We’ve all read many instances of unjust media attacks against the Church and against Pope Benedict. Today I’m writing about an example of media bias that expresses itself through what they choose not to report. The case in point involves Shane William Mark, a repeat sex offender. Looking at his criminal history, you could argue that the justice system seriously mishandled the case. The circumstances of his crimes and his punishments (or lack thereof) are eerily similar to some predator-priest cases. Yet the latter have been splashed on the front pages of newspapers while the former has been ignored outside of the Ottawa area.
Back in 2001, Shane William Mark was caught for the first time abusing a young girl. Upon his conviction, he was only sentenced to probation. That’s right folks, his sentence did not include any jail time. He was set loose on the streets under the promise that he would behave himself. Now tell me, how is that materially different from a bishop who is informed that one of his priests has abused a child and simply shuffles the priest to a different parish, after a severe scolding? We’re talking about 2001, not the 1960s when pedophilia was thought to be treatable. I’d say the justice system did no better than some of the most irresponsible bishops.
So guess what happened? Just two months later, Shane William Mark abused another girl. He knew the parents of the girl and snuck into her bedroom one night when she was sleeping. Gross. You’re not even safe in your own home. Did the court or the cops tell the parents that they were socializing with a convicted child molester?
He pleaded guilty. His sentence? 30 days in jail, some probation time and psychiatric treatment (sound familiar?) He was credited for the 10 months he spent in jail prior to the trial. So a repeat offender, with his crimes only 2 months apart (a sign that he wasn’t showing any improvement) gets a grand total of 11 months in jail. He was also banned for life from being near children. That also sounds familiar. Bishops have done that to priests too, combining psychiatric treatment with a ban on child ministry, but it has never appeased the mainstream media’s wrath. I guess if you’re a priest, the punishment is never severe enough. But if you’re not a priest, it’s no big deal.
So what happens next? Just last month, in May 2010, he was arrested for a third time. He hasn’t gone to trial yet so he’s still an “alleged” offender. The crime allegedly took place between August 2009 and May 2010 in Morrisburg, a small town south of Ottawa, near Cornwall. Kudos to the police for catching him.
Despite the fact that the media has been prowling around for stories on priest sex abuse scandals this spring, almost all of them missed this story. If you search the web, you’ll find that only four “major” news outlets reported this story, all of them being located in the Ottawa area: the Ottawa Citizen, CTV Ottawa, 580 CFRA News (local AM radio station) and the Ottawa Sun. That’s where I got all my information. Even there, the coverage was very short and exclusively factual. No outrage. No commentary. No calling for the Justice Minister to be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity”. None of the media outlets outside of Ottawa could be bothered, to say nothing of the national outlets.
One could argue that it was a story of a man from the Ottawa area whose crimes were committed in the region, so it didn’t merit attention elsewhere. Yet, that’s not what happens when priests commit crimes. National newspapers like the National Post and the Globe and Mail have been eager to report cases of predator-priests in California, Wisconsin and Germany. No distance is too great when it comes to reporting a priest-predator, even if the crime was committed decades ago or the priest is already dead. But if the criminal is a non-priest in your own backyard, who was still on the loose a month ago, it’s a non-issue. Does that make any sense?
Yet another instance of media bias. Get used to it. We would do well in protesting more often about this to the media. In fact, I sent this story to the editors of the National Post and the Globe and Mail a few days ago demanding an explanation for their double standard, but I haven’t received a response yet. I’m not holding my breath.
In the meantime, we’d better develop a thick skin and not let it disturb our peace. Christ will triumph in the end. But that doesn’t mean we should be quiet about it. Let’s raise heck.