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The Church and the Children

Copyright © 2002, 2004, 2005, 2012 by David E. Ross

By allowing molestations to occur (by transferring and protecting the priests who committed criminal acts against children), by using legal stonewalls (e.g., claiming the First Amendment places the Church beyond the jurisdiction of the courts) to block criminal investigations and prosecutions of the priests involved, and by using bankruptcy and corporate shell games to prevent just compensation to the victims, the Roman Catholic Church forfeits its right to issue pronouncements on sin, abortion, homosexuality, divorce, or any other moral issue.

20 September 2004

Bankruptcy and Other Machinations

Already morally bankrupt in how it handled priests who sexually abused children, the diocese in Portland, Oregon, declared financial bankruptcy in order to escape its obligation to its victims. The diocese of Tucson, Arizona, joined the diocese of Portland in declaring bankruptcy in order to protect itself against the victims of the diocese's priestly pedophiles. Thus, these dioceses twice victimized those who were molested.

Source: Yahoo/Reuters

As evidence of moral bankruptcy, the Portland diocese and three dioceses in California — Stockton, San Diego, and Orange — engaged in corporate shell games in their attempts to shield their assets from claims by victims of sex abuse. They use Enron as a role model.

Source: Los Angeles Times

20 September 2004

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris ruled that the attempt by the Portland diocese to transfer its real estate to local churches and parochial schools — to shield the property from claims by victims of priestly molestations — was a sham and invalid. The hierarchical nature of the Catholic Church clearly places the diocese in control over all local churches and their assets. The diocese — after inviting the jurisdiction of the federal courts by filing bankruptcy — plans to appeal on the basis that the First Amendment prohibits involvement by the courts. Hypocrisy!

In the meantime, Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams in Washington State said Spokane Bishop William S. Skylstad agreed to abide by federal law when he voluntarily entered the diocese into bankruptcy and could not claim that property ownership must be decided by church law.

Source: Los Angeles Times

31 December 2005

As the operator of possibly the largest private network of K-12 schools in the United States, the Roman Catholic Church is often seen as the antithesis of public school systems. However both the Church and large urban public school systems share much in common in their administration and operations.

Both the Church and public schools are burdened with ponderous bureaucracies. From the highest levels of leadership to the lowest minions, both resist change. Both support orthodoxy and try to silence voices of independent dissent. Church and school systems are both hierarchical, expecting decrees issued from the top to be obeyed at the bottom; yet silent rebels in both often ignore those decrees without risking discipline.

School systems and the Church also deal with unsatisfactory personnel in very similar ways. Termination of teaching or priestly positions is usually avoided. An unsatisfactory teacher is transferred from school to school. If such a teacher contemplates moving to a different school district, the administration wastes no time in writing a letter of recommendation. Likewise, an unsatisfactory priest is transferred from parish to parish. Here too, an unsatisfactory priest is often transferred to another diocese with high praise from his old bishop.

However, there is a very important difference between public school systems and the Church. An unsatisfactory teacher is someone who is incompetent, burned out, emotionally or even physically abusive. Unlike the Church, a public school system does not transfer or recommend a teacher who has sexually molested a student. A teacher who is suspected of committing a sexual offense against a child is immediately removed from the classroom (even in the middle of the school day), prohibited from re-entering the school grounds, and — most important — promptly reported to the police. With criminal charges filed against this teacher, his or her name quickly becomes public knowledge. (Yes, women teachers have been convicted of molesting their students.) There is no secrecy and no tolerance in a public school system for a teacher who molests a student, even after only a single incident.

Contrast the practice of public school systems with the results of the recent meeting of U.S. Cardinals with the Pope. After that meeting, according to the Washington Post (25 April 02), the Cardinals

called for changes in church law to speed the removal of priests who molest children, but stopped short of urging a blanket 'one strike you're out' policy.

In a communiqué, the 12 American cardinals and three senior U.S. clergymen who gathered here [Vatican City] proposed expedited procedures to defrock any priest who 'has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors.' In less egregious cases, church leaders told reporters, a bishop would have discretion to seek a quickened expulsion if he felt there was a future threat to minors.

Public schools have a "one strike and you're out … and you're on the way to jail" policy while the Church still equivocates on whether molesting priests will be reported to the police.

Let's have a reality check here.

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Under U.S. law, a manager who allows sexual harassment or racial discrimination by a subordinate in the workplace is as much liable for damages to a victimized employee as is the perpetrator. Being in a position of authority, the law assumes the manager should know what is happening and can indeed stop such anti-social activity. In many cases even the company itself is liable. Only when a strong policy against harassment and discrimination is vigorously and effectively enforced can the manager and company escape liability.

The Church, however, takes the opposite approach. According to a legal opinion published today in the monthly Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica (and approved by the Vatican), a bishop in most cases cannot be held responsible for child abuse committed by his priests. Indeed, according to the Civilta Cattolica article, bishop's "are neither morally nor judicially responsible for acts committed by one of their clergy" despite the authoritarian, top-down nature of the Church's hierarchy.

The Civilta Cattolica article also warns bishops against informing congregations when a parish priest actually molests a child if a bishop thinks it was a one-time episode. Obviously, the correct response by a victim's family is to notify the police and not the Church.

18 May 02

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The failure to announce a "one strike and you're out" policy at the end of the meeting between the Cardinals and the Pope has been partially corrected. The Cardinals returned to the U.S. to find an overwhelming uproar over the weakness of their new policy. Shortly thereafter, they generally (but not universally) agreed that even a single offense was one too many. However, the lack of universality in this agreement and the failure to decree criminal charges against all molesters leaves many unsatisfied. Equally disturbing is the ongoing debate within the Church whether to defrock a priestly molester after only one incident. A public school teacher convicted of only one incident of molesting a student automatically has his or her credential to teach permanently revoked. (I don't understand the inner workings of the Church because I am not a Catholic. I just do not understand why a priest who molests children is not excommunicated.)

During this scandal, attention has been correctly focused on the bishops as much as on the priests. Those Church leaders who concealed the sexual misdeeds of priests within their jurisdiction obstructed justice. This includes those who authorized civil settlements with victims that included non-disclosure clauses. Bishops who transferred molesters to other parishes or endorsed their transfers to other dioceses without disclosing their misbehavior actually conspired to expose fresh victims to priestly lusts. In any case, these Church leaders have committed felonies. They should be prosecuted no less than the priests whose actions destroyed lives. Laws also need to be changed to clarify that — except for what is learned in the confessional — reporting of molesters by the Church to the police is mandatory (as is mandated by law already in Ohio).

Beyond the law, there remains the controversy over what the Church should do about Bernard Cardinal Law and others who obstructed justice and conspired to hide sexual felonies. By their actions, these Church leaders have forfeited their right to address moral issues. The children they sought to protect by opposing abortion were merely born to become victims. The law-abiding gays whose love the Church's dogma condemns are a stark contrast to the predators who are charged with upholding that dogma. The Pope should remove any bishop who knowingly allowed this evil to continue. Otherwise, even the Pope is tainted with moral incompetence.

27 April 2002

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Cardinal Law's recent resignation does not end the lawsuits against the Boston Archdiocese. As a defense, the Archdiocese now claims exemption from civil lawsuits on the basis of the First Amendment's right to freedom of religion. In court papers, the Archdiocese asserts that the government — including the government's courts — have no jurisdiction over how religious organizations supervise their personnel.

In the meantime, in a deposition under oath for a civil lawsuit in New Hampshire, Bishop John B. McCormack asserted that a priestly molestation was not so bad when the victim was not a member of the priest's parish.

Los Angeles Times, 24 Dec 02

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Bernard Cardinal Law is being sued by Gregory Ford and Ford's parents. Ford was molested for six years by Father Paul Shanley, a priest in Cardinal Law's Boston archdiocese. Rather than deal with complaints against Shanley, Cardinal Law merely transferred him to fresh victims in another parish. In response to the lawsuit, Cardinal Law claims that negligence by Ford and his parents caused the sexual offenses.

Cardinal Law's "blame the victim" defense, the ongoing debate within the Church regarding whether a stronger new policy against molestation should apply to prior cases, and the spreading scandal of cover-ups all prove there is only one way to deal with priestly molesters. Victims and their parents should NOT report incidents of molestation to their Church. Instead, they should complain directly — and immediately — to the police. The police understand the seriousness of even a single incident of sexual crime against a child. The police will not cover-up these felonies. They will not transfer criminals to new victims.

30 April 2002


Susan of Florida questioned my characterization of schools and police as not tolerating child molesters. She claims that, too often, both schools and police ignore complaints almost in the same manner as does the Catholic Church. When I replied that my personal observations support my assertions, Susan countered that my observations are limited to California and should not be extrapolated to reflect what happens in the rest of the United States. However, Susan's own observations are limited to Florida. Further, California's population exceeds 10% of the nation's and thus does somewhat characterize the nation.

I must point out that, in California, anyone convicted of a sex crime cannot have a teaching credential and thus cannot work in a public school. An accusation of such a crime will result in the suspension of an existing credential until the accused is found innocent. None of this applies to private schools, which have been known to employ convicted molesters as teachers and as principals.

24 July 2002

In church papers made public, the archdiocese of Los Angeles finally admitted to a half-century of protecting priestly pedophiles, reassigning them to prey (not pray) on new victims and covering up their misdeeds. These papers represent a summary of what the archdiocese is willing to concede in an attempt to settle lawsuits. They fail to present all the details sought by the plaintiffs.

Just in the Los Angeles archdiocese, victims claim at least 245 priests molested children. The archdiocese admits there were at least 219 such priests. This was not a rare lapse by only a few!

Source: Los Angeles Times

In the meantime, the Vatican now equates pedophilia with homosexuality. Poppycock! There are many pedophiles who are not gay, and there are many gays who are not pedophiles. In any case, this fails to explain those priests who molest young girls, some of whom are plaintiffs in the Los Angeles lawsuits against the church.

12 October 2005
31 December 2005

To a large extent, Boy Scouts of America is quite similar to the Roman Catholic Church.

29 December 2012

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