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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

... and more transparency

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 28, 2005

Three insurance companies have sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, accusing Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of refusing to share information about alleged sex abuse by priests, and precluding scrutiny of his activities as their supervisor. ...

"For whatever reasons, the archbishop's apparent goal is to obviate any meaningful disclosure of the facts and circumstances of these claims, and yet to pressure [the insurers] to contribute enormous sums of money" to settle the cases, according to the lawsuit.

That from the LA Times. When the Good Hands People toss the Good Touch People down the basement stairs, careful observers will be led to conclude that there's a communication problem somewhere. Or that there isn't.

Commentator TKozal on Dom's blog (from which I pinched this story), identifies himself as someone who "used to do clerical liability" (presumably as an employee of an insurance firm) and makes a couple common sense remarks. He points out that it is in the insurer's interest to delay payment, and that the insurer can deny payment to the insured party should the latter fail to provide "full cooperation." Hence there are two good reasons to consider that, when a huge claim is at stake, the accusations may be levelled in service of the insurer's financial interest rather than the cause of justice -- as indeed the victims' lawyers as well as the Archdiocese claim is the case.

On the other hand, we might imagine that an insurance company would wish to avoid the reputation of welshing on claims -- even bookies have to pay their winners -- and suing one's own clients can hardly boost the corporate image. TKozal further makes the Delphic remark, "I know people who have seen those files. Be afraid, be very, very afraid."

From its side, the Archdiocese is offering contradictory excuses to different critics.

"They don't want to settle anything or even talk about settlement without full discovery. Do the math here. We have 550 claims," [Mahony's attorney J. Michael] Hennigan said. "What do you think full discovery means? What decade will that be finished in?"

Hennigan said lawyers for the archdiocese have "fully cooperated" with insurers, providing them adequate information with which to evaluate claims.

But wait a minute. We just read an article in which the same attorney made the opposite claim for contrary reasons:

Lawyers for Cardinal Roger M. Mahony on Tuesday appealed a court order that would have forced the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to surrender to prosecutors the confidential personnel files of two former priests accused of molestation. ...

Hennigan said the relationship between bishop and priest "is integral to the way the Church conducts itself" and that any breach of that relationship "would be a grave interference with the practice of Catholicism."

I don't get it. If the files are sacrosanct, then why were they put before the profane eyes of the insurance company? If they're not, then why are they withheld from the DA? Of course, it happens to be true that the Archdiocese's financial interests are served in each case, but the demands of abstract justice surely override petty temporal concerns, and it's unthinkable that a Roman Catholic clergyman would prejudice the former to the advantage of the latter. There must be a further explanation ...

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