Via Media

Via Media


Read This

posted by awelborn

about a former lawyer for the Cleveland Diocese – , the lawyer, you might say, whose life has taken a downward spiral since he left the diocese, appeared on 60 Minutes II, and since, mysteriously, can’t find work.

Charlie describes the Cleveland Diocese during his 22 years there — Pilla became bishop in November 1980 — as “the whole dynamic, to be perfectly honest, is when you’re there, you are in a 15th-century court. You are. This is the king (the bishop). The king can do no wrong. And you have what I call courtiers , and if you want to curry favor, you know that Bishop Pilla has had a very bad habit of killing the messenger. That is part of the dynamic of who he is.”

As the bishop’s lawyer, Charlie says, “I was the messenger on many things. There were educational issues, the current situation with clergy misbehavior. All kinds of things.”

He describes to me certain diocese courtiers who had direct access to Pilla and “fed into a lot of the bishop’s ego.” He says it’s “fascinating to me when people say, ‘You were the bishop’s lawyer,’ because for the last four years I worked there, I never talked directly to him. I was shielded from speaking to him.”

Charlie handled issues dealing with priests until about 1993, he says, when he was told not to do it any more. Before that, he had instructed school principals on sexual abuse, written much-imitated policies, and liasoned with the Department of Human Services. He says Pilla was “fine with letting us do stuff,” but that when Sister Carol Anne Smith joined the diocese to run the schools that “all of a sudden we’re stopped from doing the stuff.” He adds, “There’s a lot that people attribute to Bishop (James) Quinn, but a lot of it has to be attributed to Sister Carol Anne Smith as well.”

In 1997, while still working with lay people, parishes and the schools, he was asked by a pastor to help with an incidence of alleged sexual abuse at one of the schools. Charlie says that “we would meet with the families, offer therapy, we had a victim’s advocate who would hook them up with psychologists and psychiatrists, we’d pay the bills.” He says he learned the accused individual had been at another parish for several years, and that “he followed our protocol” and called up the other community and turned the man in.

Afterward, however, Charlie says Sister Carol Anne called him in and removed him from working with schools telling him he was “doing a bad job,” and that Bishop Quinn told him he lost that part of his job. But even after he was told not to deal with the schools and sexual misconduct issues, Charlie says that in 1998-99 “people did come to me and I tried to help them and I was chastised for doing that.”

Sister Carol Anne Smith did not respond to a request for an interview.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(19)
post a comment
Rod Dreher

posted January 2, 2004 at 4:27 pm


That’s an amazing piece. That poor man.
Remind me again: isn’t the Church supposed to be about Jesus Christ?
And remind me: how are we supposed to get vocations if this is the way bishops behave, and how they treat loyal Catholics?



report abuse
 

James Freeman

posted January 2, 2004 at 5:06 pm


Rod Dreher writes:
“Remind me again: isn’t the Church supposed to be about Jesus Christ?”
That’s the nasty rumor I heard, unfounded no doubt.
In practice, the Church seems to be about pointy-hatted individuals who *think* they’re Jesus Christ.
In a saner time, people who thought themselves the Christ would have been carted off for institutional care. Now we just call them Your Excellency.



report abuse
 

RP Burke

posted January 2, 2004 at 5:26 pm


Note the continuing theme with this story and the N.C. newspaper editor being canned.
Employees of the church being treated as if the church’s teaching on the treatment of employees didn’t apply.
One of the silent scandals.



report abuse
 

RP Burke

posted January 2, 2004 at 5:30 pm

Ken

posted January 2, 2004 at 5:46 pm


When diocese have full-time legal staffs (this guy was head of a department), the diocese is too big and too “corporate”. A lot of the problems in the U.S. Church could be solved with smaller diocese, perhaps small enough that the bishop actually functions as pastor of the cathedral (with good support, of course).
Impractical? How practical are the current arrangements? What about the commissions and committees that have to be staffed? What about the lives lost – and souls lost – because of impersonal diocesan bureaucracies? Making a bishop pastor of a parish wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it might make him act more human if he had to face – Sunday after Sunday and not just once in a blue moon – people who come to know him AND aren’t diocesan bureaucrats dependant on him for their jobs.



report abuse
 

Mike Petrik

posted January 2, 2004 at 6:52 pm


In a healthy diocese the bulk of the legal work is real estate, construction and zoning. In a large diocese, the amount of such work could well justify an in-house staff purely on economic grounds.
Good lawyers are often the bearers of bad news and managers of difficult circumstances. It is not at all unusual for a CEO’s inner circle to work to make the lawyer the scapegoat. It is sad that lawyers for Catholic dioceese are not immune from the phenomenon.



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted January 2, 2004 at 7:01 pm


Once again we have an attorney violating basic legal ethics by disclosing aspects of his representation of a client. Whether what he says is accurate time will tell; that he is speaking at all without his client’s permission is revealing as to his own character. That he can’t find work is not surprising to me; clients are, astonishingly enough, reluctant to be represented by attorneys who feel free to blab about their reprentation when it suits their purpose.



report abuse
 

Tom Kelty

posted January 2, 2004 at 7:38 pm


When you really think about it, a diocese of one is a major challenge. We are speaking about eternal outcomes. Once again the sickening theme here is the exercise of absolute power. Christ’s followers have to use authority as He Himself did. He was confrontational with some when necessary but gave away the store to others who wanted to learn and follow. He had very little good to say about the stiff-necked and proud Pharisees. Christ warned his followers explicitly about the danger of becoming whited sepulchers. Absolute power is very seductive and it has been the accepted way of doing church church business for much too long. We have to learn to listen to each other and to allow ourselves to be shaped by the honest opinions of our fellow pilgrims. We do not have all the answers. We have to recognize the malaise of creeping infallibility which masks the continued abuse of absolute power. Scary, isn’t it? We have to go where truth leads us. It means adult dialogue!!



report abuse
 

CV

posted January 2, 2004 at 8:57 pm


I have no clue about the history of Pilla and the Cleveland diocese other than a general sense that the Situation is worse there than in other dioceses. But something about this story just doesn’t add up for me. I have no doubt this lawyer is basically a good guy who served well and tried to do his best. But the circumstances regarding his “official” leave of duties is murky (his sick leave ran out and he never “really” went back? what does that mean?) He obviously clashed with other employees (the head of schools). The comments of his brother (the high-powered attorney) sounded “carefully chosen” at best. Maybe I’m naive, but it’s hard for me to believe that with a family connection like that (same profession) that NO ONE will hire him and that’s he’s in danger of losing his home.
This article implies heavily that there is/was an organized diocesan conspiracy of sorts to “punish” this attorney (for talking to 60 minutes etc.) and I’m betting that the truth is a little more complicated (no matter how badly he was treated by former bosses/colleagues). Just a gut feeling, but I’ll bet his illness (stroke) factors in here in terms of his ability to get/keep a new position.
Go ahead, flame away, I’m just saying this article didn’t exactly illuminate the whole situation.



report abuse
 

Charles R. Williams

posted January 2, 2004 at 9:47 pm


There is something fishy about this story as CV and D. McClarey point out. I would also consider the source.



report abuse
 

Ken

posted January 2, 2004 at 9:48 pm


Mike – you have a good point about legal work, but I still thinkt a large diocese is a set of problems waiting to happen. To be honest, I think I was reacting to that case a couple of months ago where that bishop (in Florida?) was paying a PR man $60,000 + benefits. That’s considerably more than I make putting child molesters in jail. (end sulk)



report abuse
 

Mike Petrik

posted January 2, 2004 at 11:11 pm


Ken,
I do agree that smaller dioceese work better. I did not mean to suggest otherwise. Sorry for being unclear on that point.



report abuse
 

PM

posted January 3, 2004 at 5:37 am


Eden’s piece isn’t edifying, and all those “failed to respond to my request for comment” tags on the part of the Diocese don’t look good, but I agree with those who sense there are a lot of holes in this story. The author drags a little too hard on the violin strings, for starters, but it also stikes me that Feliciano’s friends have to strain a bit in finding words to commend him and settle for liberal boilerplate: he was … dutiful … and … compassionate. Feliciano’s strokes may have harmed his powers of expression, but his shaky use of language doesn’t allay the suspicion that he was an affirmative action hire in the first place who, considering his health, would be an objective employment liability — and not the victim of a vindictive cabal. One also wonders why Feliciano’s brother, a partner in a law frim and “arguably the most powerful Hispanic lawyer in Ohio” couldn’t come to his aid financially and at least keep him in his house.
I concur with Feliciano that Bishop Pilla grossly mishandled his abuser priests and should be yanked. His continued approval of Bishops Pevec and Gries, though, suggests that there is a good deal of personal partiality in his judgment. Was anyone else amused by the fact that both Republicans and the “tight-knit Polish Catholic” community are floated as possible conspirators against Feliciano, but gay clergy don’t earn a mention anywhere in the article?



report abuse
 

Mike Petrik

posted January 3, 2004 at 8:53 am


Donald et al,
You may be right about the ethical violation, but it is not so clear to me. Now I admit that I skimmed rather than studied the article, and I did not see the 60 Minutes piece, but I really did not recall any breeches of confidence in the piece. Perhaps you read it more carefully or had the advantage of seeing the 60 Minutes episode. The theme of the story seems to be that Charlie is the victim of character assasination, and it looks as though he is trying to defend himself without breaching any confidences. If a lawyer is accused by a client of bad conduct he does have the right to defend himself. None of this is to suggest that the story is accurate or unbiased. But unlike others I did not find the quotes artificial. Finally, the notion that a middle aged lawyer who has not been in private practice and therefore has not had a real opportunity to develop a portable client base would have a difficult time finding work is not at all surprising to me. In fact, I would be very surprised to find it otherwise.



report abuse
 

Mitch

posted January 3, 2004 at 9:19 am


Count me in with McClarey et al. It is astounding that an attorney would turn on a former client in this way. Given this manifest lack of professionalism and his health problems, I don’t find it at all “mysterious” that the man is unemployable.



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted January 3, 2004 at 9:41 am


Mike, an attorney disclosing any aspect of his representation of a client, except in a fee dispute that goes to court, without either the consent of the client, a court order or pursuant to statute, is violating legal ethics. As to the gentleman’s lack of employability, if an attorney is not going to observe the most basic command of his profession, client confidentiality, he should not be employed as an attorney by any sane client.



report abuse
 

Mike Petrik

posted January 3, 2004 at 1:17 pm


Donald,
I think you may be over-simplifying just a bit. Leaving aside the question of which confidences precisely he is guilty of disclosing, are you really saying that a lawyer who is sued by a client for malpractice cannot reveal relevant statements made by the client? I suspect that this matter is more nuanced than many of the comments suggest. If I had to speculate, however, I would guess that this lawyer has at flirted with crossing a line he may not cross but that there is at least some substance to the article’s implications suggesting that the Archdiocese has behaved poorly. But who knows?



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted January 3, 2004 at 10:39 pm


Mike,
Actually, an attorney sued for malpractice by a client still has a duty of client confidentiality. He may only disclose what is necessary to rebut the allegation of malpractice and not a scintilla more. An attorney may not even do this if it is simply a case of a client not bringing a malpractice action but simply shooting his mouth off about what a lousy job the attorney allegedly did. Client confidences are treated with the greatest of care by the law and are not to be disclosed by attorneys except in carefully limited circumstances. Seeking revenge on a former employer in the papers is not such a circumstance.



report abuse
 

Cheryl

posted January 4, 2004 at 2:55 pm


I was amazed at the off-the-wall comments of the 60 Minutes producer. What’s with asking if Cleveland is a “tight-knit Polish Catholic community?” I know that Manhattan is the center of the universe, but one would hope that someone with enough smarts to make it in big-time TV news production would also have a better sense of the demographics (wide ethnic mix) of big cities like Cleveland.
But moreover, what was the implication of the remark? That Polish Catholics as a group have it in for Hispanic lawyers? I would love to hear the Pope’s response to a stupid quote like that (somehow I don’t think it would be along the lines of, “it is as it was.”)
I was also impressed by the reporter’s deep dedication to finding out just how many people close to this lawyer have “lost faith.” Assuming this paper is one of Cleveland’s alternative publications, I’d be curious about how people of serious faith have been treated in the past in its pages. Apparently the PR person for the diocese had a pretty good idea, but I’m sure that person will be dismissed by many as a chancery flack.
In short, this article was not helpful in figuring out what really happened to this guy.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as on

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But here's the thing.Whether or not Yates' original novel in

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, right?Well, here's a worthy recipient for your hard-

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No?Okay...how about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling Episcopalians, all the better.To tell the truth, you can bl

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every minute of labor, describing the intensity of discomfor

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.