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Winner take all?

posted by awelborn

Judge rules that parish assets are available:

A federal bankruptcy judge yesterday ruled that churches and schools in the Catholic Diocese of Spokane are owned by the diocese and can be sold to pay settlements to sex-abuse victims, a decision that evoked both triumph and disappointment.

The decision — the first of its kind in the nation — is considered a victory for victims and a loss for the diocese and its 80-plus parishes, which had argued that the properties belong to individual parishes, not to the diocese, and therefore were not subject to liquidation.

The ruling likely will be watched closely by other dioceses around the country as they, too, resolve claims of people who were sexually abused by priests.

"This is a big victory," said attorney Michael Pfau, who represents many of the plaintiffs in Spokane, where one in five residents is Catholic. "It’s simply a devastating ruling for the diocese."

The diocese plans to appeal by the end of next week.



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Fr. Christensen

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:24 am


Didn’t Rome recently come out with a document/statement reiterating canon law which states that parish assets belong to the parish and not the diocese. I believe the statement was regarding the Archdiocese of Boston.
If civil law contradicts canon law which one will the diocese follow, and what will be the consequences of such actions?



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Fr. Christensen

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:25 am


Didn’t Rome recently come out with a document/statement reiterating canon law which states that parish assets belong to the parish and not the diocese? I believe the statement was regarding the Archdiocese of Boston.
If civil law contradicts canon law which one will the diocese follow, and what will be the consequences of such actions?



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bill howard

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:32 am


You had to know this would come sooner or later, which explains why some dioceses have scrambled in the past few years to incorporate their parishes separately. I don’t know if this was the case with the Spokane parishes, but let’s see if this ruling stands first… If it does stand, then it will be a field day for lawyers… this is the next break they have been fighting for.
And all of this is not meant to discredit the victims, who have endured horror. My prayers remain for their healing and also for the healing and strengthening of the Church.



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Tim Ferguson

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:56 am


The Vatican (Congregation for the Clergy) did state in a reply to the Archdiocese of Boston, so the Globe reports, that the assets of a parish belong to the parish, not to the diocese – and so if a bishop closes a parish, the assets of that closed parish should go to the parish into which that parish is merged – just as canon law requires. It’s a shame that the US bishops, in what was essentially a power grab that skirted the requirements of canon law, went for the corporation sole model over the last 100 years. Now so many of them seem to be trying to walk on both sides of the fence: claiming the property is theirs when it benefits them and the property belongs to the parishes when that view benefits them.



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Liam

posted August 27, 2005 at 11:04 am


Now, it was commonly understood that what the Vatican did in Boston was specifically with a view towards avoiding the result that just transpired in Spokane and may likely elsewhere.
I suspect the Vatican may have played that card far too late in the game to be credible in the eyes of the civil judiciary.
Control and liability generally go hand in hand in the eyes of the civil law in this country. If you don’t want liability, you generally must forfeit a significant amount of control to avoid it.
Hence the Scylla and Charybdis of trusteeism versus episcopal monarchy. You cannot have your cake and eat it at the same time.



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Papabile

posted August 27, 2005 at 11:10 am


And, of course, the reason the US Bishops went to the Corporation sole model was because that’s how Rome wanted it in the 1800′s.



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Ben

posted August 27, 2005 at 11:43 am


Is it in Spokane that a judge has ruled that all *parishioners* are defendants as well? If not Spokane, then the other one that is going out in the Northwest.



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Krikor

posted August 27, 2005 at 11:54 am


Not Spokane, Portland.



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PegofMar1

posted August 27, 2005 at 12:09 pm


Up until two years ago we lived in Spokane and just visited relatives and friends there a few weeks ago. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center was one of my favorite places to attend daily Mass. They were having daily Adoration after Mass about this issue, as the retreat property (which is owned by the diocese) would be affected.
I just wonder if this case will go on to the U.S. Supreme Court.



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Finn McCool

posted August 27, 2005 at 12:56 pm


There are several interesting points in the 57 page opinion. The Spokane Diocese argued in two recent legal procedings that the Bishop alone owned the parish properties in question, not the parishes themselves. And the deeds and titles of all the properities are in the name of the Bishop alone, and have been for years… I’m not a lawyer, but the Diocese arguments seem like weak grasping at straws. I think it’s gonna lose.



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Sunny Days in Heaven

posted August 27, 2005 at 1:17 pm


The Trap of Unaccountability

Spokane churches can be sold to pay debt, judge rules



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 27, 2005 at 2:12 pm


Again, you are all missing the greater point…
The greed of the episcopal Establishment in opposing lay trusteeship so it can control parochial properties — as part of the desire to protect itself from any sort of accountability and transparency from below (especially when confronted by its own misdeeds) — these are the chickens (or, should I say, vultures?) coming home to roost.
A Catholic Church devoid of all pretentions to earthly power, even legitimate ownership of property, just might be the kind of divine scourging necessary to bring it back into proper focus.
Remember when Augustine confronted one of the Popes of his day when the Church came into untold wealth:
Pope: The Church can no longer say, “Silver and gold have we none!”
Augustine: Neither can the Church say, “Rise and walk!”



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 27, 2005 at 2:16 pm


One more thing: Please don’t tell me that special structures are absolutely necessary for the sacramental life of the Church. The earliest Christians met rather informally and they had a sacramental life.
Besides, Evangelicals do rather well with converted storefronts, warehouses and office buildings, and they don’t have a sacramental theology.
Boy, da fur is really gonna fly now….



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Caroline

posted August 27, 2005 at 2:20 pm


I agree with the judge, When it comes to Parishes, bishops want to have it both ways: complete control but sheltered real estate. If nothing else, this decision, if it holds and spreads, should make it clear to parishioners what they and their ancestors have financed. No more: “Oh, the insurance pays for it all, or the investments, or other real estate we’ve bought and rented out, etc”. As to “innocent parishioners”, I suppose there are some; I doubt there are many at least not amongst the vocal and leadership elements. Too many lay folk have looked the other way too long.



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ac

posted August 27, 2005 at 2:31 pm


Can someone explain, on a practical level, what this will mean for the affected parishes and parish schools? Will the buildings be sold and folks thrown out into the street? Its hard to see how this furthers, in any way, healing.



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Kevin Jones

posted August 27, 2005 at 2:58 pm


One more thing: Please don’t tell me that special structures are absolutely necessary for the sacramental life of the Church. The earliest Christians met rather informally and they had a sacramental life.
You sound like Lear’s Daughters. “Reason not the need…”



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Umbriel

posted August 27, 2005 at 3:02 pm


Maybe this will prompt all those self-immolating bishops to actually start defending the Church from its attackers. Confessing actual sins is one thing, but placing the entire Church on the executioner’s block because of your own guilty consciences and merely upon unsupported claims can no longer be countenanced.



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Umbriel

posted August 27, 2005 at 3:07 pm


I do not see this standing up. If they follow, as they should, a trust model, then it is clear that the assets of a trust are not subject to the debts or payment for wrongdoing of the trustee. The assets of innocent beneficiaries (parishioners, recipients of church aid, hospital patients, students, etc.) cannot be seized and used to pay the debts of the trustees (bishops, priests, etc.).



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Umbriel

posted August 27, 2005 at 3:09 pm


Of course, I would have no objection to seizure of the Taj Mahony if they want it.



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Meaghan

posted August 27, 2005 at 3:18 pm


Finn McCool,
Is the full opinion online somewhere?



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Al DelG

posted August 27, 2005 at 3:32 pm


I can only imagine the sort of sit-ins, civil disobedience and eventual political repercussions if a parish were seized by civil authorities for the purpose of paying an abuse settlement. Public sympathy could easily turn the other way.



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Sr. Lorraine

posted August 27, 2005 at 3:47 pm


Caroline, I don’t think you can blame the laity for the scandal. The blame rests squarely on the abusing priests and the bishops who enabled them.



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Finn McCool

posted August 27, 2005 at 4:39 pm


The link to the full decision is online at:
http://www.spokesmanreview.com/
It’s the top story right now.



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Finn McCool

posted August 27, 2005 at 4:46 pm


Umbriel, the point is that the Bishop has NOT followed a trust model. He is trying to change the rules after the fact to a trust model, because it is to his advantage in a particular case. If the Diocese ultimately wins, and there is a different legal action down the road, I have no doubt that Bishop Skylstad would again assert that he owns the parish property, just as he did in the two cases that preceded the bankruptcy filing.



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HA

posted August 27, 2005 at 5:13 pm


The blame rests squarely on the abusing priests and the bishops who enabled them.
I would add a slight qualification in those (surprisingly, not so rare) cases in which the laity decided to rally around the priest in the face of accusations. The bishops still have the responsibility of dealing with the matter, but in those cases some of the parishioners could be said to share some of the blame (assuming the bishop didn’t withhold the full story from them about the priest’s past).
There’s obviously a flipside to consider, i.e., those cases where the priest is in fact innocent, where the parishioners share the credit for making sure that justice is done. In any case, I agree in general with Sr. Lorraine’s statement.



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Sonetka

posted August 27, 2005 at 5:36 pm


HA – my former parish has a situation like that right now in fact; priest removed, parish shocked and upset and generally taking his side. Of course, it’s exacerbated by the fact that getting any substantial information out of the bishop and archdiocese is like pulling teeth; all they’d tell us is that the accusation was considered “credible” (no details, and refusing to explain what standards of credibility they use) and mentioning that on the review board that judges these things they always make sure to include a sex-abuse survivor or a survivor’s parent, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the impartiality of the review process. (There’s a reason lawyers don’t let mugging victims onto the jury if someone is being tried for mugging).
So I don’t see exactly how these parishioners can “share the blame” when they’re not even being allowed to know what on earth the blame is *for* outside of very vague and sketchy details. I don’t know if it was just this particular archdiocese or what, but when your priest is taken away and they *will not tell you what for, or what standards of evidence are being used* blaming the laity is kind of harsh, even if he does turn out to be guilty.
Oh, one specific thing we do know about the incident? It was a one-time thing which supposedly happened twenty-five years ago. Good luck proving that one definitively one way or the other.



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andrea

posted August 27, 2005 at 6:19 pm


So many things come to mind with this story.
Bishops can close or merge parishes. It’s newsworthy when parishioners object as they have in Boston. That would seem to argue that the parish “belongs” to the bishop.
Another argument is the situation in St. Louis with St. Stanislaus Kostka. The bishop has put the parish board under interdict because they will not cede lay control of the parish to the bishop. (According to this story the leaders may have been excommunicated – http://tinyurl.com/aweao).
The parishes may belong to the bishop, but they’ve been built up over generations by the generosity of parishioners. I can’t help but think of how I’d feel if my parish were sold in order to pay off sex abuse claims when I had no part in the abuse or its cover up.
Perhaps groups like Voice of the Faithful have the right idea. Bishops need to be accountable to the laity since the laity will be held accountable for the bishops’ actions.



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chris K

posted August 27, 2005 at 6:36 pm


It’ll be interesting to see what these judges and lawyers will do with the Catholic cemetery properties!! Seize them and tell everyone to get out?! It’s getting a bit much. On Sr. Lorraine’s line, I don’t see how all this is any symbol of justice for victims. How does this punish those individual attackers or those individual bishops who knowingly set them up?? The victims, after all is said and done…and paid off, have remarked that they don’t feel satisfied. Rather, it just makes the entire country more fearful of the “federalies” and who may next qualify as the group of choice for persecution. I rather doubt, though, if the public schools will be confiscated or the Planned Parent industrial complex closed down or Jewish congregations shut.
The earliest Christians met rather informally and they had a sacramental life.
If that should be the case these days, then if such worship “spaces” remain under a bishop’s supervision, the homes may also be taken…esp. if they don’t create some lucrative revenue for the state via latest Supreme ruling. Fasten your seatbelts, fellow Catholics, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
P.S. If control is the issue here, then who controls the bishop?? Grounds for the Louisville lawyer’s class action against the Vatican?? Look’s like God may be next. What matters if a man gains the whole “universe” and heaven too but loses his soul?



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long time pastor

posted August 27, 2005 at 7:42 pm


I can’t help but think of how I’d feel if my parish were sold in order to pay off sex abuse claims when I had no part in the abuse or its cover up.
I can only imagine the sort of sit-ins, civil disobedience and eventual political repercussions if a parish were seized by civil authorities for the purpose of paying an abuse settlement.
Exactly. I would like to see a government agency try to shut down and sell off a parish. People might start recognizing the double standard in all this. School districts, hospitals, sports teams – not to mention other religious groups – have harbored (and in some cases continue to harbor) worse criminals. Why should ordinary parishioners, who have sacrificed for years, give up what they built – just to satisfy the greed of lawyers?
A lot of the new “victims” are simply trying to board a gravy train. And I have yet to hear of a genuine victim helped by his financial settlement, but I do know at least two whose windfall resulted in greater bitterness and anger toward “the church.” I wonder if Joseph and others who seem gleeful about the dissolution of church property have ever tithed or even contributed substantially to their parish?



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Meaghan

posted August 27, 2005 at 7:42 pm


Finn McCool,
Thanks for the url. How do you read the decision and where do you think it will go from here.



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HA

posted August 27, 2005 at 7:48 pm


So I don’t see exactly how these parishioners can “share the blame” when they’re not even being allowed to know what on earth the blame is *for* outside of very vague and sketchy details.
Point taken. I accounted for cases where the priest’s past was kept hidden, but there are indeed other things that can be kept hidden from the parishioners too. Presumably there might even be cases where people were not given the full story on the accusers — even when that might have been relevant.
Also, when the details are sketchy and unsubstantiated, as you noted in your case, I can well understand how it might not make sense to dig them up again. I wasn’t trying to blame anybody specifically, but I still think that in some of the cases where the bishop should have been more forceful, the same goes for at least some laypersons in the know. Ultimately, though, the buck has to stop with the bishop, and I wasn’t gainsaying that either.
I think we all have also heard of cases where parishioners and fellow priests *did* raise a stink and the bishop just attacket them.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 27, 2005 at 8:41 pm


I wonder if Joseph and others who seem gleeful about the dissolution of church property have ever tithed or even contributed substantially to their parish?
Long Time Pastor, I would hate to see my parish — which I have attended and even voluntered for nearly 40 years (since childhood) — be eliminated as the result of an abuse settlement. But the issue isn’t just the actions of “anti-Catholic” courts. The issue is the bishops who would sell the faithful down the river to protect themselves and their prestige. They did so long before the courts ever got involved with this mess.
God’s grist mill grinds slowly, Long Time Pastor, but grinds finely.
Even so, He will not abandon those who trust in Him. True faith is fundamentally a matter of attitude, not of physical place. Perhaps the Catholic Church, which has placed such a premium on the physical, needs to be reminded of that….



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Finn McCool

posted August 27, 2005 at 8:54 pm


Meaghan,
The priest at tonight’s vigil Mass said that the Diocese is going to appeal, and that it could take as long as nine years if it goes to the Supreme Court. He DIDN’T say (the newspaper did) that the Diocese has been spending several hundred thousand dollars per month on attorney fees – the Diocese pays the attorney’s fees for BOTH sides. Ultimately, whoever wins, the attorneys will get more than the victims. I will be more informed tomorrow after my book discussion meeting, which includes two law professors. I can’t see how the Diocese, which stated two years ago in a legal proceding, that the Bishop is the sole owner of a parish building, can now argue the exact opposite and hope to win.



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George

posted August 27, 2005 at 8:57 pm


If a public agency admitted to harboring hundreds or even dozens of child abusers over many decades its leadership would be fired and be at risk of many years in jail. The agency would have to pay tens of millions of dollars of damages, and would be subject to many other legal sanctions.
So these bishops and dioceses will get off easy if they only have to sell a few abandoned properties.
Paying off the victims for these sordid acts is the least of our problems. Besides the victim and their families, think of the thousands of souls who are at risk because of this situation. As well as millions who now think that most priests are perverts. These crimes will have an unbelievable impact over the next generation.



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Umbriel

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:06 pm


With respect to a claim by any person, including a bishop, that he is “the sole owner” of a given piece of property, it is important to point out some things that are not readily apparent.
An “owner,” as used by people or the media in the everyday sense, is not necessarily an “owner” in the legal sense. If Bishop Jim Smith claims ownership of certain property, it could mean one of many things — (1) Jim Smith owns it outright as an individual; (2) the office of the bishop, which just happens to be held by Jim Smith, owns it outright; (3) Jim Smith, the individual, owns the legal title to the property, while the equitable title is owned by someone else; (4) Jim Smith, the bishop, owns the legal title to the property, while the equitable title is owned by someone else; (5) Jim Smith, in either capacity, owns either the legal or equitable title, but that title is not absolutely and conclusively vested, but is subject to be divested and passed to someone else upon the happening of some event. Likewise, gifts made to the diocese can be made outright, or they can be made contingent upon something happening or not happening, or they can be made in trust. I don’t know of anyone who puts their cash in the collection basket each Sunday believing that they are giving it to Bishop Smith for his own personal benefit or payment of his personal debts — rather, they give either on the condition that it be used for Church purposes or that it be in trust for Church purposes.
From the accounts of the media, which never gets anything right ever, it is unclear exactly in what way Bishop Skylstad claimed ownership. And even if he did claim ownership in one respect, that is not necessarily conclusive as to someone else’s claim of a reversionary interest, remainder, equitable interest, or some trust beneficiary interest. If he does not actually own what he claims to own, his claim does not preclude others, such as parishioners from claiming ownership as well, anymore than my claim to own Finn McCool’s house is binding on him.



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Umbriel

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:07 pm


By the way, if a public agency were involved, the claimants and accusers would get a big, fat nothing, because the agency would claim sovereign immunity.



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Finn McCool

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:44 pm


Umbriel, just read the decision. It may be overturned, but it says that the doctrine of judicial estoppel says that a litigant may not posit a legal or factual position and later posit the contrary legal position. In two cases, the Bishop unambiguously argued that he had ownership and total, exclusive control of Parish properties. The articles of incorporation of the Diocese as a corporation sole in 1915 clearly state that the Bishop holds the property in trust for the DIOCESE, not for the parishes.



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Fr. Totton

posted August 27, 2005 at 10:45 pm


This decision reminds me of one theory about the litgiousity (for lack of better term) which has been directed at Catholic dioceses particularly. If “Deacon Fred” of the local (independent) Bible Church is credibly accused and found guilty of some unmentionable abuse of a minor girl (or boy) he might be sent away for a long time – but there will be no civil suit – because no attorney would take the case against a single bible church with no real assets to speak of. On the other hand, Fr. Bill commits an equally unmentionable crime against a minor boy (as we have seen, much more likely a boy than a girl) he may be convicted and sent upriver for a time (hopefully a long, long time) and the trial attorneys circle like vultures because they know they can sue a diocese with many many many assets, and their cut will be substantial. I am not making excuses or crying “not fair, anti-Catholicism” only making an observation about a point of fact!



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reluctant penitent

posted August 27, 2005 at 11:26 pm


Not to mention the numerous cases of abuse in the public schools, and abusive teachers who have been shuffled from one school to another by administrators whose first inclination was to blame the victim. No scandal. No controversy. No lawsuits.



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Olmoss

posted August 27, 2005 at 11:37 pm


Speaking as a psychologist with 35 years doing evaluations for religous candidates…
I GROANED when our bishop here set up a multi million dollar fund for victims and supposed victems. We had/have every recovered memory abuse case coming out of the woodwork. ‘Long Time Pastor” nailed it.
It does not help, and is only a sop to a bishops liberal conscience.
On the other hand, my profession and psychiatry, were telling bishops 30 years ago, those folks could be cured.. so I understand why they frequently paid up to send a paedophile off to be ‘cured’. Sad.
As for the court, keep in mind the research showing Catholic priest offend sexually at about 60% of the rate of other religous faiths and scouts and school personnel. The incidence of paediophilia is significently higher in the homosexual population. When another psychologist and I experessed concerns over the high numbers of homosexual religious candidates that were being accepted against our recommendation, we were dismissed. I was chief psychologist for a major city school system and the legal office routinely shussed up and cut deals. We were outraged in our department when they had a paediphile sign that he would resign never work in schools in Ohio again. Six monthes later we read in the Kentucky newspaper he was arrested as a teacher for molesting disabled children. My point is, the church is not alone in this. Other organizations are also at risk.
I don’t know where it will end.. In Ohio the legislature has a bill before it to lift the statute of limitations for a year so the church may be sued .



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Whitcomb

posted August 28, 2005 at 12:04 am


Bishops appoint the pastors who serve parishes, which in turn pay “taxes” to support the diocese or archdiocese. Bishops decide which parishes live or die, which schools stay open or close. All parishes and schools operate under the imprimatur, if you will, of the bishop.
So how could a parish or school not be seen by the civil authorities as an asset of the bishop?



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Phylis

posted August 28, 2005 at 12:18 am


Caroline: I’m puzzled. “‘innocent parishioners’, I suppose there are some; I doubt there are many at least not amongst the vocal and leadership elements. Too many lay folk have looked the other way too long”
Next, they’ll be saying inappropriate sexual aggression is inherent in Christian theology! Parishioners weren’t “looking the other way”; those who defend priests do so because they believe they are falsely accused, not because they know they were guilty. And let’s face it: there are many false accusations in the form of piling on the gravy train and many, many exaggerations of damage; if every woman who was touched on the backside by a coach or doctor or older person had her life “ruined”, well, the world would have ground to a halt centuries ago! And here’s a controversial suggestion: if we’re spreading guilt to parishioners, how about to the parents of kids who were emotionally abandoned and left to hang around the rectory and the only person who paid any attention to the kid?



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Jack

posted August 28, 2005 at 12:26 am


“My point is, the church is not alone in this”
Well, of course not. There is more abuse of youngsters in public schools every year – far more – going on right now, while most of these are dredged up from decades ago. I read in Christianity Today about 3 years ago that there are more rabbis and ministers misbehaving and while it may be dealt with, it doesn’t hit the front pages and it doesn’t result in cemetaries being seized to pay off the suing attorneys.
Why is that, do you think?



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Whitcomb

posted August 28, 2005 at 12:34 am


Phylis, even if “emotionally abandoned” children were “left to hang around the rectory,” does that absolve the priests who abused them?
One thinks of Father Geoghan, whose specialty was preying on young boys who had suffered a trauma, such as the death of a parent. Perhaps the surviving parent, usually the mother, was derelict in letting the child get ice cream with Father Geoghan. In her grief, her sin was believing that a priest would be of stout character. That doesn’t make her guilty of child sexual abuse.
Let’s keep our eye on the eight-ball: The perps and the priests and bishops who looked the other way.



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chris K

posted August 28, 2005 at 9:01 am


If a public agency admitted to harboring hundreds or even dozens of child abusers over many decades its leadership would be fired and be at risk of many years in jail. The agency would have to pay tens of millions of dollars of damages, and would be subject to many other legal sanctions.
Well, not exactly. Our government agencies have apparently allowed the abortion industry in the name of Planned Parenthood and other notibles to go without the mandatory reporting of underage abortions – victims of rape. Now this involves hundreds if not thousands over the years. A conservative government official, trying to simply get the records for numbers gone unreported and to punish the harborers, has been prevented by the excuse of “witch hunt” or abuse of privacy of the victims. I believe that excuse was quickly shot down and eliminated by judges in the case of the Catholic Church scandal. These victims within the abortion industry have gone back to conditions where they were abused again and returned again for other abortions. Now, if it is only a case that attorneys go after the deep pockets, then why not the abortion industry? (although I’m certain there is money laundering and cooking the books just to cover such fearful attempts at prosecution). No, it’s just naive to believe that going only after the Church with such great enthusiasm doesn’t involve a more sinister motivation.



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Phylis

posted August 28, 2005 at 11:39 am


Whitcomb, Of course not and I wasn’t suggesting that. My point was that if lawyers and the press start looking for “guilty bystanders”, they would have to look at those in a position to know something and that would more likely be parents and siblings than people in the pew.
As for Geoghan, despite all the hoopla, the best case against him was this: while in a public pool with the boy’s mother and many others sitting poolside, he touched the boy’s backside while giving him a boast out of the pool. For that, he got 10 years and ended up being brutally murdered.
Don’t believe that could possibly be the case that was made against him in court? Look it up. You’ll notice that his exact offense was generally omitted until *after* he was killed. Touching the boy’s backside was always called “child rape” and left at that.



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lw

posted August 28, 2005 at 1:01 pm


This from a January 2002 Boston Globe newspaper article . . . (gee — doesn’t sound like a boost on the backside to me)
“On Feb. 20, Geoghan will go on trial in Suffolk Superior Court, charged with two counts of rape of a child.
In that case, Geoghan is accused of raping a 7-year-old boy he met when the boy’s mother’s boyfriend — who had served as an altar boy for Geoghan as a child — introduced them. With the permission of the child’s mother, Geoghan began taking the Jamaica Plain boy out for ice cream. He then asked the boy sexually explicit questions, prosecutors allege.
Within one or two months, prosecutors say, Geoghan began taking the boy to the West Roxbury High School swimming pool in the evenings, where the child was allegedly fondled in the pool locker room on dozens of occasions.
Geoghan later began taking the child to his home on Pelton Street in West Roxbury, where Geoghan allegedly performed oral sex on the child six or seven times over several visits, warning him never to tell his mother.
“Believing that a priest could do no wrong, the child hid his confusion, fear, and shame from those around him,” according to the prosecutors’ statement.
It is also alleged that Geoghan visited the child’s home late at night and molested the boy while praying with him in his bedroom.”



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lw

posted August 28, 2005 at 1:11 pm


Phyllis — the results of their (USCCB) own self-study (by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice) determined that the numbers were more and the acts more violent than they had previously said. Keep in mind, that for years the leadership had said that less than 2% of priest’s had committed sexual crimes against children, but in reality the number was more like 5%. Also, the National Review Board’s head at that time Judge Ann Burke had said that what struck her was that the acts were far more brutal and violent than they had expected.
You are mistaken to believe that these were cases of hugs that went too far or an inappropriate touch on the back side. They were brutal crimes against innocent children that some members of the leadership would rather call
“indiscretion” than rape or
“boundary violation” than sodomy
“misconduct” than forced oral sex.



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lw

posted August 28, 2005 at 1:13 pm


Phyllis — the results of their (USCCB) own self-study (by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice) determined that the numbers were more and the acts more violent than they had previously said. Keep in mind, that for years the leadership had said that less than 2% of priest’s had committed sexual crimes against children, but in reality the number was more like 5%. Also, the National Review Board’s head at that time Judge Ann Burke had said that what struck her was that the acts were far more brutal and violent than they had expected.
You are mistaken to believe that these were cases of hugs that went too far or an inappropriate touch on the back side. They were brutal crimes against innocent children that some members of the leadership would rather call
“indiscretion” than rape or
“boundary violation” than sodomy
“misconduct” than forced oral sex.



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cs

posted August 28, 2005 at 3:27 pm


Olmoss,
Seems that you have some culpability, also.
Reverend Fathers: For every Geoghan or Lawrence Brett, there were many people who knew about him. All of them will be made to answer. Boston got bailed by the KofC, and that will never happen again.



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HA

posted August 28, 2005 at 7:42 pm


It cuts both ways. As bad as raping a child is, falsely accusing someone of raping a child is arguably just as bad, and in such cases, those who participated, by whatever means, will also have to answer for it. Granted, a priest is less likely to sue the church for millions, but there is another judgment to consider.



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Phylis

posted August 28, 2005 at 10:39 pm


lw:
I saw the trial of Geoghan. Let me repeat: I saw the trial. Despite what the newspaper you cite might allege, the actual offense was touching the boy’s backside when giving him a boost out of the pool. Testimony concerned the pool incident only.
As for the John Jay/USCCB studies, I read them. Every word. Did you? The report did not go on about “brutality” and “violence” as you claim, nor did Ann Burke. This is not to say that there weren’t acts of violence. What they were surprised about – and so stated when interviewed – was that more than 80% of the allegations concerned activity with adolescent boys; thus, the whole thing ws wrongly reported as pedophilia, they noted.
Someone mentioned Geoghan and I replied with what I know to be true because I saw the trial, know what the testimony actually concerned and so know for what he got 10 yrs.
“He was found guilty in January 2002 of molesting a boy in a swimming pool a decade earlier and sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison…
The 2002 verdict pertained to only one case, in which he was charged with indecent assault and battery against a 10-year-old boy. The boy was a college student when he testified that Geoghan reached under his swimming suit and grabbed his buttocks while the two were in a pool at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club in 1991.
Geoghan said he touched the boy only to help him out of the pool.”
http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/08/23/geoghan/
So, despite all the rumors and allegations for money of “rape” etc., the VERY BEST case the state could bring was one count of “indecent assault and battery” which was touching the boy’s backside while giving him a boost out of a pool. Sorry, I can sense you are animated by hatred and vengefulness, but those are the facts about the Geoghan conviction.
“In February 2002, Geoghan was sentenced to nine to 10 years in state prison for molesting a 10-year-old boy at a pool in Waltham.”
http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/geoghan/
Note: “molesting a 10-year-old boy at a pool”: conjures up thoughts of rape in the locker room, maybe, but what it was was the touch during the boost. That’s an irrefutable fact. I wonder if the guy who brutally strangled him would have done so if the papers had reported the full story concerning the charge instead of obscuring it as a “molestation” thereby suggesting far worse than it actually was. By the way, I think the now grown man got in excess of $10 million for having his backside touched.



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Gen

posted August 28, 2005 at 11:16 pm


If ever there was a telling commentary, it is the disparity between what the Globe was reporting to be the subject of the trial up to the start of the trial (as referenced by lw) and what the actual facts of the trial were (as referenced by phylis). Two counts of “rape of a child” vs. one count of indecent assault. What happened to the “fondling in the locker room” and “oral sex” and telling him not to tell his mother? It vanishes, with no explanation, but lingers in the memory.
By the mother’s own testimony at the trial, the kid told her as soon as he got out of the pool that Geoghan touched him:
“Alleged victim testifies in assault trial of ex-priest
January 16, 2002 Posted: 2:23 PM EST (1923 GMT)
The trial of former Catholic priest John Geoghan begins Wednesday in Massachusetts.
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) — A man testified Wednesday that a now-defrocked Roman Catholic priest inappropriately grabbed him in a swimming pool in 1991 when the man was a 10-year-old boy.
The man, now a junior in college, told the jury in Middlesex County Superior Court in Massachusetts that John Geoghan had offered to help him learn to dive when the incident happened.
“As I dived into the pool, Father Geoghan grabbed my butt,” he said in a soft voice. “I felt a hand going up the back of my leg. … It went up my right leg and reached my butt and my butt was squeezed.”
But a defense attorney said in opening arguments that Geoghan was helping the boy out of the pool, and that his hands were merely pushing the boy up. The witness denied that the incident occurred as he was getting out of the pool.
But a defense attorney said in opening arguments that Geoghan was helping the boy out of the pool, and that his hands were merely pushing the boy up.
The witness denied that the incident occurred as he was getting out of the pool, but the alleged victim’s mother testified that she had been with her son at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club on the day in question, and that he had told her after the incident that Geoghan had touched him as he was climbing out — but was not helping him get out.
“I asked him if he was just helping and he said, ‘No, ma, he was touching me. He touched me naked,’” she said. ”



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Marco, Triumphalistic Papist

posted August 28, 2005 at 11:54 pm


We can all sympathize with the true victims, but the vultures are circling hoping to pounce on a ripe carcass. They don’t give a crap for one minute about the victims. They’re trolling for bucks, the scum of the legal profession, bottom feeders.
The amounts awarded are all out of proportion to the nature and quality of the abuse. It’s simply a bonanza for the anti-Catholic hatemongers.
The whole hoopla over the abuse scandal has been ginned up by a secular media who enjoy bashing the Catholic Church because of her positions on social and sexual teachings. Does anyone doubt that the media would report the story differently—if at all—if the Church was a vociferous proponent of abortion on demand, contraceptives for all, sex ed, gay “marriage,” homosexual “rights,” etc.?
As for the property situation, the smarter solution is for the diocese to own virtually no property by having the title in the hands of trustees who lease it to the diocese.
Create a management trust from whom the diocese leases the individual parish churches, facilities, etc. This is routine in the business world. The physical plant is a leased asset that judgment creditors can’t reach. In fact, the lease payments would become a diocesan obligation on the liability side of the ledger, no longer an asset. The diocese could default on the leases and the landlord would hold the diocese in breach of contract, then allow the diocese to remain as a holdover tenant until a “settlement” could be reached when the dust clears.
Think of it like a car lease. You just lease the car, you don’t own it, it can’t be seized to pay your debts. Some savvy asset-protection consultants should have been consulted years ago.



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Joyce

posted August 29, 2005 at 12:25 am


LW wrote:
“This from a January 2002 Boston Globe newspaper article . . . (gee — doesn’t sound like a boost on the backside to me)”.
Exactly, lw, case closed: it didn’t “sound” like what it actually was – a boost on the backside.
That wasn’t an accidental case of not sounding like what it actually was, and couldn’t have been accidentally sustained for months on tv and in the press. You were deliberately misled by the press, which had its own anti-Church agenda and by angling lawyers, who had their own agenda.
I was stupefied when I learned what the actual charge was, and when I read the testimony. Stupefied by how misled I had been and that not one single newsperson that I know of ever said “wait a second; it’s about being touched in a swimming pool”.



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Dave J

posted August 29, 2005 at 12:52 am


Marco , I think, has it right. At least one leading lawyer in this feeding frenzy, I don’t know the name, but he was invoved in the Boston cases, was on TV and made explicit his intent to harm the Catholic Church- his bigotry was quite clear. A good number of the recovered memory, 20 plus year’s old cases have been made, I believe, by practicing homoseuals, many of whom have no love of the church. I do not suggest that there are not many valid cases, but certainly some are fraudulent. In any case, I am disapointed that there has been so little effort to make some attempt to weed out fraudulent cases, if for no other reason than to save the good name of wrongly accused priets. I have little confidence in “recovered memories” in any case, but when they involve big buck cases against an institution that makes no effort to defend itself, they truly smell a bit off. That the courts were so quick to entertain these ancient claims surprised me, in my criminal practice recovered memories were viewed with considerable suspicion, not a guilty til proven innocent approach. In any case, I agree with the above- that there is more than a little of anti-Catholic bigotry in these legal attacks on the Church’s property.
Bye the bye, what happened to the concept that Church property was part of the Church’s patrimony- as in managed by the hierarchy, as stewards, but belonging to the Church, that is, to the Lord? It’s not only the shrinks whose guidance the bishops shouldn’t have taken, but the lawyers who were too cute for their client’s own good. It’s a Church-THE Church, not a ______ corporation!



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Christine

posted August 29, 2005 at 10:54 am


“One more thing: Please don’t tell me that special structures are absolutely necessary for the sacramental life of the Church. The earliest Christians met rather informally and they had a sacramental life.”
It wouldn’t have gone well for them to worship in a public setting while they were being persecuted by the Roman state.
“Besides, Evangelicals do rather well with converted storefronts, warehouses and office buildings, and they don’t have a sacramental theology.”
Right you are Joseph, they just completely ignore the words of Scripture: “Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you … whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood I will raise up on the last day.”
The last time I looked Rod Parsley wasn’t worshipping in a storefront church — but he WAS living in a million dollar home.
“We can all sympathize with the true victims, but the vultures are circling hoping to pounce on a ripe carcass. They don’t give a crap for one minute about the victims. They’re trolling for bucks, the scum of the legal profession, bottom feeders.”
Oh yeah. Just watch the frenzy that’s going to come down the pike with the Merck/Vioxx scandal. There’ll be people coming out of the woodwork claiming injuries going back for years.
Having said all that, I have no sympathy for those bishops who have placed the Church in this mess.



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Nancy

posted August 29, 2005 at 11:58 am


Does anyone know what efforts are being made to weed out fraudulent claims in this case? I cannot believe that any responsible bankruptcy court would simply accept all claims without investigation. (I know very little about bankruptcy law and would appreciate the input of someone knowledgeable.)
Recovered memory is problematic, both legally and psychologically. In my opinion it certainly should not be probative all by itself.
All that said, horrible wrongs were done by the leaders of this church, and between the integrity of the assets those leaders control and the partial repair of broken lives, the choice is clear. In this legal system one cannot so easily have the cake and eat it: retain the power to appoint and remove pastors, to liquidate buildings and assets at will and use the money for other purposes, and yet not be treated as the owner when those you have injured need compensation.



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lw

posted August 29, 2005 at 2:04 pm


Phyllis –
You wrote:
I can sense you are animated by hatred and vengefulness
With all due respect, you do not know what I am animated by. For all your insistence on adhering to facts, you are making a leap based on speculation. It is neither true nor charitable.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 29, 2005 at 2:48 pm


“I cannot believe that any responsible bankruptcy court would simply accept all claims without investigation. (I know very little about bankruptcy law and would appreciate the input of someone knowledgeable.)”
Bankruptcy courts are dependant on the vigilance of the parties to determine if a claim is valid. The trustee can challenge a claim and can hire investigators, after first getting permission from the bankruptcy court, to examine a claim, but that is unusual unless a creditor or another debtor first challenges the validity of the claim. If a claim has been reduced to a state court judgment, absent provable fraud, there would be no grounds for challenging it in the bankruptcy proceeding.
An additional factor is that any decision of the bankruptcy court can be appealed to the local federal district court and then to the federal circuit court of appeals. I have a feeling that the question of whether the diocese owns the assets of the parish will be appealed.



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Nancy

posted August 29, 2005 at 3:21 pm


Thank you, Donald, for the most interesting information!
A claim which has been reduced to a state court judgment has presumably been subject to the determination of that court. What you are saying is that as to other claims, it falls on the debtor to challenge them.
So, is the diocese here challenging questionable claims, and requiring proof? I would think that they owe their parishoners no less.
Does anyone have reliable information on this point?



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Meaghan

posted August 29, 2005 at 7:53 pm


Nancy,
I don’t believe its the questionable claims that are the problem. I think there has been said there is enough evidence of valid claims to give the diocese a big headache.



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Nancy

posted August 29, 2005 at 8:39 pm


Meaghan,
I’m sure you’re right. One of my points is, only a small fraction of these claims have been found to be fraudulent. People, the Scandal (and the finbancial fallout thereof) is not a matter of evil fraudulent greedy bigots and their lawyers. Wrong was done, wrongdoers were protected, and now comes the day of reckoning.



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Marco, Triumphalistic Papist

posted August 29, 2005 at 11:40 pm


Nancy,
No one denies wrongs were committed, but the awards are all out of proportion to the abuse. I personally know of plaintiffs who were killed by medical malpractice, yet the judgments their families received nowhere nearly equals the big bucks the vultures have gotten in the abuse cases.



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