Another Diocesan Bankruptcy:
A Moral Choice?

Our diocese (Harrisburg, PA) recently sent out a letter that it was declaring bankruptcy in view of oncoming lawsuits by presumed victims of sexual abuse.   See here for a detailed account.  As a member of this diocese, I received the news with mixed emotions.  Would this bankruptcy negate legitimate claims of sexual abuse?  And, more selfishly, what would this do to our gift annuity?  That some 20 Dioceses had previously declared bankruptcy did not mitigate that this was happening in my backyard.

After I read more about this (see the link above), I was reassured on both counts.   First, the bankruptcy would insure that claimants previously awarded damages would receive damages from the fund set up by the Diocese for sexual abuse cases.  New and very large damages could not wipe out the fund.   Second, special gifts (and I interpret this to mean gift annuities) were privileged.

I’ll not say anymore here about the Harrisburg bankruptcy declaration, but will make some general comments about lawsuits, bankruptcy, and reparation.   I’ll speak to the situation in my own diocese, Harrisburg, since that’s the one with which I’m familiar.

First, let me say that I admire Bishop Ronald Gainer, our bishop.  In my opinion, he is liturgically and dogmatically conservative, but not in a showy way.  For example, he’s instituted “The Prayer to St. Michael” as obligatory after every Mass.  That being said, I don’t believe our diocese has been a hotbed of immoral activity. I know of two priests in our Deanery (one was discharged; the other died before the accusation) who have been accused of immoral activity against minors.   Let me add that  I also know of four teachers in the public schools (in the same area) who have been accused of immoral acts against minors or possessing child porn.

In Pennsylvania the Democrat District Attorney, Josh Shapiro, seems to be conducting a vendetta against the Catholic Church.  He’s persecuted The Little Sisters of the Poor and been more than vigorous in acting against Pennsylvania Catholic Dioceses for concealing purported sexual abuse cases (see here).   For the latter action he has been praised by such newsworthy organs as the NY Times and Salon.com.

HOW DOES THE CHURCH ATONE FOR CHILD ABUSE?

But politics aside, let’s consider the moral questions raised by abuse, proving abuse, and compensating for abuse.  I can’t cite statistics (and I’m not sure whether accurate statistics are available), but I would believe that most of these abuse cases involve homosexual activity involving teenagers, rather than against children, in other words, homosexual activity rather than pedophilia.

Here are some questions I’ll raise, but not answer.

  • Does the standard Anglo-Saxon legal principle, “innocent until proven guilty,” apply in cases of such abuse?
  • If the statute of limitations is extended to 40, 50, 60 years, will memories prove reliable?
  • If the supposed abuser, the priest, has died before the accusation, how can the accusation be defended?
  • If millions of dollars are offered to the presumed victim as restitution, will that in itself compensate for the harm done?
  • Will the prospect of financial gain attract litigants (plaintiffs and lawyers) who are not concerned with restitution but only financial gain?
  • If the immoral acts were consensual, does that mitigate their immorality? (I have my own answer to that, but I’ll leave the question open.)
  • Finally, and this is the most important question, how can the Church (diocese, parish, priest) atone for the harm done?

I’ll be interested in seeing what answers (if any) comments might yield.  The questions above don’t speak to preventing such acts in the future.  I assume that actions taken by the diocese (and the Church) will, if not eliminate them altogether, at least greatly diminish their frequency.

 

 

More to explorer

20 Comments

  1. Does the standard Anglo-Saxon legal principle, “innocent until proven guilty,” apply in cases of such abuse?

    Innocent until proven guilty always applies regardless of the crime alleged to the accused. Additionally, no whistle-blower (whether in child sex abuse cases or in professional technical fields like aircraft safety and nuclear energy) have a right to hide in anonymity. The accused always has the right to face his accuser.

    If the statute of limitations is extended to 40, 50, 60 years, will memories prove reliable?

    Memories are never reliable, whether 1 day old or 40 years old. Additionally, memory accuracy deteriorates with age. Verbal accusations mean nothing without material evidence.

    If the supposed abuser, the priest, has died before the accusation, how can the accusation be defended?

    If the accused has died, then the matter is in the hands of the Lord. Let there be healing for the victim and let justice remain in God’s hands. Seeking financial benefit off verbal accusations from the parish or diocese in which the clergyman served is selfish and greedy. On the other hand, bishops and other diocesan officials who concealed sex abuse by clergymen under their charge must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and serve whatever time in incarceration that the legal system demands.

    If millions of dollars are offered to the presumed victim as restitution, will that in itself compensate for the harm done?

    Money is never restitution. And promise of money paves the way for false accusation. The person who did the crime on conviction by a jury of his peers must serve the specified time incarcerated for his crime. The same is true of those diocesan officials who concealed the crime. Punish the guilty and heal the innocent. Money does neither.

    Will the prospect of financial gain attract litigants (plaintiffs and lawyers) who are not concerned with restitution but only financial gain?

    See answer above. Money is to lawyers and plaintiffs what blood in the water is to sharks.

    If the immoral acts were consensual, does that mitigate their immorality? (I have my own answer to that, but I’ll leave the question open.)

    “Consensuality” has no bearing on the immorality of sexual perversion. God hates sin – period!

    Finally, and this is the most important question, how can the Church (diocese, parish, priest) atone for the harm done?

    There is one and only one atonement – the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. No diocese, parish or priest has the capacity to atone for the wickedness of child sex abuse. And until the victims accept that only Christ can atone for the crimes perpetrated against them, they will forever be imprisoned by those very crimes for which they seek (fruitlessly) atonement via litigation and money.

  2. Does the standard Anglo-Saxon legal principle, “innocent until proven guilty,” apply in cases of such abuse?

    The standard in a civil suit is preponderance of the evidence which is a lesser standard than beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. The Plaintiff has to make his case, but it is much easier to meet the burden of proof in a civil case.
    If the statute of limitations is extended to 40, 50, 60 years, will memories prove reliable?

    No, which is one of the main reasons to have SOLs.
    If the supposed abuser, the priest, has died before the accusation, how can the accusation be defended?

    With great difficulty.
    If millions of dollars are offered to the presumed victim as restitution, will that in itself compensate for the harm done?
    No, especially if the charges are lies made to have a big pay day.
    Will the prospect of financial gain attract litigants (plaintiffs and lawyers) who are not concerned with restitution but only financial gain?
    Like dung attracts flies.
    If the immoral acts were consensual, does that mitigate their immorality? (I have my own answer to that, but I’ll leave the question open.)
    Yes. Sexual immorality is always bad, but it is much worse with force. Of course, having a 15 year old, for example, give consent to an authority figure is probably pretty worthless consent morally.
    Finally, and this is the most important question, how can the Church (diocese, parish, priest) atone for the harm done?
    By acting like the Church. Big pay days for “victims”, real and false, and their attorneys, does little or nothing to achieve a moral balance. Criminal penalties against the perps if they are alive is much better, especially as they will be more likely to produce a more searching inquiry as to whether the allegations are true. Of course, as the Cardinal Pell case demonstrates, we are living through a witch hunt season, and the concept of evidence is often drowned out in hysteria. Satan applauds everything to do with this business, brought to us almost entirely by the Lavender Mafia.

  3. Does the standard Anglo-Saxon legal principle, “innocent until proven guilty,” apply in cases of such abuse? – No. This is a civil matter, not a criminal matter. That presumption does not apply. Also, the standard of proof is lower.

    If the statute of limitations is extended to 40, 50, 60 years, will memories prove reliable? – No. For example, after 40 years I confused the name of my aunt with that of her daughter.

    If the supposed abuser, the priest, has died before the accusation, how can the accusation be defended? – It can’t. And so the preponderance of evidence will favor the accuser.

    If millions of dollars are offered to the presumed victim as restitution, will that in itself compensate for the harm done? – No.

    Will the prospect of financial gain attract litigants (plaintiffs and lawyers) who are not concerned with restitution but only financial gain? – Absolutely. Here in Oregon they trolled the prisons for litigants.

    If the immoral acts were consensual, does that mitigate their immorality? (I have my own answer to that, but I’ll leave the question open.) – No. It’s still immoral.

    Finally, and this is the most important question, how can the Church (diocese, parish, priest) atone for the harm done? – This assumes guilt applies to institutions. This is a case where homosexual predators entered the priesthood looking for victims. They found them, and abused them. Now, decades later, the parishioners who may not have even attended that parish or lived in that dioces are being called to cough up dough for the actions of these predators. The parishioners are a second set of victims.

  4. It seems to me the Church has rolled over on this entire issue both in terms of the perpetrators and the victims probably in the interest of containing the scandal. Many priests have no doubt been falsely accused, victims have lied, outrageous damages have been awarded. No doubt guilt has been the driving sentiment in the Church’s self immolation. Is this just and fair. Overall, I would say yes.

    The Church is reaping the whirlwind of countenancing rampant clerical homosexuality which is the primary cause, along with the overall mitigating of sexual morality in the Church following Vatican II. So, to me, the diocesan bankruptcy is well deserved.

    Hopefully, this would initiate a complete housecleaning of homosexuality in the clergy and an abrogation of Vatican II in its entirety. But I’m afraid that it will take many more bankruptcies for the Church to take appropriate action particularly with anti-pope Bergoglio in charge.

  5. All that is said is completely true, especially the informed consent from a minor child before emancipation. The human person cannot give informed consent to assault and battery by its very nature sin darkens the mind. There is nothing sexual about sodomy. Sodomy is assault and battery.
    There is one thing that is crucial to ending this ongoing charade: Preach the truth about sodomy, assault and battery, loud and clear, again and again until all parishioners, especially minor children know their civil rights and know the difference between love and abuse. There is no reason why this should not or cannot be done.
    I can forgive my abuser. I cannot forgive your abuser.
    I want to hear about the sacred sovereignty of every child of God shouted from the pulpit. Damned the torpedoes.

  6. An after thought. If your priest is not emphasizing that the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus Christ after Holy Communion, then he needs to be got rid of. Starve him out. Whatever it takes.

  7. “Punish the guilty and heal the innocent. Money does neither.”

    WRONG! Money helps pay for counseling & medical therapies to assist the victim in their recovery & suffering. If money is used for damages done in other types of cases, why should it not be used in these cases? As an abuse survivor, I can tell you the truth for this. I have suffered horribly & will the rest of my life face struggles as a result of abuse. Do not blame the victims who want the church to have to admit that the church staff is responsible for their suffering—and the cover up.

  8. “If the accused has died, then the matter is in the hands of the Lord. Let there be healing for the victim and let justice remain in God’s hands. Seeking financial benefit off verbal accusations from the parish or diocese in which the clergyman served is selfish and greedy.”

    What pure bovine feces!! The victims are not the guilty ones. Those in the church who carried out & covered up these horrid evils are the ones who are guilty. If these matters were dealt with on the front end by the church, there would be no need to ask for compensation now. People have been injured—stop trying to blame the victims.

  9. “If the statute of limitations is extended to 40, 50, 60 years, will memories prove reliable?”

    “No, which is one of the main reasons to have SOLs.
    If the supposed abuser, the priest, has died before the accusation, how can the accusation be defended?”

    “With great difficulty.
    If millions of dollars are offered to the presumed victim as restitution, will that in itself compensate for the harm done?”
    “No, especially if the charges are lies made to have a big pay day.
    Will the prospect of financial gain attract litigants (plaintiffs and lawyers) who are not concerned with restitution but only financial gain?”
    “Like dung attracts flies.”

    If the church powers that be would not have allowed this to happen & continue & covered it up in the first place, the money would have remained in the church’s hands.

    One thing that gets bishops’ attention is a loss of large sums of money. And that is the only viable route that anyone currently has to stop this from happening over & over, again in the future. Since this is the only effect method to get the attention of the corrupt predators & politicos who rule the church hierarchy—I say SUE AWAY. I DON’T CARE HOW MANY religious organizations have to be shut down or bankrupted in order to get this crap stopped!

  10. “On the other hand, bishops and other diocesan officials who concealed sex abuse by clergymen under their charge must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and serve whatever time in incarceration that the legal system demands.”

    How convenient that statement is considering that most current laws keep these abusing devils from being prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. Most abusers do not begin to even process & deal with their damages from abuse for decades after it happens. So if you want predators & their enablers to continue to carry out their evil works with no consequences—then just tell the victims that they are wrong to seek compensation for the injury done to them. No cost to these devils equals no change in behaviors.

  11. “ Let me add that I also know of four teachers in the public schools (in the same area) who have been accused of immoral acts against minors or possessing child porn.”

    The teachers lost their jobs, & most likely their teacheing license if they are found guilty in a court of law—weren’t they? They were or are being prosecuted? Right? Why? Because the statute of limitations had not run out & teachers are held to more account for such things that priests have been in the last 70 years.

  12. “Money is never restitution.”

    DO WHAT? Money has been restitution since the beginning of time. And it is Biblical. Look up where money was added to judgements in the Old Testament law.

  13. Shapiro is not to be trusted. His grand jury report uncovered almost nothing previously known.
    I’m in Pennsylvania, too. Shapiro is a Soros plant.

  14. When a legislature removes the statute of limitations for one and only one institution then having one at all is worthless. Anyone can accuse a dead priest of abuse, hire a sleazy lawyer and file a claim.

  15. “The teachers lost their jobs, & most likely their teacheing license if they are found guilty in a court of law—weren’t they? ”
    Xtian teacher, unfortunately not. Only two of the four were brought to court and convicted. One died (suicide?) before court proceedings. Let me add, I have deep sympathy for you and others who have suffered because of this. I hope you will be able to recover and forgive those who inflicted this horror on you and find peace. For what it’s worth, you will be in my prayers.

  16. “The teachers lost their jobs, & most likely their teacheing license if they are found guilty in a court of law—weren’t they? ”
    Xtian teacher, unfortunately not. Only two of the four were brought to court and convicted. One died (suicide?) before court proceedings.
    —————
    In my state, teachers who are even accused of such things or shown to have done them are suspended from their jobs, if convicted they are fired, or even if they are found to have done so through administrative law procedures they lose their teaching license. This happens regularly.

    I know of one case where a gay man was accused of inviting one of his male students he had been grooming over to his house for a hot oil rub. The parents filed charges but the school suspended him with pay for 18 months. Finally the prosecutor dropped the charges because it was just a he said/he said thing on a cell phone call. This is why it is against school policy for teachers to contact their students on their personal cell phones and/over social media. Our state board of education was so livid over this situation that they finally agreed to let this gay fool keep his license only if he signed a written agreement to never teach in our state, again.

    We have had several teachers plead guilty to molesting children. And we have had a band teacher convicted and sentenced with sexually molesting one of his female students within the last year.

    So what happened to the 4th teacher? Were they acquitted?

  17. “I hope you will be able to recover and forgive those who inflicted this horror on you and find peace. For what it’s worth, you will be in my prayers.”

    Thank you. I need all the prayers I can get. I have been driven to great despair many times. By God’s grace I have made it this far without taking justice into my own hands. After over 20 years of prayer, meditation, & processing, I still am not sure at times what I would do if I heard that this pastor had harmed someone else.

  18. Christian Teacher, The 4th teacher was someone whom I heard about through friends. It never came to court or was in the papers. The teacher had left the area. Unfortunately the boy whom he had molested had serious problems for the rest of his life. By the way, I live in a semi-rural area; were this a larger population center I imagine, sad to say, there would have been more priests and more teachers.

  19. “Shapiro is not to be trusted. His grand jury report uncovered almost nothing previously known.
    I’m in Pennsylvania, too. Shapiro is a Soros plant.”

    I believe this is probably an accurate statement. But the church hierarchy has no one to blame for Shapiro’s ability to do damage but themselves. If church leadership had taken care of this abuse issue long ago, Shapiro would not have had any room to work.

  20. I live in this diocese and there is still a major problem with homosexual clergy. There may not be as much teen sex abuse like they did for decades, but this bishop has not put an end to the “consensual” adult homosexual relationships among his priests and seminarians. He had the nerve to say publicly at a “listening session” that he was “unaware” of any gay subculture among his clergy. While somewhat conservative liturgically, this Bishop’s stated priority is to maintain the services of the diocese. That is NOT the role of a bishop but it is the priority for a nonprofit CEO. There is no great faith here just running the bureaucracy and machine. I hope the diocese sells their office building and fires every last staff member and starts over from scratch. Only then can we finally heal. The bishop and one aide can move into one of our many closed schools, convents or empty rectories. No need for a sprawling headquarters far from the faithful. He claims to have cut overhead but still employees a PR department and publishes a newspaper no one reads. Lots of fat left on this hog. Pay the victims! So many near empty parishes already that could be merged and the properties sold. This bankruptcy could finally get the much needed downsizing to commence. They were already morally bankrupt as we now know that former Bishop Roades created phony charitable trusts in 2009 to hide assets from victims he knew would eventually sue. What a collection of gangsters. I believe in Christ and the Church but this diocese has not been of God since at least the 1940s.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: