Saturday, July 14, 2018

Remembering Kathy Shaw, Unsung Hero of Abuse Crisis in U.S. Catholic Church

During my silent weeks recently, a very important figure in American Catholic journalism died, and I want to remember her here. I'm speaking of Kathy Shaw, who maintained the Bishop Accountability Abuse Tracker site to which there's a link on this blog's main page. Kathy died on 24 June, and as an email from Steve Sheehan today to NSAC News subscribers announces, there will be a memorial service for her on 17 July from 4-6 P.M. at Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlor, Worcester, Massachusetts. Since I know that there are readers of Bilgrimage in that area, I wanted to note the memorial service for those who might be interested in attending.

Steve Sheehan's announcement also shares David Beard's moving tribute to Kathy, "After 'Spotlight,' an unsung hero soldiered on":

The movie "Spotlight" ends with the first story published about the clergy scandal that would mushroom around the world. 
The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team followed that story — but an unsung hero was a journalist from central Massachusetts named Kathy Shaw. 
Shaw, who died Sunday night, worked on a clergy Abuse Tracker that became a reference to journalists worldwide who were following the story. Those who worked with her speak of her dedication, tackling the issue of church abuse from the early 1990s on. Though not famous or from a big town, Shaw showed how a journalist, even late in a career, can make a difference. 
From 2002 through this year, Shaw, a former award-winning religion reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, posted thousands of stories to the abuse tracker, which was begun by Poynter’s former editor, Bill Mitchell, and now is hosted at
Mitchell said he was inspired to start the tracker based on the way reporter Jim Romenesko was tracking changes in the news. But Mitchell, running the Poynter site at that time, needed contributors such as Shaw — and she volunteered. 
"Kathy took it on as a personal mission and delivered on almost every day for 16 years," Mitchell said in an interview. "She shed enormous light on what the church tried to keep secret." 
She "transformed the news blog into an indispensable resource and record, used by everyone who works on the clergy abuse crisis or cares about it. Thanks to Kathy and Abuse Tracker, every local development in the abuse crisis could be followed by people everywhere," colleagues Terence McKiernan and Anne Barrett Doyle wrote. 
Shaw also was a union activist and a mental health counselor. But she was always on. 
"She was a boisterous character," Mitchell said. "She talked about waking up in the middle of the night, computer near the bed, and checked in with what was happening with the clergy abuse story around the world. She just would not be stopped."

I personally will miss Kathy. She always responded immediately and graciously to emails I sent her recommending this or that link for Abuse Tracker, and swapped helpful emails with me over a period of years, providing good counsel from her perspective as a journalist when someone who writes for a major U.S. Catholic "liberal" publication sought to bully me when she claimed I had shared statements about her that were false. 

I'll miss Kathy because of the work she put in day in and day out in maintaining the Abuse Tracker site, which has long been the go-to site of many of us who want to keep up with news about the cover-up of sexual abuse of minors in religious institutions. I'll miss her as a Facebook friend, where many of us carried on lively conversations with her and others, and where she kept us informed about all kinds of issues.

If the U.S. Catholic church had more Kathy Shaws dogging the footsteps of its pastorally deformed bishops, it would not be in the parlous state in which it now finds itself, as six in ten white Catholics helped place Donald Trump in the White House due to the moral and pastoral malfeasance of the bishops, who remained complicitly silent during his presidential campaign.

Here are some other tributes to Kathy following her death:

Seattle Times, "This week's passages"

Here's Kathy's biography at the Bishop Accountability site (the photo at the head of this posting is from this page). May she rest in well-deserved peace and be richly remembered, as she so much deserves to be.

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