Please: prosecute abusers, but also false accusers
Pittsburgh’s Bishop David Zubik “no factual basis for the allegation.” But that’s not all.
The bishop’s accuser apparently has a long criminal record. He has made questionable accusations in the past, and the prosecutor reports that in the Zubik case, “I’ve never heard of a more convoluted series of stories.” But that's not all either.
The district attorney has already concluded that the accusation against Bishop Zubik is unfounded. That conclusion raises another question: Is it a deliberate false accusation? Because a false accusation is itself a crime.
Thousands of abuse allegations have been leveled against Catholic priests in the past decade. Surely some of them—we don’t know how many—are false. Unscrupulous individuals have an obvious incentive for filing charges. There should be at least some countervailing pressure: some deterrent against false accusations. The prospect of being prosecuted for filing a false claim would force opportunists to think twice.
Prosecutors are ordinarily reluctant to bring charges on false claims for two reasons. First, they do not want to discourage legitimate whistle-blowers. Second, it is difficult to prove a negative—that an alleged event never happened—and to confirm malicious intent. Still in some cases the facts seem clear.
The public statements by Anthony Berosh, the Pittsburgh district attorney, create the impression that this could be one such clear-cut case. The prosecutor may not be inclined to pursue Bishop Zubik’s accuser; he has described the man as “a tortured soul.” In this case, prosecution might only add to the miseries of the already unhappy life of a man who is no real danger to society.
But is that really the case? Because of what appears to be a baseless allegation, Bishop Zubik is also a tortured soul, too. The same man has accused other priests, and their lives have been made miserable as well. False accusations are a danger to society.
We do not know the specifics of this case. The facts may be more complicated than they appear; the compelling evidence may be hard to find. But sooner or later, a bold prosecutor must bring criminal charges against someone for a false accusation of sexual abuse. Otherwise Catholic priests will be at the mercy of a secular witch-hunt.
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Posted by: jheiman3693 -
Oct. 10, 2011 12:27 PM ET USA
Amen and Amen! Someone should have brought false accusation charges a LONG time ago!
Posted by: -
Oct. 07, 2011 5:31 PM ET USA
That this is happening to Bishop Zubik and nothing may be done against his accuser is absolutely outrageous! Charges must be brought immediately against the tortured soul accuser! I'll be glad to sign the papers. Please, do you have the email address for the Bishop's office so I can write him? Thank you