Philly Catholic Church cover-up and Poynter’s Brian Tierney

“It’s a pack of lies that stood for 19 years. Somewhere, Brian Tierney is smiling.”

I emailed the Philadelphia journalist who wrote the above line, which appeared in a blog post headlined, “Ongoing Archdiocese Fire Sale Exposes 19-Year-Old Cover-Up of Cardinal Bevilacqua’s Lavish Spending,” and told him that Tierney is now at Poynter, heading its new foundation.

Ralph Cipriano, the “Fire Sale” story author and longtime church-watcher, wrote back:

I’m stunned. Anybody who thinks Brian Tierney should have anything to do with legitimate journalism should be looking at his role as an archdiocese spinmeister for the late Cardinal Bevilacqua.

Bevilacqua is a known criminal at this point who, according to a couple of grand jury reports, orchestrated a successful coverup over a decade that kept from prosecution 60 sexually abusive priests who had raped and molested hundreds of innocent children. And Tierney at every stage of the game was his spinmeister, the guy who when Bevilacqua was being repeatedly questioned by a grand jury, spun the story so that Bevilacqua was the victim.

In a 1998 American Journalism Review piece, a Philadelphia Inquirer editor told Alicia Shepard: “Tierney has made his reputation by representing the archdiocese and defending it against the Inquirer. His tactic is to be a bully. You go to a meeting with the archdiocese to ask legitimate questions and Tierney starts attacking the reporter.”

* Archdiocese fire sale exposes cover-up of cardinal’s lavish spending (
* Poynter names Brian Tierney the head of its new foundation (Philadelphia Weekly)
* From 1998: Cipriano sues editor over comment about his church coverage (AJR)