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)