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Paprocki's Science of Right

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 10, 2007


The Chicago Tribune reports on a Red Mass sermon by Chicago Bishop Thomas Paprocki concerning the legal attacks leveled at the Church since the Boston massacre was reported in 2002.  Bishop Tom sees the recent legal attacks as two-pronged: 

"The settlement or award of civil damages (for clerical sexual abuse) is punishing the wrong people, namely the average parishioner or donor whose financial contributions support the church but who have no role in the supervision of clergy..."

And its inspiration:

"This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd... We must also use our religious discernment to recognize that the principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil... I'm not saying the plaintiffs in that case or the lawyer were acting demonically... I'm saying it is in a sense a diabolical consequence when you can no longer provide a charitable service.

Bishop Tom's remedy, as reported by Tribune:

...reviving some of the safeguards of charitable immunity, a judicial doctrine that fell out of favor in the middle of the 20th Century because it shielded non-profits from suits for negligence and abuse.

Uncle Bob will have none of it:

"Many of the bishops basically abandoned their responsibilities to their flock, and why should we now have confidence in them that they will not do so in the future?" said Robert (Uncle Bob) Bennett, a Washington lawyer and former head of the bishops' National Review Board. "Enough time has not gone by yet. And I believe that being exposed to legal remedies will keep them honest in the future."

Something to contemplate.

But there are two larger points to observe about Bishop Tom’s meditation on equity and the near occasions of sin. He asks us to contemplate that the principle of trickle-down punishment--in play since the fall of Adam—is either no longer operative, or at least can be mitigated when it comes to monetary damages leveled against the chanceries. Alas, this meditation ignores the fact that the father’s offspring suffering punishment for the sins of the father has not yet been a sufficient condition for pulling the father’s fiscal chestnuts out of the fire.  Furthermore, recognition of Satan’s touch in the matter would be an otherwise positive development, (forgetting for the moment that it comes roughly 40 years too late) except that when it comes to sex abuse in the Church, the devils started most of their work with the clergy and not with the plaintiffs; it does seem more than a tad off-target to notice just now demonic inspiration, and it stretches the imagination to think that a bishop in such circumstances is serious about the devil. After all, his audience was not his fellow bishops and priests who have some spiritual authority and were known in history to exercise it, but attorneys, who have been called to clean up the bishops’ mess that the psychotherapists and sex therapists were unable to exorcise. 

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Nov. 12, 2007 11:20 AM ET USA

    I actually studied this in law school. Same thesis: lawsuits hurt the innocent parishioners. Same solution: doctrine of charitable immunity. It turns out the doctrine of charitable immunity is available to protect Church assets in many places, including MA. I realized bishops weren't taking advantages of those protections. You have to give the victims something. Our bishops chose to give them our money instead of dealing justly with the abusers (themselves and their buddies). Depressing.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 12, 2007 10:12 AM ET USA

    "This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd" I dare say the church will stay in tact with the bishops or priests in prison, but if you want to scatter the sheep, just abuse the lambs, and the flock will flee immediately from the pews.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 11, 2007 7:48 PM ET USA

    "The settlement or award of civil damages (for clerical sexual abuse) is punishing the wrong people, namely the average parishioner or donor whose financial contributions support the church..." unless the parishioner has had enough of the likes of Bishop Tom, and stopped tossing his/her hard earned pennies into the collection basket.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 10, 2007 2:26 PM ET USA

    If I were a prosecuting attorney, and Bishop Tom had a sudden attack of Screwtape Letters, I'd ask him if he would like to call Linda Blair as a witness.

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