Problems at a DC-area school

School officials say one student accused Father Orr, who taught religion, Latin and theater, of "inappropriate touching" in the fall of 2002. The student graduated before reporting the incident to school officials in October 2003, said Kate Pipkin, director of communications for the Jesuit province.
    The priest, who had already left the school to teach at Loyola College in Baltimore, denied the charge, and the school did not report the incident to police until May 2004.
    Once police were contacted, Father Orr’s priestly standing was suspended. He remained at the college throughout the 2004-2005 school year in a ministry without one-on-one contact with students, Father Brown wrote.
    In March 2005, police suspended the investigation with no criminal charges filed. A call to Montgomery County police yesterday asking for more details was not returned.
    A Jesuit review board took up the case and decided the accusation "was substantially true," Father Brown said. Last September, Father Orr was given a year’s leave of absence with the proviso that he not visit Georgetown Prep’s campus.

From Mark Gauvreau Judge, author of last year’s memoir, God and Man at Georgetown Prep. This short essay hasn’t been published, and is reprinted, from a personal email, with permission. It’s called: How to Miss a Story:

For an example of a direct correlation between how media bias can make reporters miss a story, this is hard to beat.

On April 11, Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland, the world’s oldest Catholic school, sent out a letter. It informed parents and alumni that a Jesuit named Fr. Garrett (Gary) Orr, who had taught there for 14 years, was guilty of molesting a student. After a three year investigation by the Jesuit provincial, Fr. Orr  is being removed form all duties for a year while they decide what to do.

Had the Washington Post, New York Times, L.A. Times or any other outlet paid attention to me a year ago, they would have been well ahead of the story – indeed they may have broken it months before the announcement of April 11 (the small circulation Washington Times finally picked up on the story after the news became public)

. In the spring of 2005  I published a book, God and Man at Georgetown Prep. It detailed how the world famous all-boys prep school outside Washington was undermined by left-wing Jesuits, hippie teachers, and rampant homosexuality.  We were not taught the catechism of the Catholic Church, but were instructed in graphic sex ed – including abortion – by Bernie Ward, now a socialist radio talker in San Francisco – and more than half of the faculty was gay. We had a bachelor party for a teacher and there was a stripper present. Alcoholism was rampant.

Three years ago, a female teacher at the school was dismissed for having affairs with two students.

I can understand a colossus like the Washington Post picking and choosing which ones get covered. But I can’t resist a thought experiment: if I was a liberal who had exposed a prestigious Washington Catholic high school for being repressive in its orthodoxy – say, a school run by Opus Dei – and had published a book about it I would no doubt land in the Style section. But even beyond that, a couple things should have made the media think that there was a story here. This year Georgetown Prep sold much of its land to developers for $100 million to build apartments. At least one older Jesuit complained that the school was becoming so status-obsessed that the students were suffering. The campus is now one giant mud pit as the apartments go up. You think a Post reporter might be interested in what’s going on? Would the pre-secular, pre-Watergate Post – the Post in, say, 1950 –  ignore the story?

A couple phone calls investigating the situation at Prep and the claims in my book would have led a good reporter to the case of  Fr. Orr. Last year – or even smoked out the case of the female teacher, which the school has covered up. Think about it: You are a reporter at the Washington Post. A book about Georgetown Prep is published by Crossroad, one of the world’s oldest religious publishers. The author’s grandfather was a baseball player for 20 years with the Washington Senators…. His father worked at National Geographic, a Washington institution, for thirty years. The author’s brother is an actor who won the Helen Hayes award, given to the best actor in Washington. Furthermore, the author is a recovering alcoholic who went from left to right, and even thought about becoming a priest. After God and Man at Georgetown Prep was published, it was read by Adam Bellow, son of Saul Bellow and an editor at Random House. Bellow was so impressed that he signed the author to a deal.

In his book, the author reveals the serious collapse in morals and teaching that happened at Georgetown Prep, and speculates that a preponderance of gay teachers and priests might be a tinderbox for the church, considering the sex abuse scandals. He chides the school for greed and allowing too much building on the campus. Right before the book is published a priest who had been there for 20 years is accused of improper sexual conduct, and voluntarily leaves the school – but not before issuing a blistering final statement of defense. After the book is published, the school sells half the campus grounds to make money. Construction crews move in, and commuters into Washington see a lush green golf course (yep the school had a gold course) turn into a mud hole. In other words, everything the author of God and Man at Georgetown Prep warned against seemed to come to fruition as the book was released. Oh, and Georgetown prep is the oldest Catholic high school in America.

Um…think you might make a phone call?

Not if you’re the Post. Now that the letter admitting Fr. Orr’s guilt has been sent, the media will no doubt scramble to find the story, and may even stumble upon the warning I issued over twelve months ago. Yet think about a different scenario for a moment. Last year, God and Man at Georgetown Prep is published. The Post sees a provocative book by a local author with a long family history  in Washington. Yes, yes, he is conservative, but the priority is the story. It’s the $100 million construction projects. It’s the allegations made in the book. A reporter decides to report. He talks to Judge, reads the book, then calls the school. His digging leads to the story of Fr. Orr. The reporter interviews Orr, and the boy who made the allegation. Yes, yes, Judge is a right-wing nut, disliked by some at the paper for his views and the fact that he has been very critical of the Post. But it is the story that matters. The reporter puts his colleagues and personal liberal bias aside. It’s the story.

In late 2005, his story runs – on the front page or the Post magazine. It makes a huge splash – troubles at the world’s oldest and richest Catholic all boys school, I mean forget Duke – and he gets a book deal. Then a tv movie deal. He’s on O’Reilly, Scarborough, talk radio, and IMUS.
He owns the story.

When, a year later, a letter goes out from the school announcing Fr. Orr’s guilt, it’s almost old news. It ties in perfectly with the release of the reporter’s book bout Prep.

As it stands now, the reporters of the mainstream media will be playing catch up, and most likely – as usual – miss the nuances, color, subtlety and facts of the real story, which in full would have taken weeks if not months to write. And some reporters are just plain dumb. One called me yesterday and said that Prep’s spokesman "knew nothing about the female teacher" who had hooked up with students. Um, Mr. Woodward? It’s called a cover up.

Aw, but who cares?  Judge is  just some nutty right-winger with a small book out and an ax to grind.
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