San Diego Man's Role In Uncovering Priest Sex Abuse Featured In 'Spotlight'
This is KPBS Midday Edition I'm Maureen Cavanugh. During his triumphant state visit US in September, Pope Francis spoke about the sexual abuse scandals that plague the church for nearly 2 decades. The Pope said that quote God weeps at the sexual abuse of children and that all responsible will be held accountable. But that accountability did not start with the Catholic Church. Brother started with victims lawyers and journalists going public with their stories of priests violating children in the church covering it up. One story that shook the foundations of the US Catholic Church came from reporting in the Boston Globe published in 2002. The new movie spotlight tells the story of how that reporting was done. Joining me now is a researcher whose expertise was used in the reporting. Richard Sipe is a certified clinical mental health counselor who spent 18 years as a Benedict team month priest& La Jolla and Richard welcome to the program. Welcome to -- happy to be her thank you. And [ Indiscernible ] Mark Somers joins us in his career at the San Diego Union Tribune Mark did extensive reporting on the priest sexual abuse scandal in San Diego. And Mark, welcome. Good to be here. Now Richard the real investigative team at the Boston Globe relied in part under research. Can you tell us when you do that research? And what you found out about the prevalence of priests abusing children? Our research action started in 1960. That's what I started collecting data. And I was in on the staff of psychoanalytic hospital that we treated a lot of clergy and my need I visited with persecuted the hospital and 66 and we talked about what I was doing and the data was collecting and she encouraged me not to do it in the cycle analytics fighting that is don't look for diagnosis. Will look for behavior. And look for patterns of behaviors and structures. And that's what I did. So the work that I did with clergy and clergy victims and so on, I collected the data, I was teaching in major Catholic seminaries and I collected that data and published it -- let presented to the bishops in 1985 and they said well I thought they were going to be happy and what I found out and I thought I could substantiate have that at any one time no more than 50% of Roman Catholic priests practice their celibacy. That there is somehow involved in and out with sexual activity men women etc. and kind of one of the sub sections that I landed on was that I was convinced that 6% of Roman Catholic priests of one time or another got involved sexually with children. Now how did you get priest to admit they had abused children in your study? Will largely came about with people with clients who have the experience and you could trace it back that way. Much the way that the Boston Globe did. They started out with something that was there and then they said where these people? What are they doing? Are there complaints from other people? Swap is that when you presented this information to the hierarchy of the church, it was not welcome information to them. So why did you agree to cooperate with the journalist of the globe? Oh, I've worked my whole life with helping advocacy for you know the victims and I've been involved in my wife is a psychiatrist and we been involved very actively since 1988 in all of these programs. Why did it take the Boston Globe to get the story out? Guts. Absolute journalistic guts. And journalistic hard work. I mean is one of the key things that has changed something worldwide. If you go to the movie the end of the movie you know, the movie is how they did it and how they slaved to get this information substantiate this information in a very Catholic archdiocese and then the guts to put it out. But once the floodgates had opened, at the end of the movie it shows all the places in the United States and then worldwide for this is been traced. One of those places Mark Sauer was San Diego and you were very involved in delineating the printed sexual abuse scandal here in San Diego. Knute remind us of the kinds of stories you did about the scandal? Right, this largest diocese to declare bankruptcy which basically there were on the eve of travel they were about to go in Superior Court on these cases and everyone had agreed after years literally three or four years will take this one case involved a teenage girl and a priest that the The girls called hot father, the good-looking guy drove the Mustang etc. so as an older child. It was quote consensual wasn't as bad a case but some of these interviews that we did were just horrific here. I was interviewing Richard at the time in getting a lot of his data. They talked about this being a mission dioceses in the 50s and 60s San Diego was growing so fast that you take a place like LA that would fit a priest from Latin America. This they were not touching the sky his child abuse is back on. That hire him your because they're desperate for priest so many ways this was one of the worst I was these across the country. We did $198 million settlement after bankruptcy receding involving 144 victims here and the cases here were very horrific and of course he brought about a lot of them in the newspaper and did a lot of very gutwrenching interviews wrinkly, but it didn't come to light in the court of law because of the bankruptcy proceeding which halted all and then finally settlements, but now is part of a settlement in the victims were tall you almost certainly more important than the money to them was the fact that they had 10,000 pages. The Catholics kept records. They always kept records and those are on the website impose now so a lot of the city character through the letters the correspondence the priest files a lot of that is their. I'm talking with Mark Sauer, his the host of KPBS roundtable and I'm speaking with Richard Sipe and we are talking about the story that is the basis for the new movie spotlight and were bringing it to San Diego and Mark, in the story in the movie spotlight the idea that Boston is such a really deeply rooted Catholic society. There's so much of the hierarchy is Catholic. It's a very intense kind of Catholic dominated Lisa Lisa was back in 2000. Sub the same kind of feeling that you got here? Another we have a large percentage of our population in Catholic -- is Catholic but did you feel the same sort of perhaps hesitation to move forward on this story as you see the journalist in spotlight? Yes, this is a very powerful institution inner-city. It's very powerful one in Boston were able 54% of the residents of Roman Catholic. We were well aware that the publisher of the time Helen Copley now deceased person Copley family has sold it was a [ Indiscernible ] the Catholic universities who Copley name all over the buildings out there so I will say that the paper when after the start aggressively.. We do a lot of the reporting. Susan Jablonski before I can tune in the bankruptcy proceedings and we can pull any punches and not get called anonymous calls threatening calls. I would get calls from name names some folks here's Seiji of any idea how much advertising money I spend with your newspaper? And I would simply say you are talking to the Longfellow and were going to pursue the stories but it affects you personally in the movies very good about that, but the reporters Heather personally affected by the story. All them are cactus I happen to be raised Roman Catholic was ultra boy and you understand the church and institution coming up that way and personally really does affect you to hear the stories and to confront bishops and confirm priest on all this. Richard, you were priest. How did it affect you personally? Well, it overwhelming. It still does. Was telling Mark, I just took another case this week of a kid who have been sexually abused for years by a minister. I mean, it wrenches you on the inside. Jude think I get used to it but I don't get used to it. I can't get used to it because these are human beings. These aren't numbers. There's a people who have been devastated and continue to be devastated because early trauma does not just go away or you just can't forget it that it has scars and we have all sorts of medical and psychological data about how those wounds continue on and have a fax psychologically physically etc. So Mark, how is the San Diego Catholic diocese responded to the release of this movie spotlight? Will be joined -- there's an AP story that pastors across the country and in putting here attending our work sent a letter of the was on the parish is a week ago Sunday untold saying that this is going to raise a lot of these issues again, opened some of his wounds here some ways of the pastors and appreciative talk about it. They do have sexual abuse segment on the website as I say all of these documents not all, many, many thousands pages are their. They deal with it frankly I think Richard will tell you, the problem is really not been eradicated first much attention from the Pope on down that is been painted this. What is the question. Is the scandal over, Richard? No, no, I've had new cases within the last two months and recent cases. See, the core of the message of the journalism, of the journals in this movie is that it is systemic. Seed and go after all these perpetrators you want and you can take up all these cases of covering up but the system still produces these people. Our friend a lot on this because Catholic Kurt -- clergy treasure adolescent like development whether you bring them in when they're young old, they like people with that[ Indiscernible ] spirit they like people who are idealistic. They like people who follow and will turn to authority and you know, it's not me but as with the Bishop says were the Pope says, so it systemic. And I don't know if you know the name Tom Doyle his a Catholic priest and his probably preeminent in the world. I know is talking in Poland at this moment about these issues are co-Tom Doyle was a priest and it[ Indiscernible ] lawyer at the Vatican Embassy says no, they haven't change. My wife and he and I are involved now in doing an article on this this very subject. Does not change. Pope Francisco is widely reported Mark, is bringing a new spirit of accountability and trying to wipe out the kind of system that Richard is talking about. Is there any evidence that we're seeing that that is taking hold? Will say they are on record. To go back to the time we were reporting the stories in the Midshipman to thousands, 2005, six, seven when the bigger Cecil McCain about , it was fighting tooth and nail. Let's cover it up let's you know reluctantly give every little scrap of information I think that has changed her go without their. They understand the scope of the problem. It's out there. Swallows a positive thing certainly. And yes go ahead, Richard. And I think that the spirit of hope for this is great and think that Mark is on the right side of the investigation. He's done enough digging and certain ways. I have to deal with picking up can I say crap on TV? Its radio, and you can [laughter] You know, these wounded people these hundreds and thousands of wounded people. See the church has on record now, on their record 6000 priests who have been credibly named. There are at least 125,000 victims, Catholic victims and those numbers are absolutely minimal, you know, that doesn't just go away or get absorbed. It's like dealing with the veterans of the war. Amita wars one but the people who come home wounded are another thing and sexual abuse especially by a superior, a scoutmaster a priest a minister, a [ Indiscernible ] teacher, coach, that has long-lasting effects on the person. I have tended there, gentlemen. They give her much. I've been speaking with Richard Sipe he is a certified clinical mental health counselor and with KPBS route table Mark Serpico think much. Enqueue, tran03. Thank you.
The new film "Spotlight" chronicles the work of Boston Globe investigative reporters into the priest sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church.
One of the sources the reporters relied on is, Richard Sipe, a San Diego mental health counselor and former priest who spent many years investigating the sexual lives of clergy.
Sipe's character in the movie isn't seen on screen, but some of his many real life phone conversations with reporters are dramatized in the film and are voiced by actor Richard Jenkins.
Sipe, a La Jolla resident and author of “A Secret World: Sexuality and the search for celibacy,” said he began researching celibacy in 1960.
“That’s when I started collecting data,” Sipe told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday. “I was on a staff at a psychological hospital that treated a lot of clergy.”
Sipe researched behavioral changes and traced cases back to other people.
“It’s one of the key things that has changed something worldwide,” Sipe said of the Boston Globe report. “At the end of the movie, it shows all the places in the United States, then worldwide where this has taken place.”
The film is playing at AMC La Jolla.