June 14th, 2010
07:04 AM ET

Church abuse scandal gets unprecedented ink in Europe

Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to Malta in April.

We all know the news media has covered the Catholic sex abuse scandal intensely these last few months, as allegations of church abuse have piled up like never before in countries across Europe. But a new report from the Pew Research Center, released on the heels of the Pope's remarks on the abuse scandal Friday, shows exactly how historic the press coverage has been.

Among its key findings:

- Newspaper coverage of the abuse scandal grew more intense this spring than at any time since 2002 - the year the U.S. church abuse scandal broke in Boston - with European newspapers giving much more ink to the story than American papers.

- The heavy coverage in Europe was a reversal of the pattern in 2002, when a Boston Globe series unleashed a tidal wave of reporting on sexual abuse by priests in the United States but led to few stories in the European press. In early 2010, by contrast, English-language European newspapers published three times as many articles on the scandal as U.S. papers did.

- The media scrutiny homed in on the pope himself. During a six-week period from mid-March 12 to late April, Pope Benedict XVI was a major focus of more than half the stories on the scandal in the mainstream U.S. media, including print, radio, network television, cable TV and online news sources.

The full report, called The Pope Meets the Press: Media Coverage of the Clergy Abuse Scandal, is available here.

Victims' advocates say the coverage has played a key role in galvanizing a critical mass of church abuse victims in Europe to step forward for the first time. When victims read stories of others who were abused by the church, the thinking goes, they're more likely to break their own silence, spurring even more news stories and keeping the cyle going.

In the U.S., that pattern was set in motion in 2002, after the Boston Globe broke the scandal story locally. Eight years later, the U.S. church has paid billions to alleged abuse victims.

Some of the church's defenders, meanwhile, say the news media have blown the scandal out of proportion and have created the impression that pedophilia is more common in the Catholic church than other institutions, like public schools, which they say is misleading.

How would you assess the news media's role in covering church sex abuse?

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • News media • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Peter

    It is true what is being reported and it is good that it is being exposed, but remember that 97% of priests did no abuse children. I work in two poor countries and i see the Catholics and evangelicals having orphanages and schools. Have atheists ever, ever started an orphanage? All atheists worship themselves. CNN should also what abuse is happening by teachers in the schools. Statistics show it is a higher percent and exposing it is blocked by the powerful teacher's unions. Peter

    June 18, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  2. Ken

    The media is doing a good job.

    June 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  3. ybs

    All religions are one big pile of dung!

    Many would prefer sticking their heads into it; few avoid it; kids are forced to eat it. And the putrid stench perpetuates! 🙁

    June 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  4. Doug

    Normally I do NOT like the media. However in this case the media finally did something right! This stuff had been going on in the church for years and everyone was afraid of discussing it. Finally someone brought out these issues even though the church threatened, denied, and did everything it could to stop it from coming out. The church did NOTHING to stop the abuse until the media caused lawsuits, which hit the church in the money belt. As a former Catholic I have always found the church and how it was ran as dirty, cold, and a horrible organization.

    June 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.