offer any comments.
Photo credit: Vatican Media.
Gene Thomas Gomulka is a sexual abuse victims’ advocate, investigative reporter and screenwriter. A retired Navy (O6) Captain/Chaplain, seminary instructor and diocesan respect life director, Gomulka was ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and later made a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by Pope St. John Paul II.