Friday, June 29, 2012

Priest Abuse Blog in the Media

There's an exhaustive and authoritative new website that catalogues everything that moved during the priest abuse trial:

Here's what the introduction to the site says:
"The trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn and Rev. James J. Brennan in Philadelphia was complex and lengthy, and its conclusion was a watershed event: the first conviction of a church official for child endangerment. During the trial, witnesses and exhibits provided the jury with information on 21 other accused priests whom Lynn had managed." 
"We have provided two resources for understanding the trial and the evidence that has been presented during it. On this page, we offer a day-by-day list of the witnesses, evidence, and courtroom discussions, with links to articles by journalists who were present at the trial and filed detailed accounts. The mainstays are John P. Martin and Joseph A. Slobodzian of the Philadelphia InquirerMaryclaire Dale and Joann Loviglio of the Associated Press, and Ralph Cipriano of the Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog sponsored by The Beasley Firm. Many other reporters covered the trial, and we have included selections of their work. We have emphasized the longer accounts. The men and women of the press deserve everyone's sincere thanks for their dedicated and able reporting during this epic trial."
The blog, which began in March, on the opening day of the trial, has since been featured on NPR, USA Today, Jim Romenesko's journalism blog and the BBC. Our total page views are up over 200,000, which is much more than we were expecting. If you were reading the blog, here's what you found out that the rest of the media wasn't reporting:

-- The prosecutor laid an egg in her opening statement to the jury.

-- The judge had a stranglehold on Courtroom 304.

-- The prosecution's strategy was to put the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on trial.

-- The cardinal's spin machine would stoop to anything, even using a couple of pedophiles, to make His Eminence look good.

-- The case against Father James J. Brennan unraveled early.

-- The mother of Father Brennan's accuser took the stand for the prosecution, and her testimony actually hurt the case.

--  When he was a Trappist monk, Father Brennan used to sing White Christmas to chickens.

-- The film debut of Cardinal Bevilacqua's deposition tragically was canceled during the trial.

-- The prosecution was doing some fine play-acting as they read Msgr. Lynn's grand jury testimony into the record.

-- The play-acting revealed the monsignor to be a bumbling detective as he chased a pervert priest on the lam.

-- If you were planning a gay cruise to Thailand, the man to call was Father Mike.

-- A secret archdiocese memo that Cardinal Bevilacqua ordered shredded in 1994 was discovered in a locked safe at archdiocese headquarters in 2006, resulting in an in-house lawyer saying a bunch of guys in collars at 222 N. 17th St. were lying.

-- A former teen Jesus told the jury about being sexually abused during an archdiocese passion play.

-- A nun called out Msgr. Lynn from the witness stand.

--  All the cardinal's men who were missing from the defense table.

-- The prosecution's smoking gun may have hit the wrong target.

-- The fire-breathing prosecutor who called Msgr. Lynn a liar once every four minutes.

-- The momentum in the case at the end was clearly swinging to the defense.

-- The archdiocese was spending at least $75,000 a week on its dream team of four defense lawyers.

-- While the jury deliberated, defense lawyer William J. Brennan played Godfather trivia with Vernon Odom of Action News.

-- The jury was confused by the judge's contradictory instructions.

-- The judge during deliberations completely reversed herself overnight on the key issue of whether Msgr. Lynn had to have acted with criminal intent in order to have been found guilty of conspiring to endanger the welfare of children.

How was that not a story? A judge doing a complete reversal on key jury instructions regarding whether the main defendant had to act with criminal intent? How'd they miss that one?

If you're doing this job right, at some point, you're gonna piss everybody off. At various points during the trial, we've enraged the victims' groups, the defense lawyers thought we hated them, we've ripped the judge, and now those thin-skinned prosecutors aren't talking to us because we rained on their victory parade. Get over it guys.

We will continue to post honest, uncensored reporting that tracks the story where ever it goes. Thanks to everybody for tuning in.

I'd also like to thank the guy who dreamed up this project, Jim Beasley Jr. He's a former juvenile delinquent who grew up to become a doctor and a lawyer. He's been running The Beasley Firm since his dad died in 2004, putting out one fire after another and working his ass off to keep the place up and running as the go-to-firm for serious litigation and legal trial representation. In his spare time, Jim races motorcycles and flies vintage World War II airplanes at air shows.

I had just finished writing Courtroom Cowboy, a biography of Jim's father, back in 2008, when Jim asked me what I was doing. The answer was nothing. Every lawyer in town is interested in the Fumo case, he said. Why don't you go down to the courthouse and see what's going on?

So we blogged the Fumo case. And then Jim suggested blogging this trial. He was also crazy enough to pay me for it. During the 13-week priest abuse trial, Jim was enthusiastic about the blog, but I kept asking him, What are you getting out of this?

"I just think it's a cool thing to do," he said.

Thanks, Jim. 


  1. Congratulations, Ralph, you deserve numerous awards for your work here.

    This blog has proven how much mainstream media is failing and as a result readers are not being informed.

    One wonders how much truth is being kept from Americans on other topics around the country.

    This blog and Bishop Accountability's analysis of it shows there is a crisis in news reporting in the U.S. that needs to be addressed.

    Americans are Not Being Informed and they are then going out and Voting based on that lack of information.

    The potential outcome is scary. Bishops aren't the only criminals that will end up staying in power...

  2. Ralph, thanks for your unbiased and thorough reporting. I hope it continues through the trials this fall of the other defendants.

  3. Thank you very much to Ralph and Mr. Beasley.

    There was a comment on the Inky comment board a couple months ago that summed up how great - and important - this blog was. Someone wrote:

    "I come to the Philly Inquirer to read a watered down version of what happened at the trial and then I go to the Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial blog to find out what really happened."

    Bravo, Ralph!

    1. It wasn't me that wrote that, but I echo the thought! And, once I discovered this blog, that's exactly what I did!

  4. Thank you Ralph, for an outstanding job. Thank you Jim for thinking this "a cool thing to do." I think the sign of a good journalist is when he/she pisses off people in power, no matter what side they are on. Thanks again.

  5. Ralph and Jim,

    Thanks for a great blog. It is a sad day when private lawyers have to hire reporters to tell a story that is in the public interest to tell. We used to have that product. They were called newspapers.

  6. You deserve the attention and the praise, Ralph. This is the only place to visit for clear, concise and hilarious, but honest, coverage of the Trial. You are a Gift to people who care about the Trial. Thank you so much for your good work!


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