Back in March 1993, nearly a decade before the Boston Globe brought national attention to the clergy sex abuse scandal, Phil Donahue devoted an episode of his show to the topic. One of the guests was Fr. Andrew Greeley, who died today at the age 85.

"Donahue" show about clergy sex abuse in 1993 screenshot courtesy YouTube

“Donahue” show about clergy sex abuse in 1993 screenshot courtesy YouTube

I was searching through You Tube to find some video footage of Fr. Greeley so I could learn more about his distinguished career. It’s shocking to me that this issue was aired so publicly even two decades ago, and before, and yet still haven’t been addressed fully today. The guests discuss bishops refusing to take responsibility for shuffling priests, the scapegoating of gay priests, and the silencing of victims.

Among other thoughts, Fr. Greeley noted that the papacy of John Paul II didn’t care about the protection of children, a bold claim in 1993. He disagreed with Donahue’s claim that an end to priestly celibacy would have prevented the sex abuse scandal and noted that the national church had paid about $40-50 million a year to settle sex abuse claims. To date, the church has paid over $2.6 billion in settlements since 1950.

You can watch part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, and part 5 here.

Categories: Culture, Institutions


Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.


  1. Let us not forget the beloved Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Bernardin who began to bring sexual abuse of minors by priests into the light around 1992.

  2. A couple things:

    1. Is Michael saying that the issue of Catholic abuse “still hasn’t been addressed fully today”? If so, is he kidding? Has there been an issue that has been more relentlessly bludgeoned into the ground by the media than this one?

    2. Michael writes that the Boston Globe was the first to bring “national attention to the clergy sex abuse scandal.” Sorry, but this is untrue. In fact, in 1993, the issue was *very* widely reported by the Globe, NY Times, and many other outlets (like “Donahue”).

    But most notably, the issue was profiled on CNN during an infamous one-hour special called “Fall From Grace,” hosted by Bonnie Anderson, in which a man named Steven Cook tearfully and emotionally claimed that he had been abused years earlier as a teen by Chicago’s Cardinal Bernardin. In a nutshell, it turned out the accusation was completely bogus. Cook recanted.

    Some claim that the media got cold feet about reporting the issue in light of the Bernardin episode.

    But in 2002, the Globe’s coverage of the issue was widely spread and abetted by the sweeping use of the Internet, which did not exist in 1993 nearly to the extent as it did almost a decade later in 2002.


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