Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

News coverage of abuse scandal varies widely by region; at the movies: 'The Bourne Identity'

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the July 4, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Since early February when I first saw a copy of the Boston Globe on a visit to Seattle, I have tried to stay current on the crisis in the Catholic Church.

The initial Globe articles I saw focused on a family in which the father had been sexually abused by Father James Porter many years ago and moved to the country, near Weston, so his family would be safe. The father finds out one night watching the news with his wife and one of his sons that his youngest son was sexually abused more recently by Father John Geoghan. It was a heart-wrenching story that brought tears to a reader’s eyes.

Newsweek’s cover story for March 4, 2002, titled “Sex, Shame and the Catholic Church,” gave a comprehensive view of victims with excellent graphics on the Catholic Church in America. A later issue had a fine interview with a former priest who was an abuser, now living as a hermit and seeking to bring some kind of atonement to victims.

By February, The New York Times, which owns the Boston Globe, began to devote major resources to the abuse story. There have been days when the Times has devoted as many as two or three pages to the story. Some of the stories have focused on particular parishes in the country or on a particular seminary. In the midst of the heavy coverage there have been some positive stories about some parishes, dioceses, and seminaries.

On Monday, June 17, the Times had a very emotive article on the Rev. Thomas DeVita who, under the U.S. bishops’ new charter, was leaving his parish in New Buffalo, Mich. The headline read, “First Casualties of the One-Sin-You’re-Out Policy.”

In the body of the article was this quote: “Those who would most likely have said good riddance to Father DeVita were absent today, having left the parish when his past was revealed four years ago. Many of those who remained, and who attended Mass today, ignored his Eucharistic helpers to receive Communion from the pastor for one of the last times. Many wept. After services, the receiving line was slowed by long hugs and prayerful farewells. To some it seemed like Good Friday.”

The Times on June 14 had moving quotations from three men and one woman who spoke to the bishops at the Dallas meeting, sharing their intense stories of abuse and the tragedy in their lives that followed it. They spoke with anger in some cases of an abuser still functioning as a priest, in however limited a capacity.

Among Catholic publications that I have followed there have been excellent articles in America, Commonweal, and Church. In terms of numbers of articles from many sources, America, published by the Jesuits, has outdone itself.

The editor of Commonweal, Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, spoke to the bishops in Dallas. She and Scott Appleby of Notre Dame gave thought-provoking talks that should be printed widely.

The National Catholic Reporter was particularly helpful in publishing the report from the 1980s that was so prescient about the future danger for the bishops if they did not act strongly against child abuse by clerics and persons working for the Church. You have to admire the priest who worked in the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., and helped write the report, only to be let go from his position. The report was evidently ignored. He is now a military chaplain and testifies for those who have been abused, by priests in particular.

The major TV networks have produced hour-long shows that have emphasized the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. Generally they have been helpful programs.

I visited the Portland area in May and watched one channel’s local newscast for several days. In that particular case old incidents dating back more than 20 years were being hyped heavily in what looked like a sweeps extravaganza.

I do not hear KXLY Radio’s Mark Fuhrman Show very often. But several times Fuhrman could have called someone at the Pastoral Center for some basic information. When Mike Fitzsimmons’ show was on he tried very hard to bring basic information to the program. Passion is fine, Mark, and your passion, with Dominick Dunne’s, certainly helped get the Skakel murder trial back on the front burner. But the sweeping statements about the Catholic Church and its policies need some balance.

All in all, as many bishops have said with some caveats, thank God for a free press that forced all of us in the Catholic Church to face into a monumental crisis of abuse and leadership. We still have a long journey ahead to build back trust and seek atonement.


The new Universal Film The Bourne Identity begins with a floating body in the Mediterranean Sea, where a group of Italian fishermen pull the body onto their small ship. One of the men takes the body down below. The fisherman slowly discovers that the man has been shot in the back several times but isn’t dead after all.

The fisherman takes out several bullets and then finds a small metal piece in the man’s side that reveals an account number at a Zurich bank. Slowly the man is nursed back to health while he works with the fishermen as they begin their return to port in Marseille.

The story develops as the man found in the sea goes to Zurich by high-speed train to use the bank number to find out who he is. He suffers from a loss of memory – the amnesia that was such a popular plot device in movies of the 1940s, and on soap operas.

We eventually learn that his name is Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). The security box in the bank contains lots of cash, a gun and numerous passports from different countries with different names. As Jason leaves the bank and travels to the U.S. consulate we learn that the CIA has botched an attempted assassination of an African political figure.

The CIA head of this particular endeavor is Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper). Soon Jason finds himself fighting off Swiss police and what looks like hundreds of U.S. military guarding the Swiss consulate. It is at this point that the movie really starts getting exciting.

After a thrilling escape from the consulate Jason meets on a side street a European woman named Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente) whom he had seen arguing with authorities inside the consulate. He offers her $20,000 in cash if she will immediately drive him to Paris in her battered Austin Mini.

Arriving in Paris they check out what seems to be Jason’s luxurious apartment. It is here that a CIA hired killer makes his move and Jason begins to realize even more than before that he has great skills in fighting and defending himself.

Marie and Jason somehow make it to a tourist hotel to hide. The name of the hotel, ironically, is “Hotel of Peace.” Slowly but surely, as the two principals fall in love, they move to find some sense of security by going to Marie’s relatives in Southern France.

All this while Conklin’s superior at the CIA, Ward Abbot (Brian Cox) is putting pressure on Conklin to end what has turned out to be a disaster. So Conklin, after Jason makes contact with him sort of accidentally, schedules a meeting on the bridge below the Samaritan Department Store in Paris. The result leads to several surprises that give a pretty cynical view of the CIA.

The Bourne Identity may sound like a pretty hackneyed plot. But I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Matt Damon pulls off the role of the amnesiac mystery assassin with aplomb. He is much better than his friend Ben Affleck in the very popular The Sum of All Fears. His physical action scenes are fast and convincing.

Franka Potente, the wonderful German actress from the film Run Lola Run, is as good as any actress could be in a fast-moving thriller which places most of the emphasis on the plot.

Chris Cooper is the perfect swarthy CIA villain, while big boss Brian Cox does a fine job as the chameleon bureaucrat.

The script is based on the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name. It really moves. The car chase scene which has been overdone many a time has some interesting new wrinkles that make it memorable.

Director Doug Liman is straight forward as he takes us all around Europe.

If you are looking for a great thriller that really gets you out of your world, The Bourne Identity is just the ticket.

The Bourne Identity is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). There is lots of violence and mild profanity. The Catholic bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates The Bourne Identity as A-IV, which means for adults with reservations.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and ecumenical relations officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews also appear in the Cheney Free Press.)

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