Just 18 months after founding a special website called Crux, dedicated to reporting on the Catholic Church, the Boston Globe has announced that it is withdrawing from the venture, citing financial reasons.
In 2014, Boston Globe owner John Henry tapped veteran Vatican reporter John L. Allen to head up the site in an effort to expand the company’s readership beyond the Boston area to a potential market of more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide.
In disentangling itself from Crux, the Globe has ceded ownership to Allen, who has announced that he plans to keep it going, together with the site’s Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín.
After the movie Spotlight won the Academy Award for best picture, the Globe has been basking in renewed admiration for its 2002 crusade against the Church’s handling of the American sex abuse crisis, which bagged the paper a Pulitzer Prize.
At the time, the paper was fiercely criticized for what was perceived by many as a vicious campaign against the Catholic Church, since the Globe’s investigations into the sexual abuse of minors exclusively targeted Catholic priests, while ignoring the rampant abuse occurring in every organization and institution having dealings with children, whether religious or secular.
As Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon declared at the time: “All I can say is that if fairness and accuracy have anything to do with it, awarding the Pulitzer Prize to the Boston Globe would be like giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Osama bin Laden.”
Glendon noted that the Globe had created a “climate of hysteria the likes of which has not been seen in Boston since the Ursuline convent was burnt down.”
Glendon’s indictment so got under the skin of former Boston Globe editor Marty Baron that it still smarts almost 15 years later. Baron said that the intervening years “have yet to extinguish” the sting he felt over those words.
In point of fact, the newspaper elided over the huge economic interest of contingency-fee lawyers who targeted the Church because of its “deep pockets” yet didn’t pursue the thousands of other cases of abuse deemed less lucrative.
As Forbes wrote at the time: “Plaintiff lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr. and other litigators have parlayed the priest crisis into a billion-dollar money machine, fueled by lethal legal tactics, shrewd use of the media and public outrage so fierce that almost any claim, no matter how bizarre or dated, offers a shot at a windfall.”
Even the Globe itself had to admit that the hugely profitable settlement in the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal set a record “as the largest payday for lawyers who sued on behalf of abuse victims: an estimated $30 million in legal fees,” since the attorneys were entitled to 33 percent of whatever they could extract in a settlement.
The deep anti-Catholic bias behind the Globe’s dishonest coverage was documented in excruciating detail by David Pierre in his book Sins of the Press: The Untold Story of The Boston Globe’s Reporting on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church.
The Globe also came under fire for the sloppiness of its journalism, as it continually employed the term “pedophilia” when referring to priestly sex abuse, despite the fact that researchers had determined that less than 5 percent of the molesting priests were pedophiles. The vast majority of the abuse cases were cases of homosexual abuse, with 81 percent of the victims being male and 78 percent postpubescent, a fact that the Globe studiously omitted.
Now that the Globe has sloughed off its Catholic site, it will be up to the new owners to raise the necessary funds to keep the enterprise going.
John Allen has said he envisions several possibilities for the site’s future. The site could possibly partner with another news organization or with a Catholic organization looking to make impact through the media. Crux could also form its own nonprofit, by seeking donors and sponsors to finance the site.
Either way, its new-found freedom from the Boston Globe can only bode well for the integrity of its coverage of all things Catholic.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome.