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taking the high road

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 02, 2003

Kentucky priest Fr. James Sichko has dropped the defamation suit he'd brought against a layman responsible for a website on which Sichko was accused of being "actively involved in the homosexual culture that exists in Lexington." Sichko's decision earned praise from newly installed Bishop Ronald Gainer:

"Father Sichko's freely chosen decision to abandon the defamation action pending before the Fayette Circuit Court is a noble choice," said Gainer in a statement released by the archdiocese. "In taking the higher road in this matter, he provides a clear and edifying witness to the Gospel call to forgiveness, especially during the season of Lent."

Not so fast. Bishop Gainer's suggestion that Sichko is extending "forgiveness" entails the judgment that Sichko has been wronged -- i.e., that he is not guilty of the misdeeds he was accused of -- and this in turn implies that Gainer is not simply accepting Sichko's word in the matter but has made an independent study of the facts of the case. Has he?

Note that Bishop Gainer says that dropping the suit provides "a clear and edifying witness" to forgiveness. But does it? One can imagine many less-than-noble reasons for withdrawing it. Most of us might think the witness would be clearer if Sichko pressed the suit to a successful conclusion in the courtroom and then forgave his accuser. This would have the further salutary effect of discouraging slander and frivolous accusations against embattled priests. As it stands, it is impossible to say what injury Sichko's accuser has been forgiven. Did he sin by telling falsehoods about Sichko, or did he sin by telling truths in too public a manner?

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