Action Alert!

Wrongheaded diocesan legal defenses in abuse cases

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 24, 2014

A Missouri judge observes that when the Kansas City diocese suggests that it might want to reconsider an agreement with sex-abuse victims, it “sends a bad message.” It sure does. Yet it’s a message that Church leaders keep sending.

In Minnesota, another judge rejected a motion by the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to dismiss a lawsuit that has been producing headlines there for months. “This case needs to be tried,” the judge said. Yet again, attorneys working for the Church had tried, and failed, to stop the locomotive that is roaring down the tracks.

In both cases, frankly—in Missouri and in Minnesota—the facts that have emerged are embarrassing for the Church. In both cases, public opinion leans heavily, and understandably, toward the plaintiffs. Church leaders and their lawyers face a choice: to fight the cases on their merits, or to settle and pay up. Efforts to avoid a public hearing, or to escape the consequences of a previous settlement, can only raise the level of suspicion that the Church has something to hide.

How many of these dilatory motions have attorneys for the Church filed in the past decade? Dozens? Hundreds? How many have succeeded? Can you name one?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Jul. 27, 2014 10:05 PM ET USA

    The problem runs deep. It really does (and it has for some time) appear that not only is this disturbing evidence of imprudence, impropriety or simple ignorance but goes mcuh deeper. Character. What manner of men are these? Is it possible that these character flaws have been isolated to this one area? A difficult question, but one that has, unfortunately, a pretty obvious answer. So much pain. Our prelates and priests need prayers. These issues are the kind that will keep on giving.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Jul. 25, 2014 5:13 PM ET USA

    Obviously we have learned nothing about the stupid hierarchy in the American dioceses. We should be cooperating and getting rid of the bad seeds in our Church including the bad lawyers advising the bad bishops.