Catholic League complains to NPR about coverage of abuse trial

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The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has asked NPR to respond to a complaint about a recent report on a sex-abuse trial involving church officials. The web version of Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s May 27 report opens as follows: “A clergy sex-abuse trial in is reaching a crescendo in a Philadelphia courtroom. One defendant is James Brennan, a priest accused of trying to rape a minor, which is not that unusual.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, took issue with the “not that unusual” portion of that paragraph. “In this day and age when it is considered taboo to make sweeping generalizations of a negative sort about so many demographic groups, it is astonishing that NPR would allow this bigoted swipe at Catholic priests,” he was quoted as saying in a post on the Catholic League’s website. Out of all the nation’s priests, few have been accused of molestation, and charges of rape have been less common than cases of “inappropriate touching,” he said.

“I hasten to add that I have done several interviews with NPR recently and have found their correspondents to be very professional,” Donohue said. “But what happened in this instance cannot go unanswered.”

The “not that unusual” characterization appears only in the online version of the story and not in Bradley’s on-air report.

We’ve asked NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos for comment via Twitter. UPDATE: Schumacher-Matos is working on a column about the matter, which he plans to publish soon.

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