Reporters Tiffany Stanley and Lea Skene broke new ground in detailing how Black victims of Catholic clergy sex abuse have largely been overlooked.
After Maryland’s attorney general released a scathing report on child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Religion reporter Stanley and Baltimore-based reporter Skene set out to discover how the abuse affected Black children in the region. The task proved daunting. The report provided no context about race, and the U.S. Catholic church generally does not publicly track the race of victims. Advocates knew of few names, telling the AP the public voices of clergy abuse were overwhelmingly white, even in Baltimore — home to a historic Black Catholic community. So Stanley and Skene set out to create their own data. By cross-referencing the report with parishes that have significant Black populations, they constructed a detailed list of where and when abusers had been on staff at the region’s Black parishes. They found that of the 27 parishes in question, at least 19 — 70% — previously had priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.
For six months, they worked to earn the trust of victims. Some did not want to go on the record, fearing stigma or community backlash. One, Charles Richardson, had barely spoken of his abuse, but made the decision to use his name and share story publicly for the first time in the article.
The story was featured by numerous prominent local, national and religious outlets. Stanley and Skene received praise for their work, including from one accountability expert who said he was “moved to tears reading it.”