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Spotlight reporter says it's 'stunning' the Buffalo Diocese didn't learn from Boston

Mike Desmond

A key reporter in breaking the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis in Boston nearly two decades ago was in Buffalo Thursday, the same day Bishop Richard Malone exited his leadership post. Former reporter Matt Carroll said he sees similarities in the two situations.

Carroll is now a professor of journalism at Northeastern University, after decades as a newspaper reporter. Carroll's news team won a Pulitzer Prize and was portrayed in the Oscar-winning film "Spotlight" for its reporting on the Boston diocese.

Carroll spent six years on the Boston Globe's Spotlight Team. In 2002, the team blew the lid off a major scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, not only of massive sex abuse but a major coverup of what was going on. The Spotlight reporters wrote 600 stories that year.

Carroll said the Buffalo Catholic Diocese didn't learn from what happened in Boston and continued to get in trouble.

"Originally, you had this sort of steady drip, drip of stories and the church never could get in front of it and they were very, very slow to acknowledge there were huge issues and slow to release names of priests and it was also to drag out of them," he said. "I don't know why the same thing kind of happened here. It's stunning, quite honestly, that they didn't sort of learn those lessons."

He said media across the country probed their diocese and found major problems, with one exception.

"At the end of the year, Cardinal Law resigned and things took off from there, were happening all that year in cities around the United States, except in Buffalo, one of these cities where not much was happening," Carroll said. "So it was kind of remarkable, I was reading online the New York Times and I saw the Buffalo bishop had just resigned, which was a remarkable coincidence."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Matt Carroll spoke at the Thin Man Brewery for an Investigative Post-sponsored event.

Carroll said there are similarities between Buffalo and Boston, with a clerical failure to learn from what happened in Massachusetts and make changes based on that. Malone was a priest and church administrator in Boston during this period.

Carroll said the Archdiocese of Boston seems to be doing better.

"In some ways, they are doing better. They have a new cardinal, Cardinal O'Malley, and he seems to be doing a lot better than Cardinal Law was and he seems to have regained some trust with people," he said. "I think there's still a lot of anger towards the Church. I get from talking with different people who were abused or who know people who were abused, and so it's a still a difficult situation. Plus, they had to sell off a lot of properties to raise money to settle lawsuits."

Carroll was in town to speak at a benefit for Investigative Post at Thin Man Brewery.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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