Another year, another 140 abuse claims


At some point, the Archdiocese of Boston needs to set a limit on payments for sex-abuse claims. Since last year's settlement of over 500 allegations, another 140 cases have appeared, with a potential tab of up to $20 million. Similar old claims could continue to arrive for years as the numbers trail off.

So far the archdiocese has been settling the cases with amounts much larger than they are legally obliged to pay. The archdiocese has not exercised its right under Massachusetts law, as a charitable institution, to cap the damage payments at $20,000, but at some point, I think they should consider invoking that limit. The aim of setting a deadline would be to motivate any remaining claimants to present their information sooner rather than later. Let's get this done. Let's do justice. And let's not drag out the pain and the payments for the next decade.

The primary abuse victims have a right to consideration, but the whole diocese is also hurt by these cases, bearing burdens that the perpetrators created -- burdens that in some cases were worsened and multiplied by the failure of victims and their families (and yes, the bishops too) to report the crimes when they happened. The Church is an injured party, and deserves to get the cases resolved in a reasonable time.


This is not an attempt at a "gotcha" comment. How does the reality of Christian communion impact this situation?

It's very difficult to see the Archdiocese of Boston as an "injured party," when it was her officers who delibrately reassigned known, repeat, clerical sex offenders to child-rich parish environments for well over thirty years. The Archdiocese of Boston's gross negligence, which cannot in the least be excused by claims that "we didn't know all we do now about sex offenders in the '70s", cannot be laid at anyone else's doorstep.

It's hard for me to believe that the average Joe Sixpack Bostonian, who might be open to the Gospel if it's credibly presented, and perhaps never had a credible presentation if he was raised Catholic in the '70s, would see the Archdiocese as an "injured party."

Sadly, the US Bishops have made clear through years of brass-knuckled thuggery towards abuse victims: protecting ourselves, our power, our collared club, is more important than seeing justice done quickly and offenders immediately removed and turned over the civil authorities.

Money judgments and media scrutiny have, tragically, proven to be the *only* things that bring change. They may be the only things that offer hope of cracking open the corrupt US episcopal *culture,* which so far is unchanged. "Dallas policies" are nice but don't tackle the key problem. I don't see seminaries being cleaned out (with one or two happy exceptions), priests being sent for re-formation in solid doctrinal and moral orthodoxy, heterodox religious-ed bureaucrats fired, dissident theologians forced to choose recanting or excommunication, or ANY ONE US Bishop denouncing another bishop, like they did in the Patristic era. That, say, John McCormack or Robert Lynch remain undenounced by their peers defies reason.

I also haven't seen a single bishop call upon religious orders to *insist* that their priests whom they have scooted off to Rome, Samoa, or any number of other hiding places, return home to face justice--just as Christ submitted to the civil justice system against what in his case were false charges, and earned our salvation.

Until these things happen, sadly, I for one can't agree that major coverup-offending Archdioceses be exempted from the same legal and financial consequences any other large corporation in the US would face if it systematically, *delibrately* covered scores and scores of child molesters in its midst.

Given that we're closing 80 parishes, I think the public has a pretty strong impression right now that the Archdiocese as a whole is paying for the misdeeds of the perps and the cover-up of the bishops.

I hope Beregond is counting Boston as one of the places that is cleaning up the seminary; it closed its undergraduate seminary and sent the students to Philly, while the graduate seminary has gained a new rector and removed a few professors. It's a work in progress.

The St. John's Seminary of Brighton, Mass website shows that its doors are open and that it is functioning as a seminary at the undergraduate and graduate level in the fall semester of 2004. Certainly the presence of Fr. Romanus Cessario on the St. John's faculty is a good sign. I've read and heard from numerous sources, including Michael Rose, that Sacred Heart seminary in Detroit has been reformed substantially since the mid-1990's.

However, the long-established utter untrustworthiness of most seminaries in the United States makes it wise to take suddenly common claims of "reform" with a large grain of salt. I prefer to wait until reputable sources confirm over a period of time that the culture, formation program, and faculty have been changed, and that established homosexual subcultures have been rooted out and that good men are welcome and get good formation.

The depth of institutionalized corruption in US dioceses and the USCCB, documented so exhaustively in recent years, has clearly not changed in many places. Boston is indeed changing. Archbishop O'Malley is certainly taking proper steps in Boston, such as the initial $85 million settlement that was reached without brass-knuckling victims the way Law used to do.

However, more steps are needed. The current Archbishop of Boston has a particular responsibility to denounce New Hampshire Archbishop John McCormack, who barely escaped prosecution in NH for his own clerical homosex predator coverup, and should have been prosecuted in Mass. for his prominent role in Boston's coverup.

I for one take no pleasure in standing firm in a position that US dioceses should not receive leniency regarding legal and financial exposure for their officers'and priests' misdeeds. It is a tragic, heartwrenching situation, as the saga of St. Albert's of Weymouth indicates. But recent history has made clear that *nothing, nothing, nothing else* brings results.

The corruption and mendacity of the US hierarchy--and yes, I know plenty of Church history about similar and worse situations in the past--must be rooted out. The US episcopate won't do a thing, not a thing, until forced to by the law.

Beregond writes:
"The St. John's Seminary of Brighton, Mass website shows that its doors are open and that it is functioning as a seminary at the undergraduate and graduate level in the fall semester of 2004."

O ye of little faith. Graduate level, yes, and some kind of pre-theology program for men who already have a bachelor's degree, but the four-year undergraduate program is gone.

The website indicates an undergraduate-level seminary formation; I didn't see that it is for current holders of four-year degrees. Thanks for the clarification.

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On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on September 12, 2004 9:11 PM.

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