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"The Silence" bears witness to abuse of Catholic Native Americans

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Frontline offers another powerful investigation with "The Silence" (UNC-TV, 9 tonight), an examination of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

It's a tough half-hour report showing the devastation left behind when three men who worked for the church along Alaska's far west coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s abused boys and girls, 80 percent of those who lived in the parish, pretty much an entire generation.

The abuse went on for years, leaving adults who grew up battling drugs and alcohol, but mostly fighting shame and anger.

Reported by Mark Trahant, an independent journalist who has covered Native American communities for his entire career, the piece manages to show the victim's palpable pain with a lot of grace. More importantly, it shows the moments when the area's bishop, as part of a settlement, comes face-to-face with the survivors and apologizes. At a time of the non-apology, there's a poignant to the simple power of asking for forgiveness.

The piece also features one courageous survivor who now works to help others tell their stories and be free from their painful burdan.

There's not a happy ending to this story, but there is the beginning of one. "The Silence" bears witness to a shameful moment in religious history.

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About the blogger

Adrienne Johnson Martin would like to have her life turned into an animated cartoon. E-mail Adrienne.