The Evolution of the Sex Abuse Scandal: A Multiplication of Wrongs
It will be interesting to see what turn the sex abuse scandal will take now that stories are emerging which provide a more comprehensive view of the interpretive possibilities, not of abuse itself but of its aftermath.
For example, there may be an alternative to Diocesan bankruptcy in the wake of a continuous stream of abuse allegations. In the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, , there is an ongoing lawsuit with an insurance carrier to try to make the insurance carrier cover the claims (as one would ordinarily expect that it would). How this will play out should be very interesting. While courts have held in some instances that insurance carriers are not liable for sexual abuse damages, this is by no means a foregone conclusion. Undoubtedly attitudes toward the Catholic Church will play a role in the ultimate decisions, but the avenue is worth pursuing to protect Church assets for the Church’s own mission.
Even more interesting are two recent stories which suggest that there is far more at work in the financial dispositions following the scandal than immediately meets the eye. Nobody with any experience of the ridiculous settlements attendant upon lawsuits in America will be surprised by this. But just this week, one attorney in California filed a report to the effect that a huge number of sex abuse complaints are fraudulent and, in fact, have been triggered by the easy money to be had from an institution which is generally disliked by those who sit in judgment (see False abuse accusations against priests common, lawyer argues).
But fraudulent claimants might be less likely to emerge if they knew how an abuse victim identified as “GB” has fared. GB claims that attorneys sucked up $877,000 of his $900,000 settlement (see Sex-abuse victim says lawyers claims nearly all of award). Once again, American jurisprudence may prove itself to be a money machine for the professional elites who run the system, as justice recedes still further into the rear view mirror.
Of course, attorneys are not the only ones who represent the abused. There are also the victims’ advocacy groups. We ought never to forget that their leaders often make their livings from their cause. They too are well served by anything that helps keep the cause before a sympathetic public eye. As someone with a cause of my own, I can testify that this represents a constant temptation that the public does well to keep in mind. It is not surprising, therefore, that SNAP has denounced the California attorney and that representatives of the abused are “questioning” the timing of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s filing for bankruptcy.
Finally, I’m still waiting for an effective exposé of the destruction of some priest who was wrongly accused. This too is part of the emerging contemporary picture. This too is something that must be part of any well-rounded picture of the evolving scandal.
Sexual abuse by priests is reprehensible, and there is no excuse for the culture of abuse which characterized the Church in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I have argued many times that this culture adversely affected all the rights of the faithful, not just the right to be free of physical molestation. The wide-ranging contempt for the rights of the faithful was appalling in those days, and wherever it continues (as for example in far too many mainstream religious communities and universities), it remains appalling.
But we are entering the period of the aftermath now, and a whole new series of questions has emerged in the fight over the Church’s money. In this new phase, God and Satan already know what fresh evils lurk in the hearts of men. We ought not to naively assume that everyone who denounces abuse is a paragon of virtue who ardently desires only what is best for the Church. The evils continue to multiply. We should be on guard.
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Jan. 31, 2011 7:15 PM ET USA
The "Independent Commissioner" appointed to inquire into reports of clerical sexual abuse here in Melbourne Australia has advised a victim that in his experience of several hundred investigations over many years, the incidence of false reports is negligibly small. It is certainly far outnumbered by the number of cases where victims have not reported their abuse. In most cases, victims have concealed their suffering for many years - just as women who have suffered rape frequently do.