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By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 09, 2004

The U.S. bishops will once more be gazing with interest at events unfolding in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, now that a judge rejected Cardinal Mahony's desperation claim that clergy personnel records are protected by 1st Amendment guarantees, and because the Archdiocese's financial liability for clerical sexual abuse has been estimated as many times greater than earlier supposed.

Of course it's possible that Cardinal Mahony's reluctance to turn over the records is motivated purely by principle, and that they will reveal no misdeeds, sexual or administrative, on the part of LA clergy and bishops, but instead bring to light pages of edifying spiritual solicitude ("Dear Father Michael, I am concerned that the rigors of your Lenten fast might render you too weak for the demands of the Holy Week triduum, whence I am enclosing some passages I copied out from the sermons of Gregory of Nyssa for your prayerful consideration...").

Possible, but not likely-- at least according to those whose business it is to gauge the probabilities. A 2001 Crisis article by Dan Michalski reports that

The Evanston Insurance Company (affiliated with Lloyds of London) now underwrites a policy specifically tailored to churches and clergy that covers "any act of unlawful sexual intimacy, sexual molestation or sexual assault" up to $1 million. That means dioceses can now obtain insurance, at a cost of about $2,500 per cleric per year, against criminal acts.

This figure merits some pious reflection. The World Bank reports that the average per capita income in Haiti is $250 per annum. That means that the orders and dioceses covered under the Evanston Plan (note that the price is pre-Scandal, and is not likely to have diminished in the meantime) shell out annually, for each one of their priests, the yearly earnings of ten Haitians, just to pay the premiums on the boy-boffing insurance. The premiums!

With the Bernardin Ascendancy at the NCCB, the bishops have kept up a non-stop patter of moralizing about our obligations in social justice, especially our duty to relieve extremes of poverty at home and abroad. In itself, this instruction is not a bad thing. But how can the bishops fail to make a connection between their abstract concern for the indigent and their grotesque self-indulgence in the area of sexual mischief -- an indulgence concretely humored in the monies-not-their-own paid out for victim therapy, abuser therapy, attorneys' fees, punitive damages, protease inhibitors, and, as Michalski points out, insurance against boundary-crossing?

Next time your diocese hits you up for a major pledge, try this: write out a check for $250 and leave the payee space blank. Then ask yourself, "I can put this into the hands of my local chancery or send it to Mother Teresa's sisters. In which case is the money likely to accomplish those purposes for which I wish to contribute to my Church?" Call it the Haitian Ration.

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