Do they really want to go there?

In Los Angeles, the U.S. attorney, Thomas O’Brien, has opened a federal probe of Cardinal Roger Mahony that is based on some questionable legal reasoning. Even Mahony’s foes concede that.
But now it seems the LA Archdiocese is engaging in some legal maneuvering of its own that is not likely to endear the hierarchy there to the public–or prosecutors. According to the Los Angeles CityBeat paper–in a story sharply if aptly titled “MAHONY TO IRAQ WAR VET: SCREW YOURSELF”–lawyers for the archdiocese are trying to deny an Iraq vet and fighter pilot the chance to pursue claims that he was abused by a priest as a boy at a local Catholic school.
The Air Force pilot, known as “John TH Doe” in court papers, was flying combat missions overseas in 2002-2003 when California opened a one-year window lifting the statute of limitations that had prevented many adults from filing suit for abuse when they were children. Now he is back and filed suit under the provision of a 1940 law that suspends statutes of limitation where men and women in active military duty are concerned. “The period of a service member’s military service,” the law states, “may not be included in computing any period limited by law, regulation, or order for the bringing of any action or proceeding in court.” But the LA archdiocese is arguing that “John TH Doe” volunteered, was not drafted into service, and so has no case.
As CityBeat writes:

The law was designed to allow members of the military to serve without having legal woes in their civilian lives cloud their ability to fight, and to protect their legal rights should they be unable to return home for a court date.
But there’s a small loophole in the law, one the archdiocese is trying to exploit. It allows the court to use its discretion to ignore the law and throw out SCRA cases it deems meritless. And that’s exactly what lawyers for the Archdiocese are asking Judge Emilie H. Elias to do.
“Plaintiff in this case is not someone who was drafted or a guardsman or reservist called to active duty,” lawyers for the diocese argue in their court filings. “He is not entitled to have the SCRA ‘liberally constructed’ in his favor.”
In other words, the archdiocese says, because John TH Doe volunteered to serve his country and fight in Iraq, instead of being drafted, the protections of the SCRA shouldn’t apply.
“Our client was abused as a child,” says Vince Finaldi, John TH Doe’s attorney, at the Newport Beach-based law firm Manly & Stewart. “He didn’t file earlier because he was serving this nation. If the court is going to exercise discretion, it should be in favor of those ravaged by priests in California and throughout the United States.”
Calls to Lee Potts, the Hennigan, Bennett & Dorman lawyer representing the archdiocese, went unanswered.

Bishops, like everyone else, hire lawyers to represent their interests as vigorously as possible. But still…
(HatTip: Catholic World News)

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Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Opinion piece sent to the Los Angeles Times:
“Total Power is the world’s illusion,” is a line spoken in dialog from “The Power and the Prize,” a 1956 movie nominated for an Academy Award but true nonetheless because it so aptly describes the archetypal figure of Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, California.
The use and abuse of power has brought the Roman Catholic Church to its present condition and it is also what keeps it unable to rise above it.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has paid out billions of dollars not only in settlements made on the eve of going to trial in numerous sexual abuse cases but also in lawyers’ fees, lobbyists’ fees, PR campaigns, Catholic Conference media blitzes and God only knows what else to obfuscate, to harass and to intimidate known victims of sexual abuse and their families.
It also appears that many of those in church leadership positions like Cardinal Mahony still believe that they can exercise total power by the manipulation of the facts and the media.
How many bishops, for example, support the removal of all statutes of limitation regarding the sexual abuse of children and direct their state Catholic Conferences to do the same instead of falsely accusing legislators of being anti-Catholic as has been the case in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, New York and Colorado.
While I cannot say where this latest federal investigation will lead, any efforts at all that will force the files, records, correspondence or the like, that have anything to do with the conspiracy to cover-up the activities of rogue, sexually abusive clerics or bishops who used children, young persons or vulnerable adults for purposes of sexual exploitation, should be welcomed by all who seek the truth.
To say, as a archdiocesan lawyer has said, that Mahony “has been at the forefront of dealing with” issues of clergy sexual abuse is an attempt to rewrite history and just more dis-information as records forced into the public venue by a brave Boston Catholic judge have already proven.
Although numerous records and files have been ordered released by the Los Angeles court in the last few years, I understand that they have yet to be made public because the Archdiocese of Los Angeles continues to fight it.
The revelations in the Archdiocese Boston forced the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to mandate that the bishops deal with the problem of sexually abusive clergy in 2002 instead of continuing their decades long pattern of covering them up. The bishops’ actions were not altruistic, they were compelled to act by public opinion.
They were shamed into writing their guidelines.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, like every other bishop in the United States was forced to act in establishing safe “environments for children in the United States,” by the USCCB because their actions were exposed.
In other words, they were caught!
Yes, programs and procedures have been put into place and in five or ten years they can be evaluated, not before.
If Mahony’s comments that he “publicly acknowledged making mistakes in handling certain clergy accused of child abuse,” can be directly connected to the sexual abuse of even one child, he should be charged with reckless endangerment for putting that child in harm’s way and suffer the consequences.
But at this point in time it has become obvious that because of the conspiracy that he has been a part of, he is probably guilty of much more.
Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims’ Advocate
New Castle, Delaware
(Sister Turlish is a Delaware educator and advocate who testified before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of the 2007 Delaware Child Victims Law. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Delaware Association for Children of Alcoholics)

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posted February 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Sisiter, It couldn’t have been said better. Thank you. Keep up the good work. There is no “probab;y” He is so guilty of hitting our Lord Jesus Christ right in the face. He is the most arrogant of them all, with the tombs beneath the Cathederal at over 10 million a piece for celebs, [and not RC’s] I don’t care but if you can’t have communion if you’re not RC, then how can you be buried there?

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david clohessy

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I’d urge everyone to keep open minds re what approaches the U.S. attorney may use in the federal probe of Cardinal Roger Mahony. Since the feds aren’t talking, who knows what legal theories they may be considering?
With more than 250 proven, admitted and credibly accused LA area pedophile priests, I suspect that complicit church officials there likely violated any number of laws. And the feds typically have more resources and legal flexibility (and sometimes political courage) than local prosecutors.
So common sense suggests that at leastsome in the LA archdiocesan hierarchy will, indeed, be prosecuted. . .
David Clohessy
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790

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kay ebeling

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:47 pm

It takes creative lawyering when you are dealing with crimes so heinous no current law exists to deal with them. Go to City of Angels for ongoing coverage of the pedophile epidemic in the Catholic Church.

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kay ebeling

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm

PS to Clohessy. It’s 250 in the entire state of California, pedophile priests that have been identified. We don’t have an accurate number yet how many of them were in L.A.

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Kay Ebelign

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:51 pm

250 priests identified during that one year window in 2003, in the state of CA, when the statute of limitations opened for just ONE YEAR. Any accusations since Jan. 1 2004 have not been counted or acted on. . .

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posted February 6, 2009 at 2:11 pm

If the man was abused, he deserves redress. Period.

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Greg Bullough

posted February 6, 2009 at 2:11 pm

The case of John TH Doe illustrates vividly why it is so necessary for the Feds to explore every nuance under which bishops may be called to
account for their crimes and/or negligence.
Those same bishops will direct their lawyers to use every possible
and creative nuance themselves in order to deny a fair legal hearing
to any victim who comes forward.
And that is not in the past. It is their practice in the here-and-now.
What is sauce for the legal goose, as they say…

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mike ference

posted February 7, 2009 at 2:18 am

War Tactics Should Be Applied to Abusers and to Those Who Offered Protection
By Mike Ference
Every day brings new evidence that we no longer live in a civilized and principled society. The worst part, it usually concerns another case of sexual misconduct involving a Catholic priest, young children and a church hierarchy that helped to cover up the case.
The recently unveiled federal grand jury investigation into the Los Angeles Archdiocese and it’s leader, Cardinal Mahony clearly suggests that a regime change should have been made long ago.
To be sure, media pressure and public outrage and a billion dollars in pr fees, legal fees and settlements have inspired displays of contrition from Mahony But as more and more cases of abuse — and cover-up — come to light, one begins to wonder whether Mahony should be considered any more trustworthy than, say, Saddam Hussein.
So — what should be done if the grand jury finds Mahony to be just another member of the hierarchy more concerned with protecting dysfunctional sex freaks than innocent children? Given the level of wreckage and anguish caused in the lives of so many people, it seems appropriate to look to the war on terror for a model strategy.
A first prong of attack might involve a Special Forces unit made up of highly skilled and trained military personnel capable of tracking down and obtaining confessions from any current or former priests accused of acts of sexual abuse against children. If rights are violated, if military personnel sometimes go a little too far, so be it. The Catholic Church had ample opportunity to fess up and repent. Those incapable of civilized behavior shouldn’t expect the rights and privileges of civilization.
A deck of cards can be created to help identify hard-to-find priests as well as the disgraceful church leaders who permitted, and in essence, condoned the sexual abuse of young children. Photos of the most deviant and reprehensible church officials accompanied by a list of their offenses will encourage us all to do our patriotic duty in helping the authorities track down suspected priest-terrorists or at least be able to identify the culprits as they come and go freely because their sins where covered up and the time to criminally prosecute has expired.
Another option would be to divide the nation into territories. A color-code warning system would be established, alerting parents about abusive priests being transferred into their respective regions. Depending on the designated color for a particular region, parents would know whether their children should serve at Mass, go on field trips, or even attend Catholic school that day.
To aid this unique war on terror, a pool of money should be collected, not involuntarily from taxpayers, but voluntarily from those decent human beings who believe crimes committed against our children are sins that God takes very seriously. Some of the funds raised could then be turned into outrageously tempting reward sums for information leading to the capture of our targeted criminals. Once the rogue clerics have been imprisoned and forced to talk, I recommend that their confessions be given to someone like Steven Spielberg or George Romero. Hollywood writers and producers could create a blockbuster movie like Roots or Schindler’s List to serve as a bitter reminder that these crimes should never again be permitted to occur. Tom Savini could be hired to recreate the horror on the faces of child actors chosen to play parts.
Proceeds from the movie could go to victims of abuse and their families. And no matter how old the crime, compensation would be available. There should be no statute of limitations when the rights of children have been violated by those who lived much of their adult lives perched on a pedestal heightened by the trust of innocent and vulnerable believers. In fact, I would extend compensation to the second and perhaps even third generation of sufferers. It would certainly include siblings denied the experience of growing up with a brother or sister untraumatized by such abuse. And since crimes of abuse tend to echo, it would extend to the victims of the victims as well.
If all else fails, is it any less rational to declare war on the Catholic Church as part of a war on child abuse than it was to declare war on Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda and apparently had no weapons of mass destruction) as part of a war on terror? How many innocent children have been verifiably lost to this menace — and how many more will be lost if we don’t make a preemptive strike?
As horrific as sexual abuse by priests may be, the perpetrators might merit a more forgiving place if only their superiors had the courage to do the right thing. For a few, counseling and close supervision might have been enough to prevent future abuses. Others clearly required something more intensive — a mental hospital or a prison.
But repeated abuse, as well as willfully hiding the crimes and the criminals — as far as I can see, this brings us much closer to the realm of mortal sin. And the sinners include not just the church hierarchy, but also attorneys who ill-advised parents not to buck the system and take on the Catholic Church, or may even have provided inside information to thwart legitimate cases against the church, law enforcement officials who may have thought it best to warn church officials of pending investigations, and janitors, housekeepers, teachers, and employees of the Catholic Church who kept silent because of concerns about a paycheck, a 401K, a pension, or a fear of standing up to church authorities. God has a place for everyone — and if you abuse children or protect the abusers of children, we can only hope that your place is called hell.

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