Sunday, June 8, 2008

Timothy Lytton's "Holding Bishops Accountable"

Timothy D. Lytton is Albert and Angela Farone Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse, and reported the following:
Holding Bishops Accountable tells the story of how lawsuits uncovered the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Litigation focused attention on the need for institutional reform, and it spurred Church officials, law enforcement, and state governments into action. Lawsuits were an effective means of addressing the crisis because they dramatized the issue in a way that attracted media attention.

On page 99, I discuss two ways in which this dramatization occurred. First, the litigation itself was a dramatic contest—often compared to a battle—between victims and Church officials. I point out that media “coverage…played up the drama of litigation. CNN anchor Bonnie Anderson characterized the filing of a countersuit for defamation against a plaintiff as ‘just the start of the Archdiocese counterattack.’” Second, the ongoing litigation that engulfed the Church starting in 1984 gave media coverage continuity, which made news stories about the crisis especially attractive to media audiences. Clergy sexual abuse litigation became a recurrent “news theme” that drew in media audiences, much like a soap opera or a serialized television program.

Looking beyond page 99, the book recounts the dramatic highlights of several high profile cases involving serial child molesters and the Church officials who covered up their crimes. The book also explains how these cases helped the Church ultimately confront the problem, and it examines the broader implications of the crisis for addressing child sexual abuse in other institutional settings, like schools and youth programs.
Read an excerpt from Holding Bishops Accountable, and learn more about the book at the official website.

--Marshal Zeringue