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Jarndyce & Jarndyce

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 14, 2003

Remember the Diocese of Erie Slander Case? We haven't forgotten it. Here's the plaintiff's story: Secretary Sally found naughty pix on Fr. Bob's computer and told Bishop Mike. Bishop Mike responded by firing Sally and Bob kept his job. 17 years later Bob is arrested for naughty pix and Sally says she was wrongfully dismissed. Bishop Mike, now retired, says he doesn't remember meeting with Sally. Bishop Don, his successor, says it's outrageous to say that Bishop Mike fired a whistleblower. Sally sues the diocese for slander.

Bishop Donald Trautman claims that Sally waited 20 years to make her accusations; that the judgment of the Employment Compensation Board which heard Sally's complaint went against her; that she didn't approach the diocese with her information after Fr. Bob's 1999 arrest but went public four years later; and that she has no corroborating evidence for her accusations.

Pertinent paragraphs from yesterday's article:

The women said in their suit that, before Bower's arrest, the diocese "had personal knowledge of (the) Rev. Robert Bower's previous involvement with possession of homosexual pornographic materials and his interest in deviant sexual conduct."

Beres and the other women have stood by their accounts. Bower resigned from the priesthood in April 2002. Trautman said Bower resigned "given recent publicity."

In Thursday's filing, lawyers for the diocese claim the women's suit should be dismissed partly because, in all but one instance, "it fails to allege any statements that are capable of defamatory meaning. Plaintiffs' complaint further is deficient because it asserts claims on behalf of plaintiffs Beres, Caro and Rusnak based on statements that did not refer to these individuals and which could not be understood as intended to apply to these individuals."

The Diocese's lawyers also claim that what Trautman and Murphy said about Beres and her colleagues "constitute opinions, which are non-actionable under the law." So: what the bishops have said about this issue is true, or even if it isn't true, it isn't about the plantiffs, or even if it is about the plaintiffs it isn't defamatory, or even if it is defamatory it's a matter of opinion, which is not legally actionable. Pick one.

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  • Posted by: shrink - Jun. 17, 2003 10:00 AM ET USA

    Hmmm... I don't know of this case, but it's not very likely that Sally saw naughty pictures on Fr. Bob's computer 20 years ago. Sally was likely looking only at stick-men. PCs had little graphics capacity back then. Only university research computers 20 years ago had the high resolution graphics capacity of today's personal computers. As to bad pictures back then, Fr Bob's photo album might be an entirely different matter! Diogenes, in history, facts do matter.

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