UPDATE, Nov. 19, 2016: This week, Reveal revisits the “Spotlight” legacy – a groundbreaking investigation that led to the exposure of more crimes by Catholic priests around the world. An updated version of the original episode can be heard below.

UPDATE, Feb. 29, 2016: “Spotlight” had a big night at the 88th Academy Awards, winning Oscars for both best original screenplay and best picture. 

“We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters,” “Spotlight” producer and CIR board member Blye Pagon Faust said in her acceptance speech. “Not only do they effect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism.”

Oscar season is upon us, and one of the best picture nominees is a film that hits pretty close to home for us at Reveal: “Spotlight.” In case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a movie about The Boston Globe’s investigative team that exposed the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

In this hour of Reveal, we’re going to take you behind the scenes of that investigation, look at the legacy of the groundbreaking story and see how other journalists went on to expose more crimes by Catholic priests around the world.

First up, we tell you what happened after the “Spotlight” movie ended and how The Boston Globe continued to expose cover-ups in the Catholic Church.

In the second segment, Minnesota Public Radio exposes a priest abuse scandal in the Twin Cities, more than a decade after The Globe’s original investigation. Reporter Madeleine Baran spent two years looking into the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and uncovered how the church had been making secret payments to known abusers while continuing to conceal clergy sexual abuse from the public.

And finally, GlobalPost reporter Will Carless takes us to Latin America on the trail of priests who fled the U.S. after being accused of sexually abusing children.

Note: This episode contains graphic content related to child sexual abuse.


  • Read: More from The Boston Globe on “Spotlight” and its original investigation
  • Check out: Minnesota Public Radio’s Betrayed by Silence project
  • Watch: GlobalPosts “Fugitive Fathers” documentary


Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.

Track list:

  • Camerado-Lightning, “True Game (Reveal show theme)” (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Steve Hauschildt, “Arpeggiare” from “Where All Is Fled” (Kranky)
  • Jim Briggs, “In the Spotlight” (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Terry Devine-King, “Time Past” (Audio Network Ltd.)
  • Jim Briggs, “Total Breakdown” (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Terry Devine-King, “Red Dawn” (Audio Network Ltd.)
  • Boyan Ensemble Of Kiev, “Byzantine Ring” (Audio Network Ltd.)
  • Jim Briggs, “Spotlight Aftermath (part 1)” (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Junip, “Walking Lightly” (City Slang/Mute)
  • Blue Dot Sessions, “Transit Vidal” from “Rayling”
  • Aeroc, “Some Kisses” from “R+B=?” (Ghostly International)
  • Ben Benjamin, “Bell Tongues” from “Gauzy Lights” (Ghostly Songs)
  • Ben Benjamin, “Buttermilk Shotgun” from “Gauzy Lights” (Ghostly Songs)
  • A Setting Sun, “Views from the Real World” from “Empty Sound” (Moongadget Records)
  • Christopher Willits, “The Greatest Rain” from “Surf Boundaries” (Ghostly International)
  • Jacaszek, “Only Not Within Seeing Of The Sun” from “Glimmer” (Ghostly International)
  • Jacaszek, “Dare-gale” from “Glimmer” (Ghostly International)
  • Jim Briggs, “Spotlight Aftermath (part 2)” (Cut-Off Man Records)


Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Section 1 of 3          [00:00:00 – 00:14:04] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Al: From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is [Reveal 00:00:05]. I’m Al Letson. They knocked on doors, dug through archives, and uncovered a secret that shook the Catholic Church.
LS as Baron: Show me they put those same priests back into parishes time and time again. Show me this was systemic, that it came from the top down.
Al: The movie Spotlight showed how The Boston Globe broke the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, but what happened next?
Walter: We had calls in just several weeks’ time from more than 300 victims just in the Boston Archdiocese.
Al: Reporters found a cycle of abuse, denial, and cover-up.
Walter: The cover-up extended all the way up to and including the Vatican.
Al: And it may still be happening. Those stories today on Reveal.
Speaker 3: Reveal is supported by Squarespace, the simplest way to capture your passion with a beautiful website. If there’s an idea or project you’re itching to show the world, you should. With Squarespace, simple tools and captivating temples, showcasing your hard work is the easy part. Start your free trial today. Visit Squarespace.com/Reveal. You should. Squarespace.
Al: From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. The Oscars are next week, and one of the top contenders for best picture is Spotlight, a movie about The Boston Globe’s investigative team that exposed the Catholic sex abuse scandal. Today, we’re going to take you behind the scenes of that investigation and look at the legacy of that first groundbreaking story and how other journalists would expose crimes by Catholic priests around the world. Before we get started, we should let you know that this episode has some pretty graphic content, so if you get triggered by this type of material or if you have young children listening, you should probably tune out now.
The film begins in 2001. Marty Baron has just taken over as the editor of The Boston Globe, and he issued a challenge to the paper’s investigative team, known as “Spotlight.” Liev Schreiber plays Baron in the movie.
LS as Baron: We need to focus on the institution, not the individual priests. Practice and policy. Show me the Church manipulated the system so these guys wouldn’t have to face charges.
Al: “These guys” are Catholic priests who sexually abused children. The paper wanted to find out whether top Church leaders were involved in a cover-up.
LS as Baron: Show me they put those same priests back into parishes time and time again. Show me this was systemic, that it came from the top down.
Speaker 4: Sounds like we’re going after Law.
Al: “Law” is Cardinal Bernard Law, the head of the Boston Archdiocese, and the reporters did find evidence that it came from the top down, that the Church had paid hush-money to quietly settle child molestation claims against priests. Here’s actor Mark Ruffalo as Boston Globe reporter Mike Rezendes:
MR as Mike: We got Law. This is it.
MK as Robby: No, this is Law covering for one priest. There’s another 90 out there.
Al: The reporter wants to rush to press, but his editor, played by Michael Keaton, tells him to keep digging.
MR as Mike: Why are we hesitating? Baron told us to get Law. This is Law.
MK as Robby: Baron told us to get the system. We need the full scope. That’s the only thing that will put an end to this.
Al: Then things get pretty heated.
MR as Mike: We’ve got to nail these scumbags! We’ve got to show people that nobody can get away with this, not a priest or a cardinal or a freaking pope!
Al: At the end of the film, it’s January 2002. The Boston Globe has just published a front-page story revealing the scandal. The story focuses on former priest John Geoghan, who sexually abused over 130 children. The reporters on the Spotlight team come into the newsroom. Their phones are ringing off the hook as new leads come pouring in from around the city, and the credits roll, but that’s just the beginning. Now we’re going to tell you what happened next and how, over the next several months, the Globe’s reporting would shake up the leadership of the Catholic Church. The real life editor, Walter “Robby” Robinson, picks up where the movie ends.
Walter: We had the Church’s record, which showed definitively that Cardinal Law and his lieutenants and prior cardinals new explicitly what Geoghan had done and had transferred him from perish to perish, often without telling the new receiving pastor about his past history abusing children.
Al: Spotlight reporters tried to get Cardinal Law to answer questions about Geoghan, but he refused. In fact, a spokeswoman for Law told the reporters that they weren’t even interested in knowing what the questions would be, but after the initial stories were published, people in Boston and around the country put pressure on the Church. Cardinal Law could no longer stay silent.
Cardinal Law: Please pray for all those who have been victimized as minors by clergy, as well as for their families. [crosstalk 00:05:14]
Walter: My memory of that press conference, it’s the first time that the Cardinal spoke.
Cardinal Law: Pray that those responsible may come to conversion of heart and self-awareness before God. We are trying to do the best we can.
Walter: The Cardinal was quite defensive.
Cardinal Law: Pray for the hundreds of faithful priests of this Archdiocese who bear with me the burden of a few. With all my heart, I wish to apologize once again for the harm done to victims of sexual abuse by priests. [crosstalk 00:05:57]
Walter: The Cardinal apologized, but in a way that it wasn’t an apology so much as an explanation.
Cardinal Law: Judgements were made regarding the assignment of John Geoghan, which in retrospect were tragically incorrect. These judgements were, however, made in good faith and in reliance upon psychiatric assessments and medical opinions that such assignments were safe and reasonable.
Walter: Within two or three days, we reported a story that the two doctors he was referring to, one was the family general practitioner for Geoghan, the other was a psychiatrist at a Catholic hospital whose specialty was not child abuse and who, himself, had been accused of sexually abusing women patients.
Al: Cardinal Law went from being one of the most powerful and revered religious figures in the country to being the focus of protesters gathered outside of the Church headquarters, clutching signs and shouting.
Protester: Stop the madness.
Protester: He should be in jail.
Walter: The second major wave to crash on shore was a story in late January in which we reported that the Archdiocese had made secret settlements to keep accusations quiet about 70, 7-0, priests over the prior decade or two. Within a year later, we found it was close to 250 total priests who had been credibly accused of molesting children.
Al: As the information came out, so did calls for Law to step down. As a Prince of the Church, he answered to the Pope, and only the Pope could accept his resignation.
Cardinal Law: I think that it would not serve the cause of protecting children if I were, at this point, to submit my resignation.
Walter: Cardinal Law, had the been the head of any other institution, probably would not have lasted a month, but because he was a Prince of the Church and the most senior American cardinal, he managed to survive for months and months.
Al: Another Globe reporter, Kevin [Cullen 00:08:32], joined the Spotlight team after the first stories broke. He said the scandals started affecting the Church’s bottom-line.
Kevin: Donations to the Church’s good works just went through the floor. A lot of people, people I know, people in my family, stopped giving money. They weren’t going to give money to the Church’s good works as long as Law remained there.
Al: People began to distance themselves from the Cardinal, and calls for his resignation intensified. Spotlight editor Robby Robinson says Cardinal Law’s power and influence in Boston began to disappear.
Robby: Like a small block of ice on a hot July day. It went away so quickly the Church in Boston lost its political clout almost entirely and almost immediately.
Al: Lawsuits were filed by victims, a grand jury was convened, and thousands more documents from Church files were made public.
Sasha: One thing we saw in the files we received from the Church is that consistently the Church was more sympathetic for accused priests than for victims.
Al: Sasha Pfeiffer, played by Rachel McAdams in the film, one of the four original Spotlight reporters who broke the story.
Sasha: We would see these letters that would say, “Dear Jack,” which is what they called Father John Geoghan, “Dear Jack, we’re very sorry you’re having to go through this hard time.”
Kevin: And it was in their own words. It wasn’t what The Globe said. It’s what Cardinal Law and everybody else in the Archdiocese said. We were just printing what they said, and it was damning.
Sasha: When we first got ready to publish, we were concerned that there may be demonstrators or protesters or picketers outside The Globe when they saw our first story, and we were stunned that there was none of that. In fact, there was so much anger instead directed at the Church.
Kevin: It was a sea change. It just changed the way people looked at their church and particularly at their cardinal and their archbishop. It just changed everything.
Sasha: Maybe four months after we published our first stories, many other newspapers and media outlets around the country were doing their own investigations and finding the same thing in their communities consistently. Any time another media outlet has taken a close look at a major diocese, they found the same approach of covering up cases of abuses, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish. This became a national story and then an international story. We now know that the same thing occurred in Europe and South America and other parts of the world.
Al: In Boston, the pressure on Cardinal Law kept mounting. The Cardinal’s apologies continued, and as time passed, they came with fewer explanations, fewer justifications. Ten months after the first story broke, Law showed more emotion when he addressed his own congregation and said:
Cardinal Law: I stand before you with a far deeper awareness of this terrible evil.
Walter: What I remember most about the Cardinal is that there was really an air of resignation in his voice when he spoke publicly about this after not very much time into the year. He was a weary, weary man, beaten down by this.
Al: A group of priests from Boston took the unheard-of step of calling for his resignation.
Kevin: After all those stories and all the attention, he had to go. It finally became obvious. You’re not going to get anybody in the Vatican to admit that, that The Boston Globe drove the Cardinal out of Boston, but that’s generally how most people would perceive it.
Al: In December of 2002, eleven months after the first Spotlight story ran, Cardinal Bernard Law flew to Rome and handed his resignation to Pope John Paul II. Soon after, a Boston Church spokesperson announced:
Spokesperson: The Cardinal is profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted his request to resign as archbishop.
Sasha: I think Cardinal Law’s resignation was clearly a result of The Globe’s reporting. On the other hand, he was transferred to Rome, where he was given a new job that many people consider almost a promotion.
Al: In May of 2004, the Pope appointed Law to one of the most prestigious churches in Rome, Saint Mary Major Basilica, where Law went on to officiate at Church ceremonies, amid ornate trappings.
Cardinal Law: [Latin 00:12:53]
Walter: Cardinal Law went on to live the very much coddled life of a Prince of the Church in Rome. He had a cook, he had a fabulous residence, and we reported he had a 10,000 Euro a month allowance. It really [frosted 00:13:14] me to see that he was basically rewarded when he got back to Rome. I mean, it’s not like he was being cast out. It’s just the opposite. He was welcomed almost as a company guy that did the right thing. I don’t think it’s any surprise that he ended up in Vatican City at the end of all this, in case anybody else would want to bring him back and depose him for other cases.
Robby: The cover-up extended all the way to and including the Vatican. Every archbishop and cardinal that we knew of or that we found out, both in the United States and elsewhere, had done the same thing to greater or lesser degrees in their own Archdioceses.
Kevin: Like every story in history, it’s not the cri-
Section 1 of 3          [00:00:00 – 00:14:04]
Section 2 of 3          [00:14:00 – 00:28:04] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Kevin: Like every story in history, it’s not the crime it’s the cover up. I’m sorry if the most higher up people in the Vatican, including the pope, didn’t know about this, or can sit there with a straight face and say they didn’t know how bad this was. I don’t think they’ve changed at that level at all. I still think there’s quite a bit of denial there.
Sasha: I think the fact that very few top church officials have ever had to face any kind of criminal charge is, of course, disappointing to victims but also maybe telling of how the church views this. Certainly we hear publicly the church say that this is incredibly wrong. I do believe many church officials believe that, but at some level there still hasn’t been accountability.
Al Letson: That was Sasha Fifert, Kevin Cohen, and Walter Robby Robertson of the Boston Globe Spotlight investigating reporting team. The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the scandal in the Catholic church, and the film spotlight is up for several academy awards this year. In the spirit of full disclosure, one of the producers of Spotlight is on the board for The Center For Investigative Reporting.
In a footnote, the church has paid victims hundreds of millions of dollars in financial settlements leaving 12 major archdiocese in the US to declare bankruptcy. The most recent was in Minnesota, and that’s where we’re going to go next to the Twin Cities where a whistle blower exposed how the church was hiding clergy sex abuse from the public. From the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX, this is Reveal.
Phil : Hey podcast listeners, Phil Bronstein here. I’m the executive board chair at The Center for Investigative Reporting. The story you just heard about the reporters behind Spotlight helped renew public interest in the power and importance of investigative journalism. It’s critical reporting like this that can improve, and sometimes even save, lives. That’s what we’re all about at Reveal. We place a great emphasis on the impact that our journalism can have, shining light on injustices, and on dark corrosive practices in ways that can lead to change. We’re going to keep bringing you these kinds of stories each week on this program. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss a single episode. Just visit revealnews.org/podcast. That’s revealnews.org/podcast.
Al Letson: From The Center For Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Today we’re talking about happened after the Boston Globe wrote the story of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in 2002. As a reminder, today’s show is not appropriate for young listeners.
The Globe’s reporting put tremendous pressure on Catholic bishops throughout the United States. Archbishop Harry Flynn of Saint Paul led the church’s response to the scandal. He addressed his fellow bishops at a conference in Dallas that summer. “This is a defining moment for us this morning as bishops. A moment for us to declare our resolve once and for all to put a plan in place, and to commit ourselves to that plan so as to root out a cancer in our church.”
Archbishop Flint headed a committee that drafted a national policy on clergy sexual abuse called the Charter For the Protection of Children and Young People. It promised zero tolerance of abusive priests. The media hailed it as a historic document. “After much forceful debate, a new plan to rid the church of abusers. The bottom line? For even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor, past, present, or future, the offending priest or deacon will not remain in ministry.”
After the conference ended, the cover ups continued, and so did the reporting by news organizations around the country. In 2013 more than a decade after the Boston Globe’s original investigation, Minnesota public radio exposed another scandal. Reporter Madeleine Baran spent two years looking into the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and uncovered how the church was secretly making payments to abusers, and continuing to conceal clergy sexual abuse from the public, all the while claiming to be national leaders in protecting children. “Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee.”
Madeleine Baran: The Catholic Church is everywhere you turn in the Twin City. The Cathedral of St. Paul dominates the skyline. The street that leads to the state capitol is named after the archbishop who built the church here a century ago. “Like many Catholics when we are at mass, my mind still defaults towards the pardon me verse the prayer we pray for our bishop.” “Draw on our bishop and all those who holding to the truth…” That’s Jennifer Haselberger. She grew up going to mass at St. Casimir’s Parish on Saint Paul’s east side. “I still hear the priests in my childhood saying, John our [inaudible 00:19:19] our bishop.” You can probably already tell that Jennifer’s a devout Catholic.
When I meet her for an interview she is wearing a matching blazer and skirt, high heels, shoulder length blonde hair; very professional looking. She’s precise about what she wears and what she says. The other thing about her, she loves rules and wants to make sure people follow them. She went to school to become a canon lawyer. An expert on Catholic church law. “I took a job in the church because I wanted to do good, and it was of my faith.” In 2008 she took a job as a top advisor to John Nienstedt who was archbishop at the time. She was also in charge of the records department. The archdiocese had already dealt with priests who had been accused of sexually abusing kids, and they kept files on all of them.
“When I started, the priest files were just … They were just an absolute mess, so you’d have a manila folder, and you’d have everything kind of stuffed in there from mimeographed papers from way back to, you know, copies of letters, to memos, just all in this kind of mad jumble. No order whatsoever, so it was almost a Herculean task to find out anything in any of these files.”
The files weren’t just disorganized, they were incomplete. Jennifer and her staff scoured the archdiocese headquarters looking for the missing files. They discovered that someone had stored them away in stacks of banker’s boxes in the basement. “So when I learned that that had happened, I had the staff attempt to locate and collect all of that information, and bring it back up into the light of day, if you will.”
Jennifer set up a color-coded system for the files. She had her staff create green binders for the regular personal files kept on every priest, and red binders for the documents related to allegations of sexual abuse and other misconduct. “It’s always a sad thing for me to have to ask my staff to do that, because when you’re getting into the red files there was just a lot of information about a lot of really sad circumstances, and a lot of bad behavior, and a lot of ways that the church had failed to adequately respond to it. It’s always with a good deal of sadness that it has to kind of ask people to work through that.”
When Jennifer took her job she knew she would have to confront some pretty upsetting details about sex crimes in the church, but she wasn’t expecting what she found. Not a single priest accused of sexually assaulting children had been defrocked, meaning the archdiocese hadn’t asked the Vatican to kick out a single one. “I was absolutely shocked. As long as these men remained priests the archdiocese remains liable for them. So when you’re given an opportunity and there’s, you know, such clear evidence of guilt of such horrific crimes, to not kind of take the opportunity of getting this resolved, to me that was just mind boggling.”
She was even more surprised to find that some priests who had admitted to sexually assaulting children were still working in parishes or in other jobs that gave them contact with children. That was in violation of the church’s very public pledge of zero tolerance. She kept telling Archbishop Nienstedt and his top advisors what she was finding. She urged them to either make sure the abuse of priests were kept far away from children, or ask the Vatican to kick them out. “What I found so frustrating about it is that I would have these conversations, and I would tell people that, you know, we had to be concerned and not get any traction.”
Month by month Jennifer’s frustrations grew. She spent a lot of time arguing with Nienstedt’s top deputy, Father Peter Laird. “And I remember one night in particular, it being after hours, and me going to Father Laird’s office with a file regarding a priest, and him turning around and actually looking at me because he had been working at his computer and his back turned to me initially, and saying, ‘Do you think we have priests in the ministry now that have sexually abused children?’ And I thought about that, you know, long and hard, is that actually my assessment. And I said, ‘Yes’, and he just turned around, and went back to typing at his computer.”
Finally, in early 2013 Jennifer decided to resign, and a few months later she called Minnesota Public Radio. She wanted to go public. “Because I was still having to look at people in the face who I knew that I had information that they needed, or they would want to have. Even the fact that I had this and they didn’t and no one was going to be telling them. It was really difficult.” In our first conversation I remember thinking if what she says is true, this is a huge and important story. No one at such a high level in any diocese in the Catholic church in the United States had ever come forward to reveal an on-going cover up of clergy sex abuse.
I started meeting up with Jennifer at her house, and we spent hours talking. She told me that she found some new disturbing information about a notorious parish priest named Robert Capon. He was also an entertainer who went by the nickname Polka Padre. “I’ve got a never ending love for you. From now on that’s all I want to do. From the first time we met I knew.” That’s Capon singing on his album “Old Time Polka Greats”. The media would rename Polka Padre, the Polka Predator.
In the late 80s and early 90s young men came forward to sue him and the archdiocese for sexual abuse they say they suffered as children. One of them, Dale Sheffler, testified that when he was 13 the priest had taken him on an overnight trip to his lakeside home. Dale said the priest rubbed up against him in the lake while they were swimming, and that night Dale recalled he woke up in pain, and realized the priest was trying to rape him. Capon admitted to abusing some boys but not Dale Sheffler.
Outside the courtroom Dale begged then archbishop, Harry Flynn, to take Capon and other abusive priests out of ministry. “I come here today to ask you to please remove him. How can you go on living and knowing that they’re doing this? Please. I’m asking you to remove these people. Remove all these priests that are doing this to these kids that are getting hurt.” Later that day Archbishop Flynn removed Capon from his parish. The jury awarded Dale Sheffler a $1,000,000 verdict, but a higher court ruled the statute of limitations had run out, so Dale got nothing. As for Capon, he went on to lead a quiet life in retirement until Jennifer Haselberger came across his name during a audit of the archdiocese finances.
“Some of these cases were just egregious. I mean, the case of Father Robert Capon.” Jennifer found the archdiocese wasn’t just giving Capon a standard monthly pension, it was also giving him secret extra payments of $957 a month. Those extra payments from 1998 to 2012 added up to more than $160,000. “So what we were providing to Capon was in excess of what we were providing to those many priests who have done nothing but well by the faithful of the church diocese.” At least five other priests accused of sexual misconduct had also received extra money. “I was so angry. Up until that point I had been someone who had contributed to the archdiocese appeal, and to see my money as well as everybody else’s put to such dishonorable use was very difficult.”
Jennifer also came across a memo written by a top church deputy to Archbishop Harry Flynn. The bishop who led the Catholic Church’s response to the earlier scandal in Boston. The official described what he called Capon’s stunningly beautiful home that he had inherited from his parents. He listed off the number of rooms and their sizes. It’s 600 feet of waterfront, and he wrote …
Section 2 of 3          [00:14:00 – 00:28:04]
Section 3 of 3          [00:28:00 – 00:53:59] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Madeleine Baran: It’s 600 feet of water front. He wrote, “I mentioned this in order to assure you that Robert Kapoun is exceptionally well provided for in regard to his daily living situation.”
Kapoun was supposed to be monitored, but the memo revealed that no one started monitoring him until 8 years after his trial.
Jennifer: It’s burned in my brain as many of these things are because Kapoun is supposed to be living a life of [inaudible 00:28:31] and penance. I couldn’t and I still cannot reconcile how a man who’s supposed to be doing penance for the egregious sins that he committed, not to mention the crimes, but just the egregious sins is vacationing in Venice, Florida and living in a stunningly beautiful lake home, the actual site of many of these acts of abuse.
Madeleine Baran: Kapoun still lives on the same secluded lakefront property where he abused young boys. I went there to talk to him and found him taking care of some yard work. He jumped off the lawnmower when he saw me.
Robert: What can I do for you?
Madeleine Baran: He was a [trim 00:29:14] 74-year-old with a full head of white hair, wearing dark sunglasses. Because of his history of abuse, he was supposed to be carefully monitored by the Archdiocese. I asked him about that.
Do you have any contact with Archdiocese still?
Robert: Once a month.
Madeleine Baran: Okay. Does someone come visit you? How does that work?
Robert: Not really. We just get together at different times.
Madeleine Baran: It’s someone…
Robert: I just meet with a priest that I want to up here or wherever.
Madeleine Baran: Is that monitoring program?
Robert: No.
Madeleine Baran: Okay. It’s just someone you meet with for…
Robert: Just discuss news and happenings in the world and so on.
Madeleine Baran: What Kapoun is saying is that no one is making sure he’s staying away from kids. At his trial, Kapoun testified about what he described as a 13-year struggle with sexual compulsions toward young boys. He claimed to have been cured by God. Kapoun now says the allegations he abused boys were exaggerated.
Robert: It’s a difficult thing to explain. I just don’t care to get into that. That’s all past.
Madeleine Baran: If someone were to say that you did it, would you say, “No, it’s not true?”
Robert: Some of it.
Madeleine Baran: Kapoun wouldn’t explain what he meant by that. Despite his admission that he did abuse some boys, he’s still a priest, but he’s not allowed to serve in a parish. He says he was alone and no longer has contact with children.
Any regrets at all about your time as a priest?
Robert: No, not at all. No. I felt I was called by God, and I believe I served him well.
Madeleine Baran: Do you think about those days very often?
Robert: No, I don’t. No. I’m very, very happy. I’m a classical pianist. That’s been tried. I go out to lunch in town and come back and free.
Madeleine Baran: Kapoun still receives his pension, but Jennifer, the whistleblower, made sure his extra payments of nearly $1,000 a month were cut off. She says she’s angry and sad about the cover-up, but her faith hasn’t been shaken. Still, she feels relieved to no longer be a part of the church hierarchy.
Jennifer: Mainly, I just have the sense that I could finally look people in the eye again. All the shame of having been a part of that for so long, I could set that aside.
Madeleine Baran: Jennifer had hoped the grand jury would be convened to consider criminal charges against individual church officials. She believed only the threat of prison would convince church leaders to stop covering up abuse. Regardless of whether that happens, Jennifer says church leaders will eventually have to face what they’ve done.
Jennifer: As Catholics, even if it doesn’t happen in this life, we know it will in the next. There’ll be reckoning.
Al Letson: That reckoning that Jennifer is looking for hasn’t happened yet. It’s been more than two years since Minnesota Public Radio first reported the story and not one church official has been charged in the cover-up, not one.
In June of 2015, criminal charges were filed against the Archdiocese for failing to protect children. If convicted, the Archdiocese could face a maximum fine of $18,000. As for Jennifer’s old boss, Archbishop Nienstedt, he did have to answer questions under oath as part of a lawsuit brought by a victim. An attorney asked him about the list, the one the Archdiocese kept of priests accused of sexually abusing children.
Attorney: From 2008 until 2013, you made the choice to keep that list secret, did you not?
John Nienstedt: It already had been kept secret and I didn’t see any reason to disclose.
Al Letson: Hundreds of other victims have come forward threatening lawsuits. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis responded by filing for bankruptcy last year. A few months later, Archbishop Nienstedt resigned.
We want to thank Madeleine Baran and her of Minnesota Public Radio for this story. They received the prestigious Peabody Award for their reporting on the Catholic Church scandal. We’ve seen how the church protected priests in the U.S. When we come back, we’ll hear how the church is sending priests to remote areas of South America after they’ve been accused of abusing children here. They’re still working with children. That story next on Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
Andrew Donohue: His. This is Andy Donohue. I’m a senior editor here at Reveal. We’ve been working on another investigation that I think you should check out. It has a lot of the same twists and turns as the stories you’ve been hearing about in this episode, except it’s about a different religious group, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The church’s leadership has explicitly told members to keep child sex abuse hidden from the police if they can. Our reporter Trey Bundy has been investigating this story for more than a year. You’ve probably heard his reporting on the show. He’s staying on the story and publishing illuminating updates every week on our website. You can follow his work online at revealnews.org/watchtower.
Al Letson: From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson.
When the Boston Globe first broke the story of Catholic priests abusing children, we learned how accused priests were routinely moved from parish to parish in the U.S. Now, we’re finding they have also been moved to parishes in poor, remote corners of the developing world, and it’s still happening.
A GlobalPost reporting team investigated these fugitive fathers. Now, we want to remind you, today show includes some explicit descriptions of abuse, something to consider if you’re with sensitive listeners.
We start the story with Fr. Francisco Montero, a native of Ecuador. In 2002, he took a position at the Incarnation Catholic Church in Minneapolis. A quick talker with an easy smile, Fr. Fredy, as he became known, charmed the local Hispanic population. Five years later, Fr. Fredy was arrested by local police accused of abusing a 4-year-old girl. David [Joles 00:35:45] is that girl’s father.
David: I couldn’t imagine that a Catholic priest could do something like that, could be interested in a child. I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. It took me a while to get angry because it was like out of nowhere.
Al Letson: A forensic psychologist with Child Protective Services interviewed the girl and concluded that she was a victim of sexual assault. It’s hard to hear what the girl’s dad says happened.
David: I know one time she told me that “He rubbed his [weaner 00:36:17] on me.” What do you say as a father to your kid when she said something like that to you?
Al Letson: Sex crimes aren’t just hard to prove, they’re hard to prosecute. Officials didn’t have enough evidence on Fr. Fredy, so they let him go. Almost immediately, Fr. Fredy left Minnesota for good. He flew back to his home country Ecuador. His old diocese welcomed him back. They even let him work with children, something David Joles just can’t [fathom 00:36:47].
David: It makes me really angry. I think it’s pathetic. When I think that what happened was so unimportant to the Archdiocese, that they didn’t even bother defrocking the guy.
Al Letson: Meaning, he was still allowed to work as a priest. GlobalPost correspondent, Will Carless, spent months investigating similar cases of priests accused of abuse who were sent to Latin America. Will picks up the story for us in the mountain passes of Ecuador, where Fr. Fredy was hiding in plain sight.
Will Carless: What we’re finding each time we track one of these priests down is that they’re really out there. They’ve really isolated themselves. Now we’re in the middle of the Ecuadorian mountains right now. No cell phone service, very little Internet. We’re going down this one road that leads to Las Naves. We get to this bridge, which is only wide enough for one car to come across at a time. Coming towards us is this truck. Now, I’ve had this grainy black-and-white postage stamp photo of Fr. Fredy. As this truck comes towards us, I catch a glimpse of the driver. I turned to my cameraman, I said, “I think that’s Fr. Fredy.”
That’s him.
Speaker 10: Where?
Will Carless: I just saw him coming down the street.
He’s driving this red pickup truck staffed with these teenagers boys and girls returning from this soccer tournament. I ran up to him.
Hi, Fr. Fredy. Fredy Montero, hi.
Fredy Montero: I don’t remember you.
Will Carless: I know. I’ve met you before. My name is Will Carless. I’m a journalist the GlobalPost. I’m actually here … We’re hoping to do an interview with you.
Fredy Montero: About?
Will Carless: Yeah, even after months of planning and research and going through all the various different things that can happen in these interviews, actually confronting these guys face to face is never easy.
We’re doing a story about people who … About priests who abused or accused of abusing children in the United States and are now working in South America.
Fr. Fredy understandably didn’t want to talk to me, but he agrees to give us a few minutes. We walk a little way way from the teenagers and we start to talk.
Are the accusations true or not?
Fredy Montero: There was an accusation but no proof.
Will Carless: Did you do it?
Fredy Montero: No, no. Not every accusation is true. There are many people who are accused and sometimes convicted that were falsely accused.
Will Carless: We know that the Archdiocese in Minneapolis was worried enough about Fredy Montero that they sent this report detailing his accusations to both the Vatican and the Diocese in Ecuador where he ended up resettling.
We called the bishop who was in charge when Montero arrived and he since stepped down, but he said that he considered Montero to be innocent since no actual charges were ever filed against him. I asked Fr. Fredy how is it possible he could still have been working as a priest?
After returning, you reentered the priesthood?
Fredy Montero: After sometime, we talked and determined that I would assume a role in a particular place.
Will Carless: Fr. Fredy told me the local church leadership had let him work in a series of remote parishes in Ecuador since he’d arrived back in 2007. He added that he recently decided to stop working as a priest but not because of pressure from his superiors but because he had political ambitions. He wanted to run for mayor of Las Naves.
As for the church taking action against him, Montero said he was never investigated, not by anyone, either in Ecuador or by the Vatican.
No one has contacted you?
Fredy Montero: No. No one has contacted me.
Will Carless: With that, the former priest, an accused child abuser, hunkered by then drove off with this truck full of kids.
Jeff Anderson: To hear that continues to be the free man and around kids makes me sick and it makes me scared.
Will Carless: Back in the U.S. now, that’s Jeff Anderson. He’s a lawyer in Minneapolis. He represents child victims of priests, including the little girl who Fr. Fredy allegedly abused.
Jeff Anderson: In the U.S., a law enforcement going into just about each jurisdiction, but once they go outside of the U.S., it’s really hard to prosecute, to expose and extradite an offender or anybody that’s complicit in those offenses. That is the ultimate geographical solution, international movement of offenders in complete secrecy.
Will Carless: Complete secrecy. The church wasn’t just moving priests from the United States either. We also found this Belgian priest who transferred to Brazil two decades ago while facing child sexual abuse accusations at home. That’s where we went next, to go find Fr. Jan Van Deal. A Dutch investigative news program, Brandpunt, interviewed people who said Fr. Van Deal have molested them as young boys as far back as the 1980s.
Speaker 13: He always grabbed my pants. He was always with his hands in my pants. He comes into your life getting closer and closer.
Will Carless: Fr. Jan says he’s never molested anyone, but according to Brazilian prosecutors he’s been under investigation by Belgian and Brazilian law enforcement for years. Though he’s never been formally charged with a crime. In Brazil, we found out that he’s facing new accusations of abuse.
We track down Van Deal celebrating mass in a small, sunny church in Caucaia, an impoverished coastal city up in north-eastern Brazil. Th 76-year-old priest dressed in a white robe walks past crowded [pews 00:42:56]. He stops to hug some parishioners. Then this young boy, maybe 12, takes Fr. Van Deal’s hand at the front of the church as he addresses the congregation.
Jan Van Deal: [Foreign language 00:43:06]
Will Carless: Right after the sermon, we follow him out into the streets, to this small nearby slum. He’s distributing soup to the poor, something he does pretty much every week. In this slum, there’s this kid. He’s probably getting about 11 or 12. As he’s leaning over to fill up his bowl of soup, Fr. Jan grabs a lock of the boy’s shoulder length hair. As the kid tries to wriggle away, Fr. Jan doesn’t let go. For a few steps, he follows the boy, holding his hair almost like a leash. Then he turns to me and says the boy reminds him of another boy who was in his orphanage house back in Rio de Janeiro.
Jan Van Deal: Look at his hair, he reminds me of a boy was in my house in Rio de Janeiro.
Will Carless: For more than two decades, Fr. Jan ran an orphanage here. In 2008, the local head of Child Protective Services in Caucaia received a complaint of child molestation against Fr. Jan. Then two former volunteers at the orphanage also accused the priest of sexually abusing some of the orphans. I spoke with the head of Child Protective Services. He said that they weren’t able to follow up on the complaint because of a lack of resources. Back at his church, I sat down with Fr. Jan myself. I asked him about all these allegations of abuse.
In your life, have you ever been sexually attracted to children? Have you ever abused children in any way?
Jan Van Deal: No.
Will Carless: He said all the accusations against him are lies. They’re drummed up by an abusive parent, envious competitors or naive college students. When we asked him literally what does it mean to be a pedophile, he gave us this bizarre answer.
Jan Van Deal: Literally, pedophilia comes from the Greeks, pedos meaning child and phelia, meaning friendship with children. People have translated this word as pedosexual.
Will Carless: You would say using the real sense of the word?
Jan Van Deal: Yes. In the real sense of the word, I’m a pedophile, but not a pedosexual.
Will Carless: Since our investigation came out this past fall, Fr. Jan’s no longer allowed to celebrate mass at all. So far, we’ve heard all about priests being sent to South America after they were accused but not convicted of abusing children despite the evidence against them.
Then across the continent, in Peru, we tracked down this case of an admitted child molester who’s still a priest and still working with kids.
Speaker 15: Hi.
Will Carless: [Foreign language 00:46:13] I’m good. How are you?
Speaker 15: Fine.
Will Carless: My name is Will Carless. I’m a reporter with the GlobalPost. We are…
Back in the 1970s, Paul Madden was accused of repeatedly molesting and raping a 13-year-old boy while they’re on a mission trip together out of Jackson, Mississippi. He was sued twice by the victim. In 1994, the diocese agreed to pay the family $50,000, and Madden signed his letter of apology to the victim’s parents. The letter said, “I’ve been played with remorse and guilt for my molestation of your son. There is no excuse for my actions. I assume responsibility for them as a humble penitent.” Here, in the small fishing village of Puerto Huarmey, a few hours north of Lima, Peru, Fr. Madden was still performing mass when we caught up with him last year. He’s a middle-aged man originally from Ireland. He was wearing this crisp, white robe with gold trim.
I guess my first question to you would be your congregation here in Puerto Huarmey, are they aware of the allegations that were made against you back in…
Paul Madden: No.
Will Carless: They don’t know about it. Do you think they should?
Paul Madden: I don’t think so since that the case has been dismissed and all the rest of it.
Will Carless: I understand, the second lawsuit was dismissed, but the first lawsuit was settled. I believe the diocese paid something like $50,000.
Paul Madden: That’s right.
Will Carless: I also understand that there was a letter that you wrote to the family, actually admitting the abuse happened and everything else.
Paul Madden: I didn’t write that letter actually. The lawyers for the diocese wrote that and I signed it.
Will Carless: Okay. The important thing is whether it happened or not, right?
Paul Madden: Something happened. I was drunk. I had never drunk before in my life. It was the first time ever. I woke up in the middle of the night and …. Yeah, something happened.
Will Carless: In the year or so I spent tracking down these priests, I’d run through every possible scenario for how these confrontations could go. In all those scenarios that I ran through, I never expected one of them to actually confess.
It’s something that you regret obviously?
Paul Madden: Obviously. Obviously.
Will Carless: With that, we tried to interview the bishop of Madden’s diocese. He wouldn’t talk to us but his second in command, Vicar General Juan Roger Rodriguez did.
Did you know Paul Madden was accused of admitted to sexual abuse in the United States?
J. Rodriguez: No. This is a surprise to us.
Will Carless: You didn’t know?
J. Rodriguez: It’s a surprise. To some, it may seem hard, even painful for a bishop to have to investigate a priest, but it must be done because there is a greater good, which is truth and shall we say, the innocence of a minor.
Will Carless: Whether or not Rodriguez followed through with his promise of an investigation isn’t actually clear. He stopped taking my calls. Since our original investigation, Madden is the only priest we tracked down who still has his job. He can still be found celebrating mass each week in Puerto Huarmey.
Al Letson: After hearing that piece, I just wanted to process it a little bit. We got Will on the line to talk it through. Will, how are you doing?
Will Carless: Hi, Al. How are you doing?
Al Letson: Good, man. After listening to that piece and also watching the documentary you made on the same subject, the big question I had is these are kids, man. They’re kids.  Why is there even a question of what to do with these perpetrators?
Will Carless: Right. As a father of two kids, it’s definitely … I have a pretty visible reaction. A lot of my friends actually asked me, “How do you control yourself? How do you know? Just unleash yourself at the man, obviously.” We’re professionals and we spent a lot of time considering how we’re going to do it and planning things out, and we keep our cool. Yeah, there’s certainly a part of you that is bringing [mad 00:50:26] at these people when you’re going into these situations.
Al Letson: We’ve heard about the zero tolerance policy throughout the show. The fact that they need the policy is crazy. Are they actually doing it?
Will Carless: Honestly, what’s even crazier is that it’s never been defined actually what that means. Pope Francis has gone out to every bishop in the world and said, “We want you to have this zero tolerance policy.” It sounds very good. It gets a lot of headlines. Then he’s never actually substantiated what that means. He’s never issued actual rules or guidelines about what bishops are supposed to do when they’re confronted with a situation like this. You get the situation that we have today, where these men are allowed to move around the world with impunity and carry on working as priest and carry on working with children day in, day out.
Al Letson: With Pope Francis coming in, there were high hopes that he was going to be a big reformer and change things. Specifically dealing with this subject, is he getting serious about these priests that are abusing children?
Will Carless: Man, that’s the million-dollar question. He’s set up this commission that’s supposed to be advising him on how to proceed and what policies to change. The bottom line is, if you talk to people who work in this world and you talk to them and you say, “What does this Pope need to do?” They say, “It’s simple. What he needs to do is he needs to go out tomorrow with one swipe of his pen. He needs to make all of the records public. He needs to make very clear what a zero tolerance policy means. He could fix this very quickly with minimal effort.”
Al Letson: Give me the long view here. This is something that’s been going on for a really long time in the church. Where do we go now, now that we have all this information about what’s happened? What’s next?
Will Carless: I think it’s possible to look forwards without looking backwards. The work done by the Spotlight team in Boston, by all of these journalists across the decades, there’s no doubt that we’re looking at a Catholic Church that’s in a very different place now than it was before. We’ve already had huge strides forwards. I think what we need to see next is to see whether this Pope is going to, frankly, put his money where his mouth is and start making some actual changes that will really tangibly help people moving forward.
Al Letson: That’s correspondent Will Carless with the GlobalPost. You can find a link to his print piece and the documentary where Will hunts down these fugitive fathers at revealnews.org.
We want to thank Minnesota Public Radio and The Boston Globe for their help on this show. We’ll be watching The Oscars on February 28 to see how the film Spotlight does.
[Inaudible 00:53:00] and Michael [Shiela 00:53:01] were our lead producers on this episode. [Julie B. Chin 00:53:03] produced our digital content. Thanks to Michael Paulson and Rob Harris for additional reporting and editing help. Our show was edited by [Patch Lin 00:53:11]. Our lead sound designer and engineer is my man, Jay [Breezy 00:53:14] Jim Briggs. Our associate engineer is Claire [inaudible 00:53:18]. Our managing editor is Amy [inaudible 00:53:21]. Our head of studio is Christoff [inaudible 00:53:23]. Susan [Weaver 00:53:24] is our executive editor. Our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is from Camerado-Lightning. Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
Reveal is a co-production of The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Al Letson. Remember, there is always more to the story.
Section 3 of 3          [00:28:00 – 00:53:59]

Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.