A reader sent me the following article:
An attorney representing people who allege they were sexually abused by priests says Catholics in Eastern Washington can settle their church’s sex-abuse crisis and bankruptcy for $60 million — half of which he suggests could come from parishioners.
Bishop William Skylstad already has $30 million at his disposal from asset sales, insurance settlements and pledges from Catholic Charities and related organizations.
The remaining $30 million could be raised through what those involved in negotiations are calling the "latte-a-day" plan.
"We’re not asking for anything that can’t be done," said attorney Tim Kosnoff, who represents multiple sex-abuse victims.
Attorneys representing various parties in the bankruptcy are known to be considering the plan following the Bankruptcy Court’s rejection of an earlier settlement agreement proposed by Skylstad, which provided for $35 million in Spokane diocese funds and indicated parishioners might have to cover the balance.
Well in reality the concept is nothing new. When most large corporations get constantly sued they pass on the costs to the consumer via price increases. While I have great sympathy for the victims of sexual abuse and very little sympathy for those who have cooperated in by not taking immediate action, I also have little sympathy for these multi-million dollar suits. Demanding that parishioners who were not involved in these actions cough up money is not justice. It is like arresting a sexual predator in the park and then fining everybody who happened to also be in the same park or really any park in the county.
Exposing those who have abused or those who have enabled them is of prime importance. But bankrupting a diocese only causes further injustices. Lawyers seeking after alleged deep pockets don’t care if pro-life and apostolate for the poor don’t get funded. Cash remunerations do not correct injustices of bishops and others in a diocese involved in cover ups or just plain bad judgments, especially since it does not come out of their pockets. They just release "sorry about that" statements and pretty much except in the case of Cardinal Law go about their business. These lawyers are not seeking justice, just money. Unfortunately it also seems that all of these lawsuits is what was required in the first place to get the bishop’s attention.
Update: Dom also weighs in.
Right on, Curt.
Going out of your way to bankrupt an organization like a parish or a diocese smacks of more than just a will to see the right thing done. These lawyers have no concept of the true purpose of religion in society and only see a big fat sitting duck.
The Church may resemble a corporation, but she cannot be strictly equated as one in the end. The law already recognizes this because religious organizations are legally tax-exempt. This recognition should be further extrapolated to provide more sane limits on how much one can sue a religious organization for.
It is not just a matter of profits, for crying out loud.
Maybe if the Church had ‘come clean’ in the first place, instead of trying to move these pedophile priests around from parish to parish, there would be less lawsuits.
The Church covered this up for years in many places, and now she will pay, yes, just like a large corporation. This is, like it or not, a legal issue, and it will be treated it he courts like any other civil or criminal case.
Certain bishops and religious orders have brought this on themselves by shuttling pedophiles around from parish to parish, diocese to diocese. I personally knew 4 people who were sexually abused by Father Paul LeBrun at Little Flower Parish here in South Bend, and trust me, the two victims who I still remain in contact with who had to ‘go public’ to get this guy convicted in Arizona of the exact same offenses that he committed here, those two victims had several long years of therapy. The priest molested boys here in South Bend (and the state statute of limitations ran out, this all occurred int he early 80’s), and then he did the same thing in Arizona (later, in the 90’s).
You wonder why people want to take the Church for ‘all she has’…go ask the victims of these crimes, they will tell you. (incidentally, the victims that I know did not sue the church for the crimes).
I believe we are witnessing a powerful move of God to purify His Church (winnowing the chaff.) This is therefore a good thing that we are suffering through at this time.
Those lawyers are anathema.
Sorry, John B. — StubbleSpark’s got it right: the Church is NOT a corporation, no matter how the secular world wants to define Her. I understand how you might be frustrated with the response of various people in the Church to the abuse that was occuring. But as StubbleSpark pointed out, it’s not the fault of all the parishioners. There really ought to be “more sane limits on how much one can sue a religious organization for,” as a way of expressing the justice of holding the truly responsible *responsible*.
Can you be a lawyer and a Catholic at the same time?
St. Thomas More, pray for us.
Really, John, there would be fewer lawsuits.
If such a deal were brokered, a whole band of fake lawsuits would pop up. It’s bad enough that there are suits over alleged incidents involving long-dead clergy and no eye-witnesses, since civil suits don’t need to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” the way criminal trials do. That’s why so many people were also pushing to make the Catholic Church “exempt” from the statute of limitations that covers other institutions (including our own dear government).
Holding parishioners responsible for payment is stupid, anyway. (Yes, I used the dreaded “s” word.) It’s on par with pushing special millages on all current tax-payers in a school district in order to pay damages from a child-molesting teacher who retired in ’93.
Why not, Miss Jean? After all, we tax the dead don’t we? And the dead still vote in Chicago and Detroit, don’t they? Why is our government so anti-Christian when it is such an ardent proponent of “eternal life” here on earth???!!!
No parishoner is being legally ‘forced to give’ to pay the lawsuit here…the church can sell property, etc. to pay the lawsuits. Maybe if more parishoners withheld their weekly givings long ago, the Church would have listened a little closer in some situations. It is a tough personal decision whether to withhold one’s weekly offering, but it can also be temporarily redirected to Catholic Charities or the like, ortagged for / given in a lump sum specifically for a certain use such as building maintenance.
The church must operate in both a religious and a secular forum, after all, as Jesus taught, give to Cesar what is Cesars, and to God what is God’s. To suggest otherwise is foolhearty, and invites all kinds of legal abuses.
If the Church doesn’t operate in a civil/legal arena like the rest of us, it opens the door for all kinds of chicanery, if the church becomes absolved of beind sued or being involved legally, there might not be the impetus to behave on the part of some church employees. And then what does the church do if an employee is found embezzling money…if the church can’t be sued, it can’t sue, either….it is a double edged sword.
Blame the lawyers…sure, the amount of $30 million seems a bit extreme to me, but considering the current dollar amounts of settlements in similar situations when for instance a public school teacher is found guilty of molestation of a student, school systems are routinely sued for millions of dollars. Why shouldn’t the Church bear the same responsibility as a public entity when the same crimes are committed?????? No entity is above the law in this type of criminal situation.
“No parishoner is being legally ‘forced to give’ to pay the lawsuit here…the church can sell property, etc. to pay the lawsuits.”
They are if their parish is one of the properties on the auction block.
Maybe it isn’t an issue of the Church being exempt, but maybe the issues are 1) how much those settlements in similar situations for public school teachers found guilty of molestation, and 2) how the settlements are directed and paid.
While it is not in good taste to discuss the economic value one should get if found to be molested by an authority figure at a young age, that might be part of the problem, just like in other realms of the legal world where settlements are outrageous.
As well, as much as these things are directed at the corporate entities (as in those that are incorporated by the state), I always have felt that it should be more aimed at the people involved. If the Bishop of the diocese agreed to moving of the priest, then it should be him and not the diocese. There is nothing gained by the diocese by that wrong decision, unlike if a corporate CEO would do something bad. Thus, there is no need to take money and assets away from the “shareholders” here.
Regardless, maybe this now means that parishes now have to incorporate instead of dioceses.
There are no million dollar lawsuits against any public school. There is a cap thats in the thousands and the teachers themselves are exempt from being sued. And has only if the case isn’t shrugged off. Often the public schools are above the law.
I think the priest being put in prison is enough. And yes, though I’ve been a catholic for a whopping year and a half, some of what I put into the plate goes to the settlements. I not only didn’t molest anyone I wasn’t even a church member when it was going on and yet I pay for some priests mistakes.
No parishioner will be forced, suppose you close my home parish and i have to drive an extra 30 miles. Then I’m paying in gas if nothing else. And reading Dom’s take on it they say it would amount to 2.05 a day for two years. In other words the lawyer want’s to sue me for $1500 dollars just because I’m a catholic sorry but this fails the freedom of religion test.
I agree with those here who believe that these extreme lawsuits are unjust. What I wouldn’t have a problem with is the diocese paying for ongoing, *Catholic* therapy for the victims, in addition to jail time for perpetrators. All of these big-money lawsuits sound like simony to me, as in, selling forgiveness. Instead of paying the victims with a “so sorry you can’t believe in God because of all of this”, how about bringing them Christ’s healing?
I know, rather idealistic in this day and age, but we all have our moments.
Torn about this…especially since I agree that if the Church is forced to make such huge payments, false cases will surely arise. Still, I think that although the LAWYERS may be unjust, the PENALTY is not. The damage done to the victims, even on a purely psychological level, has been immense. Many bishops share responsibility for cases of abuse, and have positions which are at least similar to that of corporate executives. Yes, the parallel does not hold up exactly, but it is not so far-fetched, either…
Finally, I am not so certain that we should play up our innocence. How many of us Catholics have lived up to the Church’s teachings on sexual matters? How many of us have been silent about the epidemic of divorce/annulment and remarriage (especially when we know people who are involved with this)? How many of us have been fasting and praying for priests and bishops to resist the blandishments of Satan and his minions? Far too many. It is very easy for us to forsake our responsibility for the sins of our fathers, but we are not separate from them, on a spiritual level. As a part of the Body of Christ, we too have to acknowledge our responsibility (sometimes direct, sometimes less direct, and sometimes remote) for the sins of other members of this body…
“It is very easy for us to forsake our responsibility for the sins of our fathers, but we are not separate from them, on a spiritual level.”
Oh yes, we are!
Here is how you are accessory to another’s sin: “By command, by counsel, by consent, by flattery, by receiving, by participation, by silence, by not preventing, by not denouncing.”
All of this presupposes that you know, or should know, about the pepretration of the sin in question.
But in these cases, the sins were hushed up . . . all too effectively. How was anyone – except the hushers – supposed to find out or to know?
It is not possible to share in the guilt of a sin of which one has no knowledge, and if one had knowledge, one would immediately denounce or otherwise act to prevent!
This notion that somehow there’s this amorphous guilt cloud floating around, emanating from no one in particular, but soiling everyone, is a bunch of New Age muddle-headed crap.
And it’s being sold because it turns people into sheep ripe for the shearing (as in $$$$) instead of intelligent, rational citizens who stand up for their rights.
If you allow others to fill your heads with such nonsense, you’ll be ripe pickings for the smoke and mirrors routine of every shyster lawyer and confidence trickster who comes down the pike. And you’ll be picked blind.
In the American system of jurisprudence persons cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process and without the rule of law. And the law is not about spiritual guilt. It is about specific acts of negligence on the part of informed persons who should have seen to it that certain things were done differently. In American law individual and corporate negligence must be proved before monetary damages are assessed – money is not and should not be paid out on a “guilt cloud of we’re-all-to-blame”. Anyone who tries to sell you that bill of goods is someone out to line his own pocket. With what used to be your hard-earned money.
What a sorry state of affairs.
Odd…I thought that generally by our sinning, we (in a spiritual sense) weakened the members of the Body of Christ, and hence should see ourselves responsible in some manner, to some extent, for the sins of those who are a part of that Body. And I don’t think that this ‘amorphous cloud’ is New Age crap.
There is a difference between being an accessory in the sense you are using, and seeing ourselves as completely divorced from the sin of another. You are correct, of course, in arguing that the nature of our spiritual relation to others is not truly understood by or visible to us, but it is as real as Original Sin, which depends on this (unless you think that Original Sin is biological in nature). We are not responsible for the sins of others in the sense that such sin is imputed to us in their commission by others; still, as parts of the Body of Christ, there is an interdependence among us…
I’ll admit, I’m not too up on my theology, so if a priest out there could correct me on this, I’d appreciate it. Deo gratias!
One comment on Josephine’s post: “There is a cap thats in the thousands and the teachers themselves are exempt from being sued.” The former is true, but the later isn’t. Maybe your state works differently, but here parents can sue the molester into the ground, not to mention the state will suspend his/her teaching certificate and he/she can’t teach, supervise children, etc.
The law – which is what has the power to divorce you from your money – does not recognize the interdependence of the various members of the Body of Christ as a basis for assessing money damages.
Separation of Church and State, and all that.
Let’s not volunteer to hand that power over to them.
I agree with the last comment; my point was not that all Catholics should be liable in a worldly way to the secular authorities for the sins of others, but that we should be VERY careful to distinguish between our LEGAL innocence and our SPIRITUAL innocence. If the question :”Why should I pay for…” is meant merely in legal terms, then my argument does not hold. If we are talking about this question in terms of blame and guilt beyond the merely legal, it may be different…
From the article: “Numbers under the proposed plan might look like this: If just 20,000 of Eastern Washington’s 93,000 Catholics pitched in, the payment would be $2.05 per person per day for two years — less than the cost of a latte. If all 93,000 parishioners pay, the sum would be far less.
The calculation is intended to undercut suggestions that victims are calling for the sale of churches and schools. A small daily sacrifice by fewer than one in four Catholics could end the bankruptcy and resolve this dark chapter in the church’s history, said Michael Pfau, another attorney representing victims.”
I have a suggestion for Pfau and these others. Why don’t they approach the various members of NAMBLA and ask them to forego their lattes in oder to pay these victims’ expenses? After all, NAMBLA’s membership are much more “spiritually connected” to paedophile priests than ordinary Catholics are.
Let’s see how that suggestion flies.
The courts are the arbitors of last resort. The currency of the courts is money. The one who gets the money or doesn’t have to pay out monies is the winner. Why did all these cases get into civil court? They got there due to the steadfast refusal of the Roman Catholic church to deal with a despicable evil: the rape, sodomization and molestation of defenseless children. Only low-life amoral individuals would allow crimes such as these and the priests who committed them to coninue.
The bishops and cardinals who control the system refused to fix it and they are now paying the price. However, as everyone knows, regardless of whether they admit it, it is the people in the pew that are paying one way or another for the crimes of sexual depravity. If the people in the pew refused to pay, there may be an opportunity for change, If they don’t, it will be business as usual.
The good people of the catholic church have been been paying for the sexual exploits of their priests. What do you call people who pay for sex?
Right on davince! The only tool that the courts have is money and jail. It is a blunt instrument. Since law enforcement is too scared to arrest the real culprits (Bishops)that made the problem worse by moving the abusers and the pope won’t do anything but promote the enablers, then victims are left with suing for money.
Until the people in the pews either leave or insist their pope and bishops fix the problem, everyone will be hit with the same hammer. It is the only tool the courts have.
So if Catholics don’t like to pay so things can stay the same, they had better start joining groups like Voice of the
Faithful or start some new ones and start hollering for justice and change!
I have a thought for Marion. There are only two orginizations in the world that have gone to extreme lengths to protect and defend known pedophiles with an here-to-fore unseen zeal. They are the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church and NAMBLA. Boston history tells us of a priest who promoted NAMBLA.
I would bet that the members of NAMBLA are thrilled with the concerted effort and millions of dollars the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has spent and will continue to spend in an effort to keep the current Statute of Limitations on childhood sexual abuse intact. Why, because a short statute of limitations on child sex abuse is nothing more than a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD for those that would rape, sodomize and otherwise descrate the bodies of children and it protects the organizations that shelter these predators from paying for these crimes.
Thank you for mentioning NAMBLA and planting the seed for these comparisons.