Saturday, 11 September 2010

Belgian abuse revelations: what they fail to reveal

A sad and shocking report made public yesterday documents evidence that there have been 476 instances of child abuse by priests in Belgium going back 50 years. The Guardian notes that the abuse went back to the 1950s, was most common in the 60s and was tailing off by the 1980s. "The exposed cases are old, of course," says the report's author, Peter Adriaenssens (photo), adding: "Society has developed." Monitor emphasises these points because they can get lost in the coverage.

The Daily Mail, for example, has a deeply misleading headline ('Fresh child sex abuse allegations rock Catholic Church ahead of Pope's UK visit') suggesting that the allegations concern the UK; and then some paragraphs which mislead even further.
The Roman Catholic Church was today embroiled in fresh child sexual abuse claims just days before the Pope is due to visit Britain.
A Belgian commission looking into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy says it has received testimony from hundreds of victims.

The commission's chairman Peter Adriaenssens said 488 witnesses came forward, most of them after the April resignation of a bishop for sexual abuse set off a deep crisis within the Belgian church.

A report by the commission lists in great detail how victims say they were abused by clergy, and lists one witness as saying it started as young as two.
Did you spot what's missing? That's right.

Is it possible that leaving the reader with the impression that the abuse was recent might be a deliberate policy on the part of the Mail? Could it be that significant facts which shed a very different light on the story have been deliberately suppressed for the sake of scandalising the reader? Monitor has no proof; merely wonders. 

The Telegraph, like the Guardian, lets you know straightaway that these are old cases which are now coming to light, and also notes that "the commission concluded that no evidence of a systematic Church cover-up was found." No such useful facts in the Mail. Maybe they were short of space.